Jun 242019

I acquired a couple of pretty little Continental pistols at various auctions – one was more than twice the price of the other, but I can’t see that much difference, perhaps I should be able to after further study! I’ll put up some photos as I decide what needs doing to them.

Top – Kuchenreuter, lower Pistoia barrel (Italy?)

The top pistol is signed I.A.Kuchenreuter on the barrel and has a {brass) poinson of a horse and rider. The Kuchenreuter family of gunmakers operated a large workshop in Regensburg (Germany) throughout the 18th century. This signature is possibly of Johann Andreas (1716-1795) or the younger Johann Andreas II (1758-1808), most probably of the former. It has several characteristics of Kuchenreuter pistols – the horseman poinson, the flattened butt, and the ears of the butt cap not extending up the butt as most did. It is a little unusual in having the barrel as a polygon bore of 7 sides but with no twist I can see. It’s a pretty little pistol and would have been light and handy to shoot. The butt has been cracked through and repaired – probably since the invention of effective adhesives. It is pretty clean and unrusted – I guess it has not been the subject of extensive restoration. Guessing a date is difficult without a feeling for German pistols – if it were English I’d use the curled back tip of the trigger and the lack of an outside support for the frizzen pivot and a basic (but sound) lock mechanism to put it somewhere in the second or third quarter of the 18th century – which would fit with the first Johann – I guess probably around 1740 – 1770 – but its German so I’m not confident of those dates! I am inclined to leave this pistol as it is — the repair of the butt is acceptable, and although its conspicuous, I doubt it can be truly hidden and attempts to undo it may well make it more difficult to join up in an invisible way. The rest of the pistol is OK, its authentic and doesn’t look messed about, which is the first criterion for restoration when something is in a reasonably acceptable condition, So no action required except perhaps a gently rub over with a cloth and some linseed oil! I might just clean out the bore as it looks pretty good and it would be nice to check if it has any twist in the polygonal ‘rifling’ – a bit like the Whitworth rifling!


Here is the Pistoia pistol;-

Pistoia is a town in Italy, NW of Florence, and supported a number of gunmakers and especially barrel makers – its reputation was at times equal to that of Brescia. The barrel makers of Pistoia used a gold stamp with crown above the word Pistoia as a mark – this pistol has a lion stamp below the Pistoia stamp which is presumably the mark of the individual maker. The barrel is inlaid with somewhat primitive inlaid silver patterns at breech and muzzle and at the step from octagonal to round – the lock is plain, although it may have had some light engraving at one point. The side plate shows signs of engraving on its tail, but the main part seems devoid of anything, although its a bit pitted. The surface of the lock and cock is a bit rough but not badly rusted – looks a bit like a crude attempt to clean it. The cock may or may not be original – its not a very elegant shape. There is no outer support for the frizzen pivot, and the lockwork inside is pretty primitive – there is no bridle, and the finish is much cruder than the Kuchenreuter above. It is possible that the outer finish was never particularly good! One might be tempted to think that the barrel was from good Pistoia makers but the pistol was made by a distinctly second rate gunsmith, quite likely not in Italy – maybe Liege or France? In terms of date I’d put it as a contemporary of the Pistol above. Unlike the pistol above, this one will benefit from a little attention. There is some rust around the frizzen spring so the lock will need to be stripped. The lock plate and cock look very dull and would benefit from having a bit of sympathetic surface finishing to match the rest of the furniture. The inlay on the barrel was almost completely hidden, but it just needed a little rubbing with solvent and tissue or very very worn 2000 grit paper to reveal it – there is a little way to go there. The woodwork is in keeping with the rest of the pistol – there is a chunk by the trigger that has been glued back on rather badly – I’ll have a look to see if that can be done better. A bit of work will have this looking pretty – thanks mostly to the Pistoia barrel!

Pistoia lock – a bit dirty, but quite similar although inferior – no bridle on frizzen etc….
P – traces of inlaid pattern in ?silver? more to be revealed.
P –more inlay
Inside before cleaning – lots of rust where you can’t see it! This is about as primitive as a flintlock can get- no bridle, no link on mainspring etc..

The lock of the Pistoia pistol was clearly badly corroded and has been cleaned off, but without stripping it. The surface is quite eroded and there is still a lot of rust where the wire brush didn’t reach. I have loosened most of the screws, and I’ll pop it in the electrolytic de-ruster for a few minutes and then take it to pieces. I have got a bit careful with the deruster after sending a sample of broken steel to be metallurgically examined – I am confident that the process doesn’t do any harm to sound metal, but I’ve has a couple of parts fall apart after de-rusting that had a lot of pre-existing internal faults and cracks and a high silicon and carbon content. It seems that its the internal cracks that are the problem – the nascent hydrogen released on the surface of the rusted item seems eventually to disrupt the cracks and cause them to propagate and break the part. I think its probably to do with the hydrogen affecting the growth point of the crack – that is a high stress point anyway. I’ll clean up the surfaces, but the lock face and the cock surface are diamond hard and I’d have to anneal them to be able to file them – I’m not sure its really necessary – I’ll stick to cleaning at the moment and see what a fine wire brush can do for them

 Posted by at 10:19 pm
Jun 242019

Here is a gun I picked up at a local auction that must have a story attached – perhaps visitors to the site could help me?  

  It has a P53 type lock externally marked LSA Co and 1868 with a strange pattern just visible in front of the cock – the lock is pretty pitted on the outside, but the inside is shiny &  good quality and carries a broad arrow mark and the name Barnett plus the stamp J.C. –  Barnett & Co made locks and barrels for the British Government  from about 1854(?)  It is missing its bridle (holes exist).  The barrel appears to be a musket barrel of about .630 bore (not the .656 that was used when Enfields were made in smoothbore), of length 33 inches, giving the gun an overall length of 48 1/2 inches (weight 7 1/2 lbs)  The barrel carries the stamped name  ‘MANTON & CO CALCUTTA’ as one stamp, followed by ‘& LONDON’ made of individual letter stamps.  It carries Liege proof marks – (no it doesn’t, they appear to be Birmingham post 1914 – more research needed- see comments). There is a bayonet boss in the usual place, and a foresight but no rear sight or any sign that one was ever fitted.   The trigger guard is stamped with the number 35110 and the butt (LH side) has 88 in one place and 77 in another.  The stock looks fairly like a normal P53 stock, although I’m not really familiar with them.  It has three old style barrel bands (before Badderley) – the sling swivel is on the muzzle one, the other swivel is on the rear trigger guard screw.   The ramrod is steel, and has a somewhat squared end with a slotted jag – no bulge – I can’t see a retaining spring in the stock.  Overall it looks ‘of a piece’ and not mucked about with in recent times.  The British were at pains to equip the Indian troops with guns that looked like Enfields but were not effective against their own weapons – this gun may have been made up or more probably imported by Manton & Co., Calcutta (at that time run by Wallis) using old British Enfield locks, or maybe old stock complete guns, with the barrels replaced by new smoothbore barrels to ensure inferior performance (and not capable of taking standard issue British ammunition!).  It would seem that this gun must be one of many that were issued, hence the 35110 stamped on the trigger guard.  Any thoughts gratefully received.

Looks a bit like an Enfield
The four dots on the cock appear in the lock pocket too. Looks like a ‘proper’ Enfield lock?
Manton & Co Calcutta & London – ‘& London’ is not part of the main stamp.
Liege proof marks
number 35110 – wonder where the other 55109 are?
Sling swivel is at back of trigger guard.
Old style barrel bands (3)

 Posted by at 9:33 pm
May 012019

This post is really for the development of a storyboard for a Youtube video that I am planning – I need to work through the history in a systematic way, so I might as well turn it into a post.

To understand the development of the flintlock in England and Ireland – Scotland went its own way and Wales was on the sidelines – we need to appreciate a some background details. The most important is that England and even more so Ireland, was for the most part a backwater in terms of firearms development for most of the time that flintlocks were in use. The main centres of firearms production and development were in continental Europe – principally France, Germany, Italy and Spain and the Netherlands (a Spanish territory for some of the time) and it was not until almost the third quarter of the 18th century, almost 150 years after the flintlock reached something like its final form, that England and Ireland moved towards the top of the league – a position they held throughout the last 50 years of the flintlock’s reign. The second factor to be taken into consideration is the function served by firearms during the period before the this change – this divides into military and civilian use. Military minds during the early life of the flintlock were for the most part conservative and saw flintlocks as both expensive and unreliable, and continued to use the ‘good old’ matchlock for many years, and when flintlock muskets eventually came into military use (1700) there main concern was that they should be easy to reload, rather than achieve any sort of accuracy. Civilian firearms were expensive, and the rulers of countries had no eagerness for their populations to acquire firearms, so firearms became associated with displays of wealth and as presentations and gifts between the aristocracy and royalty. Even where firearms were used for hunting or personal protection they were usually profusely decorated. Hunting in England was fairly undemanding of the guns, unlike Germany where hunting was taken seriously and in fact wheellocks remained in use through much of the early flintlock period. In short, there were, in the first 150 years of flintlock existence, no great drivers for technical improvement. Twe things changed that state of affairs, one was the development of twist barrels, and hence lighter guns, and better gunpowder that made shooting at flying birds possible, and the other was the change from swords to pistols as the preferred weapons for fighting duels. Both of these activities called for significant improvements in the design of flintlocks to speed up ignition, increase accuracy and improve the certainty of fire. These changes began to bear fruit around the 1770s, and English and Irish gunmakers were at the forefront of the resulting developments, establishing the English and Irish as world class gunmakers. The new emphasis on function rather than purely on form With the ascent of our gunmaking skills we were able for the most part to drop continental ideas of gun decoration for our own less elaborate and more sophisticated style.

Let’s look at the technical developments of the flintlock which developed from the earlier forms of lock that introduced the principle of flint striking steel, the Mingulet and the Snaphaunch locks, which here characterised by the ‘steel’, the surface that was struck by the flint, being separate from the lid of the priming pan. These and the early ‘dog locks’ that did combine steel and pan cover in a one piece ‘frizzen’ or ‘steel’ or ‘hammer’, all names used more orless interchangebly had the ‘sear’ or ‘scear’ moving hotrizontally to control the fall of the ‘cock’ holding the flint. Initially the sear worked through the ‘lockplate’ and intercepted the cock itself, later variations had a ‘tumbler’ fixed to the same shaft as the cock that was intercepted by a horizontally moving sear. The accepted definition of a true flintlock is that it has the steel and pan cover in one piece, and a vertically moving sear engaging in notches in the tumbler – always with the provision of two notches called ‘bents’, a ‘full cock’ bent from which firing could occur when the trigger was pulled, and a ‘half cock’ bent that prevented the trigger from releasing the tumbler by virtue of the shape of the bent. The true filntlocks was a French development of between 16 10 and 1615. The first flintlocks had the cock pivot shaft made as part of the cock, with the tumbler sliding on to it and fixed with a pin, but this soon developed to the pattern we are familiar with where the shaft is part of the tumbler and the cock is fitted to a square filed on the send of the shaft and held by a screw. The first major improvement (XXXX) was the provision of the ‘bridle’ that straddled the back of the tumbler and fixed to the lockplate so as to provide a second bearing for the tumbler shaft – this reduced the friction and wear in the lock enormously. At this point the initial development phase was complete, and in fact military flintlocks followed this pattern almost throughout the era of the flintlock. Around XXXX when the pressure to speed up the firing of the lock a link was introduced in better quality guns to eliminate the friction that existed as the ‘mainspring’ slid along the surface of the tumbler on firing (and cocking) – This small link effectively removed the friction and allowed faster action, but was too fragile ever to be incorperated in military flintlocks. A further source of friction existed where the tail of the frizzen moved over the surface of the frizzen spring as the frizzen was thrown back by the impact of the flint. Around 1770 a similar link to that used on the mainspring was introduced by some better quality gunmakers, but this was soon replaced by a small roller, initially fixed into the tail of teh frizzen itself, but later incorporated into the frizzen spring.

 Posted by at 11:32 pm
Apr 242019

27th February – I made a few more nipples yesterday so I have a bit of a stock, although some are a bit on the slack side – It would probably be easier to get a decent fit if I put a bit more of a taper on the slide when I did the final cuts – I’ll try with 3 degrees instead of 2 next time. I had an ‘order’ for two to replace a couple in a gun I sold some time ago – the old one were ones I had made of steel, presumably to my normal ‘small hole at the bottom’ spec but had opened up to being more or less parallel all the way down – they had seen quite a lot of use, but I hope the titanium ones last indefinately.  I also did a bit of touch-up engraving on a bashed about little brass pocket pistol – nothing special but the client wanted it refreshed where it had been filed off . Today I decided that I had to sort out how to make a decent job of resoldering the barrels of the Venables – I’ve made a number of half hearted attempts and I was reading an article in an old copy of Muzzle Blasts from about 1956 on resoldering barrels of a double rifle that gave me some ideas.   Apart from actually getting all the bits to fit together it is vital that the barrels are parallel in the horizontal direction although in a vertical direction they are ‘regulated’ to converge so they both hit the same point at about 25 yards to allow for the tendency of the gun to move right when the right barrel fires and v.v.  Obviously its more important with a double rifle and varies markedly with  the load, but still necessary on a shotgun,  The article mentioned having a steel plate to keep the barrels aligned,  I had been using a 3 x 1 inch bar as a base but had just used packing pieces to support the barrel to clear the ramrod pipes etc  which made life difficult as they kept coming out just when you needed them in place.  So I welded two plates to the bar to form a level base for the muzzle and the breech a couple of inches above the bar so that I can get to the underside of the barrel if necessry.  The plates have holes so I can wire the barrels down firmly to ensure alignment.  I checked that the tops of the plates are exactly parallel.  I have the electrical heater to fit inside the barrel, with a manual temperature control and Dick is coming over on Friday and I am absolutely determined that we are going to crack it this time – its quite stupid not to be able to do the job reliably – hence the new jig.  Its not in my nature not to be able to do something, after all there are hundreds of thousands of guns out there with their barrels soldered together…. I will get there in the end.  Tomorrow is the funeral of David Purr, a well loved village character who fabricated most of the steelwork needed in the village – his speciality was security gates and he made a couple of beacon baskets for the village – his legacy will live on for years – I shall miss Dave, he was a great help with lots of my over ambitious projects like my home made 4 wheel boat trailer.

24th February The unseasonably good weather had me out battling with the garden this weekend – I eventually got fed up with piles of sticks and bits of apple trees lying about from when I had to cut back trees for the neighbour to get at his roof so I splashed out on a cheap Mac Allister shredder from Screwfix (about £80) which turns out to be fantastic – it just eats anything less than 40mm diameter – almost literally gulping it down – and fills bins with chips that can go in the waste bin that is collected fortnightly.   I did manage to sneak an hour or two to make some titanium nipples – I do like working in titanium, but you do have to be careful to keep cutting or the surface hardens up and polishes so its difficult to get started again – I use sharp tool steel tools with some top rake.  The technique is to chuck the 10mm bar (Titanium T6 from ebay) and turn down 25mm to 8.50 mm then turn down 5.5 mm to 6.40 diameter, slightly chamfer the end and cenre drill a pip and drill a 1.2mm hole about 4 mm deep, then cut a 1/4 BSF (26 t.p.i) thread with the die adjusted to cut to the finished size in one pass as trying to recut only swages it.  I turn the die over – the other side is ground off so the thread runs to the surface – and cut up to the shoulder, then slightly undercut the shoulder with a parting tool before parting off  an  >11.5 mm length of the 8.5mm  section with the 5.5mm long 1/4 BSF  thread on it.   I then chuck a piece of 25 mm bar with a 1/4 BSF tapped hole in the end and screw the proto nipple into the bar tightly – I use the tailstock chuck to grip it and tighten it.  This is then faced off to exactly 11 mm from the face of the bar  and drilled  2.2 mm to a depth of about 13.5 to 14 mm, followed by the 1.2 mm drill to make sure it goes right through, leaving around 2.5 to 3 mm of the 1.2 mm hole at the end of the 2.2 mm hole.  I then use a radiussed tool to turn the nipple leaving about 4.5 mm of the 8.5mm diameter part intact.  The cross slide is used with a 2 degree taper to get a good fit for the cap – its very easy to make it a loose fit, beware – you need some fresh caps by the lathe to check.  One problem with Titanium is that it can be difficult to get very fine cuts as it burnishes, so try to get good control of the diameter as you converge on a good fit – its particularly difficult with the slide at an angle as the dials or DRO don’t give a lot of help.  I generally put the flats on with a file, as its difficult to hold the nipple for them to be milled (most of my cutters are not really sharp enough for titanium!)  I’ve been using titanium nipples on my Nock for some time and have probably put around 800 – 1000 shots through the gun without seeing any damage to the nipples.  Cutting the thread is quite hard work and even backing the die off  is almost as hard as cutting – I find it is almost impossible to make a second cut with the die as it is very stiff and removes no metal – it maybe that my dies are a bit blunt, but they work OK first time……  I always put the nipples in with a few turns of PTFE pipe tape as a gas seal but the titanium doesn’t seem to be affected anyway.

WARNING – Titanium swarf is highly inflamable and cannot easily be extinguished – you need either a special extinguisher or sand to smother it.  It takes a spark or serious heat to set it alight but then it is pretty much unstoppable, so don’t let swarf build up on the lathe – STOP  the lathe before attempting to remove it – it can be sharp.  Use a water based coolant if you need to cool the work, but better still use very sharp tools and fine cuts and DON’T LET SWARF BUILD UP.  ( I’ve seen the fire brigade called to a lathe fire with titanium – it was some years ago and WE had to tell them not to use water)

Nipple is screwed into bar to turn shape and file flats.

22nd February – getting ready to take my Flintlock John Manton and my Percussion S. Nock  to the Have a Go shoot I realised that I had overdone the re-work of the bent on the left barrel and it was going to be uncomfortably hard to pull off, so not good for beginners.  I manged to strip and re-work tumbler and sear and get it all back together in about 15 minutes and it now works fine. As I know its OK, I should take it all to  pieces and harden the tumbler – I think it’s too soft. A couple of AML members ended up having a discussion about cleaning guns (makes a change from BXXXXt  – as an aside, if you don’t think the EU is capable of making our laws, do you think that either hopeless mob in Westminster are really going to do any better? ) which is always guaranteed to bring out different techniques.  A number of my friends favour using a steam cleaner for the barrels, so I made up a probe from a bit of 7mm steel tube and attached it to my wallpater steamer.  I cleaned my gun ‘normally’, which some peple would call a bit ‘casual’, and then applied the steam cleaner, expecting a stream of dirty gunge to emerge as promised by the steam fanatics.  Alas, I ended up with a couple of cupfuls of water so clean that I could have made tea with it (I didn’t) and nothing came out of the barrel when I wiped it out that wouldn’t have come out anyway.   The essential part of barrel cleaning is allowing very hot water to flush out the muck – the stuff that will cause corrosion is basically all water soluble salts, and it is a basic truth of physical chemistry that things dissolve better in hot than cold water (except proteins) – once they are gone its mostly lead, which probably acts as a lubricant!  I do have a few barrels that come out really clean as they have been honed, but most continue to wipe out a bit black, and I don’t worry too much about it.

21st – One of the pleasures of running this blog is the emails I get from the many regular viewers with questions about their guns or repairs they need doing, or their interests in guns – although some of them do stop me in my tracks!  Some time ago I got an email with an attached photo of a pretty derelict flintlock pistol – the accompanying text asked me how he could convert the gun into an automatic pistol with a magazine that worked!  A bit disturbing to my equilibrium….  I have also had several emails from enthusiasts keen to make themselves shootable pistols  by the back door – I’m happy to reply with an email explaining what excellent accomodation Her Majesty is able to offer – an offer they are unlikely to be able to refuse if they follow their intentions.  I can speak with good inside information as I was for several years an independent prison monitor at Highpoint prison and got to know it well – in fairness to the prison you get three meals a day (budget for all three is £2.06) and heating, I do think some Old People’s Homes might be worse – units 6 & 7 for ‘good boys’  were quite acceptable.  It is possible to make yourself a pistol provided that it can pass certain conditions as specified in the Home Office Guidance on Firearms (see LINKS) and be classed as an INERT pistol – in essence this means that it is a reproduction of a pistol of not later than 1870 that cannot fire and cannot be made to fire with ‘normal’ DIY tools and skills as might be used for the construction and maintanence of the home That always seems odd to me – I don’t see where a cement mixer comes into making a gun work! I can offer only limited advice as to what that restiction might mean – for instance it is better to remove metal than to add it, so a 10mm slot milled from under the barrel from breech to near the end of the wood (leaving the barrel loops) and a chunk of bar glued in the barrel to restore balance is pretty difficult to put right,  but ultimately it is down to how the courts interpret it and there is NO certainty.  Better to start with all main metal parts from old guns so what you end up with is clearly a section 58 firearm restored – and keep well away from anything breech loading!

21st Re pistol below – another little detail that you can just see that confirms the butt as being wrong is that the trigger guard tang goes way too far down the butt to be right.

20th february – You are in luck – another set of gun photos for comment has arrived – a Twigg Pistol.  Lets have a look at what we can surmise about this… (We will refer to ‘British Gunmakers 1740 to 1790 by Keith Neil and Backs. for inspiration – rich in Twiggs!).  You may need to click on the images to get enough detail – back arrow to get back, logically enough!

Ok, what have we here? A ‘proper’ conversion from flint to percussion of a TWIGG flintlock pistol.  The signature is his second one, dating the gun to 1770 to 1775 or thereabouts.  The arrow points to a just visble set trigger adjuster – right for that time as is the safety (just?).  The pointed  tail of the lock is an earlyish feature too.

The engraving you can see is all from the date of conversion except the signature 

Looking at the whole pistol, and bearing in mind the fairly certain date of 1770 to 1775 ish, the half stock is wrong – at that date it would have had a stock running to the muzzle and no under rib.  Also the butt shape is probably wrong – it would have been  curled right round to past the vertical, or with a cast cap – you can jsut makeout that the tang of teh trigger guard goes too far down teh butt.    Barrel bolt in the  wood – has moved on from pins, but not yet escutheons under the bolt. ends.

Barrel signature is again TWIGG mk II and contemporary with the 177X date, The rest from the date of conversion?  But what has happened to the false breech tang?  UGH.

Not sure who the barrel maker was, possibly Twigg

Notice the metal insert as a bearing for the breech tang .

nothing noteworth here except the single lock screw – a useful dating feature.

OK, what did you get from that?   It all looks as if the lock, barrel, trigger  and trigger guard started out as a TWIGG flintlock of reasonable quality, probably an officer’s pistol.  The lock would have been plain and the breech would probably have had a plug with the tang on it rather than a breech and false breech with tang. The trigger and trigger guard look right and the set trigger is OK for the period,  The engraving added on conversion is quite rudimentary as if the engraver was not used to working on steel – it just doesn’t ring true to me.  The worst bit is the tang of the false breech, which looks as if it was executed by a child!   The big question concerns the stock – it was definately not half stocked when TWIGG made it, so that was a feature of the conversion – but is it the original stock?  The butt is the wrong shape for the flint date, and it looks a bit wrong for later pistols, but it looks ‘of a piece’ with the pistol in other respects.  My guess is that it was restyled on conversion – obviously the chequering would then date from conversion or probably even later – it looks very sharp.  Difficult to put a date on conversion but obviously it served at least 50 years as a flintlock – maybe an 1828 -1838 conversion date?   What is particularly interesting about this pistol is that details were changing rapidly at about the original date of manufacture  and by about 1780 things would look quite different – examples are that up to about 1775 locks were held on by two screws (this pistol has one) and by about 1775 Twigg had started to use the shell carving  on better guns and pistols.  In 1780 the barrel bolts started to have silver escutcheons and  roller frizzons came in – so lots of changes and aids to dating or just more confusion?  (Read the book mentioned above for more details or see the GUN DATES page on this blog!)  I’m sure I’ll get some idea from observers of this blog, and I expect I’ve missed a few essential things – I haven’t spent much longer looking at it than it has taken me to completer the blog, and I obviously don’t have the pistol to hand, so please forgive any errors……

19th February – I had another look at the troublesome left lock on the Samuel Nock that keeps dropping to half cock when the right barrel is fired.  I didn’t think there was much wrong with the bent in the tumbler and think that the problem is the old one of the sear arm touching the wood of the lock pocket – the sear arm does seem a bit close near the edge of the lock so I filed a little off the arm (it was a bit thick anyway) and carefully eased the lock pocket.  I tried to check if that was effective, but with no-where handy to fire the gun it is difficult.  To be on the safe side a slightly reshaped the bent so it has a little more engagement – I noticed that I’d just about got through the case hardening on the bent.  I’ll check it out when I next go shooting, and if its OK I’ll re-harden it – I might have overdone the engagement.   I am helping at an AML ‘have a go day’ at Cambridge Gun Club on Friday – probably a corporate ‘do’; but I’m not sure – I just turn up with a flintlock and a percussion and let the punters have a go – luckily under the auspices of the MLAGB so its insured.   I managed to finish the sear spring of the little post office pistol – very fiddly as I’d run out of Oxygen for my very tiny torch and had to use a kitchen blowlamp for heating and bending! Still its done – its looks in the photo as if  the spring sticks too far back, but it is the perspective and it does just fits the lock pocket – just as well as I have no intention of making another in a hurry!  I have now got to adjust the mainspring and fit the safety catch.  I ought to make the cover spring detent for the slider to finish the job off……….

The sear spring doesn’t really stick out like that – its perspective!

18th February – Today was the last day for exporters to ship goods to China to arrive before Bxxxxt, from today anyone shipping to the Far East  for the next 40 days will have no  idea of the rate of duty they will have to pay to land the goods!    I had a further email related to the Joseph Manton guns I put on the blog recently, pointing out that the New Zealand gun 6031 had been made with gravitational stops (I missed them), which were on the same Joseph Manton Patent 3558 of 1812 as the water drains, also with an addition to the lock to sound a musical note when the trigger was pulled!  (No know examples exist, not surprisingly!). Interestingly the replacement cocks used on conversion had notches for gravitaional stops, and so must be Joseph Manton cocks.  I still think it unlikely that Joseph Manton did the conversion as it is too rudimentary for him , but whoever did it had access to Joseph Manton cocks – possibly off another conversion job?  It raises the interesting question of whether these cocks were chosen to retain the gravitational stops ( which were not much liked by shooters as they were prone to stick and also prevented you from taking overhead shots) and the stops were removed at some later time, or it was just chance that the converter had a pair to hand that had the stop notch and just used them, while removing the stops at the same time. Or maybe I’m just wrong and it was a conversion by Jo Manton?  The barrel incription  ‘New Improvements by His Majesty’s PATENT’ should refer to the features of the 1812 patent so I had another look at 5692 – it has new later locks on conversion so is unlikely to carry  signs of gravitational stops, but although it has been rebreeched I might expect to see a plugged slot in the trigger finial if it had the water drain, but the finial is intact, so I don’t think it originally had drains……..  Always more questions than answers in this game.

6031 showing stud filling gravity stop pivot, and notch in cock for stop.

An 1816 pellet lock converted to caplock – plate 108 in the Manton book – the light blob is the gravity stop counterweight.

I started to try to sort out who made what in the way of detonator/pellet/patch/tube/cap locks in the period from about  1809 through to about 1830 when caplocks were pretty established |(except for later tubelocks) but I don’t have any good source books – Winarts Early Percussion Firearms is mostly about American firearms and isn’t really clear about who was making what and when – I’ll need to keep at it a bit longer but if you know any good books let me know….

16th February – Shooting clays at Cambridge Gun Club today with the Anglian Muzzle Loaders.  Bit of a revolutionary shoot – all simultaneous pairs.  I got off to a bad start as my Sam Nock hadn’t been fully cured of its habit of dropping the Left cock when the right barrel fired – I did spend some time looking at it and reshaping the full cock bent as best I could without softening the tumbler but all I had suceeded in doing was to make the left cock slip into the half cock bent when the right barrel fired – at least that didn’t produce a nasty recoil and waste a load!  Anyway I soon learned to shoot with the left barrel first, and only had a couple of shots where I forgot and pulled the wrong trigger.  I like sim. pairs and given the gun problems that cost me a clay or two, I was not althogether unhappy to score 19/40.  I’ll have to do the full cock bent properly, which really involves annealing the tumbler and reshaping it and re-hardening and tempering it.   My inbox continues to get emails about Joseph Manton guns of the same era as Derek’s.  I had a nice string of photos from New Zealand of a converted Joseph Manton double shotgun Serial No 6031 from  1813.  This one has been converted by drum and nipple, keeping the original lockplate, which shows what the locks of 6592 and the gun that lock 7006 came from must have looked like with their earlier style of (simpler) engraving. As with the others, lots of ancillary details are right for the date, the barrel has the Joseph Manton New Improvements by His Majesty’s Patent wording, (1812-1816 ish) and it is interesting because it has the elevated rib on the barrels (more pronounced than in 5692)  he patented.  It doesn’t have gold or platina stamps on the barrel, but there isn’t room. It also has the rain water drains that collect any water from the barrels & frizzens and drain it down through the breech plug and out through the tigger finial – another patented feature – its nice to see those features, it was a ‘top of the range’ gun with all the latest bells and whistles !  The cock is interesting because I think it belongs to a pellet lock or patch lock – variations of percussion ignition that filled the gap between the Forsyth invention of 1807 and the general acceptance of the percussion cap in the mid 1820s.  The spring on the outside of the cock was designed to enable the ‘plug’ of the cock to be removed and replaced with a new precharged plug without the need for any tools.  Later similar cocks (eg that on 5692) were used for caplocks but generally lacked the spring as they were not intended to be changed often, just as a replaceable hammer.  The conversion wouldn’t have been done by Manton as he always made new locks and re-breeched barrels, but  probably by a provincial gunmaker.  Maybe the cocks were a pair he had lying around, so he just replaced the plug with one designed for caps?

No 6031 – Cock fitted on conversion was originally  pellet/patch cock?

Notice the very small front trigger – rather extreme for that date but probably a choice by the buyer – maybe a crude modification –  difficult to judge from the photo?   Compare with 5692 below.

You can see the Patent water drain above the drum & nipple, and you can just see it emerging from the trigger guard finial in the photo below.


 No proof marks (not uncommon) but WF barrel maker’s mark, possibly William Fullerd.

14th February – In London yesterday so didn’t do much useful stuff and this morning I had to  finish off my patent review, but I did manage to weld up a new side screw for a pistol – the old one had lost part of its head, but outside the slot. anyway a new head was made and engraved and butt welded onto the old screw so that I could use the (odd) thread.  I had an email about the Manton I had put up onSaturday.  Turns out that he has a right hand  Joeseph Manton lock – without a gun – that is very similar except that it has a different bridle and a very long sear nose.  His has serial No 7006 and the Manton Supplement book lists a separate Left hand lock with the same serial number.  The one I put in the blog  has a date 1812 of original manufacture (as a flintlock), and this one the serial number belongs to 1816. Its not quite clear if it was a pellet lock originally  (it is just about possible in terms of timing & Keith Neil lists the L.H. lock  as possibly pellet lock), although I  suspect that it is like mine, this lock was made as a conversion from flint. Anyway  very interestingly it has an identical sliding safety in front of the cock which I think belongs closer to 1660 than to 1816.  I might speculate that this lock was one of a pair with the one in the book that were made by Joe Manton to convert a flintlock Joe Manton No 7006 to caplock within about 6 – 10 years of its original manufacture  and as sometimes happened the old lock and breech etc were retained and its been converted back and the caplock locks discarded.  Any ideas welcome – join in the fun of speculating!  The secret is not to believe too firmly in your guesses!

Here is the Joe Manton 5692  I showed on Sunday.

 No 7006 – I think it was made as a caplock because it has ‘Patent’ on the lockplate which is taken as indicative , as does the one above.

Look at the extremely long nose on the tumbler- it looks from the geometry if the cock needs to come back a long way to engage the full cock bent?

I am a bit thrown by the safety slider, which I have only seen on rifles from around 1850 – 1860.   It is, nevertheless, strange that two very similar locks should turn up with that safety

11th February – Went indoor climbing in Cambridge this afternoon, so am too tired to attend to the blog – sorry!

10 february – A nice gun for you today!  Derek brought a gun that belongs to a friend of his for me to cast my eye over, so with his consent, I will put a few photos on the web and we can enjoy a little specualtion about the gun together!

It’s a high quality percussion gun signed Joseph Manton on locks and barrel and with the serial number 5692 on the underside of the barrels, the breech block, the inside of  both locks and the tang of the trigger guard.  By the Manton book that serial number belongs to 1812 ( this gun is not in the book), still in the flintlock era although coming up to the tubelock and pellet lock transition period before the caplock, which this is by the usage in the Manton book.   Its about 22 bore double with 30 inch barrels but without the elevator rib that Jo Manton patented before this date (? or a small one?).  So it looks as if it is a conversion involving new locks and new breeching, or that it has been renumbered or is from a period later when his numbering MAY have gone haywire.   There are a lot of interesting clues in the gun if you can bear to go through them;-

1) It has the cocks with removable hammers – a follow-on from pellet locks and used around 1828.

2) What are those sefety catches in front of  the cocks doing on a shotgun?  (they engage in a slot cut in the back of the cock when its at half cock  – I think they are a later feature.)

3) If its a conversion the ‘bolsters’ on the barrels above the locks look odd??

4) In addition to the sliding safetys on the cocks there is a grip safety – but it is engraved John Blisset Patent even though Jo Manton claimed to have invented it. There is a burr at the backof the slot that suggests it may be a retrofit. I can’t see manton putting a grip safety with someone elses name on it!

5) The barrel wording is ‘Joseph Manton’s New Invention by His Majesty’s PATENT’ – a form of words that he appears to have used between 1812 and 1816 and not at any other time?  It may have a slightly elevated rib – Manton’s most recent Patent – I don’t know what constitutes ‘elevated’.

6) The numbering on the barrel looks as if it may have been restamped after previous numbers were dressed out – possibly also the numbers on the breech plugs. One breech plug is a bit misaligned.

7) It has two sets of CP proof marks on the barrel – one set looking as if they have been dressed down.

8) Everthing looks OK from on top although the breech plug doesn’t align perfectly with the rib – but the engraving is continuous across the joint.

9)  The locks have the number 5692 very clearly stamped on them.  The trigger guard tang also has the number 5692 engraved on it and looks original.

10) The locks have the classic Joseph Manton ‘sea monster’ engraving by Gumbrell that was seen on his guns around 1820 – 1828?  Oviously the front safety catches were not intended when the locks were made and engraved.

Now we can begin the speculation if you are still with me!

A good point to start is the locks –clearly made by Joseph Manton around 182X (on grounds of percussion caplock, engraving and style)  or so and clearly numbered for 5692 and so intended for an 1812 gun of his.  The locks have the sliding safety catches which can’t realistically be contemporary with their manufacture(?)  but almost certainly a later modification but are unusual on shotguns, being much more usual on rifles, (and introduced at a later date then the 1820s? – maybe 1830 – 1850?).  If he had wanted to put a safety catch on a gun in 1828 he would almost certainly have used one behind the cock intercepting the tumbler not the cock itself as on pistols of that era.    Joe Manton didn’t make very many rifles.  When you add in the grip safety, which looks like a retrofit on account of Manton claiming to have invented it and it having another gunmaker’s name on it (grip safetys were not in fashion for long as they are pretty unreliable)  The grip and cock safety together might suggest that it was possibly converted from a rifle (unlikely) but more likely that it had a very cautious owner at some time – possibly at conversion but probably  some time after – possibly in two phases, grip safety and then sliding safety.  The condition of the blueing of the sliders suggests that the gun wasn’t used much if at all after they were fitted ?   The gun has not had a lot of wear at any time – maybe some prior to conversion, but relatively little use as a percussion gun as there is almost no corrosion around the nipples or the breeches.

The stock and furniture seem OK for 1812, and the number 5692 on the trigger guard tang is almost certainly original so I’m inclined to put it all down as original – the engraving throughout is consistent in quality and design and could date from a few years earlier than the Sea Monster lock engraving.

The barrels are interesting – the signature etc is right for the serial number date of 1812 ( used up to 1816). There is no gold or platinum stamp on the breeches, but they are very small and maybe not wide enough to take his stamp.  It looks as if they have been struck off and renumbered and rebrowned and reproofed but I believe that the gun has been untouched in the same family for many years and it is quite possible that the work was done when the gun was converted or when one or other of the safety devices were added – it is almost certainly not a recent rebrowning.  While it is possible to speculate that the gun was at one time a rifle and has been rebarreled, one would have to allow that the present barrel was contemporary with the original 1812 date or else re-signed in perfect imitation of the earlier form.

My current guess is that the gun was built as a flintlock 22 bore shotgun in 1812  and carefully converted by Joseph Manton to caplock in about 1828 (say 1825 – 1830).  At some point it was owned by a hyper cautious owner who had the safety grip added – maybe by John Blisset himself ( he became Blisset and Son in 1867).  It is possible that being very cautious the owner had the barrels reproofed at that time or they may have been done at the time of conversion, although Manton did not always send guns to the proofhouse  – he preferred his own hydraulic test.  I incline to think that the sliding safety is somewhat later than the grip safety ( I’ve only seen it on guns of 1840 to 1860) and so may have been added later.

So its tentative history ( a guess!) ;

1812 made by Joseph Manton

1828 ish  converted by Manton to caplock

1830 ish  grip safety added – ?by John Blisset? (probably before 1840?)

(1840 -1850) ??  front safety catches added  and reproofed(?)

I’m sure I’ll be proved wrong – I will take the gun to Geoff Walker at  ‘The Flintlock Collection’ as he knows his Mantons much better than I do.

Things to check include any date for Blisset’s patent for the grip safety, and a more accurate date for the sliding safety in front of the cock – all these things had a relatively short period in fashion and can be useful for dating, although occasionally clients demanded out of fashion features.

8th February – I visited the London Proof House yesterday as a guest of the Gunmaker’s Company who still run it, having been established in 1637 for the purpose of regulating the gunmaking trades in the City of London and a 10 mile radius thereof.  The present building was occupied in the mid 18th century and is virtually unchanged – it is on Commercial Road a stone’s throw from Aldgate East station and surrounded by high rise flats on 3 sides.  The site is pretty small, the largest space  being taken up with the dining room where the liverymen of the company have their magnificant lunches.  The work areas, which are responsible for the proofing of  the guns made in London or brought into the UK, plus many military weapons (although those are mostly proofed at the maker’s sites by personnel from the Proof House).  What I found astonishing was that the total space taken up by the working part is less than my own workshops! And its all distributed in a warren of passages too.

It seems incredible that they do all the proofing so close to the City, with all the transport to the site, and all the costs associated with London premises.  I can see that they would need to maintain a presence somewhere in London as they are a London Livery company but to me its incredible that they don’t move the gun proofing bit to an industrial site somewhere.  Anyway it was an interesting visit and I enjoyed the lunch and the booze……

4th February – Having trouble with the dates again – last 2 entries were actually 3rd!  Oh well, worse things happen at sea!   I did my STEM club at school today but most of the children weren’t in a mood for concentrating – funny how some weeks they do and some they don’t.   I have been keeping an eye on which posts on this website get the most traffic – there are lots of visits to ‘guns for sale’ which makes me think I ought to put a lot more stuff on there – maybe time for a sortout!  I have been hoping that the Mortimer flint repro would sell as I want it off my certificate so I can put something else on.  I’ll have a look next week when things cool down a bit.  I’m at meetings all Wednesday and in London on Thursday and Friday including a visit to the London Proof House which promises to be very interesting.  Before then I have to sort out the cock of the flintlock that Dick has re-squared- he ran out of gas so I am having to silver solder it for him.

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

Strip with milled groove and piece silver soldered on top.

Shaped bolt still attached.

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

Safety slider is now engraved.

4th February – It continues cold, although I did get the indoor workshop up to 25 degrees C yesterday by  burning wood at a rate of knots for 6 hours.  I need to do a bit of TIG welding but by Argon has run out – annoying because it has leaked out of the cylinder – I’ve not used much in two years but its empty so I’ll have to change it.  I couldn’t do that with the loan car as it wouldn’t fit in. but I’ll take it on Tuesday.  I got some parts from Fred in the US to engrave for a gun he is making, so I’ll have to do a bit of design work.  I have the Post Office pistol to finish making the safety catch parts for, and the Venables barrel to re-do, plus a bit of silver soldering for Dick on a flintcock to fix a disk for a remade square.  I have converted Dick to using Bev’s method of re-doing the squares in cocks by milling out a hole and silver soldering in a disk.  My method is to mill a stepped hole so there is some depth location when it comes to the soldering, but Dick has done a plain hole – We shall see if that works as well.  The advantage of the stepped hole is that you can have a smaller ring of silver solder on the cock face so it doesn’t show round the cock screw but get an increased area for the solder as you can make the back mill of greater diameter.  Anyway we shall see which is best….  I mentioned that my Nock had fired both barrels together on the shoot –  I’ve had this happen before but there is usually a slight lag between the two shots as the second hammer doesn’t come down until the recoil unlatches the sear.  This time I didn’t notice a lag, and all the other guns said there was only one report – they were expecting me to fire the other barrel at the bird.  I was surprised to find that both barrels were fired when I looked at the locks – so I’m not sure what happened, although I’m pretty sure both barrels were loaded and capped to start with and both empty at the finish.  Had it been a flint gun I might suspect a ‘flashover’ but not on a percussion gun….. mystery!

2nd Febuary – Got my Land Cruiser back from the body repair shop thank goodness ( I had a little disagreement with a driver who did an emergency stop in the outside lane of a dual carriageway for no reason) – driving round in a loan MiniCooper in the snow and ice isn’t my cup of tea!   Had to take a couple of days out from gun playing, partly because the workshop is freezing and partly because I have to do a bit of sorting out for a US patent case that I’m a consultant for – which does mean I get paid!   I had a look at the catalogue for the March Holts sale  –  it reinforced my feeling that reasonable percussion doubles that might make good shooters are about as rare as hen’s teeth – prices continue to rise and there is now not a lot of difference between a decent percussion and a usable flintlock!   Both are pretty thin on the ground in that sale – lets hope Bonhams come up trumps.

30th January – Back from a ‘last of the season ‘ shoot courtesy of Bev – things get a bit scrappy at the end of the season, and shoots usually want  to thin out the cock birds, so this was a ‘ see what comes up, but hope its mainly cocks’ sort of day!  In fact cocks were pretty thin on the ground – more importantly also in the air – so it was mostly hens that were shot.  It was one of those days when its so nice to be out in the country – cold day but warmed by the sun and little breeze – that the size of the bag is a secondary consideration for any sensible gun.  We managed 30 for 8 guns, which is fine although one or two guns didn’t see much action.   My Sam Nock double fired off the left barrel when I shot the right – a habit it had when I first got it and which I had eliminated by reshaping the bents – I had a careful look at them under the microscope and they look fine – I thought that perhaps the sear arm was a bit near the wood in the lock pocket so I have done a little reshaping of the sear arms but I can’t see anything else wrong. Our next clay shoot is simultaneous pairs, so I will need that aspect of the gun to be 100% by 16th Feb!  I also  tightened up the barrel bolt that wasn’t holding the barrel tight – I used the corner of a chisel to prise out the pin retaining the bolt, and bent the bolt slightly down in the centre so it pulls the barrel down onto the stock better. Yesterday I started on the safety catch slider for the Post Office pistol – I took a chunk of 8 mm EN8 and cut out a tab of about  the right size on one end so I could work on it and have a decent bit to hold in a vice.  I milled the rough blank – slightly oversize and still attached to the chunk – and filed it to fit, only separating it from at the last minute to shape the knob.  It looks fine, or will do when I’ve engraved the slider – now to do the internals.

26th January – Just got back from the climbing wall with Giles and a couple of his friends – its difficult enough to keep up with 20 somethings without ending the 2 hour stint by all trying to climb as many of the fairly easy climbs in the room as possible in ten minutes!  To say I’m k*******d is an understatement!   And I had managed to make 24 jars of marmelade in the afternoon.   I’ve been wondering about the cock we put on the little percussion saw handled pistol as I wasn’t sure if we had got the correct shape and neither was the owner, but I had a quick look through the last Bonham’s catalogue and low and behold there was a saw handled pistol, albeit a boxlock, with a very similar cock profile – I made a quick overlay to check it out.  I’m still not quite sure we got the right cock but it matches others used!

Click on the photo for a better view, back arrow to restore.

24th January – I have ‘pruned this post to cover just 2019 – the contents from late 2018 are in the new post ‘ Blog September to December 2018‘ – it makes it easier to scroll if the post is kept a manageable size.

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

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

23rd January – Amongst other things I had a go at sorting the percussion pistol with the extreme full cock position and overbent spring.  I’m not sure what has been done to the lockwork but it is not right!   I did manage to get the full cock a little better by honing the sear slightly (.25mm off) – I didn’t like to take too much off as it alters the geometry and, with the fly or detent, it might not work.  I took off the bridle as the lock was very stiff, and found that the inside tumbler pivot had been peened over so that it was a tight fit in the bridle – I couldn’t see any reason for that so I filed it off and punched it out and adjusted the fit – – while it was in pieces I also ground down the pillar on the mainspring so that it isn’t overbent at the full cock position.  Although it isn’t perfect, it now cocks and fires  much more smoothly.  I’ll add a photo when I can get access to the website editor on my main computer – \i’ve had a couple of times when it  won’t let me get into the editor and I have to resort to the laptop, which hasn’t got my photo library on it’s hard Drive.   I was going to put the little Nock pistol back together, but somewhere between my workshop and Dicks we have mislaid the sear.  I Araldited the cock of the Post Office pistol to a piece of wood in preparation for milling a disk out of the back……..  If you think I have too many jobs on the go at once, you are right!

22nd January – Meetings in school took up 5 hours, but I did manage to make a graver sharpener for a customer.  I did design a sharpener that would do both the main 45 degree face and then could be turned over to do the 15 degree heels, but it needed rather a lot of parts and was fiddly so I am making them as two separate  tools.  They are not really economic to make as I have to turn and drill and tap each part separately and there are a lot of parts.  I could save a lot of time if I made batches but I usually have to get them out of the door in a hurry so make them individually.   If I could sell in quantity I could easily get them made by the 50s at an economic price, but that number would last at least until I am pushing up daisies – even if I outlive my mother who died at 98 – a good age!  Just in case you think I was shirking on the tax, any moments I  could fit in went that way……….

21st January – My apologies for no gun stuff today!  Mondays is Bullard Archive and STEM club.  The STEM children are getting their act together a bit – last week was a bit of a rabble.  We are building prototypes for a weather station for the school – the anemometer worked – now we have to fit a digital readout to it using a BBC Microbit computer.  Plans are in hand.

I have to report that my tax is not getting done very fast…………

19th January – As expected, another day pushing pieces of paper around the desk and searching for lost bills and invoices –  I’m relieved to see that there is now a £1000 tax free allowance for online sales, so the few little bits and pieces I sell from the shop on this website don’t get taxed and don’t have to be declared!   I picked up a copy of George Orwell’s Animal Farm with a child friendly cover and started to read it, thinking it was a child friendly simplification but realised that actually the book is the full adult one and  so unsubtle and simplistic that you wonder why it ever became famous – but I suppose times change and we  just expect better now.  I packed up after one page – doing my tax didn’t seem so tedious after that……………..

19th 18th January  – I got a bit confused about the date – I have just started wearing a watch again and it’s got the wrong date – it’s a day fast.  I gradually built up a pile of Casio F-91Ws – cheap plastic watches – with broken straps but still working, so I got round to ordering 5 new straps from Cousins at £1.25 each – I now have 3 wearable ones, and a couple of straps left over – Tom has one that needs a strap, and I’ll no doubt need another some day. As expected I spent most of the day trying to make sense of my accounts for the tax man – I had an accountant to chase/bully me into getting everything I need, but she retired this year so its down to me!   I did get down to Dicks to take the inlaid little pistols so he can finish them off and we had the usual cup of tea and a chat about work in progress.  I have the little flint post office pistol to make the safety for and fix the cock and get the spring to work, plus I think I need to have a go at sorting the laid back cock of the saw handled pistol as it offends me!   The Post Office pistol needs its replacement cock fitted, which involves completely remaking the square hole for the tumbler shaft – there are 3 ways to do this – 1) weld up the hole and drill and file a new hole, 2) mount up the tumbler on the lathe and drill out the shaft (after annealing it) and silver solder in a new shaft and put a square on that, or 3) drop and end mill in the back of the cock and silver solder in a disk and put the square in that.  2 and 3 do allow some fiddling with the orientation of the cock before final soldering, which is useful. 1) is quicker.  I have used 1) – most often, and 2) before, but drilling out the tumbler is a lot easier on a full sized gun – I’m not sure I fancy doing it on this little pistol.  I haven’t tried 3), which is Bev’s favourite, so I might try that this time.  2) would be difficult with a anything with a fly or detent, as well as a small pistol.

17th January – Had a shoot on Tuesday which didn’t go according to plan as the birds didn’t play ball!  As the season goes on they get more wily and the stupid ones get culled, so the keepering gets more difficult.  The first drive, which should have been good, produced nothing – not even the usual early exit of blackbirds etc.  The poor keeper was tearing his hair out by the end, although there were a couple of passable drives for some guns.  A couple of guns didn’t have any luck at all and in the end the bag was half what it was supposed to be, which in any case was very modest.  I guess I can’t complain too loudly as I got my fair share of what there was to get and enjoyed the day out in the country.  Ah well, its all part of the game!    I came back feeling half dead and for the first time in my life I just sprayed my gun liberally with WD 40 and left it for the morning, for which I feel ashamed!

13th January – We had the monthly Anglian Muzzle Loaders clay shoot at Cambridge Gun Club today.  Bev insists that I post that I shot very well (for me, that is). I surprised everyone, myself included, by being ahead  after the first 16 clays =  two stands, but alas it didn’t last, and I didn’t manage to connect with many of the long range targets – by common consent they were out to 50 or 60 yards  and being carried rapidly downwind, and by the time we got to the driven stand I’d lost concentration a bit, but still my best score in ages.  It augers well for a game shoot on Tuesday, and I’ve just got invited on  a ‘Cock Day’ for the last day on the season, which will round off the game year very nicely.  Don’t expect much gun stuff over the next two weeks as I have got to struggle with my income tax return for Jan 31st!

11 January – Interesting little problem – Dick put a replacement cock on a percussion pistol in the correct orientation for sitting on the nipple when the tumbler is down and the spring is almost at the edge of the lock plate, and it all works but the cock is very far back in the full cock position – it all works but both the half cock and full cock positions seem a bit too far back.  The tumbler and sear all seem to be undamaged and original and it has a ‘fly’ or detent on the tumbler that works OK .  The only things I can see wrong are that the link on the mainspring has been brazed and the mainspring short arm has a very long ‘stalk’ that rests on the bolster, so that the mainspring is overfolded in the full cock position – it only just gets that far.  I can’t see what is wrong – the square on the cock could be a little out but not enough to cause the problem, and the link might be wrong, although neither would affect the cock position.  Given that it has a ‘fly’ it is not possible to move the bents in the tumbler although it might be possible to shave a bit off the front of the sear.  I guess Dick and I will have another think together!   I managed to find an hour to solder the top rib on the Venables and it’s on pretty well – there is one small gap on one side but that is where the rib was previously filed down too much and it doesn’t touch the barrel – to have put it in contact with the barrel would have involved bending one side of the rib down by almost 1 mm, so best not attempted – it will be fine as it is, I hope – the rest is very solid.  I do rate resoldering barrels as my unfavourite – job I’ll do it for my guns but not for others!

 Position with cock on the nipple – it looks very upright!

Half cock.

A very laid back full cock – the mainspring is struggling!

10th January – I was helping a friend with an early spring clean and we found a cartridge bag which turned out to contain 50 12 Bore Bismuth cartridges on a peg, then we found another 25 in a bedroom, and 25 more in a cupboard, making a total of 100.  While I don’t shoot live quarry with a breechloader very often, I can use the No 5 bismuth shot in a muzzle loader and can then shoot wildfowl if the opportunity arises.  I had a quick look at the price of Bismuth shot on the web and it looks as if buying cartridges and recovering the shot is somewhat cheaper than buying loose shot by enough to be worth while – plus its much easier to get hold of cartridges than shot.  The only downside is that you have a whole lot of primed, damaged cases – or perhaps I can find a way of unloading them so that I can use the cases for black powder cartridges, which I do use for hammer gun club shoots.  Bismuth is supposed to be as soft as lead and OK for Damascus barrels, muzzle loaders etc.  It’s slightly less dense than lead, 10 instead of 11.7 gm/cc so you need to go up a shot size to give a comparable range and penetration to lead, and you therefore end up with a somewhat less dense shot pattern, so you need to shoot within sensible range limits to give clean sure kills.

9th January – sorry for the gap in posting but more urgent duties took precedence – I actually managed to spend yesterday morning soldering the barrels of the Venables and thought I had done a good job, but after it cooled down and I cleaned it up on the fine wire wheel I spotted about 4 inches near the breech where the top rib hadn’t been in contact with the barrels on either side.  I’m not sure if the tinning was OK or if it hadn’t taken, I tried to heat up the rib to fix it but stupidly overlooked the fact that the rib would expand and bow up as it was fixed at the breech and further down the barrel.  I will now have to do a proper job and unhitch the rib right down to the breech so I can relay it properly.  Fortunately the breech remains silver soldered together so it shouldn’t all fall apart if I heat it up.  Just have to make sure the under rib and the loop for the barrel bolt stay in position.   Not sure when I’ll be able to do that job as I have a raft of stressful jobs eleswhere to attend to…  I’ve been trying to get down to Dick’s all week to take a bit of welding for Jason and collect the last lot.  Jason is our expert TIG welder – much much better than I am.  He really enjoys the challenge of the very fine gun work and would like to give up doing ‘bog standard’ speciality welding and take up gun repair!  Not sure the market is big enough unless he does modern stuff – we only have about 1/2 an hour a week of work for him. It’s definitely time I got a few jobs out of the door – I’m beginning to loose track…………………. Oh, and Fred ( see engraving Fred’s guns ) has got another one for me to do sometime – I will have to spend quite a while getting back into the swing of it as I haven’t done any significant amount of engraving for a year or so.

6th January  I bought a copy of Ian Glendenning’s 1951 book ‘British Pistols and Guns 1640 to 1840’ not remembering that I had a copy already – its long book (in shape) and only fits in my bookcase on end so you don’t see the spine and I had overlooked it.  It is, however, an exemplary book for beginners as it is a very succinct guide with a brief history and much more comprehensive descriptions of typical pistols and guns than is usually found in books.  Its a shame that photographs were not easier and cheaper to reproduce in 1951 or it would be better illustrated but it does contain a lot of line drawings of decoration. It has a brief history of developments, a comprehensive glossary, decent descriptions of pistols and guns in the author’s collection and a list of known makers.  It’s a very good second hand book to buy if you only have one book and want to put a gun or pistol of that period in context, and much cheaper than almost any other decent gun book.  If you want my spare copy for £25 including UK post, please email me – first come first served.  It’s probably slightly wrong in one or two aspects – I don’t agree with his analysis of the ignition from flash pan to chamber, for instance, but overall its pretty sound.

5th January – My calor cylinder in the shed ran out so that has put paid to finishing the Venables barrel until I can get heat back on.   I got a flintlock pocket pistol by Nock today to sort out.  It is in good condition overall but the ‘action is at fault’ as the auction houses put it in catalogues.  The mainspring has some brazing on the hook end so has probably been repaired, and the sear isn’t holding.  It was sent already stripped down – looking at the action was made easy because the side plate had been removed and you can see the engagement of the sear with the cock – the cock fulfils the role of tumbler as well as cock in that type of pocket pistol.  The cock bents are in perfect condition, the problem lies with the sear, which is an extension upwards of the trigger – it isn’t hardened like the cock bents, and so the tip  has got worn or broken away for about 1 1/2 mm. It rather looks as if someone used brute force to fire the pistol when the sear was very firmly in the half cock bent and sheared off a chunk of the sear – or possibly dropped the pistol on its cock when it was a half cock…… The sear is a bit wider than the cock, so its left a bit of the original sear sticking up either side of the worn gap that corresponds to the cock – the photos tell the story – the sear needs building up to the profile of the two bits that stick up either side – I checked by offsetting the cock and using one of the bits as the sear, and it functions properly.  It can either be done by silver soldering in a piece of steel between the remnants of the sear, or welding more material on, which will inevitably destroy the original profile.  I’ll think about that choice, both will work but the weld may be stronger?

As usual, click the photos for a better view, then the back arrow to return…

a chunk is missing out of the middle of the sear leaving a ‘horn’ either side

The sear, with worn down bit in the middle.

The cock bents are perfect.

2nd Jan 2019   I started to put the ribs on the Venables barrels – at least I got as far as tinning the ribs and lands on the barrels – I’ve probably been far too generous with the solder but I don’t want to have any more false dawns! I will probably go over it again and try to thin down the tinning to a more reasonable level or it will create loose blobs of solder within the voids under the top rib which will rattle around when the gun fires!  I’m in school tomorrow as part of a pre term planning session to see what science is planned. On Thursday I am helping take all 100 odd children to the Pantomime in Cambridge (as one of 15 adults I’m relieved to say).

1 January 2019    Happy New Year to all our visitors, especially the faithful followers!   I’ll be back soon – just got to do our New Year’s Party with breakfast for about 70 people and then I can think about doing things again!

 Posted by at 11:30 pm
Mar 202019

Here is a post copied from the diary on reducing the 3/4 inch cast off on the 14 bore Venables of Oxford percussion sporting gun to something I could shoot with – around 3/16″ to 1/4″. It was a pretty straightforward operation, the effort goes into jigging it up properly before you begin so that you can control the bend to get the result you want, and so that you make sure the bending takes place at the wrist and not into the area round the lock pockets. The gun needs to be held reasonably rigidly so that clamping the stock doesn’t shift the whole gun. The secret (if there is one) is to heat gently and for a long time. I used an industrial heat gun and its easy to scorch the wood or damage the finish so I kept it on its low setting. The heat takes a long time to penetrate to the centre of the wrist, which is where you want to concentrate the bend. I wrapped kitchen foil round the lock area to protect it from heat, and wrapped a folded sheet of kitchen paper round the wrist and poured hot vegetable oil onto the paper, I played the hot air gun on the wrist from a few inches away and topped up the oil from time to time. Eventually you can feel that the butt is getting a bit ‘limp’ and you can begin very gently to wind in the clamp holding the butt to the reference board – be careful that you are not bending the reference board – mine was backed by a 1″ x 3″ steel bar so I could clamp it to that.

The wood will tend to spring back when the clamp is released, so it is probably safe to go 1/16th 1/8th inch beyond what you want to achieve and leave that in place while the whole lot cools down. This is when you really want to leave it for a considerable time to cool – two to three hours minimum or preferably overnight.

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

This is how it started out – 3/4″ of cast off!

Caliper set to offset of centreline so still 1/2″ cast off

I kept the temperature to less than 100C – just takes time to work

About 1/4 inch of cast off now – perfect for me.

 Posted by at 4:29 pm
Feb 102019

A nice gun for you today!  Derek brought a gun that belongs to a friend of his for me to cast my eye over, so with his consent, I will put a few photos on the web and we can enjoy a little specualtion about the gun together!

It’s a high quality percussion gun signed Joseph Manton on locks and barrel and with the serial number 5692 on the underside of the barrels, the breech block, the inside of  both locks and the tang of the trigger guard.  By the Manton book that serial number belongs to 1812 ( this gun is not in the book), still in the flintlock era although coming up to the tubelock and pellet lock transition period before the caplock, which this is by the usage in the Manton book.   Its about 22 bore double with 30 inch barrels but without the elevator rib that Jo Manton patented before this date (? or a small one?).  So it looks as if it is a conversion involving new locks and new breeching, or that it has been renumbered or is from a period later when his numbering MAY have gone haywire.   There are a lot of interesting clues in the gun if you can bear to go through them;-

1) It has the cocks with removable hammers – a follow-on from pellet locks and used around 1828.

2) What are those safety catches in front of  the cocks doing on a shotgun?  (they engage in a slot cut in the back of the cock when its at half cock  – I think they are a considerably later feature.

3) If its a conversion the ‘bolsters’ on the barrels above the locks look odd??

4) In addition to the sliding safetys on the cocks there is a grip safety – but it is engraved John Blisset Patent even though Jo Manton claimed to have invented it. There is a burr at the backof the slot that suggests it may be a retrofit. I can’t see Manton putting a grip safety with someone elses name on it!

5) The barrel wording is ‘Joseph Manton’s New Invention by His Majesty’s PATENT’ – a form of words that he appears to have used between 1812 and 1816 and not at any other time?  It may have a slightly elevated rib – Manton’s recent Patent – I don’t know what constitutes ‘elevated’.

6) The numbering on the barrel looks as if it may have been restamped after previous numbers were dressed out – possibly also the numbers on the breech plugs. One breech plug is a bit misaligned.

7) It has two sets of CP proof marks on the barrel – one set looking as if they have been dressed down.

8) Everthing looks OK from on top although the breech plug doesn’t align perfectly with the rib – but the engraving IS continuous across the joint.

9)  The locks have the number 5692 very clearly stamped on them.  The trigger guard tang also has the number 5692 engraved on it and looks original.

10) The locks have the classic Joseph Manton ‘sea monster’ engraving by Gumbrell that was seen on his guns around 1820 – 1828?  Oviously the front safety catches were not intended when the locks were made and engraved.

Now we can begin the speculation if you are still with me!

A good point to start is the locks –clearly made by Joseph Manton around 182X (on grounds of percussion caplock, engraving and style)  or so and clearly numbered for 5692 and so intended for an 1812 gun of his.  The locks have the sliding safety catches which can’t realistically be contemporary with their manufacture(?)  but almost certainly a later modification but are unusual on shotguns, being much more usual on rifles, (and introduced at a later date then the 1820s? – maybe 1830 – 1850?).  If he had wanted to put a safety catch on a gun in 1828 he would almost certainly have used one behind the cock intercepting the tumbler not the cock itself as on pistols of that era.    Joe Manton didn’t make very many rifles.  When you add in the grip safety, which looks like a retrofit on account of Manton claiming to have invented it and it having another gunmaker’s name on it (grip safetys were not in fashion for long as they are pretty unreliable)  The grip and cock safety together might suggest that it was possibly converted from a rifle (unlikely) but more likely that it had a very cautious owner at some time – possibly at conversion but probably  some time after – possibly in two phases, grip safety and then sliding safety.  The condition of the blueing of the sliders suggests that the gun wasn’t used much if at all after they were fitted ?   The gun has not had a lot of wear at any time – maybe some prior to conversion, but relatively little use as a percussion gun as there is almost no corrosion around the nipples on the breeches.

The stock and furniture seem OK for 1812, and the number 5692 on the trigger guard tang is almost certainly original so I’m inclined to put it all down as original – the engraving throughout is consistent in quality and design and could date from a few years earlier than the Sea Monster lock engraving.

The barrels are interesting – the signature etc is right for the serial number date of 1812 ( used up to 1816). There is no gold or platinum stamp on the breeches, but they are very small and maybe not wide enough to take his stamp.  It looks as if they have been struck off and renumbered and rebrowned and reproofed but I believe that the gun has been untouched in the same family for many years and it is quite possible that the work was done when the gun was converted or when one or other of the safety devices were added – it is almost certainly not a recent rebrowning.  While it is possible to speculate that the gun was at one time a rifle and has been rebarreled, one would have to allow that the present barrel was contemporary with the original 1812 date or else re-signed in perfect imitation of the earlier form.

My current guess is that the gun was built as a flintlock 22 bore shotgun in 1812  and carefully converted by Joseph Manton to caplock in about 1828 (say 1825 – 1830).  At some point it was owned by a hyper cautious owner who had the safety grip added – maybe by John Blisset himself ( he became Blisset and Son in 1867).  It is possible that being very cautious the owner had the barrels reproofed at that time or they may have been done at the time of conversion, although Manton did not always send guns to the proofhouse  – he preferred his own hydraulic test.  I incline to think that the sliding safety is somewhat later than the grip safety ( I’ve only seen it on guns of 1840 to 1860) and so may have been added later.

So its tentative history ( a guess!) ;

1812 made by Joseph Manton as a 22 bore flintlock shotgun

1828 ish  converted by Joseph Manton to caplock

1830 ish  grip safety added – ?by John Blisset? date based loosly on level of wear. & reproofed?

(1840 -1850) ??  front safety catches added  and reproofed(?) Not much used thereafter?

I’m sure I’ll be proved wrong – I will take the gun to Geoff Walker at  ‘The Flintlock Collection’ as he knows his Mantons much better than I do.

 Posted by at 10:32 am
Dec 212018

Here is a fairly typical Dublin duelling pistol of around 1780 to about 1795 (?), quite well made and now fully restored and looking very fine.

before restoration showing repaired cock
A little unusual in that the lock is fixed through the lock plate into the side of the false breech with one short screw and with a hook on the front end.
Another unusual feature is that the frizzen is connected to its spring with a link, not plain or a roller as was common later.
Nothing unusual here, nice bridle and very short link. The spring is not original, but that is common as springs often broke in use – this one is abit soft – I might try to get it more balanced with the frizzen spring., which is OK
 Posted by at 12:11 am
Dec 062018

Here are photos of a pair of pocket pistols I bought as a project for the website – they are now completed and for sale – see FOR SALE page.


as bought

Derusted electrolytically and allowed to dry – the rust is loose!

Quick brush with 3 thou wheel


New tail to topstrap.


Topstrap engraved to match

New screws for topstrap/tang


A couple of coats of ‘Slackum’ oil finish and they are done!

One butt has a trap for caps, the other is a later? dummy.

 Posted by at 9:00 pm
Nov 102018


30th August – I seem to be back in the gun tinkering business again!  I’m sure those visitors to the site who have faithfully stuck it out all summer will breath a sigh of relief!  I cleaned up the other Edwards as it looked worse once I’d done the first!   I am now struck by how damaged the wood is – maybe I won’t be able to resist refinishing it lightly?   In the course of getting the cocks and frizzen etc. off I used my two favourite disassembly methods to good effect  – if a screw is reluctant to come out, don’t try too hard to unscrew it, especially if the head is a bit mangled – instead tighten it very slightly if you can – a very tiny movement will be enough to break any sticking, and the screw head will probably be perfect for use in that direction – once you have a slight movement, some WD 40 or equivalent, or better still a little acetone with a touch of oil will help as you work it back and forth until it becomes easy.  The other trick is releasing the cock from the square on the tumbler  – lay the lock face up on your thigh and using the largest pin punch that fits the square, tap smartly with a light hammer a few times and the cock will gradually come off – I know it sounds improbably but it works for most things that need driving out with a pin punch!

Having finished with the Edwards  I looked at another cased pair I have that needed attention – a pair of percussion back action lock duelling pistols by D Egg – they too came form my father’s collection and were rather sad as one pistol was broken through the lock area, and someone had attempted to glue it rather badly and  had then lost the lock. I got Blackleys to make a set of castings from the good lock and freshened up the engraving and got DIck to fix the wood and make up the lock castings (it was in the early days and I wasn’t confident I could do it).   Anyway at some point I looked at the pair as  possible shooting pistols, but Dick hadn’t finished off the lock action fully and the sear caught on the half cock notch when the cock was let down.   Its one of those faults that one comes across from time to time in locks that don’t have a detent to lift the sear over the half cock bent.  The remedy is usually to reshape the half cock bent, and possibly refine the full cock bent a little. Fortunately the tumbler hadn’t been hardened so I didn’t need to anneal it.  To get the sear past the half cock notch, the notch needs to be shaped so that the end of the sear is deflected outwards as it passes in firing, which in order to get a secure half cock notch means that the sear needs to slide into the half cock notch without being lifted at all.  None of the standard files are suitable for shaping the half cock notch as it needs a true knife edge – I have a very fine flat file that I’ve ground off to leave a fine edge on one side.    Anyway I managed to re-work the half cock notch and polish it all up and harden it – and it now works a treat…….

The  Eggs are interesting – they were obviously good quality pistols and, replacement lock apart, are in reasonable shape. They are in a case that was obviously for a pair of flintlocks that has been crudely modified for the Eggs – it would be natural to assume that some collector put them in a box he happened to have BUT both case and pistols have the crest of the Earl of Sefton ( Liverpool) and the case has a Liverpool ironmonge’s label, so it looks as if they were put in the current case by the Seftons – one can imagine that the Earl might have been a bit strapped for cash but wanted to upgrade his flintlocks for the latest thing in percussion, so he traded his flintlock pistols in and put the new pistols in the old case, having removed the central box as there wasn’t room for it.  Or maybe William Drury did it for him and put his label in the case?  Anyway both case and pistols obviously belonged to the Earl at some point, so you can invent you own story!

They just fit, but only just!

29th August – I was thinking about a possible article for Black Powder on the ‘morals or ethics’ of restoration and looked at some of my guns that might be interesting to consider.  I alighted on a cased pair of Irish Duelling pistols by Edwards that belonged to my father and which I had never touched – I thought they might benefit from a light clean and a quick check that there was no rust causing problems, although they are in basically sound condition – the only problem is that the case has been relined and the case lock messed about with, otherwise they are pretty good.  Anyway I took out the lock of one to strip enough to clean off the external faces and parts, i.e. cock, frizzen and frizzen spring. to do that I took off the mainspring to get at the frizzen spring fixing and surprise – there was a roller on the end of the mainspring. I’ve taken a few locks apart and I thought I’d seen most variations of lock, but this is a new one on me.  I guess it was a transient feature between plain springs bearing on the tumbler, and the later and ubiquitous link.  I was in two minds about remaking the side nail as the head was pretty mashed up – anyway I’ve mislaid it so that decides it for me – sweeping with my magnet hasn’t found it!

29th August –  I came across an original Curtis and Harvey powder tin that was full of powder – much as I’d have liked to keep it in its tin, I was responsible and decanted it into a plastic container and put it in my approved box!  While I had it out, I thought that it would be interesting to compare the grain sizes of powders, and as I have a whole lot of different powders I took a set of photos under my microscope and here they are….

As usual, click on the photo for a clearer and bigger picture…….

The powders are, as labelled, Swiss OB, No 1, No 2, No 4, TS2, Curtiss and Harvey No 4, Czech Vesuvit L.C. and a miscellaneous powder I was given as a priming powder which turned out to be useless – its grain structure is like coke, see last picture which is an enlargement.  All the other pictures are at the same scale – 5 m.m. across the photo.  I think I still have more powders in my box ,  Farquarson & Nobel No 2 – but I’ll find those later.  The photos appear to show that the Swiss powders & the TS2 and C &H have quite uniform grain sizes while the Czech powder is much more mixed in size.  As shooters of muzzle loaders will know, the grain size controls the ignition speed because the grains burn through relatively slowly compared with the speed of propagation of the flash through the interstices  – so bigger grains mean slower  burn – hence OB for rapid flash for flintlocks priming and Swiss 4 for rifles where you want smooth acceleration down the barrel to avoid stripping the rifling.   The Czech powder in much cheaper than the Swiss and is used in percussion shotguns although it isn’t as fast or powerful as Swiss No 2, the alternative which is invariably used in flintlocks.  Presumably the slower ignition of the Czech, which has a relatively fine grain size,  is due to its composition, and possibly that the mixed grain size means it packs tighter and doesn’t allow the flash to propogate through the charge as well ?  On the evidence of grain size alone, one might expect Czech to be comparable with Swiss No 1 – which is used in pistols as it gives fast burn suitable for the short barrels of pistols, but clearly other factors are at play here.  It would be interesting to sieve Czech and compare the fine fraction with maybe OB and the coarser with Swiss No 1 or 2.

28th August – I was part of the MLAGB ‘Have a Go’ stand at the Fenland Country Fair  yesterday, & it was manic!  Sunday was pretty dead by all accounts  (I was elsewhere ) so everyone came on Monday, and 6 of us were flat out from about 10 a.m. until 4 p.m giving people a go with our guns – I took my little percussion single barreled Nock which people all love – its a small gun – 5 1/4 lbs and 13 1/2 inch pull but it seems to ‘come up’ right for everyone – keeping the charge low 2 1/4 drams and 7/8 oz is fine for adults, and probably about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 drams and 1/2 oz for children and I didn’t get any complains as long as I got people to hold the gun properly  into their shoulders, and not just the heel.  I took my single barreled ‘Twigg’ flinter as its very reliable and is a classic long barreled gun of around 1780.   We had a couple of traps set up for going away birds and  a few people did pretty well – one young girl ( 15 ish ) had never touched a gun before but hit her 3 clays in great style like an old timer!  My son Giles had never touched a shotgun before ( you might wonder why – he never had any desire to ) brought his girlfriend and had 2 shots and broke clays on both, a hidden talent!  At the end of the day  I’d collected tickets from around  70 shots (about half with the flintlock), used two flasks of powder and got through one flint.   Saturday is our Anglian Muzzle Loaders monthly shoot so I’ll go to that – I have decided that I have accumulated too many double percussion guns, so I’ll offer them to members of the AML first, then put them on this site  – I’ll get rid of the Samuel Nock and the Egg plus the 8 bore single wikldfowl gun, which will leave me with two, the Jackson and the Venables.

26th August – Just driven back from a family party in Wales in the most horrendous rain, so I feel a bit washed out!  But no time to relax as I’m on duty on the MLAGB stand at the Fenland Country Fair with my guns and some pistols to display by 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning- fortunately its only about 10 minutes drive away from home.  Today must have been a washout for them, and I’m concerned that the ground will be so waterlogged that they won’t let anyone drive onto  the showground – which means I’ll have to carry all my stuff right across the whole ground. We’ll face that when we come to it.   I’ve had a correspondence with a collector/dealer about descriptions of antiques and restorations thereof – which has got me thinking about coming up with a sensible set of descriptions that cover most degrees of restoration – I’ll keep thinking about it in odd moments and when/if I come up with any ideas I’ll try to produce something useful…..  In the meantime I’m up to my neck in other things……

23rd August – Back from my sailing/camping trip to the Blackwater Estuaety and the Colne.   Had an interesting diversion on the way to launch at Tollesbury Marina, planning to arrive at about 4:30  to launch around 6 p.m on a rising tide.  Half a mile from the Marina (literally) there was a bang and a scraping noise form the trailer…..

…and a friendly native brought me my wheel…

Not much chance of putting that back, or of going anywhere soon, or so you might think – But, wonders of the internet, I Googled  ‘Trailer parts near me’ which came up with Indespension in Colchester  8.8 miles away as the crow flies – a quick telephone call had them in their stock room with a measure, but we couldn’t be sure any would fit, and they closed in 45 minutes…..  A very rapid dash got me there 15 minutes before they closed, and we sorted out a pair of new suspension units and hubs which they kindly greased and assembled for me, and even gave me a couple of pairs of latex gloves so I could fit them without getting my hands dirty!  I still didn’t know if they would fit the trailer, but they did, and I was able to replace the broken unit – I  had a socket set in the car that for some reason has two 13 mm sockets and 2 ‘drivers’  so I was able to undo the rusted nuts and bolts with a bit of effort…..  And I managed to launch by 8 p.m. on the top of the tide…..  Well done Indespension, and all for a cost of £157.00 including VAT!  The wonders of the internet!  And I had a good couple of days pottering about in the boat…………….

20th August –  The shooting season is almost upon us – I have a few shoots (muzzle loading only) lined up and I’ll be at the Fenland Country Fair on Bank holiday Monday – I have been press-ganged into the ‘have a go’ squad as we will be a bit thin on the ground, so I won’t be doing my engraving.  I will however be at Sandringham Country fair a fortnight later with my full engraving setup and display, and I look forward to meeting old friends and new at both events.  If you have any antiques in need of restoration bring them along,  and if you are a watcher of this site, make sure you introduce yourself!

19th August – I finished the tent for my dinghy, so tomorrow I am setting off on the first stage of my plan to sail round the world – the first stage being about 5 miles up the Blackwater estuary!   I thought I’d post a photo of our amazing crop of tomatoes – 3 plants growing in a growbag on the woodstore roof.  I set up a very cheap watering timer about 6 weeks ago and they have not been touched since – I think this is the first time either Penny or I have got anything edible to grow, so its a red letter day!   I thought I’d better include something to do with guns and engraving just to keep some semblance of focus to this blog – I came across a small piece of brass that I’d used used for practice when I first tried engraving some 55 years ago!  As you can see, its fairly basic scroll stuff, and I guess is still the pattern I default to if I’m not trying to do anything in particular.


I did this in about 1959!


17th August – Spent another whole day waiting in for a promised delivery by TNT – that is two days I’ve wasted because of them in the last week.  I’ll have to hunt round and find where on the web to leave a negative review!    In my frustration I played around with recutting the chequering on an old shotgun fore-end from Dick’s scrap box.  I have some proper tools for cutting 24 lines per inch, but they aren’t perfect for recutting – but I did make a tool some time ago out of a cheap plastic handled crosshead screwdriver with the end bent and ground down.  It has a curved ‘keel’ ground to a 60 degree edge, and a sharp slanting cutting face – it is ideal for recutting as you can use the ‘keel’ to follow existing lines or mark new ones, and when you have got the mark it leaves in the right place you just tip it up a little and it cuts as you move it forward. If there is any existing groove the keel will follow it.  I did have a problem on the fore-end where there was a gap without any trace of the old chequering and I didn’t manage to fill it in very evenly, but its not too bad.  I now need a better cutter to widen the cuts and even it all up.

16th August – I’ve been busy making a tent for my little dinghy so that I can do a short camping trip before the summer ends, but today Dick rang and asked if I had any chequering tools as his were blunt.  At the time I couldn’t find the odd one or two unused ones I had somewhere, but this evening I found a couple of 24 lines per inch cutters and had a go on a scrap of old gun stock – my tools are 24 lines  to the inch, so quite fine.  I wouldn’t say that my first effort was perfect, but it would pass on casual inspection.  I don’t have the proper tools for doing the edges – old shotguns have a fairly wide convex groove as a border, so I might make try making one some time.  Anyway, that is another skill that I can spend some time working on this winter!  I’ll post a photo of my effort some time.

13th August –  Yesterday the little o/u pistol was collected by my friend and client  – I let it go with reluctance as its such a beauty – I showed him teh Venables 14 bore but wouldn’t let him buy it!  I did persuade him to sell me a little pair of Belgian percussion pocket pistols that need quite a lot of restoration done as they have rusted.  I normally steer clear of foreign stuff as it was not popular here, but times are a’changing as they say, and I needed a straightforward project for the blog as I’ve been a bit distracted lately.  I haven’t actually got these pistols yet, or for that matter seen them in theflesh, but when I do I’ll put photos up.


Goodbye –  you don’t see many as nice as this!

11th August – The mystery of the Yamaha F4A outboard deepens!   I put it all back together – minus the back cover – and ran it with the pipe that connects the thermostat housing to the exhaust junction and carries the hot cooling water from the engine  disconnected at the connection to the leg.  The engine was running with the leg in a tank of water in neutral at ‘trolling’ speed.   With the thermostat in place a few drops appear from the pipe when the engine is cold (it needs to leak s bit to get the hot water to the thermostat), and as the engine warms up the flow  gradually increases and a thermometer shows the water at around 60 degrees C or so, which is about right – but then the pipe starts to spit steam and after a minute or so it is just a stream of steam with no solid water and the engine get very hot.  With the thermostat removed there is  a strong continuous flow of water from the pipe and it  doesn’t get much above 40 – 45C and the engine stays reasonable cool.  I checked the thermostat before and it meets the specs exactly, so what is going on?  The tell tale is showing good pressure on both tests….

When running with the water coming out of the pipe rather than into the leg, the leg gets quite hot from the exhaust  but that isn’t a factor in this problem.  In all these tests there is a very strong stream coming from the tell tale hole by the inlet to the engine.   Anyway I have left out the thermostat and plan to use the outboard to see if it overheats in use – of course I’ll reconnect the pipe to the leg to cool the exhaust and put on the covers.   Mystery…………

Good tell tale flow and good cooling flow  when no thermostat is fitted

9th August – Having said yesterday that it was too nice to be indoors, I got my comeuppance today as it rained all day non stop and is still raining.  I did a few vaguely gun related jobs- making some felt sleeves to keep my antique pistols from getting damaged.  I was hoping to  do some work on the dinghy in preparation form my little trip, but that wasn’t possible.

8th August – The number of visitors to this site has jumped to about 500 a day – and it seems to be genuine visitors rather than bot attacks, which is nice.  I haven’t got back to gun work yet – its really too nice to be indoors, so I got back to trying to fix my Yamaha F4A  outboard that was overheating last year.  We failed to notice that there was no cooling water coming out of the tell tale outlet, and the engine overheated, so I stripped it down and found the water pump absolutely solid with salt so I replaced all the parts of the pump and cleaned out and replaced the thermostat – it all seemed fine and water flowed out of the tell tale but it still got far too hot.  I took the head off and checked & cleared all the water cooling passages, which were pretty clear anyway, and then had to wait while I got a replacement head gasket.  I put it together today  but fortunately didn’t put all the cowling back on as it was still overheating, although this time there was a very strong jet coming out of the tell-tale hole, so there was obviously adequate pressure from the water pump.  Nothing for it but to take the power head off the leg to look at the only bit of the water path I hadn’t checked – but no sign of any problems there.  Now that is all a bit of a mystery, so I went back to the thermostat that I’d replaced and checked it in hot water – it opened fully by 70 degrees C, which is what it is supposed to do.  I put the thermostat housing back on without the thermostat and could then blow easily through from the water pump inlet  to the water outlet into the exhaust path so there can be no obstruction in the entire water path in the engine.  That really doesn’t leave much that could be wrong!  I am now waiting for a new gasket  to put the power head back on the leg and I’ll try again.  One useful thing I did learn is that the telltale outlet is right by the cooling water inlet to the engine, so it doesn’t show if water is flowing round the engine, only that the pump is working, and the tell tale water never gets more that luke warm, so as a check its rather limited.  My only possible thought is that there was an air lock in the path to the thermostat housing so that it never got heated enough to open – anyway my only idea at the moment is to try it without the thermostat in place…………………..  I’ll be back with more on this, I would like to get the outboard working as I want to go off in our 16 ft dinghy for a few days while the weather is good………………………

5th August – back at last after our sailing holiday – altogether a good time was had by all.  Only one gale and we were safely tied up in Stornoway for the day – we hired a car and did a tour of Harris, which is not difficult as there are not that many roads!   Mostly sailing  required 4 layers of clothing, but the wind dropped almost every night so no tense nights worrying about anchors dragging, and it was often possible to eat in the cockpit in the evening (thankfully midges don’t make the journey out to the boat!).  We even had one whole day then it was possible to wear shorts and a tee shirt, which is almost unheard of in those parts.  We got the hang of sailing the boat better, mostly because Giles had done a bit of yacht racing and was good at sail trimming, so we had some exciting fast reaches at 8 knots plus in winds to 25 knots.  We explored a few new anchorages and discovered a couple of  very pretty lochs to overnight in.   Now back to ‘real life’ or what passes for that here!  I’ve forgotten everything I knew about guns and engraving, so it will be fun picking it up again………………

Quiet evening in Loch Shell, Lewis

25th July – Greetings from the Hebrides, where it is about 14 degrees C and alternating between 20 knot winds and calm, with rain and drizzle thrown in for good measure, while me house sitters bask in 30 degrees and swim in the pool!

Alongside in Scalpay Noth Harbour, Harris

Motoring in the rain!

20th July  We have nearly reached the end of school term and our house guests/house sitters will shortly be arriving so we can hand over and disappear for a sailing trip round the Hebrides.  Until then I am pretty busy on work, so there won’t be much on the blog,  I’m afraid, unless I can persuade the sitters to give an account of their time in the house – they certainly won’t be doing any gun engraving as my collection is currently in storage – and I’ll try to sell a substantial chunk of it before I take it back as I have run out of space!  I’ll try to put some pictures when we do eventually get away, but mobile reception is a bit flakey in the Outer Isles, and our target this year is St Kilda, which I’m certain doesn’t have any.

18th July A very pleasant afternoon with a couple of friends for lunch and a bit of gentle muzzle loading clay shooting in their garden – we had a very nice Egg double 11 bore tubelock sans ramrod that was quite heavy and of around 1840 – 45  vintage.  This was the second phase of popularity of the tubelock after the first Joseph Manton 1818 tubelock patent flurry of guns – it is always assumed that the second phase of popularity was predicated on the craze for live pigeon shooting and the big wagers involved, on the premise that the tubelock was slightly faster ignition than the caplock.  The bore is a hint that it was a live pigeon gun as it was the maximum allowed bore, and most sporting guns except wildfowl guns were smaller bore. Plus it doesn’t have a ramrod.  It was one of a pair of guns without the numbers 1 & 2 to distinguish the guns and that is possibly a clue as sporting guns were usually carefully individually marked.  Unusually the tubelock had a number of misfires, which we put down to faulty tubes – I didn’t make those tubes and I’ve never had a misfire in the few hundred I’ve made.  I took my Manton Flintlock and we got it to go from a noticeable delay to pretty fast by tweaking the priming – our American friend convinced me that it was faster with about 1/3 or  1/4 of the priming powder (Swiss OB) than I had been using – great discovery given the price of Swiss OB.  I’m almost out of OB as I seem to have mislaid my pot of it – possibly I lent it?  I think I’d been adding more priming in the mistaken belief that it made the gun go off faster.  We shot the Venables for the first time – it seems to shoot as a percussion caplock would,  All in all I managed to bag a few clays with all three guns.

17th July  I have been trying to ‘invent’ new designs for border engravings, but its turning out to be more difficult than I imagined – I thought I’d do a rope, but getting the shading to look right is proving tricky – I’ll post a photo when I get a bit nearer a solution.  I had the last STEM club of the term – the oldest children – year 6- are going on to secondary school so next term there will be new members and we’ll have to start again with cutting up cardboard boxes and using masses of sticky tape and hot (warm) glue guns and lolly sticks etc.  So Dave and I will have to rack our brains to come up with suitable projects that include the above!  I’ll miss the year 6s – they were great. We are shortly off to Scotland and sailing, so I am getting ready for the house sitters to take over – I am relieved that they are staying because the thought of coming back after a couple of weeks and finding the swimming pool a stagnant green puddle is not at all attractive!  I hope they get on all right with the cockerel – nasty piece of work!    I got invited out to lunch and some gently muzzle loading shooting tomorrow  so I might take the Venables and see if it shoots as well as it seems to handle – and maybe the Manton flintlock to see if I can get the ignition up to speed – it was a bit slow last time, although I have to admit that it is other people who really notice – I am maybe too slow myself to judge the ignition speed of a flintlock unless it is really noticeably slow. Tomorrow I also have  a visit to school to meet the teacher responsible for Special Educational Needs children as that is my governor responsibility – in total that means I will have made three visits this week and  a similar number last week – in fact every term-time week – the holidays will come as a bit of a relief.

16th July – another sunny day!  I don’t know how long it is since we had rain, probably about 4 weeks and counting… Coincidence or what – just as I finished typing that sentence Penny called out and said that it was raining – but you can be sure it won’t be enough to soak the ground!    I went over to see Dick today to see the progress on jobs. – We have a small problem – the double barreled ‘foreign’ pistol was stripped by Dick but neither he nor I can find the small parts from the inside of the locks – I’m pretty sure I only took bits that needed engraving, which I’ve returned in the box they came in but the ‘works’ have proved elusive – both Dick and I have searched our workshops to no avail – really strange because both of us have several of sets of bits at any one time and always keep them separate and in boxes or zippy plastic bags.  The annoying thing is that if you make a new set – possible but tedious – you can be sure they will turn up just as you finish the last part!

15th July – I saw several interesting guns people had bought to show at Rugby yesterday, including a fine underhammer percussion rifle by W Parker.   One shooter had a problem with his percussion shotgun – the cock wouldn’t pull back from the fired position as far as half cock so a couple of us had a look and took out the lock, whereupon it became clear that the problem was that the nose of the tumbler was  hitting the mainspring claw/ tumbler link and preventing the tumbler from rotating any further.  It’s unusual to see clearances here of less than a couple of m.m. , but the gun looked original and had been shooting perfectly well.  The problem appeared to boil down to the link being effectively too long – the top joint of the link onto the tumbler appeared to have bit of play, but not really enough to cause the problem.  I had a spring clamp in my car and took out the mainspring, which revealed the problem – the link had started a crack just at the joint between the flat part and the cross bar that engages with the claw on the mainspring and had allowed the rod to move so as to effectively lengthen the link and cause the interference seen. (see photo – of a different lock).  It will be a tricky job to weld it, but another member took it away to fix as its an ‘up North’ job.  I had a look at a few locks from an assortment of guns and couldn’t find one where the clearance between the tip of the tumbler and link/claw was so small -before the crack opened the clearance could only have been a few tens of thou! –  you meet something new every day in this game!   I stupidly didn’t photograph the  broken lock, so here are some photos of ones I have to hand that illustrate the site of the problems

This is a lock from my Samuel Nock percussion 14 bore  gun. The arrow illustrates the closest point as the cock is pulled back – as you can see the sear hasn’t reached the half cock bent. On the broken gun there was a collision between tumbler and spring and link at this point.

A lock from a John Manton & Son 1852-5  percussion double showing the point on the link that had started to crack on the Rugby gun – if it hadn’t stopped working because of the interference, the link would have failed shortly anyway.

14th July  – At the Horley Wood Helice shoot today – fantastic weather, with enough breeze to stop us all frying in the sun.  The Rugby club is one of only 5 in the country to have a helice layout – as I’ve probably explained before, the principle is to simulate the old sport of live pigeon shooting matches without any loss of life, either the shooters or the targets.  It is laid out like the old live pigeon shoots with 5 traps in front of the shooter, loaded with orange winged clays that fly, and have a knockout white centre that falls free if hit (with a little luck).  There is a small fence around 2 feet high in an arc around the shooting position at about 30 yards(?) distant – the ‘clay must be hit so as to separate the white centre, which must hit the ground inside the fence to count as a kill.  We allowed the clay to bounce over the fence and still score, but I think some rules say it must finish up inside the fence.  The fun part is that the traps spin up the clays and oscillate from side to side and up and down so that the shooter can’t anticipate which trap will fire on the ‘pull’ ( the use of that word signifies the pulling of the string that opened the trap over the live pigeon) or the direction it will take.  the spinning orange part is a propeller and can describe a whole range of different paths with changes of direction during flight.  Scoring a hit is a mixture of good shooting and luck in getting an ‘easy’ bird (in truth none are that easy). As muzzle loaders are not as fast as breech loaders, and we are not experienced helice shooters, we only use the middle 3 traps, which makes it somewhat easier,    It is so different from ‘normal’ clay shooting that all the winners were shooters who didn’t normally figure as winners in conventional clay competition, and many of those who are normally good  didn’t shine……

For the benefit of those there, some of whom read my blog, here are a couple of photos;

20 bird shoot – so only 8 out of 28 hit half or more of the birds well enough to score – there were a few near misses too.

The ‘bird’ is just below the wind turbine blade.  The trap on the left has just fired hence it shows black.

As in any muzzle loading event, it takes time to load and shoot 560 shots, so there is a little time to relax 

13th July  Missed out on the restoration & engraving for a couple of days –  I had a look at the two little pistols Dick has restored – they look very good now.  They will in due course be collected when the owner gets down off his combine!  I bought back the frizzen of the Blair and Sutherland that I had asked Dick to make a better fit to the pan as it was so hard the file wouldn’t touch it – the beauty of having an electric furnace handy means just dip it in scale inhibiting paint (Brownells) and hang it in the furnace and set it for 900C then turn it off and let it cool ( it cools at a reasonably slow rate as the bricks are quite good insulators).   I am off the Rugby for the Helice tomorrow – I got out the Gasquoine and Dyson 6 1/2 bore live pigeon gun  to see if I could mount it but the stock is too high and I can’t get my head down on the stock – given that live pigeon guns were made to shoot high, adding the extra from my eye being above the line means I don’t think I could hit anything with it – so it looks as if it will be the old faithful Henry Nock single 14 bore.  the load is limited to 1 1/4 oz and 3 drams, which is quite enough for its 5 1/4 lbs weight.  I’ll take the Venables of Oxford to show off my bargain!   I’m busy preparing for sailing in Scotland- we have a large table piled with food, and I’m sorting out navigation software for my mobile phone – there is a group of enthusiasts who have been surveying small locks around the West coast of Scotland using a rubber dingy equipped with GPS and an echsounder, because a lot of the Official Admiralty charts are based on surveys that were done in the 19th  or early 20th centuries and the positioning of small features like sharp rocks is not always perfect.  Anyway I have purchased the amateur charts (Antares charts) and they look pretty good, although they only cover a handful of possible anchorages in the Hebrides.  I have also been fretting over the swimming pool so that the house-sitters can keep it sanitary – if left un-dosed it goes a horrible green colour and heaven knows what nasties lurk within – probably kill anyone who ventures into the water instantly.  I got a floating gizmo that holds clorine tablets that dissolve slowly, but finding the right settings to maintain the level steady is taking a while.

10th July  I finished my black powder box and filled it and photographed it for the Firearms dept – hope they like it!   One anomaly in the instructions seemed odd – if you don’t keep the box in a secure place (whatever that is) then it must have secure hinges and hasp and padlock.  Nothing about fixing it down to anything, so presumably its Ok to pick it up and run away with it.  You could probably get in fairly fast using the saw blade on a proper Swiss Army knife – they are vicious.  The more detail you try to put in regulations, the more holes you create!  I engraved the breech block of the pistol – I did the false breech earlier – see photo.  The whole thing is now complete as far as my work is concerned, with the possible exception of a few screwheads yet to be made.   I was given an old lock, which was obviously rather crude, or possibly early, as there is no bridle on the tumbler – see photo….

Breech block of ‘foreign’ pistol.

Gash lock I was given. – The mechanism is pretty crude – there is no bridle supporting the tumbler shaft – this is probably a function of it being a trade gun rather than on account of its age, although the ‘banana shape of the lockplate  is a somewhat early feature.The cock looks a bit too unrusted compared with the rest of it so is probably a replacement.

9th July I took the bits I had engraved to Dick’s so he can get on with fitting them to the wood – the butt cap fits on to a chunk of what looks like ivory that forms a white (now varnished brown) band above the brass cap.  Not sure if it is ivory, but the pistol predates plastics…  I now have the barrel to put a bit of decoration on the rib on the breech block  – probably nothing else, I’ll see how it goes I might be tempted to try a silver inlay.  The barrels are very light – the muzzles look like  typical shotgun muzzles in terms of thickness, and the breeches are a bit thicker, but not much, plus the barrels appear to be slightly swamped (i.e. have a ‘waist’) although it isn’t true swamped  in that the barrel never gets thinner than at the muzzle – just looks swamped when you view along the barrel.  Anyway for a pistol we reckoned it had a very light barrel.   I’m going to have to have a better system of keeping track of which bits of which guns I have, and which bits Dick has – it hasn’t been a problem before – we both have ‘systems’ that usually work, but today we were not sure who had all the ‘works’ from the pistol locks.  I am sure that Dick had stripped them, and I only took the bits that actually needed engraving, but he thought I have them!  We both have workshops full of stuff, but actually both of us are quite careful about keeping track of bits so it is unusual for us to misplace things.  My black powder box is pretty near completion – just need a strong point to secure it to an eyebolt. Now I have to photograph it for the Firearms & Explosives person.


Its difficult to know where this pistol came from – the chequering is fairly coarse and the shapes are not English – the ivory plug is unusual too! 

Very light barrels of around 18 bore – must have used quite light loads!  

8th July – I fixed up an automatic watering system for the tomato plants (3) which live in a grow bag on the roof of the log store – they get through about 8 litres of water a day in this weather!  I am amazed that a little plastic part run on two AAA cells can turn on and off a full water supply at 5 Bars pressure!   I made a garden gate (its a weekend and time to catch up on domestic jobs) out of a couple of old table tops I had collected from a skip in a University lab – they were covered in dirty hardboard but made of solid pine – they were quite narrow and on the underside has a groove along one  edge and a couple of holes for ink wells with ink soaked in all round – took me back to my first school were we had to use ‘dip pens’ to write in copybooks – it probably gave me a love of graphics and script writing, not that I’m very good at it – maybe my early education wasn’t rigorous enough. ( that all makes me sound like someone out of Dickens or a TV historic play).  Anyway a very solid gate now hangs in the garden, and a bit more old junk has gone from the shed…..  I eventually found the trigger guard – it was in the cellar with my derusting kit – logical – I just forgot to look there.  Anyway that is now done, plus the brass butt cap.

I went for a classic scroll here – I used the gravermax as the metal was a bit mixed – not as easy to control as push engraving….

but it has to be quick – the job is taking far too long for any sensible added value!

7th July – Shades of 1976!  I remember an aerial photo of my auntie’s farm taken that year – a house in a sea of completely parched fields.  My quest for the missing trigger guard got pretty frantic, especially when I realised the brass butt cap was missing too. I even had Dick searching his workshop in case I’d taken them down with the other bits of the pistol to show him.  They were of course where I had put them – down in the cellar next to the derusting tank!   No time to actually DO anything by the time they were found.  My blackpowder box turns out to be a fairly tight fit on my modified plastic bottles – I should have made the spaces 5 mm bigger, but it will just fit them.  I’m sorting out bits and pieces for sailing – things have moved on from the days when you needed dozens of paper charts at about £ 8 each – I just got all the UK charts in digital form for up to 5 mobile phones for £25. which is a bargain!   Very handy for use on deck – you need to put your phone in a waterproof bag, but that isn’t a problem.  I still like a few paper charts for planning as it helps to be able to see the detail and the big picture in their proper relation at the same time, plus I love ‘walking’ the dividers across a chart to measure distances/times – so quick and immediate.

6th July.  I have now finished all the bits of the double pistol, except the trigger guard, which I have mislaid!  I had it on my engraving bench and looked at it in preparation, but it had evaporated!  The fact that someone dished me up an oversize gin and tonic at 6 p.m. hasn’t helped the search!  I’m sure it will turn up somewhere!  I’m reminded that next Saturday is the Helice shoot at Rugby, when our gang will try their hand at this fantastic clay shoot – regulars on this site from last year will know that the traps throw flying ‘clays’ from random traps in random directions in imitation of the 19th century s’sport’ of live pigeon shooting.  I do have an original live pigeon gun by Gasquoine and Dyson (see post) – like a lot of the early percussion live pigeon guns it is large bore – 6 1/2 and like all live pigeon guns, it was made without provision for a ramrod as all loading was at tables and supervised to make sure the loads were fair. Live pigeon guns were usually made to shoot high as the birds were always rising when shot.   Although it is a big bore, mostly the guns were not overly heavy and shot moderate loads of 1 1/2 or 2 oz of shot (later 1 1/2 was the max. allowed and the big bores were dropped).  The other large bore guns that you find were wildfowling guns which were typically much heavier – 12 lbs not being unusual, and would have loaded heavy powder and shot charges – 3 oz and 4 or 5 drams of black powder.  While many of the live pigeon guns were of high quality and finish like mine, the wildfowling guns were  usually plain and strictly functional.  I will have to think about which gun to take!

5th July – I found an offcut of 6mm ply in the recesses of the shed that was big enough to cut the partitions for the black powder box from, so that is now done and awaits hinges and hasp – I might go mad and buy some intumescent  strip for the lid – about £12.  It is recommended in ER2014 but not obligatory.  I finished off the two lock plates that had been ‘engraved’ by a madman – I had to follow most of the existing pattern as some of the cuts were quite deep – anyway it looks passable now – the leaves sticking out are strange, but they were quite deeply cut so it was not possible to ignore them.  Anyway it looks a lot better and I eventually followed a suggestion for a border from Dick, so I did a wiggly line, which is very quick to do and looks the part.  I shudder to think how long I’ve spent on them so far – I have the rest of the furniture to sort now- its in the derusting bath.  I did most of the second lock with the Gravermax  as it gave me slightly more control in the difficult parts of the metal – around 30% of the surface.

Slightly unusual design, it would probably have been better to make new lock plates, but that would raise the price of the job considerably and it is a collector’s find so its quite nice to keep elements of the original;


4th July – back in school for a 1 to 1 session with a young lad.  We succeeded in programming the robot vehicle to follow a line but dodge round an obstruction and carry on following – we got  it to do 4 laps of an obstructed circuit.  I have now glued up the black powder box – it is designed to hold 16 bottles of 500 gm each and is effectively made of  24 mm ply, so its pretty hefty, even empty!  I now have to get some 6 mm ply for the internal divisions – I have a full sheet in the shed, but it is so deeply buried and  such a struggle  to find space to cut it up (by hand) that I may just go and see if I can pick up some offcuts in the timber merchant.  I’ll then need hinges and a hasp and some means of securing it in place.  Then I can retire my old box.   I spent a good part of the day engraving the junk locks (see below) the metal is horrible and I’m getting through gravers fast – I won’t be able to put off a sharpening session much longer.  I’ll post a  photo shortly – it is very difficult to get something that looks reasonable when so much of the original ‘engraving’ is still there. the pre-existing stuff really defines a pattern unlike anything I’ve ever seen on a gun or anywhee else for that matter – heaven knows who did it, or why!  Last chance to bid on Holts sealed bid sale – I couldn’t find a lot to get excited about, but I did stick in one bid, so we’ll see if that works.


3rd July in school a couple of times today – my STEM club was very quiet as its a ‘move up day’ and my seniors had gone off to their next term’s schools for the day.   I decided that it was almost impossible to buy 500ml antistatic bottles – almost because it is possible to buy wash bottles at about £8 each – so I cut all the old 1KG black powder bottles I had at 125 mm from the base and cut the skirt off the top at 20 – 25 below the corner and then split up the corners of the top a little to make it easier to fit the top over the base – I then stuck the two together with black silicone sealant.  My stock of empty bottles was good because several years ago I’d bought a 12Kg sack of BP and asked the AML members for spare empty bottles.  Anyway I now have 10 antistatic bottles that I hope will satisfy ER2014.  I bought a sheet of 12 mm ply and got it cut into three strips – I decided to make the box out of two layers of 12 mm ply instead of 18 mm ply as it will be easier to get good overlapping joints and its a lot cheaper – around £25 a sheet for shuttering ply with one good face.   So far I’ve cut the pieces and glued the two layers of  all the sides together.  I am hoping that my construction method works – I’ll post the evidence when it is put together.

Looks a bit wonky, but who cares?

2nd July.  I recut the trigger guard of the rifle – its always difficult to decide how much I’m going to do – this one was quite pitted – probably deeper than the existing engraving over a lot of the surface. so to refinish the surface to get rid of the pitting would probably have obliterated all of the original engraving and I’d then have to recreate the original (without really knowing what it was!).  I settled for refreshing as best I could – its often difficult, as in this case, to make out what the engraving represents, so you have to recut the clear original cuts, getting finer and finer as far as you can follow, and hope that something recognisable will emerge from the  recutting.  In this case a stag’s head emerged with scrolls on either side.  You can now ‘read’ the engraving much better, without it looking too brash. Interestingly the deeper cuts appeared to be done with a chasing tool and hammer, which is quite unusual in my experience on an English gun,  the fine lines were, I think done with a push engraver.   Dick has a strange foreign pistol that had the crudest engraving you can imagine – the owner wanted it ‘tarted up’ to look more like an English pistol – it has a short double barrel that actually could be English – the rest might be a trade gun decorated by an amateur.  Ive now put that to bed, I hope ( photos below)

The initial state of the trigger guard – its quite difficult to make out the details – electrolytic derusting cleared out the hard rust, which makes it easier to recut.  As always, part of the difficulty of ‘reading ‘ the engraving is that the rust comes up flush with the surface, so you don’t see relief or shadows.

It is now clearer although the photo doesn’t show the middle bit well as there are no shadows 

I’m supposed to turn these into something respectable!   The tail is too deep to ignore, but I’m tempted to file out the nose engraving as it is only on one plate.

The pre-existing ‘engraving’ if it deserves that name makes it difficult to deviate as most of the cuts on the tail are too deep to ignore.  So I just work with what is already there- recutting lines and adding shading and changing the overall shape with additions. – I’ll put a pattern in the border round the lock at some point.  



1July.  Another month gone….  I went sailing in our 16ft dinghy today as it was such a perfect day!  I had an amusing encounter where I pay to launch the boat – last time I said 16ft as the length and they said lets call it 14 ft 6 inches as that is cheaper, so I agreed.  This time I said 14 ft 6 inches and they said lets call it 3 meters as that is cheaper – presumably this will continue until the boat has infinitesimal length and costs nothing – or is 3 m the minimum cost?  Watch this space to discover….   The owner of the rifle reminded me that I was also going to recut the trigger guard – I’m afraid it has slipped my mind, so that is something to look forward to.    I got a letter from the Firearms Licensing people for Bedfordshire ( our licensing is now joint)  telling me the  latest storage regulations for Black Powder and asking for photographs of my box etc.  There is a bit of a problem here – while the maximum contents of the box has increased to 15 Kg ( I think 10 Kg is the max on the license) it still has to be stored in 550 gm max  per bottle and the bottles have to be plastic / polythene or paper or cloth and the plastic must not ‘induce static electricity’.  All my BP comes in 1 Kg antistatic bottles of which I have plenty but it is nigh on impossible to buy 500 ml antistatic (usually black) plastic bottles anywhere on the web.  Since you need to leave 30% space above the bottles the box gets a bit ridiculously high if you just half fill the 1 Kg bottles, which is presumably perfectly legal – you can’t count the 50% space within the bottle towards the 30% either.  So I am in a bit of a quandary – I am thinking of cutting the existing bottles down and gluing them back together, or using sticky tape.  My current box takes 500ml poythene bottles but it looks like I’ll have to make a new one – heaven knows where it will fit in the house!  Here is the extract from ER 2014  – I’ll try to track down the full thing when I have time..  On second thoughts, keeping the BP in paper bags of 500 gm is obviously quite legal and much cheaper ……………………..  Suggestions welcome!

click here for ER2014 summary:-  Black Powder regulations

30th June – I picked up the barrel of the rifle that I engraved the patch box for from Dick today – he has done a nice job of browning it – a good chestnut brown – he struck up the barrel a little to get rid of some of the small scale pitting, but didn’t take it too far so that it looked as if the barrel had been worked over.   There is no engraving on the rifle at all, although it is a nice quality piece – it is thought to be  outsale from Joseph Manton very late in his career – it is a little unusual that it is unsigned, un-numbered and without a barrel makers mark, as its a decent quality Birmingham proofed gun.  Dick and I had a mutual ‘senior moment’ when putting the backsight back – we couldn’t remember which side the folding leaf was normally on – we did get it right as I checked on my Purdey rifle when I got home.  I had to take out the foresight and file it down a bit as it didn’t fit very well. Anyway its ready to go back to its owner, which is more than can be said for the little pistol Dick is STILL working on – it must have taken the best part of a week to do – far more than the pistol is worth!    I’m going to have to have a try at shooting the Venables – it seems to fit pretty well with its 3/8th cast off.. I do have a problem that I always think almost any gun I pick up fits me, unless the comb is too high for me to see down the barrel rib, in which case I can usually shoot it with a leather butt pad fitted. The secret with the leather butt pads is to cut shims from old cork table mats and use them to adjust the length of the stock.  I’m sure that they can’t all fit but I need an ‘expert’ to look and see what fits – the problem is that I shoot equally erratically with them all.  I was thinking to go sailing tomorrow on the Stour by Ipswitch – its tidal and you can only launch and recover from a trailer when the tide is more than half up, so at the moment its only possible to fit in a good sail on alternative weekends, and so far it hasn’t worked out.   Our plastic bag containing 30 tons of water in the back garden is getting lots of use in this hot weather- more swimming so far this year than any  years for quite a while………………………

The ramrod is with the owner.

Twist has come out very well – it isn’t too shiny, so looks in keeping with the rest of the gun.

28th June – A busy day what with meetings and a visit to my lovely dentist – I did have time to make the second titanium nipple for the Venables.  Making them out of titanium is a pain as the metal is so tough.  It is OK to turn with a sharp tool but you do need a sharp tool if you want to take a very fine cut – it works best with reasonable cuts.  I drill a 1 mm hole in the bottom of the nipple but you have to proceed very carefully and clear the drill often – the second nipple has a 1.1 mm hole as the 1 mm drill  sheared off in a failed attempt!  The main hole down from the top is 2.3 mm to within 3 mm of the bottom so the 1 mm hole is about 3 mm long – they seem to work with those dimensions  The worst bit is cutting the thread as the die only seems to cut on the first pass (with difficulty and a lot of heat but maybe the die is blunt), and any attempt to resize the thread with a closed down die gets no-where, it just compresses the thread, generates a lot of heat and is a difficult to back off as it is to cut – but you can cut decent threads on the first pass if you get the die right. I have a die with the top face ground down about 1/2 mm so it cuts further up the nipple as breech block threads are rarely relieved at the top.  One problem is that titanium is pretty resistant to filing – at least with my less than perfect files. and you have to remember that the fine swarf will burn with a lot of heat and is very difficult to put out – don’t use water, use sand or a purpose made extinguisher.   Why do I bother to use titanium?  Well it is very tough, won’t corrode or shatter, doesn’t need heat treatment – but mainly for the challenge – & I happen to have a bar of 12 mm titanium courtesy of ebay!  Most nipples in late percussion long guns turn out to be a pretty good fit to 1/4 UNF which is 28 threads per inch.  You sometimes need to open up the die to the maximum extent if thread is very loose or worn, or you can recut to 9/32 UNF which is also 28 t.p.i. – I have recut without annealing the breech block.

You can see the rib lifting – its been resoldered badly.  Click on the photo to see the damascus pattern clearly.

27th – quick trip over to Holts to pick up the gun I bought last week.  It is everything I expected and more – its difficult to see how it didn’t sell for  more than the cased Manton and Mortimer which were no where near as good a quality.  It is London proofed, and is obviously quite late – I think Venables didn’t start until 1846 – the wood is superb, it wouldn’t be out of place on an expensive modern Purdey or H&H, and as fresh and crisp as if it had just been re-stocked by a good stocker – although why anyone would bother for a percussion gun that wasn’t by a well known maker I can’t think – anyway I think it must be original.  The barrels are a nice true Damascus, not twist and the top rib is pretty, although it needs refitting as its a little raised – the bores are about the best I’ve seen in an antique gun that hasn’t been lapped, and the insides of the locks are perfect except for a couple of very small patches of rust.  The engraving on the furniture is top quality and all matching, including that on the butt plate, which is the first I’ve seen that has no rust on it. The only anomaly is the trigger guard that is like a rifle one, but probably an owner’s choice…. What’s not to like!  I now need a case for it, and a powder flask to go with my lovely shot flask.   I have started a new post for the Venables as I have taken lots of pictures, but here is a taster….  Oh, and I decided the Venables needed new nipples so I thought ‘how neat to make them out of titanium’ – which I did but I think the one I finshed is a tiny bit too long in thread and won’t screw right in.  I’d forgotten how difficult it was to cut threads on titanium with a die.

26th – slight falloff in visitors to the site as others are lazing in the sun? ( I spent 4 1/2 hours in school so earned my swim!) Looking more carefully in The Powder Flask book I find that my flask is made of Britannia metal, an alloy of tin 85%, Antimony 10%, Zinc 3% and copper 2% or some very similar composition, and that the ‘hallmarks’ on my flask are standard Dixon marks for Britannia metal flasks – not sure of the dates – here is a photo of the page from the book showing what they should look like – it matches. Now I need to find a gun of matching quality – it would do superbly for the Harkum that sold at Holts as the shot flask was the only item missing.   I’m off to Holts tomorrow to pick up my Venables – a friend is livid as he booked a telephone bid on 3 guns ( including the Harkum) and wasn’t rung so missed them all at less than he would have been willing to bid…..  I usually leave a contingency bid on stuff I book a telephone bid for in case, but I have always been rung.  I guess there is always a fear that the auctioneer will be tempted to run the bidding up to the contingency bid ( my contingency bid on the Venables was £750 but I got it for £420 so quite a risk).  While I’m up at Holts I will have a look at the stuff in the sealed bid sale as there are a few junk guns I might want.  Somewhere along the line I’m after a single barreled wreck with a 3 stage twist barrel big enough to cut down for a barrel for my Mortimer pistols – that way they will be proper twist barrels, which they would be if I used modern barrels.  I have one already that is just big enough and long enough in the octagonal section.  Having considered both Birmingham and Holts last sale I see the pistol market buoyant, the smaller the better but not Liege, long guns not so buoyant – in both cases the name is a disproportionate factor, probably justified in flint guns but less so in percussion as designs were getting more standardised and, in late percussion often came from Birmingham.  I have always been amused that a turnoff pocket pistol made and engraved in Birmingham is worth twice as much if the name on the side is NOCK or whatever, as compared to one with e.g. BLOGGS, given that neither Nock nor Bloggs ever did more than hand over the pistol to the customer, probably as a freebe on a large purchase, probably still in the bag it came in from Birmingham.  Cased ‘duelling’ pistols by well known makers tend to have silly prices attached, but beware my comments on June 24th on re-conversions.  There are some lovely guns about but  they stand out a mile from the run of the mill stuff and are worth paying for, and there are always the odd bargain to be had if you look carefully – I reckon I’ve found two in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve looked at several hundred guns and even more accessories to find them. Don’t be tempted to buy the sort of junk I used to bid for – it just clutters up the place and you feel bad about it every time you see it!  Good hunting…………………..

James Dixon & Son

From the Powder Flask Book by Ray Riling.

Britannia metal flask

25th June – Too much lazing in the sun & swimming but better make the most of the weather, which will worsen when the school holidays starts and also when we go off on our holiday!  I  had three school meetings today, so I needed the swim….  I got the charts of the West Coast of Scotland out today and started to work out possible routes and anchorages – we’de like to make a dash for St Kilda if we can – its been a target for several years and the weather has never been stable enough.  St Kilda is out in the Atlantic and doesn’t offer much shelter from swells so it can be an unpleasant anchorage if there is any strong winds further out in the Atlantic, which there often are.  The distances on the West coast of the Hebrides can involve a long day’s sail and we don’t normally sail at night as we don’t have enough crew to manage where much navigation is involved and there are no light buoys for entrances into lochs etc when you get there.   As always with sailing, its a matter of getting the right wind and tide.   I polished up the silver(?) shot flask – it really needs a posh cased  silver mounted gun, or at least a pretty fancy one to justify the flask – I guess its fairly late – I must look it up in ‘The Powder Flask Book’ by Ray Riling…… I find that the full name ‘JAMES DIXON & SON’ was used from 1833.  Both shutter arm and flask nozzle are marked ‘Z’, which ought to tell me something  but doesn’t!

25th June – Here are a couple of pics of the flask I bought yesterday  – at the moment the shutter assembly is in the derusting bath.

The shutter arm is stamped ‘JAMES DIXON & SON  SHEFFIELD’ 

The second from the right looks like a British hallmark, not sure about the rest! Suggestions???

24th June 2 hour drive to the Birmingham Antique Arms Fair. ( I’ve done too much driving in the last week or so)..  Overall impression, mostly military stuff and swords, quite a lot of noise and people, many of whom were more interested in a football match that seemed to be going on somewhere else, which I assume involved a team from England.  Lots and lots of pistols of all sorts, but very few long guns except military rifles -one exception of note – George Yannegas showed me a minature Whitworth Target Rifle cased complete with all its accessories and in mint condition – he has of course tried it out.. SO if you have a handy 10 grand it could be yours.  Certainly better value than some of the cased pairs of duelling pistols at astronomical prices – I’d want a lot more than was on offer if I was going to part with £29,000!  Even the cased percussion duellers were above £10K….   I did see a few dodgy guns, in fact I probably thought some perfectly genuine ones were dodgy after seeing some of the offerings.  Kevin (Blackley) told me that about 25 years ago a certain West Country ‘restorer’, now deceased, had admitted to reconverting over 1000 guns and pistols in 5 years, and he is presumed to have done but reconversions for the next 20 years…    No wonder he got so good that its almost impossible to distinguish real from fake.   I didn’t buy any guns but I did pick up a rather nice high quality shot flask for £70 – I thought it was German Silver, but when I got it home it appears to have hallmarks, and so might actually be silver, although they don’t quite correspond to any in my reference book.  I kick myself for not going through his stock for a matching powder  flask!  Anyway I’ll have to find a test for silver…. I’ll post a photo tomorrow.  I got a book on Continental flintlocks and their decoration as I thought I ought to have it to extend my reference library, although I have to admit that I dislike the more elaborate continental carved steel guns – My Barranechea  (Eibar) in the Catalan style is about as far as I want to go in my collection.  Oh, and on the way back an accident on the A14  added an extra  half hour to the journey after I had stopped off at Kettering Hospital to pick up my brother and take him home to Corby.  Very frustrating waiting while they discharged him, everything seemed to be a slightly disorganised  and inefficient process carried on by cheerful and helpful staff who were lovely – just wholly inefficient at executing a process – I think that must be the state of the NHS – cheerful inefficiency.  It certainly looked as if all the managers sat in offices well away from the nitty gritty of the action, while there is no-one effectively managing processes on the shop floor. Of course I might well be wrong – I only heard how it took about 8 hours to discharge him when it should have taken 30 minutes to an hour at most….I waited 1 1/2 hours after he was supposed to be ready to go….


23rd June… CGC was hosting the Army and RAF cadets National Clay Championships, with teams from all over the country from the West country to Scotland – we were offering shots with percussion and flintlock guns at £1 per shot (50p to Help for Heros) which just about covers our costs – CGC pays for the clays and gives us free cups of tea but it is tiring – more or less non stop for 6 hours without a break, a couple of cups of tea and a burger on the go ( wouldn’t be allowed if it was a job!).   Great fun though – the cadets love firing the old guns, especially the flintlocks, and a few of them managed to break clays with a flintlock, which is reckoned to be difficult even with some practice.  I was using my single barreled ‘Twigg’ (possibly spurious?) which as usual performed very well – I had one ‘flash in the pan’ misfire out of about 20 shots as the touch hole got bunged up as I had got lazy about putting the wire through it between shots.  The lock is very kind to flints, and sparks well, although it has a very strong mainspring and frizzen spring and no frizzen roller – one might expect it to be hard on flints for those reasons.  I had my little Henry Nock single percussion 14 bore – its a good gun for small shooters as the pull is only about 13 1/4 ins and the gun weighs 5 1/4 lbs, but it ‘comes up well’ on most people.  With a normal load of 2 3/4 drams and 1 oz it has a bit of a kick so I cut the load to 2 1/2 drams and 7/8 oz which was better.  At 2 3/4 drams and 1 1/2 oz it kicks like a mule but I don’t use that load on ‘have a go’ shoots – in fact I only used it once on a shoot by mistake as I picked up the wrong shot flask!  We were using Vesuvit powder in the flintlocks & percussion as Swiss 2 is a far too expensive for a have a go shoot !   Pete was using his Pedesoli reproduction Mortimer flintlock, and had reliable shooting, although he did shatter a flint for one misfire. I took him the shot belt I had made, which was much admired.   Off to Birmingham tomorrow – 2 hour drive there – Dick was coming but has too much work on – partly because the little pistol is taking so much time to sort out. Now I must finish cleaning the two guns – I have done the barrels but they need oiling and putting together.

22nd June… Such a nice day I spent a while just sitting in the sun, then having a gentle swim in the large plastic bag of water in the garden – 30 tons of it!  Its 10m long so its just big enough to get a bit of exercise.  I was relaxing in preparation for a busy weekend – tomorrow I am going to Cambridge Gun Club where we are offering a taste of muzzle loading clay shooting to the CCF cadets as part of their shotgun day.  I get asked to do it as I am one of the few who shoot flintlocks, and they are always popular as the flash is quite spectacular and it makes a good video.  On Sunday I’m off to the Birmingham fair at NEC to see Kevin Blackley and get a few bits.  I just learned my brother is in Kettering Hospital so I’ll kill two birds with one stone and call in and see him on the way back – perhaps the idiom  is inappropriate in the circumstances!   I did find time today to drill and tap a 9/32 BSF hole in the end of my long loading rod and make a new charge removing screw with 9/32 thread so that I have the means to unload my long barreled ‘Twigg’ flintlock – my normal cleaning rod isn’t long enough.  I have found it very useful to have a screw that can be put in the end of my loading rods – especially for game shooting as it saves carrying a sectional ‘cleaning’ rod.  It could be neater, but it was made in a hurry.

Piece of wire from a shelf support bent round an 8 mm bar, ground flat and then soft soldered to a brass boss. I’m always impressed when a knurling tool manages to run in sync with the diameter of the workpiece!

21st more…  Just caught the sale of lot 1502 ( blog pasim)  – I thought if by a fluke it went at or near the bottom estimate I just might not be able to resist, although I’d have to sell my soul to the devil to pay for it – assuming he doesn’t already own it.  In the event my judgement of the beauty of the gun was shared by several far richer people who eventually pushed the price up to 4 times the top estimate – £20K – I don’t think the devil would have taken my soul in part exchange at that price!  So all done and dusted and I’ve packed the Purdey foreend for dispatch.   Dick is trying to sort out one of a pair of tiny percussion pistols – the trigger guard strap was broken and the body had been botched, so its turning out to be a horrendous job to get it to function – we didn’t price the job to cover having to re-invent the interior, which is what it amounts to, but you win some (not many) and you loose some (too many). Having finished the fore-end engraving I’m casting round for the next job…… Maybe sort through my mail……Pay some bills….. Fix the Outboard…Mow the lawns…..

21st June – Watching the Holts sale online – I hope you will forgive me for not sharing my bid intentions with the world last night – I had 2 targets,  a nice double 14 bore percussion by Venables of Oxford (£300-500) that had an almost mint bore and very nice wood, and a Greener that needed a bit of TLC.  The Venables looked like it was rather underpriced at estimate 300-500, the only thing against it was that the rib had been very crudely re-attached ( easily fixed),  but I would have been prepared to go well above the top estimate to get it – in the event I had a telephone bid and  got it at £420 hammer price, so pretty happy! I’ll have to try it and if it shoots as well as it fits me, I’ll retire one of my existing doubles, its very reassuring as it means that decent doubles can still be found…..  The Greener was not such an attractive proposition, I’m not really a Greener fan but it looked like a restoration opportunity – in the event I ducked out at £600, which I thought was a lot compared to the Venables!   I’ll watch 1502 if I am in, although I do have a meeting at 1700… I hope I’m not tempted……    I finished the Purdey fore-end….

I guess I’m happy with that – in the end it was mostly done with the Gravemax on acount of the curvature! 

Bottom one is a pull of the smoked part on cellotape.

21st June – At Holts today to look at one or two guns in the auction tomorrow.  Obviously the star attraction for muzzle loading shooters is the Harkam in its original pigskin lined case with all its original bits – the full works, except it’s missing the shot flask.  It was difficult to see if it had ever been shot.  In reality its probably not of much interest to shooters because it is so good that it would be a sin to use it, which is a change from my usual stance that guns are meant to be shot! A lot of the attraction of this one is that it is so perfect, so shooting it would take the edge of it!  Anyway it is probably a bit pricey for most of the shooters I know (estimate £4000 – 6000 – my guess around 5500+) . The dog of the lot has to be the Nock 7 barreled gun, whoever did that to any gun needs to be strung up and banned from ever going near a gun again – and the estimate? £15000 – 20000!  Some mothers do have ’em…..  I wouldn’t give £2000 for it if I had money to burn!   Owning it would reduce one’s street cred to zero!  I think my favourite gun in the whole auction has to be lot 1502, the Dickson 16 bore non ejector skeletal round body gun – it is SO elegant and makes the usual run of overpriced Purdeys and H&Hs and Bosses look like double decker buses alongside a sports car.  If I had 3K to 5K kicking around I’d be in there like a shot – I did have a look but unfortunately I don’t seem to have enough to hand!  It will probably go for at least 6K and on top of that it needs restocking as the wrist is rather fragmented- another £3500 or so – Oh well…..  One can dream….  There were a couple of cased late percussion guns of  slightly dubious origin (?), a Purdey and a Mortimer – I base my judgement on the lock engraving, both have very similar engraving that symmetrically fills the lock plates, and the names are put just along the top edge as if they are an afterthought – look very like good quality bought-in Birmingham guns, either retailed by the signed makers or just spuriously named. There were a number of  other cased percussions, a couple of John Mantons, one OK ish, one not so clearcut.   Nothing really stands out.    The lesson as always is that there are a lot of dubious guns around – caveat emptor.    I drove via the Blackwall tunnel, and had a dodgy moment as to whether my Land Cruiser needed to pay to go in the Low Pollution Zone – it would appear from the website that it doesn’t, although my old one did. I do have to pay the ‘naughty boy’ charge in addition to the congestion charge if I go in the city.  After 2019 I’ll have to pay to go anywhere near London, which fortunately I don’t often do…

The ‘Purdey fore-end is going slowly, I may finish it later tonight although I don’t usually carry on after about half past midnight……..which is only 10 minutes away…..

We’ll see what tomorrow brings………………

20th June – Getting back into my stride – STEM club at school – the latest project is to get the keen ones to program the robot to dodge round a bit of ‘wall’ across its path – going well!   Apart from that and a school meeting I am trying to get ahead with the Purdey engraving on the new fore end.  It is taking forever to do all the little scrolls, and it is so easy to slip on the curved surface – I’ve tried putting in the main scrolls with the GRS Gravemaster pneumatic tool – in general I much prefer ‘push engraving’, but the Gravemaster has its used, particularly on curved surfaces as it requires almost no force to drive it through the metal and there is therefore much less chance of a slip.  If I was a professional, and used to the pattern I would presumably be able to bang it out in a fairly short time, but I guess it will actually take me a day or so to complete it – I’m probably about half way through now. I will probably go down to Holts tomorrow, if I can face another few hours of driving after Scotland…………

As on the original, there is no attempt at precise symmetry, just a general aim to follow the same general pattern and keep the balance of  cut and uncut metal about the same over all the surface.

18th June – Apologies for leaving my regulars without their daily update!  I’m back from Scotland – sadly neither Tom nor I carried off any trophies from the Scottish National Muzzle Loading Clay Championships on Saturday – the only things we did carry off  were six soaking wet guns (and two soaking wet shooters). I am afraid that we ducked out of the last competition ( double hammer gun) so that we could rush home and try to sort the guns before going off to the dinner – they were beginning to get marks and in danger of starting to rust as water had penetrated round the locks of some of them, and the slips they were carried  in were also wet inside.   Anyway we managed a preliminary clean and got back to the Guardbridge Inn in time for the celebratory meal.  On Sunday we visited ‘Scotland’s Secret Bunker’ a few miles from St Andrews.  Built originally in the 1950s as an underground RAF radar tracking station it was later designated as the seat of government and control in the event of a nuclear attack, with the ability to function in lock-down sealed mode for a month!  It is built on two floors about 60 feet underground and could probably support around 100 people, so as you can imagine, its huge!  The control rooms are recreated with sounds of announcements and warnings etc so it’s all very atmospheric – there is quite a lot of old technology around – back from the days when machines spewed forth punched paper tape – I still have a few rolls of tape – my first computer program in 1966 was on punched tape, and I built a Mass Spectrometer controller that output its data in that format, although pretty soon computer programs were printed out on punched cards the size of  postcards with one line of code on each card. A  small program gave you a pile of cards from about 3 inches high and a bigger one about 2 feet high ( of course you couldn’t actually pile them that high).  The delight of the punched cards was that if you dropped the pile on your way from upstairs in our building to the computer in another building the cards & therefore the lines of code got muddled and could not  be put back in order as they were not numbered – about as much use as a book if you cut each page into individual lines and jumbled the whole lot!  The neat thing about my first program on a ‘proper’ computer – it calculated the shape of a weighted  wire towed through the water – was that chunks of it were still incorperated into other people’s programs 30 years later!   I had a good run back from St Andrews today – 8 hours from door to door including a stop for lunch – I was very lucky, on the way there I passed a 10 mile queue of almost stationary traffic coming the other way, and coming back I passed a 5 mile queue!   I had another go over the guns when I got back – my little Nock had started to get a bit of rust round the muzzle, and they all got a bit of TLC.  All my slips got damp and although they were dried on radiators overnight ( Tom has central heating, of which I strongly disapprove) it is almost impossible to dry the muzzle ends as they are encased in vinyl and too small to allow effective circulation.

I’m afraid I have no photographs of the shoot – I forgot to take my proper camera, and in any case it was too wet to use it……………

14th June. Another lovely day, but the forecast for the shoot in St Andrews on Saturday is gloomy – rain all day – but that is par for the course up there! I’m hoping I have everything lined up to go!  I’m borrowing the shot belt I made for Viking to ‘test’ it as I don’t want to deliver an untested item – I fixed the broken spring on the ( Irish pattern) nozzle by cleaning it up and soft soldering it in – seems to work. I was looking through my collection of old shot flasks and realised that almost all my old flasks have the seams breaking down so they leak – I’ll have to make some new bodies for them.  I’ve now lost one of my loading rods – why do I keep loosing things!   I’m kept quite busy by this blog, answering queries and fixing things, which is interesting but all takes time.  Dick is busy working an the small pair of pistols that have occupied him for too long!  The bottom strap was broken and a poor replacement had been silver soldered in, which is always bad news as it means you can’t make a good weld repair without getting rid of all the silver solder and that is usually easier said than done. anyway as that repair was finished it became clear that the action could not possibly have worked as it was, so Dick has had to do a bit of milling to get the cock spindle in the right places and  sort out the tumbler bearings.  They will look beautiful when finished – and may well be for sale – we already had one person interested!

13th June..  I was sorting out the Parish Council email accounts this morning to comply with the Data Protection stuff ( I host their website and email for historic reasons) – it made me realise that I probably need a policy for this website, so I made one up.  Since the site doesn’t put cookies on other peoples computers it isn’t very onerous – the notice at the top of the page should suffice, and I’ve put the Wordfence notice in a new page called GDPR just in case.  Wordfence is based in the US and IP addresses etc are sent over there so it is responsible for that side of things, fortunately.  It all makes work for the working man (or woman) to do, as the song goes…..   I got the pulls from the action body of the Purdey for which I have the fore-iron to engrave, so I am able to start that job. As usual I started with a trial of the Purdey scroll pattern – actually there are several variations of the small scroll that are cut differently and give a slightly different overall impression.  After I had put a decent surface on an annealed piece of steel I did a first trial – the challenge is to get the right balance of cuts and highs.  Since I only had pulls of the action body, I took pulls of my trials to match.  This Purdey engraving uses cutout background and outlines to leave the desired raised shapes, as distinct from my normal engraving where the lines are the picture -called  intaglio.  I did a trial on my test piece, took a pull, cut out a bit more around the desired shapes and took another pull ( after getting rid of any burrs with a  fine wire brush wheel) – and then once more.  Here are the results, with the pull of the action body.

There might be a bit too much cut-out in 3 ( white areas are cutouts), but 3 is certainly better than 1.

 Posted by at 9:49 pm
Oct 112018

Here are some photos of the Joseph Manton double 22 bore ‘fowler’ of about 1791 converted from flintlock to percussion by the drum and nipple method to a reasonably high standard.  It looks as if it had quite a lot of use as a flintlock but not much after conversion. Therefore probably not an owner’s favourite gun converted for continuous use.  It is unlikely that it was converted by its first owner, as there would have been more than 35 years between original manufacture and conversion. It is one of the most elaborate straightforward drum and nipple conversions I’ve seen’

The scroll engraving on the toe of the lock is from the conversion.

The sling eye is just off the photo , mounted in the stock.

Shame it has lost a bit of its gold poinson.  Note the False breech pin engraving


Initials surmounted by an unclear crest above.

 Posted by at 10:14 pm
Aug 082018

We did our annual yacht charter in our ‘usual’ boat Velella ( from Spirit of June Yacht charters) to our old haunts around the Minch.  We had hoped to go through the Sound of Harris and then try to get out to St Kilda, which is about 40 miles out into the Atlantic, but the anchorage there is not brilliant, so it requires a settled weather window to make the trip and we had just missed one.  We did try to go but there was an unsettled forecast and when we went through we realised that the seas on the West coast can be much more inhospitable in windy weather than in the Minch , so we took the prudent  option and came back!  The East coast of Harris and Lewis is a wonderful cruising ground and we  explored some new places before scurrying into Stornoway to disembark one crew member and shelter from the only gale we had.   We have now learnt that if we are in Stornoway for bad weather its very cheap ( £35 inc from 4 pm on Saturday to 9 a.m on Monday) to hire a small car and see the island.  After Stornoway we had a super sail over to the mainland and found a lovely anchorage in Enard’s bay – Loch Saliann.  We stayed one night in Lochinver on a pontoon – not a great destination but its mainly a fishing port.  Good places we liked – Loch Restol, Harris, although we had to leave very early as its only accessible near the top of the tide.  The top of Loch Seaforth, Harris/Lewis  was peaceful although we did have another yacht anchored half a mile away, which counts for crowded in those parts!  Loch Shell (Lewis) is a favourite, although we found the holding at the head of the Loch a bit soft and moved to a bay on the South side opposite the inlet with houses.   Our trip was unusual in that, gale apart, almost all evenings, nights and mornings were calm, and we never once had a disturbed night, or the need to get up to check the anchor was holding.  Although it wasn’t particularly hot in the first week (the cabin heater got used in the evenings), and it did rain a bit, we had a fair number of meals in the cockpit, and it was voted our best Hebridean holiday yet.


If you go sailing in this area, you will no doubt listen carefully to the (Met Office) Inshore weather forecasts from the Stornoway Coastguards on VHF.  Our experience is that if you take the wind forecasts too literally you tend to be over cautious and don’t go anywhere – The really  useful information is the sea state as that has a bigger impact on what its going to be like sailing.  I find that using the Windguru website ( when you can get mobile coverage, which is more often than you would think) gives a better and more detailed wind picture – the Inshore forecast only seems to give the top gust speeds as the wind speed, whereas Windguru lets you see both steady wind and gusts, which is a much better guide to what the sea will be like.  Having said that, we do take notice of gale warnings from whatever source!

Facilities continue to improve in the North West of Scotland and the Isles – since we were last there new pontoons have been built at Scalpay North Harbour  and East Tarbet ( both lots of space), and the number of pontoon berths in Stornoway has been increased, although they were pretty nearly all taken when we came in for the gale.  In spite of that, its still rare to find other boats in the quiet anchorages, although the visitor moorings that are sometimes provided do get a few visitors.  The leisure boats around are a mixture of foreign boats – mostly French Dutch or German with the occasional American boat, with some visiting boats from England and  a fair number of local boats, with of course a few charter boats like us!  In fact, although we saw a number of yachts about, it was mostly the same two or three doing roughly what we were doing.  If you like solitude, go soon as it is getting more visiting and locally based yachts each year!


Loch Sailinn, Enard’s bay, Sutherland – a bit south of Lochinver.

Head of Little Loch Broom – a quite anchorage although not particularly well sheltered.

Velella alongside in Scalpay, Harris – there is water and electricity and there will be WiFi soon, we were told.

Quiet anchorage in Loch Shell looking North – ideal in winds from the South – not so good in North winds,


One way to steer – proof that sailing drives you mad?……..

Not every day was sunny and dry – many were damp in patches – notice the lifejacket – Giles had been working on deck.


 Posted by at 9:59 pm
Jul 172018


12th June.. I have been a bit slack on the blog!  I had a 3 1/2 hour very intense meeting on Monday that left me a bit disinclined to do much except swim up and down, after which I just slumped!    Today I did a bit of sorting out of shot, wads and cards and powder for the trip to Scotland.  As I’m taking 4 muzzle loading guns I though I ought to check which wads I needed for each, which led to sizing all the bores – of course no two guns are the same actual bore, whatever their nominal bore is, anyway I managed to cut it down to 2 sizes of wads, conveniently one size for Tom and one size for my guns.  Tomorrow I must make sure the right guns are on my certificate!  This blog is obviously being found by lots of people as I’m getting a steady stream of photos of guns and pistols to identify.  I live in hope that I’ll discover a priceless antique gun for someone, but at the moment its rather at the opposite end of the spectrum.  I did my STEM club with Dave today, but there was a football match on and we only got two kids, so they got on and built a robot while Dave and I programmed our line following robot to skirt round an obstruction – we got about half way there in 45 minutes!

10th June… I did say that the weather encouraged sitting in the sun rather than working away in the workshop! …..So we went to an Elderflower party today, a friend’s family has been holding one every year for the last 50 odd years to make elderflower wine, which they consume in some quantity. Around 30 people spend a few hours collecting flowers and getting the heads off in order to make 20 gallons of wine (it used to be much more) to last the year. After the work some of us played a game of croquet – it looks like a nice gently, very English, very genteel way to spend an afternoon.  In fact it is about the most vicious game of skill and tactics imaginable – winning is more about scuppering the opposition than getting ahead – in fact getting an early lead isn’t necessarily a great help as I found out to my cost, since if you manage to hit an opponent’s ball you get an extra turn, thus if there are no opponents balls near you, you miss out!  Anyway (son) Giles  beat me ( that’s his inheritance down the drain!).   The number of visitors and visits to the site continues to increase, which is nice – so far in the last 365 days there have been over  100,000 visitors and 670,000 items viewed – obviously a lot of those are regulars who get counted each time they visit – its a shame the software doesn’t analyse visits in more detail, but I think you have to pay if you want more detail, which of course anyone making money out of a site would do.  I sometimes wonder whether there is any way I could ‘monetise’ the site, but actually I’m happy to do it for fun, and I do get some interesting work from time to time, and make new acquaintances and friends, so I’ll carry on for a bit longer!

9th June later…  Shooting at Cambridge Gun Club today – our 1/2 oz of shot competition.  No compromise on the difficulty or range of clays, and the hit rate was a little down on some normal shoots but still good – I did my usual mediocre shooting, but was reassured that several others got the same score!  After lunch I switched to my little 20 bore Beretta hammer gun and  did somewhat better – I am resolved to go and practice properly until I can shoot a bit better.  I have in mind to try an interesting experiment, as I think that one often knows before one pulls the trigger that it is going to miss.  My competition would work as follows – unlimited clays, but fixed number of shots allowed –  score 0 for any clay you don’t shoot at, -1 for any you shoot at and miss, and 2 for each clay you break with the first barrel, or 1 if you break it with the second barrel. I reckon this would concentrate the mind!   So a top score would be 40 and a lowest  score would be -20, if you hit half the clays you score 20 and hitting 7 (1 in 3 shots) scores 1 .   I now need to find someone to try it with.  It could of course be a bit more expensive if you aim to shoot the ‘normal’ number of shots, but it might work with say 20 shots, using a very limited number of traps, say 5 hits at each of 4 traps……..   I took the Manton back to its owner who was well pleased – I forgot his slip, which I found on the peg when I got back – I’m very good at labelling slips and ramrods when I have guns to work on, as they are easy to mix up or mislay, I just forgot to look behind the door!   Pete asked me to tap a hole in a cleaning rod to take the ‘normal’ brushes etc., but that seems to have opened a whole can of worms – The tap I have used is a 9/32 x 26 BSF but that actually cuts too tight – the web suggests 9/32 BSB ( brass thread ( similar to BSC cycle thread & always 26 t.p.i.) but I only have the BSF  in 9/32 and that appears a bit smaller than the brush threads – what I thought was going to be a trivial job becomes a lot more involved – but then these challenges are what makes it interesting………………………

9th June – Back from 2 days in Norfolk at an outdoor activity centre with the year 5 & 6 children from the school I’m a governor at.  Great fun and the kids had a good time and were very  well behaved!  The activity centre was based around an 1898 house designed by Edward Lutyens so I had great fun poking around and trying to work out how the house had been originally before it was altered in several waves – first in WWI as a convalescent home for soldiers, then back to being a private house, then the activity centre, which retained quite a lot of the old furniture etc in the ‘public’ rooms, including about 10 years of Hansard containg every word spoken in Parliament during that time – covered one wall!  I could have spent the whole time reading MP’s speeches from 1975!  Anyway back to real life – in particular our annual recession shoot, in which we shoot clays using 1/2 oz shot load – its not as bad as you might think…. anyway I’d better load up and head out…..

5th June Dick and I spent an hour together getting the locks of the Manton to fit – I had fitted new springs and Dick had re-fixed the ‘rims’ of the lock pockets that were a bit broken away. You may remember that we had found that the locks and barrel were original Manton, but had been grafted into a different and older stock at some point. We had two problems – 1, the springs were slightly bigger in places than the previous ones and so we had to adjust the german silver reinforcing sheet at the top of the mainspring slot, and second that the lock front extensions didn’t fit between the barrel bolsters and the edge of the lock pocket, and were opening an old crack in the woodwork  – presumably the cause of the previous damage around the locks. Unfortunately the rim of the lock pocket under the mainspring was already very thin, so no room to cut more away – I realised that the reason the numbers on the inside of the lock above the mainspring had been half filed away was a relic of previous attempts to solve the problem.  Anyway we filed the bolsters on the barrel down a bit – luckily the breech block was only slightly hard. Anyway judicious filing got it all together, and we filled the crack with a shim of walnut verneer and refinished it.  – Job done and ready to go…..   Now I’m off to Norfolk with the Yr 5 & 6 children to an activity centre… I’ll report back……..

4th June – Didn’t manage much today – just finished off the cartridge loading so I now have 100 Black Powder cartridges for Scotland.  I promised to make another shot belt for a friend, and started on that – I think its going to be a bit smaller than mine, which is a bit heavy when full – for game shooting you don’t need a lot of shot and the less you have to carry across ploughed fields the better!

4th June – Excuse the absence yesterday, as I said, sitting in the garden took priority!  Today a meeting all morning in school prevents the garden sitting, and anyway the weather isn’t so appealing!  I have now managed to make 75 cartridges towards my 100 total so nearly there.  The rifle is now getting the oil finish on its stock augmented as it was a bit worn, and I took a photo of the patchbox in situ – I think it looks the part, but these things are always subjective!

It’s in the process of having its oil finish restored – it has the smeared on flood coat waiting to gel and be rubbed off, so looks a bit of a mess!  

2nd June.  I put the patchbox lid in the rifle and it looks good – the toning down of the colour works quite well – I coloured it lightish straw on the AGA hotplate, then rubbed it over with 7000 grit paper, then gave it a rusting with my browning solution – that went rather too well so I rubbed that partly off with 1000 grit and finished with 2500 and 7000 and polished with 0000 steel wool.  It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success but it worked – I did think at one point I’d have to start again, but it came good!  Photo soon!  The annual trip to Leucars to shoot the Scottish National Muzzle Loading Championships is the w/e after next so I thought I’d better start loading the annual bag of black powder 12 bore cartridges – Tom shoots there too using my guns as he doesn’t have a certificate in Scotland.  (He’s in St Andrews so dead handy and my B & B for the w/e) so I need double rations for the hammer gun competition.  I usually take my Bacon patent antique  bolt action double for him, and use my Westley Richards 1874 patent hammer gun by William Powell, of which I am very fond!  Anyway 100 cartridges should do – I got a couple of bags of capped cases at the Northern Shooting Show – its as cheap to buy new capped cases as to buy the caps and use reclaimed cases, even if its not so environmentally friendly – not that shooting clays scores high on those stakes anyway…  I’m getting through the restoration jobs on my list, thanks to help from Dick – I’ve now got the forend iron of the Purdey to engrave, but I’m waiting for pulls of the action body so I can line up the scrolls. After that I’ll have to find some of my own jobs to do!  Things usually quieten down in the summer as I find its rather nice just to sit in the garden and read the paper………………….( weather permitting)…

1 June – I had an email from someone who had come across the post on the Land Cruiser steering lock problem on this site and had a similar problem.  I was able to get out my pile of bits and work out how to remove the broken bit of the lock bar – and send him some pictures.  That post gets quite a few visits – If I can be bothered I can review all the traffic to the site on a daily basis, it also tells me which are the most popular posts, and I can see where all the attempts to crack the site are coming from.  I don’t look very often – I just keep an eye on the number of visitors and visits.   I finished the patchbox lid and I’m just colouring it up – its not too bad considering how difficult the metal turned out to be – I couldn’t get consistent cutting, and the inclusions didn’t help, in the end I started to use the GRS gravermax air driven graver, which I don’t use often, as it ploughs through most things without discriminating and if you are not careful it goes very deep.  I forgot to take a photo before browning so it will have to wait!

Dick got carried away with the Manton stock!  He needed to sort out one or two problems, including all the cracks around the lock pockets and then decided that he would have to refinish it.  In stripping it he uncovered some intriguing history – while the locks, breech plug and barrel are original Manton as far as we can tell, they have been fitted into a different stock at some point – probably a long time ago.  The evidence for this comes mostly from the photo below.  It looks as if the stock originally had locks with a different shaped tail (almost certainly older) and the cutout for the fence behind the false breech shows that has been changed.  There is a plate (German silver?) screwed in under the breeches, presumably to reinforce that area, and it has a notch cut out for the lug to take the end of the short top arm mainspring that was  fitted to the gun as found. The fixings of the plate are not symmetrical- suggesting it wasn’t done by a gunsmith..  The lock pocket of the stock has the correct cutout for a long top arm spring.  Confirmation comes from the matching number engraved on the tang of the trigger guard – it is not very carefully positioned or executed and doesn’t come near the rest of the engraving in quality – it can’t be original….   The original stock was from a good quality gun, possibly even another Manton and has the original furniture and breech block, Probably percussion as there isn’t a cutout for the cock to hit the top edge of the lock – but it might be for a flintlock with a French cock….. The stock was presumably made for a long top arm mainspring, and the Manton locks will take either – I guess when the swap happened the Manton locks had had long top arm mainsprings, as had the stock, and the locks were modified by the fitting of a small lug on a peg to catch the end of the short top arm.  The stock has been neatly extended and the joint covered with chequering.

31st May  Out a.m. but this afternoon I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and get on with the patchbox lid – you can walk round a job for just so long and you get nowhere.  Anyway I looked at my designs and decided to go with more or less what I had already tried.  The lid had lots of flecks in the surface that I thought were the orange peel marks from cold rolling, but they seemed more  like little pits of corrosion – anyway it cuts OK in places but seems to have some inclusions that occasionally make it difficult to cut smoothly – anyway I’ve got most of it roughed out ready for the details and shading – I’m going to leave a space in the middle that would fit the oval, but probably not cut it.  I’ll try to get it finished tomorrow with luck.  I need to visit Dick and get tht Manton stock back before the weekend so I can take it back to CGC ant the muzzle loader’s shoot.

30th May – Still trialing the engraving for the patchbox lid – I needed lots of engraving practice as I’d been a bit lax recently!  I finished trying my original idea for the lid, and for fun engraved the oval ( done very quickly and carelessly!).  I put the lid in my furnace to ‘normalise’ it as I wanted to make sure that it was in the annealed state – an hour or so at 910 C and a very slow cool.  When I looked at the existing top to the patchbox (see below) I realised I’d been copying the lock engraving – the lid is slightly different in feel and some of the cuts are different – possibly a different engraver or in different frame of mind.  In particular the top isn’t symmetrical and is more open, so I am having a bit of a re-think – my efforts are not wasted as most of it is very similar.  I changed my tactics with gravers today – when one got a bit blunt I sharpened it instead of changing it for a fresh one – it seemed to work better, possibly because all my gravers are different lengths and it saved continually changing my hold.  Mostly I can get away with just touching up the heels.   The over and under pistol barrels came good – in contrast to the Manton barrel they only needed about 5 brownings – there isn’t a lot of figure in them, the twist is a bit indistinct – I don’t think its a function of the browning process  – just how the metal is, but they are a very nice chestnut brown – very discrete.  It’s possible I could have brought out the figure more my etching the barrels in copper sulphate solution before browning them, but I can’t see a distinct enough twist to be worth the erosion of the metal.


I think its too fussy – even without the oval &  hasty lettering – I’ll re-think a simpler, more open design…….

The barrels have twist figure, but its not well enough defined  to come through the browning strongly. 

30th May – This blog has now passed 200,000 visitors since I started it!   Amazing.    Started to brown the two o/u pistol barrels, must order some more browning solution!   I’m still trying out my ‘Gumbrell’ style engraving – the trouble is that the more I do, the more I adapt it to my own preferred style!  I have to keep reminding myself to go back to the original and check how it was done!  Anyway I started on a trial layout for the actual engraving on the patchbox lid – I took it to Dick to show him and he thought it would pass muster – see comments below photo;-


I didn’t finish the scroll on the right as its clearly too big for the space.  Not sure what the oval is for, but it fills the space!  I’d probably leave it out on the real thing!  I’m reasonably happy with the scroll on the left  – but doing 4 matching ones will be a challenge!


28th May – The bag of water in the garden continues to grow!   I am still trying to get my head round the Gumbrell engraving on the Rifle – the only way to see how its done is through the microscope, so I took a series of photos using my camera eyepiece and built up a partial mosaic of the ? Gumbrell engraved (?Joe Manton) rifle, the late percussion Joe Manton shotgun and my last attempt at something similar – its pretty instructive! Some bits are  not visible to the naked eye – like the cross shading on the shadows on the rifle ( you’ll need to click on each photo to see them in detail) ;-

This is the ?Gumbrell rifle engraving I’m trying to copy for the patchbox lid….



This is my second attempt – I don’t yet have the correct pitch of shader to put in the parallel lines, mine is too fine -it just looks like a smudge!

This is my first attempt – before I’d done these photos!


This is the Manton engraving – quite different cutting although the overall style is similar – the overall effect id much heavier. 

27th May – What a beautiful day!  We decided to put our old above ground swimming pool up – its just a giant bag of water really – about 30 tons of it so it takes a while to fill!  Its over 10 years old so lets just hope it doesn’t have a leak in the bottom!   I was playing with my microscopes to see which I was going to keep on the bench – the Am Scope does need a 0.75 Bartlow lens to reduce the magnification somewhat so you can see more of what you are doing – as it is, the maximum field of view (on lowest magnification) is 28 mm wide, whereas my Wild it is 52 mm.  You can get one from ebay or from AmScope for around £30 – my Wild uses one – I found a close up lens from an old Canon camera that was  about 0.7 and works very well – I had to make some plastic brackets to hold it as the screw threads are not compatible.   I finally tackled the second Manton lock spring – I’d found one for the left lock that fitted exactly, with a long top arm – the locks will take either a long or short top arm spring – I guess they were modified at some point to take the more modern short top arm spring.  I couldn’t find any springs that fitted exactly, and the nearest I could find was a fairly modern short top arm spring.  Fitting it required the peg hole that locates the spring to be moved a couple of mm.  Positioning the peg hole is critical as it governs the angle that the link on the tumbler takes, and therefore the position of the spring relative to the bottom edge of the lock when the hammer is fully down on the nipple – if the spring peg is too near the hammer, there may not be  clearance for the link to move to full cock, if its too far away the spring and link will try to overlap the edge of the lock, but hit the wood.  Anyway I plucked up courage to mark and drill a 2 mm hole into the lock plate – not quite right through – luck was on my side and it came out perfectly. I was worried that the lockplate would be too hard to drill but it was OK.   So the locks are back to working!  I still don’t understand how the original springs came to be so defective!

The position of the spring peg hole in the lockplate controls the resting angle of the link, – the spring mustn’t be near the edge of the lock plate or it will foul the wood.  This lock now has a spring with a short top arm – at some time I think the locks were modified to take these more modern springs by the addition of the small stop that holds the end of the top arm  – its is just pegged into a hole in the lockplate.

This lock has a long top arm spring as I had one and it fitted exactly – this style of spring would have been fitted to the locks originally.  In this photo the spring is too low and overlaps the bottom of the lock and so would foul the wood, but as soon as the hammer was fitted it comes to rest on the flashguard and stops the tumbler before the spring gets as low as in this photo.   I had to grind down the lump on the top arm as the spring needed to go up to allow the gun to reach full cock but when I took this photo Dick still had the hammer so I didn’t know if it would all work.

I am still playing around with the rifle patch pocket engraving – or at least trying to crack the engraving on the lock so I can make an approximation. I was trying to get a good black and white image  as its is less confusing and I can the see how its done. I’ll have to spend an hour or two with paper and pencil…..

26th May  It’s half term next week so I have the week to myself!  I knocked up a quick headrest mount for the new Am Scope microscope so I could actually use it, and did a bit of playing – it seems to be fine – the zoom is handy and has a bit more magnification than my Wild when flat out, which is really good for checking the sharpness of my gravers – I’m not sure which one I’ll use in the long term, but I’ll keep both on my bench for the moment while I give them side by side tests.  I suspect the new eyepieces will win the day because I can keep my glasses on, which saves a lot of troubletaking them on and off and getting oily fingermarks all over them.  I’m still trying to work out how the Gumbrell engraving was done, and develop the organic shapes – unfortunately I’m a pretty poor artist, and have to do everything the hard way, but I will get there.

The stand is very good – except that used at right angles to the bars it rotates rather easily about the main post.

The head rest support fits into the camera tube mount – it is a ‘quick and dirty’ job to get it working made from a bar of acetal – I should probably make an aluminium one and anodise it as I did last time. 

25th May  In school much of the day – a bit frustrating as we needed to use the smart board for software programming but had to move to the hall which doesn’t have one, but we coped!   I got the Am Scope trinocular microscope today – Its pretty nearly as good as my Wild/Zeiss one and very good value for money – the stand is more versatile and the eyepieces allow the wearing of glasses as the eyes can to be some way back from the lenses – the only trouble is that your head is then ‘waving about in the breeze’ and you really do need a firm headrest like the one I made for the Wild. (see DIY Anodising post and the Engraving Setup post.  The trinocular facility is not as useful as I hoped as it involves switching out the left eye path when you want to use the camera, and the camera is much magnified relative to the eyepiece so you only see a small part of the field of view – I don’t think this is just a function of my camera, but I probably need to make some experiments – the camera I have that fits the new microscope doesn’t appear to have a proper video feed and the frame rate is very slow so  it doesn’t work for ‘action videos’.  But as an engraving microscope it is just fine – a slightly more convenient size than the Wild as its shorter from eyepiece to objective, and handy to be able to keep my spectacles on, and the stand is very good with a double arm slider – and its zoom rather than switched magnifications.  I haven’t fitted a light to it yet – the camera ring light I use on the Wild is too small to fit the ‘nose’ of the new microscope. I expect an expert would find the optical quality inferior, but for engraving I challenge anyone to find much difference – and all for £422.38  including carriage from the UK so no VAT or duty to pay – whats not to like ( AmScope x7 – x45 trinocular zoom microscope with dual arm stand) ? – & I can swap the eyepieces with the Wild and wear spectacles for that now…..  I’ve now got the Purdey foreend to engrave with fine scrolls and the patchbox cover to engrave with Gumbrell large scroll.  The Purdey engraving is not particularly fine and once I get the details sorted in my mind it will be no problem, – however the Gumbrell engraving ( see below -click on the photo for much better view)  is a  whole other ballgame – he was about the best engraver in Britain as the time and his work is technically challenging, whereas the Purdey is, relatively speaking, just hacked out!  So I’m spending a lot of time looking at the Gumbrell lock and trying out different bits of the pattern – its all leaves and plant scrolls with subtle interplay of light and shade – the cuts range from deep to very fine tapered cuts, all with perfect sweeping curves.  I am having to revisit tool sharpening to get fine enough cuts without throwing up burrs . I have been lamenting for some time that I haven’t had much engraving to do – now I am revelling in a real challenge – I did a bit of ‘Sea Monster Gumbrell engraving once but never really cracked it, so now is my chance to raise my game!  I’ll post photos when I get a bit further along the learning curve- assuming I do, but at the moment its a bit primitive- just as well I annealed a couple of test plates!

24th May  GDPR comes into force today, whatever that means!  I have to sort out the Parish Council website as I host it for some obscure reason – actually I’m told that GDPR is being misinterpreted by many organisations as it really only applies to marketing – the rest is to do with Subject Access Requests.  I bet you are none the wiser- me neither!   The good news is that the Manton Barrel is put to bed – it eventually got a decent brown – i deliberately didn’t strike it down to smooth bare metal as I didn’t want to take too much off the barrels and anyway I didn’t want it to look all shiny and stripy as if just rebrowned – it now looks very comfortable and mature, like the rest of the gun!   Dick is working on the stock, and then I just have to pop in the replacement spring in the right lock – it means drilling another hole for the spring peg as its annoyingly about 2 mm away from the existing hole – I went through all Dick’s boxes of locks and springs but there was a distinct shortage of right hand springs, and all the ones that he had were worse than the one I’d picked out already.  I will try to get away with a blind hole for the peg – I can’t see it needs to go right through the lock plate, but if it doesn’t work as a blind hole I can always drill it through.  I’ll have to plug the existing hole, but that is not a problem – contemporary repairs often moved the peg hole.  I got a percussion rifle today to rebrown and engrave the replacement patchbox lid.  It was suggested by previous owners that it was by Joseph Manton but from his late period and was un-named and un-numbered.  It is certainly of a high quality,  it is late, so it is possible it comes from a ‘fire sale’ of stock.  In favour of the Manton theory is the quality (although by then he didn’t have all his own quality workmen), the tail of the trigger guard that I’m told is characteristically Joe Manton, and the engraving which matches that on a number of his guns post 1820 ish, presumably by Peter Gumbrill who later worked for Purdey after he set up on his own.  Gumbrill stopped working about 1850. The barrels were proofed in Birmingham. I love these mysteries – you keep hoping for the definitive clue…..


Superb Peter Gumbrell (?) engraving ( click photo for better view, then <- )

favourite Joseph Manton trigger guard tang.

Lock in perfect -as new- condition with ‘fly’ or detent as was normal on a rifle to stop the sear slipping into the half cock notch if you merely squeezed the trigger ( as you are supposed to with a rifle) – Shotguns rely on a more vigourous trigger pull to avoid this problem.

24th May  – I didn’t get anything at Bonhams, the cheap 14 bore gun went for one bid more than my bid but I didn’t really want it.  The cased pistols both went well above my bids – one for twice what I bid and the other telephone bid I took up to my spending money limit but the next bid got it – you never know how far the other bidder is prepared to go!  Anyway my general observation that pistols, particularly small non military pistols are hot property held true!  The Joe Manton flint/percussion gun made 15000 GBP, which after the premium and tax takes it to almost 19K!  Still it was a very unusual piece, and if I had that sort of money I’d want it in my collection.   I did a bit of engraving on one of a pair of little pistols that had been extensively repaired – good to get the tools out, although the metal was horrible – bits of old hard metal, bits of new soft metal and bits of filed up weld metal – in the end that job got through about 20 gravers!  I actually have one very fine graver from GRS that really stood up to it for a lot longer than most of the others, so I must try to get a couple more.  Oddly it doesn’t shine so much against my normal HSS ones for softer metals.  Still browning the Manton barrel – about 10 rustings down and still the steel is more or less untouched!  How many more will it take?    I got a percussion rifle to sort out this morning – a very nice clean and elegant un-named gun.  I have to re-brown the barrel and also engrave the (replacement) patch box cover.  AT the moment the cover appears to be cold drawn steel that has been partially hardened – it will need annealing before I can engrave it.

22nd May  – Off to Bonham’s viewing today, which involved enduring a moderate amount of rail chaos – all manner of excuses were posted on the boards – I think they have a random excuse generator in their system – I saw’train in the wrong place, no driver, signal failure, breakdown’ – I didn’t see ‘engineering works’ for which be thankful….   Anyway Bonhams was its usual friendly place – part of the attraction is the social aspect!  I met up with a friend who had flown over from the US to to look at a gun and we had a good chat – we’ll meet up again in November on a muzzle loading shoot.  There were a number of fairly OK percussion guns at reasonable estimates, but I have enough- no more room in my cabinets for long guns!  Nothing spectacular, although I left a few bids at around the bottom estimates just in case – I might set up internet bidding, although I did fix one telephone bid – you can’t book a telephone bid on any lot that has a lower estimate of less than £500.   There was one gun that I fancied – a Joe Manton ‘switchable’ flintlock and percussion gun – and  I wouldn’t have minded the cased set by Smith of a gun and a rifle – fitted with nipples for Imperial caps, which Smith favoured – all well more than my pocket money these days.  The pair of Barbar silver mounted pistols at 12000 to 15000 look quite similar to mine, only unfortunately quite a bit nicer!   The Manton barrel continues its browning – its becoming clear that the sections of twist the barrels are made of – they are coils  about 9 or 10 inches long –  don’t all match, either along the length or from side to side – I’m not sure if this is an artifact of the stage of the browning, or more probably of the construction  If its built-in then I’ll go for a a fairly dark browning to hide the differences.  All will be revealed…  I have been practising my Purdey engraving – when you look in detail at the fine scrolls they are fairly simple cuts and not especially finely executed. but very clever in achieving the visual effect – looking at them with x25 magnification allows you to see exactly how the engraver made each cut, so that you can truly copy it – its one of those situations where the outcome is more than the sum of the parts so  fairly crude cuts will work as long as the balance of light and dark and the overall impression are right.  Anyway a bit more practice is called for….  Over to Dick’s tomorrow to pick up a mainspring for the other Manton lock and collect the little pistols that need the engraving touched up…..

I haven’t cracked it yet – I need a lot of practise with paper & pencil first to get it right

21st May – got yesterday’s date wrong – my watch has skipped a day!  The Manton barrel is going quite well after its aborted browning – I am convinced that the twist on the two barrels is slightly different – we will see when it is finished.  I tried out ‘normalising’/annealing a couple of test plates – at least one is EN8 – I sealed them in a stainless/titanium envelope made from sheet from Brownells, and one was also coated with anti scale paint – I wanted to see if I could anneal without generating scale.  I used my little furnace ( see post) and cooked them at 910 degrees C for an hour, then let them cool very slowly by feeding in a little power from the auxilliary supply until they got below 400 C.  The bare one didn’t scale, and the paint is still on the other one so I guess that is clean too.  I just tried engraving a straight line across one plate and cuts much better than before, so I’ll anneal all my plates from now on.   I talked to a knife maker at the Northern Shooting Show who wanted to do engraving on the scales of his knives , and, since he has a real need, I suggested that he could justify buying a suitable microscope at the start.  I always have a bit of trouble with my separate camera when doing demonstrations of engraving as it gets knocked and doesn’t give a very clear picture – anyway I thought I’d buy a cheap(ish) trinocular microscope to see if the cheap microscopes were any good, and so that I didn’t have to disassemble and cart my good one to shows, and had a camera that showed what I was actually doing – I might even be able to shoot videos, which would be good.  I managed to find a new AmScope x7.5 – x45 trinocular microscope on ebay from the UK substantially reduced  price so I bought it!  Tomorrow I’m off to London to view the Bonhams auction – not sure if I’ll buy anything – probably not but its nice to look and I can see various friends!

20th May – bit of a disaster with the browning of the Manton barrel – I wasn’t having much luck in the cellar with Blackleys slow brown so I gave it a coat of mine and shifted it up to the kitchen next to the AGA and left it for a few hours.  Nice deep reddish brown colour BUT a patch were I hadn’t put on any of my brown looked very pale and with sharp edges  AND in a few places the rusting had got too vigorous and had raised some rough patches that I couldn’t remove with 0000 wire wool or a brush – it needed 3000 grade paper to get them down and that left patches – SO back to square one – chuck it in the derusting tank and then work on it with 1000 grit, 2500 grit and 000 and 0000 wire wool – so now we are back to the start – no damage done.  It has never happened to me before, and I don’t know why it went wrong this time as the rusting hadn’t been too vigorous -maybe my solution is really too strong – I’ll dilute it some more – when steamed it tends to give a very black colour.   While waiting for the derusting etc I started to tackle the outboard motor that was overheating last year.  I had done the bottom end and water pump last autumn, so I decided that there must be a block somewhere in the cooling galleries of the engine – I stripped the engine and took the head off – there was some salt and crud in the passages but not enough to stop the flow – anyway I’ve cleaned it all out and will get new gaskets from the friendly chap in the Isle of Man – would be good to go sailing next w/e if this weather holds – I need a new number plate for the trailer – I have a spare outboard if the Yamaha isn’t finished.  I’ve started to do a bit of practice for the Purdey foreend engraving  – I picked up an old practice plate that had been heated on one corner and realised that the corner was much softer to engrave compared to the rest.  The material is bright cold rolled mild steel ( probably EN1 or EN3) but the cold rolling process toughens it up considerably so its much harder to engrave than soft gun parts.  I have more or less run out of test plates, so I’ll order some more EN1 in 30 x 6 mm and then anneal it in my furnace before flattening the surface and getting a good working finish for practice plates.  Metals4U gives you 10 free cuts and then 50p per cut, so a 3 m length can be cut into 150mm plates for £4.50 which is not bad, which adds up to about £2.50 per test plate.  I might get them surface ground again, but I’ll try for a finer finish than last time as I had to do a lot of work on the surface before I could use them.

19th May – More school today – a visit to see how the school is doing with its maths progress.  The children in the top class had made  cards and presents for Dave and I for doing robotics with them – really touching!   I went shooting this morning – it was meant to be a ‘have a go’ session that we run for the Cambridge Gun club for corporate groups, but the group had cancelled and they had forgotten to tell us, so we got a free mornings shooting as a compensation.  I took my flintlock and am sad to report that I couldn’t hit anything with it – well, actually one clay!  It was firing a bit slow but that isn’t an adequate excuse…   I swapped to my percussion for the last few  shots and was back in my usual somewhat erratic form – bother, I was hoping I had got somewhere with the flint – I did better last time.   I’m still browning the Joseph Manton barrel – its being very slow but I think its getting there.  One lock still needs a mainspring but I think I’ll go and have a poke through Dicks box again to see if I can get one that fits without having to drill a new hole for the peg.  I picked up a handful of mainsprings with a short top arm – as from modern locks – and they are all more or less identical – just about 1.5 mm too long between peg and claw.   Apart from cleaning the two guns, all I had time for was sharpening the 15 gravers that I bought back blunt or chipped from the NSS.   There is another Anglian Muzzle Loading shoot on Sunday but I don’t think I can face using the flintlock as its just too depressing!  I’ve got to ship some engraving bits to Australia, but unfortunately they have to be picked up and its not easy finding a day when I am in.

18th May – A morning in school invigilating the dreaded SATs exams!   Dick has finished the Manton hammer and made a new nosepiece, he didn’t have the rest of the gun and didn’t know which way up the nosepiece opening should be, so they need unscrewing and changing.  He has, as usual, made a fantastic job of copying the good hammer – I just need to engrave a couple of lines to frame the chequering on the spur and it will be a perfect match when its coloured down.  The barrel is coming along well after about 4 or 5 brownings – I guess it will take 10 or so.  Now I need to replace the mainsprings with the ones I found in Dicks junk box – he says he found another box of springs if I want another poke around – and to think I used to make them….  Dick will do a bit of work on the wood round the lock pockets,  I cleaned up a couple of pistol barrels that need rebrowning – I hope I got a reasonable finish – I refuse to strike them down to the bottom of the pits as that will seriously remove metal.    I talked at the NSS to a gunsmith who wanted a Purdey replacement foreend iron engraved – I have never done any Purdey style engraving, or indeed any modern style engraving but I said I would have a go!  Probably regret it!  I had a look at some Purdey foreend that Dick has, and looked on a couple of auction websites so I have a fair idea what to do…   I’m off to Cambridge Gun Club tomorrow as we (Anglia Muzzle Loaders) are putting on a ‘have a go’ event for CGC and I am needed on account of not many people have flintlocks and are familiar enough with them to let them loose on the public.  For the first time I actually checked my flints and replaced them BEFORE starting to shoot – this is probably a big mistake and I probably ensured that they won’t spark well!

You have to admit, that is a pretty good copy!

A couple of barrels to rebrown so that they don’t look rebrowned!

An old Purdey forend – most are not quite so closely worked – I will see what I can do!

17th May – Back in harness, so to speak.  I have finished preparing the Manton barrel (and unscrewed the foresight) and put on the first browning which went quite slowly but looks very promising now I’ve rubbed it off with 0000 wire wool – I will probably make a warm box as the cellar really takes too long – I can do pistol barrels on top of the AGA  in a tub but long gun barrels need some better method than hanging them in the cellar.   I am now preparing the barrels of a pair of over and under flintlock pistols – they are slightly pitted (as are almost all antique barrels even when the rest of the gun is immaculate) and needed a gently rebrowning, but it would not be appropriate to strike them off to get rid of all the pits – I have run them through the derusting tank to convert all the red rust in the pits to black and wire brushed them – I then work on them with 400 grit paper on any bad bits but mostly with 600, followed by 1000, then 3000 and 000 wire wool. It’s fiddly because there are ribs between the barrels and a rib underneath and each has two right angled edges to be cleaned out.  I run them under my fine wire wheel (0.03 wire) to brush the grit and dust off between grades of paper.  The engraving on the barrels looks fine and isn’t even filled with rust, so just a very quick going over to clean it out before browning.   I spoke too soon about filling my shooting calendar for next season – I got another lovely invitation today that I can’t miss.  The only problem is that its on Penny’s birthday and I’ve already ducked out of a party and a May Ball for the Scottish shoot – I am expecting the divorce papers any minute………………………………………………….

16th May – Bit of a surge in visitors to the blog – I gave out about 50 cards at the NSS so I guess some new people are looking – Welcome if this is your first visit – hope you enjoy the site.

16th May – Busy trying to sort out my ‘clean’ workshop, which is anything but.  I’ve now got a bit more swinging room around the microscope, although the support for the microscope will still get in the way, but it only blocks an angle of about 10 degrees so not too bad.  I had invitations to another two muzzle loading game shoots next season, which just about fills my shooting calendar!  I think I now have 7 lined up – they are getting more and more popular as people get a bit jaded by the big bag breech loader shoots – It’s going to grow significantly as a sport – we are already seeing a steady increase in the numbers shooting clays with muzzle loaders.  At the moment its difficult for newcomers to get into the muzzle loading game shoots as only a few people are organising them and they always get filled up quickly with  the ‘regulars’.  It can’t be a very attractive commercial proposition for the shoot, as the bag is much smaller than for  ‘normal’ shoot, and hence the gross take is a lot less –  having said that, the shoots I go on all seem to be very popular with the keepers. I am going to see how well I do with a flintlock next season, as its getting a bit common using a percussion gun – nasty new fangled things!  Checking my calendar, I’ve had to duck out of a birthday party and a May Ball to go up to Scotland to shoot the National ML championships with my son Tom, but it is great fun, even if I don’t hit much – Tom and I are about equal as he only shoots once a year and I am a lousy shot anyway.  Last year I missed the Samdringham Game fair, which I love, but this year I should make it.  I probably won’t be at the Fenland Country fair – its my least favourite as its only 10 miles from home so none of the fun of camping there!  I popped over to see Dick and look at the hammer of the Manton he has been filing up – Jason did a splendid job of welding – much better than my welding – so that is almost done – I just need to brown the barrel now.

16th May – Back from Harrogate…  The Northern Shooting Show was pretty hectic viewed from behind my engraving bench – not sure of much that went on outside a radius of about 15 ft!  Lots of interest in what I do, particularly in engraving and re-engraving antiques, and I am sure a lot of work will come my way as a result. I came totally exhauseted after talking all day for both days!  People seemed to like the assurance that I understand the importance of not over restoring guns, so I am becoming ‘The Ethical Restorer’!  Quite a good strapline…    I did get to wander round on a short lunch break – its an amazing show, I’m not sure in our urbanised south of England you could put on a big show that had Shooting in the title, we just tag guns onto ‘Country Fairs’!    Several of the enquiries that I had related to restoring the engraving on barrels, and I have a couple to do already, so while I have my microscope etc all packed up from the show I have decided to re-organise my engraving bench so that there is room to swing a barrel – this means extending the bench and cutting away the bottom part of a set of shelves, so that is today’s job – I do have a couple of pistol barrels and a double shotgun barrel to re-brown, plus a few other bits and pieces, but I do want to get the bench sorted so I can get all the boxes off the floor and have room to move!

10 May – A website regular emailed me to say that he did his browning on the back of his AGA so I thought it might be worth a try.  I’ve been browning the little pistol barrel hanging over a jug of water in the bottom of a steel barrel about 2 ft high in the cellar so I just took it up to the kithen and perched it on top of the cover of the AGA hotplate and wrapped a piece of silvered bubblewrap round it – that really turbocharged the browning and finished it in one go – beautiful!  Thanks Chris.  I can probably get each rusting done in a couple of hours like that – now I need to sort out how to do the same for a long gun barrel.  The little pistol is now together and looks superb – I wish it was mine.   I’ve now loaded up my truck with all the stuff for the Northern Shooting Show – I’d forgotten what a long drive it was until I did a reccy on Google maps – about 4 hours.  I’ll have to get there in time to build my setup and display – it takes a while to get the microscope set up with the turntable as the field of view needs to be aligned with the centre of the turntable an perpendicular to it or I keep loosing the object as I rotate it, which of course I have to do all the time as you can only cut in a very limited range of directions.  The NSS opens at 8 every morning so its an early start, although I only have to travel from where we camp on the shooting line to the show hall.  I haven’t been able to get a map of where on the site the MLAGB stand is going to be, or how much space we will have  so I’ll have to play it by ear.   I’m still not quite sure what to take in the way of guns – I’ve been asked to take some pistols for the main display and I’ll take a couple for my own display of restored things, and my restored Lancaster oval bore as that is my best bit of restoration so far.

Here is the little pistol – I can’t claim any credit for restoration – it is entirely original!

9th May – Sorting out labels for the NSS – I’m still browning the little barrel and it still has some way to go, I’ve lost count of how many brownings its had but judging by the number of wads of used 0000 steel wool lying about on the bench it must be around 8 so far – I’m still using Blackley’s slow brown as I don’t want to make the finish any blacker at this stage by using my solution with copper in it.  I nipped over to Dicks to have a look at the Manton hammer – it is looking good, a little bit more work needed.  As I expected Dick has had to file through the weld I put on the front of the spur in order to match the existing one, so he will take it to Jason for a bit of delicate welding – probably a bit fiddly for me to do.  He found a chequering file to cut the spur surface, so that will match the existing one, I’ll have to do a bit of engraving around the chequering but it should be good.  I must get on with the Manton barrel smoothing with 600 grit paper, then 1000 then 3000 ready for browning.

8th May – Spent most of the day sorting stuff to take up to the Northern Shooting show on Friday  – as well as all my engraving stuff, microscope, power hone, lights etc I had to sharpen about a dozen gravers and find my microscope camera etc.  I have 2 tables & trestles plus mounted photos and bits for a display of restoration to sort out, plus a notice or two about restoration as I haven’t got any.  Clare emailed me this evening to bring some pistols for the main MLAGB display – so that is another thing to sort out  – I seem to have mislaid my Colt Navy that I usually take – probably gave it to Tom – it was a bit ropey… I did wonder about getting some section 7 pistols for my collection – it stops rather abruptly after the Adams and associated  percussion revolvers – apart from a couple of little rim fire .32 Smith and Wessons which are as common as dirt.  I carried on browning the little pistol – still some way off, but I’ll keep at it.  I did a bit of cleaning up of the Manton barrel – that will brown nicely when I get round to it.  Dick says he has nearly finished filing up the hammer spur and reckons it won’t need any more welding, which would be good. I’ll probably go and see it tomorrow – he is quite excited because he has just got another dog so I”ll be shown that too – another black lab bitch that was rejected as a gundog!

7th May – went to Dick’s to show him the Manton and hand over the filing of the hammer spur to him – he has a better eye for shape than I do and is better at filing – he did a proper apprenticeship while I am just a bodger!  He was as amazed as I was at the nature of the surfaces of the break in the Manton springs  – I can’t believe they were the original springs.  There is a bit of a mystery there – if you scroll down a bit and look at the two photos of the lock you will see that the top arm of the mainspring rests on a little ledge on the inside of the lock plate, and on the outside there is the end of a pin where the ledge is fixed through the lockplate – this seems to me to be a bit unusual as the top arm usually rests under the thick piece of the lock that rests against the barrel – i.e. its normally quite a bit longer.  It looks like the lock may have been modified with the ledge added to take a replacement spring – The springs with the short top arm are now associated with ejector springs.  Anyway at DIck’s we sorted through his collection of mainsprings – he has lots of ex Purdy ejector springs and various assorted springs including a number of mainsprings recovered from old percussion guns.  We managed to sort out half a dozen possible springs – they are almost an exact fit, except that all bar one has the peg that locates  in the lock just about 1.5 mm to far towards the muzzle to fit directly – I did contemplate filing off the pin and welding on a built-up peg, but I’m not sure if that would be strong enough, so I’ll probably do what an old gunsmith would have done and drill a new hole and plug the old one – I might just try a blind hole.  I’ll then have to block the old hole, either welding it or, more authentic, riveting in a bit of steel rod. Anyway its good to know I won’t have to make springs from scratch…   Browning of the little pistol barrel is being slow – Dick complained that the last pistol he browned took him 15 rustings, so I shouldn’t get depressed as I’ve only done 4 so far.

Obviously the ones with red clay are the originals –  the right hand lock on the right.   The peg on the RH  original lock is further from the ‘elbow’ than it is on the LH lock

This is the best fit spring  for the LH lock – it may be a bit short, causing it to hang down below the lockplate, but I can’t be sure as Dick has the hammers and they form the stop.  This spring is more traditional and rests on the main bolster, not the pegged in ledge arrowed.  Most locks had the bolster extending further forward?  The photo also shows the line where the flashguard is joined into the plate rather than being integral. 

6th May –  I got my microscope camera rigged up today and took a few photos of the broken springs – it works very well but needs to be in place of one eyepiece so you can’t use the microscope while the camera is in place.  Anyway you can certainly see why the springs fell apart – its just difficult to see how they ever held together!  I tackled the job of welding the replacement spur on the hammer of the Manton.  I could not see how to get a weld across the whole face of the joint, and the lump I welded on is somewhat oversize so I tacked it in place – it took a couple of goes to get it aligned right. Now it needs shaping, and if that gets near to taking away the weld I’ll just go in a bit deeper with the weld – I’ll just have to make sure that there is always enough weld left somewhere to hold it all together.  I’m browning the little barrel but its being a bit recalcitrant – I had to hang it in a bucket over a jug of hot water to get it to rust today.  I get the urge to try my browning solution on it, but I’ll keep going with Blackley’s for a bit.  I’ve been in correspondence with a friend from the AML who is browning a barrel and not getting a great deal of joy after half a dozen rustings – he has now added some dilute copper sulphate to his bottle of Blackley’s Slow brown to emulate my used printed circuit etching solution – signs it might help.    I’m off to the Northern Shooting Show on Friday so I have lots of things to sort out.  I will be doing engraving demonstrations and  giving engraved screwheads to small children as usual, but I thought I might make a change and do a static display of restoration equipment, parts and tools and a job in progress ( I have lots!).  I’ll take my power hone for sharpening this year as I get through the gravers at a rate of knots – I made another 4 this afternoon – I usually sell a few at Harrogate.  I bought a very cheap belt sander and some silicon carbide belts which is ideal for preliminary shaping of the points, and other shaping jobs as it doesn’t heat things as much as a grinding wheel.  I mean to get a coarser diamond hone disk but the 80 grit ones are very expensive, and anyway I need a new 260 grit wheel at some point.  All these tools cost a lot.  I am doing a quite few restorations for friends and via the blog but I have to work out costings each time and don’t always get it right so I thought I’d try to make a price list – at least with a range of prices for each job so people could judge whether it was economically viable to do a particular piece of work on their gun.


The delamination emerging top right in each of these two photos is visible along the top of the spring surface as a crack.

Above are the two parts of  one mainspring – all sorts of faults are visible, including a slightly rusted surface from an old crack and  several delaminations.    I really find it difficult to believe a spring can be that bad!  I’ve seen a fair number of breaks in mainsprings before and always look at the surfaces under the microscope but usually they are clean uniform surfaces – sometimes with a rather large grain size. These look as if they are original, so its difficult to see what happened to them – unless it was the effect of a damp atmosphere.

This spring has flaws too, not quite as obvious in the photos, but both broke – the red is modelling clay.

I hope that the metal I’ve welded on is large enough to make the spur- its quite difficult to judge – we shall see!


5th May  – Had a bit of a problem today – I was derusting a pair of percussion locks for a job and after 10 minutes in the derusting the mainsprings both broke!  I knew that some very high strength modern steels suffered from hydrogen embrittlement if subjected to a very long  derusting electrolysis, but I’d never had any problems with mainsprings in dozens of derusting so I was a bit concerned to say the least.  When I looked at the spring breaks under the microscope at x25 the answer was obvious – both had longitudinal cracks and delamination and  corrosion around around the area of the break  – the gun had been stored in a damp place and it looked as if that had somehow badly affected the spring – maybe it was held together by rust, and derusting it just let it fall apart.  I wondered if the mainsprings might have been replaced with very inferior ones at some time as some of the faults looked as if they were the result of poor manufacture.   I can usually weld mainsprings using piano wire as filler but in this case it would be pointless as there is too much amiss in the surrounding metal.  The springs would have fallen apart as soon as the gun was used so its just as well to sort it now.  I’ll try to get some castings from Kevin, or failing that I’ll make a couple of springs myself – its a bit of a pain to make the hooks for the link, but it can be done!  I started on browning the little o/u pistol barrel – first coating it in a slurry of chalk and water that I left for about 16 hours and got this effect;-

You can see a fine twist appearing, I then cleaned the chalk off and gave it a rusting with Blackley’s slow brown, but so far it hasn’t really got rusting going – I suspect that the cellar is actually pretty dry today, although its usuallly quite damp and things rust easily.


5th May – Busy afternoon at school.  I cleaned up the little over and under flintlock barrels ready for browning and they are now sitting in the workshop coated in chalk to  remove all traces of oil – it also starts off the etching process – I can already see a beautiful twist coming out.  I started on the hammer of the Manton caplock – I ground off the ragged break and welded over the joint area to give a sound base for welding on the extra metal that is to be shaped into a new spur for the hammer.  I’ll leave the metal well oversize so I don’t have to get the alignment perfect – I’ll tack the piece on and then undercut the rest of the joint so that the weld penetrates towards the middle of the break, otherwise its not going to be strong enough.  I’m running out of Argon so I’ll shortly have to make an expedition to get a refil – last year I changed from a rental to a half sized bottle on a refill contract – the big bottle lasted 4 years but this one must have leaked as its only been in use for a year.  The owner of the Manton wants us to do the complete ‘breathing’ so I’ll start with the derusting over the weekend.

I hope the piece of metal I cut from a little set-square is big enough!


3rd May – Pleasant day shooting at Eriswell – I did manage to hit a few with the flintlock!  emphasis on few…   At long last I got to fire at a pattern plate – the Manton flintlock was a fairly even pattern at 20 m and covered 30 inches fairly evenly but was a fraction low.  My 20 bore Beretta has choke on both barrels and threw a very good pattern of about 20 – 24 inches centered on the target – not too tight, so I feel more confident that when I actually manage to point it at the clay, it will break it!  A friend asked me to fix a Joseph Manton he had just purchased – the spur of the cock had been broken off.  I bought it home and checked it out against ‘The Mantons’.  It is a caplock of around 1827 to 1829  made my Joseph Manton & Son a year or so after Joseph had been declared bankrupt for the first time in 1826.  He had been forced to sell his premises and had managed to get an advance of £750 and set up in business again at Mary Le Bone Park House – New Road – London for a couple of years before moving to Holles Street in 1829 or thereabouts  – a truly irrepressible man.  He was not able to keep his full staff and had to outsource some work, but overall this gun is of decent quality.  My friend’s example appears to be genuine and original and ‘ticks the boxes’, but is in need  of a little tender love and care to restore it to its full potential (& value – anything by Joseph or John Manton is sought after).   It has the classic caplock hammers with detachable face, and short, square nipples – it is interesting because the flash guards are morticed into the (flat) lock plates – see arrow on photo – I assume this was original.  The serial number is 10121  and the barrel was bored by Thomas Evans (TE) and has faint proof marks.  The barrel address is Mary Le Bone Park House New Road London.  Apart from the broken spur and missing insert it just needs tidying – there is a bit of split wood round the lock pockets because the edges of the locks are quite badly rusted and the expansion has cracked the wood in a few places – the barrels need a bit of attention – derusting (as do the locks) and very gently rebrowning.  At the moment I’ll just sort out the hammer spur and any engraving that needs replacing on the repaired parts – the owner will probably want to do the rest…..

You can see some of the rust that covers much or the lock edges. 

Interesting that the flash shield is morticed in to a flat lockplate  rather than made as part of it as in most guns.

Quite a rare Joseph Manton with this address – he was only there for a couple of years.



2nd May – The 8 bore is back together – the browning worked well for the muzzle half of the barrel but there was not much pattern in the breech area – that section of the barrel was quite clearly much more homogeneous  – it can’t have been made using twisted iron and steel or it would have more figure – I guess it was mostly steel.  Anyway it now looks pretty good – I might try a photo later.  I had a visit from a collector dealer who brought a cute pair of percussion pocket pistols to be ‘breathed on’  One has the bottom tang poorly repaired, and  a bit of the butt to be fixed, and the other has a chipped flare to the cock mouth.   We took them to Dick to do the breathing, along with a pair of Joseph Lang 12 bores that need a bit of TLC but nothing major.   I got the little O/U flint pistol back from Dick to be rebrowned.  I’m off tomorrow to Eriswell to shoot the John Manton double 14 bore flint gun, and perhaps a few shots with the 20 bore hammer Beretta if I need a break from the effort involved in loading the flintlock   I had a careful look at the Manton with my visitor, and he wondered if the stock had been swapped – it is possible as there is a slight misfit in the area of the false breech that I had to sort out when I got it – I’m pretty sure the locks, barrel and breech block belong to the proper Manton as they are all correctly numbered, but from the on it could be a bitza – I am not particularly concerned as I didn’t pay anything like the price of an original Manton.


Much improved, and not looking as if it has just been rebrowned – which is the aim.

1 May – another bit of browning T+Bs+Bs+Ts – its getting darker but the pattern is being obscured over some of the barrel – there never has been any significant pattern in the thick material of the breech, which was obviouly not just a continuation of a  simple twist – I tried just steaming the breech end and now I have just put browning on the bit that doesn’t show very much twist at the breech – I used my browning for that as it was a bit light for the last foot or so.

1st May – Another month gone!   I’ve done a couple of brownings of the 8 bore barrel so far with quite encouraging results – I keep a note of what I do so that I can compare results, a T for a browning with my solution, a B with Blackleys and a lower case s when I steam a browning after rubbing it down with 0000 grade steel wool. At the present rate I think 6 brownings might be enough – I can fit in about 3 a day if I’m here most of the time.  I do them in the cellar, which is quite damp  but not particularly warm,  13.7 C at the moment – fine for red wine!

This is the result of T+Bs in my simple code system – the twist is beginning to show nicely – the steaming brings it out more – it doesn’t take much – just pass the barrel back and forth over the spout of a kettle a few times ( beware burning yourself, you need long wooden handles in the breech and muzzle)  – somewhat easier on the AGA compared to an electric kettle.

This is the first browning with old printed circuit etchant – the blue seems to be due to the copper in the acidified ferric sulphate solution

29th April – I ordered some sets of honing stones from Zoro UK – I got 3 sets (different grades) of 3 stones (most hones work in threes not two like mine) that are 100 x 9 mm and one set that is 51 x 7 mm  – and all for the price (about £21) of one pair of Brownells 19 mm stones with the postage.   We shall see if I can devise a suitable holder.  In the mean time I am pressing ahead with the rebrowning of the 8 bore.  I turned up a couple of bits of wood as bungs in the muzzle and breech, sealed with shellac, and scrubbed the barrel with detergent and water and then painted it with a slurry of chalk and water to lift any remaining oil.  I’ll probably give it a coat of my browning solution first as it contains copper and probably etches the surface better than Blackleys – then I’ll change to Blackleys, although I don’t have much in stock and I have the little pistols to do.  I seem to have lost the last bottle I bought – things disappear!   I’ll make up more of my solution when I can find a good bottle, I have a jar of strong used printed circuit etching solution that has been used, diluted at least 10:1 it works fine, and is probably OK at 20:1.


28th April – I carried on honing the 8 bore barrel – I spent a long time with the 150 grit stones – at first the muck that flushed out was mostly rust colour, but it gradually changed to  a greyish brown as I wore down the rust patches and got rid of most of the worst roughness.  The barrel got a lot smoother but you could still see a number of imperfections that were obviously left over from the  original boring – a few marks along the barrel and some ripples.  I stopped the 150 grit when it looked reasonably clean and switched to the 400, which did a reasonable job of refining the surface and flushed grey, but the stones wore out very quickly and unevenly and I had to unrivet them and swap them end for end.  I did get a reasonable finish so I swapped to the 500 grit stones which did get a better finish although they wore down quite quickly.  I stopped at that point – the almost shiny surface actually showed up the irregularities  more, but the finish was smooth and you can see that there is very little in the way of pitting – the barrel is obviously well able to stand the sort of loads it would originally have been used with – maybe up to 4 to 6 drams and 2 1/2 oz of  large shot. I rate the honing a partial success –  I realised afterwards  that the finer hone stones were cutting with the back corner, presumably the arm was interfering with the floating part – so that it was polishing into the depressions instead of taking off the high spots – it does mean that all the rust has gone and the barrel is smooth and nothing is lost as I can always go over it with a longer & or flatter stone.  But I will have to think about a new holder, especially if I want to do smaller bores than 8 bore!  So now I have to brown them a nice dark colour. When I’ve done that I’ll do the pair of O/U pistols and the little O/U ( all flintlocks).

Here is a photo of a nice Irish Duelling Pistol circa 1780 by Hutchinson of Dublin – it was on my FAC for a while and I have shot it.  This was one of my first restorations – the cock was broken and had been brazed, and needed the wood sorted and the barrel browned.  I had a pair of almost identical pistols by Edwards of Dublin so I got a new cock cast from one of the Edwards cocks – my guess is that the engraving on the Hutchinson and Edwards were done by the same Dublin engraver because the cock matches the lock tail engraving perfectly.  For historical accuracy I still have the braze repaired cock for the pistol.   I’m very fond of this pistol as it represents the peak of elegance of the duelling pistol – no half stocked pistol can ever look this elegant, and percussion pistols don’t do much for me!  You don’t need to pay a fortune for big name duelling pistols to get a thing of beauty, although even this one will be worth a lot more now than the £700 I paid for it!

27th April   Had a great hour this afternoon teaching a group of 10/11 year olds about programming robots – I just wish the boys would show as much interest and concentration as the girls!   I fear that when the male culture that has successfully kept women at bay for hundreds of years  finally crumbles, men are going to have to up their game to stay in contention!  I finally got my kit of honing stones from Brownells yesterday – all their stuff is shipped from the US and only ordered once a week, so  the normal delivery is around 2 weeks.  I hadn’t ordered a holder for them because I wanted it to work on an 8 bore and the holder said it was good up to 12 bore.   Looking at their photo I figured I could make one – I had a long fibreglass cleaning rod with a hex shank to fit a drill and a 9/32 BSF hole in the other end so I copied the general shape of theirs, turning a boss with 9/32 BSF male ends and milling grooves for the stone arms – I wasn’t sure how they applied tension to the stones, but I found that I could make an adjustable system using O rings ( I have a box with an assortment left over from various jobs) – one to hold the tails in and several in a groove to pack out the stones to the required pressure.  I slipped a piece of plastic tube ( 15mm water pipe) over the fibreglass to protect the barrel and am using WD40 as a lubricant.  And it works just fine- somewhat to my surprise – although its going to be a long job even with the 150 grit stones – at the moment it seems that most of what comes out is rust, but the bore is showing signs of getting better – we shall see after another hour or so with the battery drill.  I was going to mount the barrel in the lathe and run the rod straight up and down  but the fixtures for holding the barrel in the lathe would take too long to make, and this is easier, plus I have the speed control in my hand on the drill.

26th April – Driving much of the day – first to Norfolk to lunch with a keen collector, then over to Holts to take a couple of 12 bores to put in the sale.  I hadn’t really looked at them before, but when they were properly looked at it was clear that both were very loose in the action –  rattling when shaken, and the Jefferies had been reproofed in 1993 but the barrels were down to 13 thou in places.  Not yet at the stage of being dangerous to shoot, but not very encouraging – we left them for Holts to see how to sell them.  I always enjoy having a poke round their premises – this time all the ‘Grown ups’ were off round the country on a valuation week drumming up new business, but the remaining crew were as friendly as ever and we had a look at some pretty unusual things – they had a Nock 7 barreled gun for the next sale at £15K  and a very unusual breech loading  7 barreled .22 rifle designed to fire all 7 barrels simultaneously – thought to be for ‘mopping up’ operations after discharging a punt gun, although the reloading must have taken a while.  There was a nice Westley Richards 1874 patent with the classic crab knuckle joint like my William Powell – in a bit better condition than mine, but in next time for more than I paid for mine – unfortunately black powder only or I would have been tempted to swap it.  I’m still thinking of what I need to cull from my collection – I have relatively few flintlocks so I shall keep most of them, but there are  a number of percussion guns and pistols that could go to make room for more flintlocks……..  The popular things at the moment are little pistols in good condition – prices seem to be on the increase, as are prices of shootable sporting guns.  There is very little market for junk unless it will restore into something  good.

25th April – Sorting out my little robots for my class on Friday – quite a challenge to find something that will give them an understanding of how robots are programmed in the space of an hour! – still I do like a challenge.  Tomorrow I’m off to deepest Norfolk with Dick to see a collector friend who has an amazing collection of flintlocks and an insatiable appetite for more – I keep trying to think of something I could take to sell him, but its my percussion guns that I want to shift!   After lunch it will be a dash to Holts to deposit a couple of 12 bore guns that came from a friend’s gun cabinet when he died – a sidelock ejector by Jeffreies and a Webley and Scott 700 series non ejector – I have no use for them, although the Jefferies is decent bog standard side by side if one wants one – it will probably make around £700.  I  quite like my little 20 bore if I want to shoot a nitro S/S – 24 grams is a decent load as its a light gun, and I occasionally hit things with it when I get used to the weight – I’m a bit liable to wave it around in the air when I pick it up after shooting a heavier gun, and its chokes are tight so its easy to miss (anyway that is my excuse!).

24th April  – Miraculously nothing to take me away from playing today – went to see Dick and look at progress on the little O/U pocket pistol he is cleaning and tidying, and saw a little Tranter .38 rimfire revolver he had cleaned up for a client –  because its rimfire it is classed as an obsolete  calibre and is therefore section 58 and doesn’t need to be on a FAC – rather a pretty little thing – wouldn’t mind one of those for my Tranter/Adams collection!   I tackled the Richards lock that Dick and I had been working on – he had the cock  and the tip of the sear welded, but Jason, our speciality welder didn’t want to weld up the broken bridle – he doesn’t know guns and I guess he didn’t know what liberties he could take, so it was left to muggins to fix it.  Bits of old guns are always a gamble to weld as they may contain a lot of carbon and may fizz like a firework, but this bridle wasn’t too bad – the bit that broke was a narrow bridge between the mounting boss and the main plate, but fortunately there was room for the bridge to be thickened up a bit – so it worked!    I’ve been cleaning up a lovely pair of Over and Under flintlock overcoat pistols – they really don’t need much done to them – I’m still debating whether to rebrown the barrels – I think I probably will if I can do it in a discrete way.  The barrels have LONDON engraved on them, and it appeared almost completely worn down – but actually the cuts were just filled with a hard rust/oil mixture and were perfect underneath.  Its not possible to get the crud out of the letters with a brush as its too hard, so I use a graver, being careful to follow each original cut and cut the very minimum of metal.  Not so much recutting as clearing out – it does leave some shiny metal showing so its best if it is rebrowned or failing that, gone over with blacking using a very fine watercolour artists brush.(0000 size).

A couple of my clients have brought to my attention that putting details of significant restorations of their guns on the site might prejudice their chances of selling them, which I can well understand.  Part of the problem is that Google searches will find even a single mention of a gunmakers name anywhere  on this site, and if a would be purchaser is searching for details of a maker he is likely to see it in unrestored condition and may be put off purchase.  Google images has lots of images from this site too.   For me its a bit of a problem as I do the restorations  partly to have things to put on the blog, and don’t really feel the need to charge much for my time as a consequence.   I usually ask if its OK to put things on the web, and I will now generally avoid mentioning the maker’s name  so that it wouldn’t come up in searches – which will avoid most of the problem.  I am reluctant to charge full economic prices for jobs that I can’t post on the web, but I suppose that is one possibility.  I hope buyers realise that just because they haven’t seen a blow by blow account of a restoration on the web it doesn’t mean that the gun is not in fact heavily restored – they are probably better off knowing!


Welded bridle of Richards lock


The ‘N’ is cleaned out – you can see the crud out of the ‘O’


These are the original cuts minus the crud – the graver takes almost no metal off

These are a beautiful pair of London made pistols in very good condition  Rebrowed they could look stunning  – I’ll probably do it! 

Its a question of getting it exactly right – I’m very fussy about the colour of browning!




23rd April – In Cambridge today sorting out around 100 laundry boxes of old data from Geophysical research cruises between 1957 and 1980 – records from deep water echo sounders, seismic receivers, magnetometers, gravimeters and heat flow – mostly on old paper records from various forms of chart recorder or mechanical raster recorders using electro marked paper.  A lot were early digital records recorded on punched paper tape – some may remember the click clack of the teletype as it spewed out 5 or 7 hole punched paper tape!    The echo sounder records were from Mufax recorders that were designed  for printing out weather maps and used wet paper that turned dark when an electric current was passed through it – a process that depended upon iodine.  The recorder had a beautiful helical electrode that revolved behind the paper and gave a linear sweep against a fixed electrode.   The boxes full of these records had all been infused with iodine and were a uniform dark brown colour.  We kept about 1/4 of the stuff for our archive, and ditched most of the rest.  Some is on hold pending other institutions wanting it.   It all took me back to my days in Cambridge University as I had designed many of the instruments we used at sea, and been on many of the cruises.  I think/hope the rest of the week is more or less free so I can get some gun work sorted out – I’ll go to Dick’s tomorrow as he is fixing up a beautiful over and under flintlock that had a slightly bent frizzen.  I will need to come up with something to do at the Northern Shooting Show to amuse the punters – I thougth I might display a set of parts/castings  for making a double barreled flintlock fowler as I have a complete set I bought some time ago, including a very nice piece of wood for a stock.  I also have most of the modern parts for the ‘Mortimer’ duelling pistols – although not the cocks.

22nd April – The lovely weather doesn’t make for good gun fettling!  On the basis that we usually get one week of decent weather early in the year and pay for it all through a miserable summer, I’ve been outside as much as possible fixing things in the garden, or. I have to confess, just sitting in the sun!   A few things needed sorting with the Lego Mindstorms for school – two units ‘disappeared’ from the school, so we are short of equipment now and I’m trying to get old stuff working with little success – I’ll probably have to buy another set, which is a blow as I’m no longer VAT registered.   I still haven’t had a whisper about the Brownells order so the 8 bore is stalled until the hones get here – I tried running a fibre pad up and down the bore and it seems to be in reasonable condition ( for an old gun) but I do want to hone it.  I could use the lead plug method – you turn up a tapered arbor and cast a lead slug in the bore with the arbor through it – the idea is that by tightening the lead on the arbor and forcing the taper into it, you can gradually expand the arbor as the lead wears down during the lapping with a suitable abrasive. Anyway that can wait til I se what turns up from Brownells – I will have to make a holder for the hones as the bore is bigger than the kit is designed for (12 bore).  I also have a copule of over and under flintlocks to ‘breath on’ when I feel in the mood for some sensitive cleaning and light restoration……….

18th April.  Didn’t get a chance to do anything to the 8 bore barrel – I’m waiting for a barrel honing set from Brownells, but as everything has to come from the US it takes a bit of time and I don’t want to get too far with the outside of the barrel before I’ve attacked the inside.  I spent hours building and testing some Mindstorms robots for a class that Dave and I are helping with tomorrow  – trying to find things that children of 8/9/10 who have very little idea about computers can do (apart from play) with programming robots in just one hour is  difficult.  But we’ll get something to work.

18th April.  I finished the barrel bolt for the 8 bore – it was filed out of a bit of 1/2 x 1/8 spring steel with the boss on the end built up with  TIG welding.  I find with a bit of care you can build quite elaborate extensions with TIG if you melt the rod on the place you want it, rather than getting a melt pool before applying the filler rod as you are supposed to – one of my favourite tricks is building the hook on the front end of a lock plate.  It’s a careful balance between getting unwelded junctions  or having it all melt into a pool – it is a situation where my home made foot control is essential. I did resort to using the miller to reduce the thickness a bit but it was too difficult to hold properly.  I deliberately left the head of the bolt quite chunky as I’ve seen too many barrel bolts with bits nibbled off them where they were not substantial enough to stand whatever was done to them to get the bolt out.   I usually mill the bolts out of a bit of 6mm steel, but thought this would be easier – it wasn’t! 10 minutes on the hotplate of the AGA got it to a nice blue colour, a little bending made sure it held the barrel tight, pop a piece of sharpened 0.8mm wire in to hold the bolt in place, a little hard wax in the hole where the original pin was excavated and its all fine.  I have now started to refinish the barrel with 240 grit, 400 grit and 600 grit paper and then I’ll run my fibre wheel over it and it will be ready for browning – I’m now covered in a fine black dust from head to foot!   I took the back door lining off the Land Cruiser to see if I could fix up a way of opening the door from the inside.  It turned out to be neater than I expected – I was able to fix a short length of steel as an extension on the back of the door handle  and cut an inconspicuous hole in the door lining in the edge of a pocket depression to reach it – job done!  I was so eager to put it all back and try it that I forgot to photograph it.   I had to go into Cambridge to rescue Penny as she had driven into a curb and written off the tyre of her car – unfortunately it is a modern car without a spare and the foam sealant they give you doesn’t work for  damage to the walls of tyres. For some reason the tyres of the Mazda 6 are not a stock item so we have to wait until Saturday before someone can come to fix it.  Given the number of potholes around after the winter there must be a many motorists cursing the absence of a spare wheel.  I’m quite glad the Land Cruiser still has one, although its slung underneath and very difficult to access.

I  can never tell what shade of ‘white’ the background to my photos is going to be – I think this was taken with sunlight streaming in.


17th April.  Took a little under and over pistol to Dick’s so he can straighten the frizzen – having looked at a couple it seems that the weakness with under and over flintlocks is that they are quite heavy and if dropped may well land on the frizzen steel and bend it.  They are, I suspect, also prone to breaking the cock at the same time.  I’ve got a couple at the moment to clean up – they are in nice condition so don’t need any dramatic restoration.

16th April – Got on with the barrel bolt for the 8 bore – I don’t have a slitting saw, so making the slot down the middle is a pain  – I cut a first slot with a fretsaw and am opening it up with needle files but its anything but straight – still its not a part of the gun that gets examined often!   My ‘new’ Land Cruiser has a ‘barn door’ rear door, unlike the old one that had  lift up and drop down flaps, so its not so good as a camper van – what is even more annoying is that in a cost saving mode Toyota have left off the inside handle that lets you open the rear door from inside.  But ….  a hasty google and there was a set of photos of exactly how to fit a DIY handle – from the US of course, where that sort of make and mend is much more common that in the UK, where most of the population seem to have lost the ability to do anything original, if they ever had it!  Anyway another thing for the to do list, along with stripping my Yamaha 4 h.p. outboard and digging the salt from the cooling channels – lets hope some enterprising person has made  a You Tube video of how to.  And I offered to make Viking a shot belt out of my left-over leather… and I have 3 meetings in school this week…   I can remember when I used to wonder what I’d do when I retired………..

15th April –  Shot my Manton flintlock at the AML shoot for 30 clays – I had a couple of misfires from worn flints, and it took me a while to work out how to load.  Received wisdom is to place a pin in the touchhole and close the frizzen while loading, but I can’t do that because the frizzens have tabs that cover the touchholes when closed to prevent the main charge from filling the pan.  I started out leaving the pans open, but that blows too much powder out of the touchhole as you force down teh wad, so I got misfires even when the priming in the pan went off – anyway closing the pan while reloading – as it was meant to be- fixed the problem and I had almost no misfires after that.  My score wasn’t particularly impressive as I didn’t really get my eye in except for one crosser that was fast enough for me not to have time to think, but not too fast for me to get onto which I hit all three times I shot it.   I used my little 1955 Berretta 20 Bore hammer gun in the afternoon and managed to break a few – it has very tight chokes on both barrels, as did many guns of that generation so you have to be spot on in targetting.  It was good to get out and shoot after a long break from it!  I took teh 8 bore and it was admired as a working tool – I’ll finish it and take it to the Northern Shooting Show where I will be doing my engraving demonstration as I might be able to sell it.   Holts are sponsoring a clay shoot with us  at the Cambridge Gun Club on 22nd July, which promises to be good fun – they are doing a free valuation for one gun for each entrant, and there will be a shield and prizes – which of course I will not be in the running for, unless there is a booby prize!

14th April – Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot tomorrow – I’ll keep to my resolution of shooting flintlocks – now I have a good single (‘Twigg’) and a good double (Manton) and a good supply of Swiss No 2 powder and OB priming powder I should be set for some serious practice!  I will of course miss most clays as I always do, but I was inspired by Bev who on the last  AML shoot hit 26 out of 30 clays with his flintlock and beat all the percussions, proving to me at least that shooting flint is not, of itself, an excuse for missing!   I did start to make a new barrel bolt for the 8 bore – I want to get it finished as I want to sell it to clear some space – but cutting the lawn took priority, and then I went to a discussion on what makes a human different from a robot at Homerton so that put paid to any gun work, leaving just enough time to sort out things for shooting tomorrow.  One downside of shooting muzzle loaders is the kit you need – shot and powder flasks (different for percussion and flint), priming, wads, cards, caps, flints, loading rods, unloading rods, brushes, prickers……..   If you take both percussion and flint plus a breech loader for a bit of light relief in the afternoon you need a pantechnicon and several hours to sort it all out.  The only saving grace with my current set of shooting guns ( double and single flint and percussion) is that all four are 14 bore and take the same wads and cards!

13th April – I came to re-assemble the 8 bore and found that I’d somehow lost the barrel bolt – another thing to make!  I had a very pleasant visit from a friend/blog reader/client who bought me three pistols to ‘breath on’.  We had a long discussion about non-restoration, and our feeling that less is more when it comes to good quality pieces.  It’s a tricky area, and obviously each gun or pistol needs very careful analysis to decide what needs to be done, what might be done and what shouldn’t be done.  The client’s views are clearly important, but most sensible owners want an assessment of  the likely impact of any work on the aesthetics and value, and I try to give an honest answer based on my knowledge, but in the end its only my opinion.   Certainly some people are keen for their guns to look as they did when first made, but its rare to find a gun that can be returned to that standard, and it seldom if ever increases the value of the gun to a serious collector, although some buyers ( I refrain from calling them collectors!) want that sort of artificial perfection.    On the list of ‘needs to be done’ I’d obviously include missing or broken parts or missing bits of the stock and major cracks that would affect the strength.  On the probably to be done list I’d include taking apart and lightly cleaning and getting rid of any big dents and dings in the woodwork (unless the rest of the finish is near perfect, in which case proceed with caution or leave well alone), and fixing any lesser splits.  On the might be done we probably move on to the thorny subject of the barrel – to rebrown or not to rebrown, and to recut or not to recut the barrel engraving. Depending on how much work needed to be done on the stock, complete stock refinishing might be necessary, but that is a pretty drastic option for a valuable gun in good condition .  The usual state of an antique gun or pistol is that the barrel finish is much more obviously worn and rusted than the lock and furniture because it is of necessity  soft iron while the rest is hardened.  If the finish on the barrel looks incongruous there will be an argument for lightly refinishing the barrel and rebrowning  it – BUT only if you can do so discreetly, that means NO GINGER browning, beloved of many unknown restorers.  If you decide that rebrowning is going to enhance the look of the gun AND you can do it in a way that doesn’t shout ‘rebrowned’ it is probably worth doing unless the gun is  rare or expensive, in which case leave well alone.  If rebrowning is on the books there may be a case for recutting the engraving on the barrel if it is worn to the point of being difficult to make out individual letters – BUT again the object is just to refresh very lightly so it doesn’t look as if its been done.  In practice, as you will see eleswhere on this website, apparent wear and illegibility of barrel engraving is often the result of the letters being filled with rust with a hard skin on top, in which case with luck recutting will only need to consist of using gravers to (extremely carefully) dig out the mess without cutting much new metal away. Recutting engraving when you are not going to rebrown afterwards is particularly tricky and is only rarely justified.  Having said all that, it all  depends on the value and initial condition, and ordinary guns in mediocre condition don’t have a lot of value, so its easier to enhance their value by careful restoration, particularly if they then appeal to people looking for guns to shoot.  Anyway looking at the pistols that I got today, one had a few bits in the needy category and  all three were in the maybe/probably category in respect of their barrels, but with the caveat that they must not look as if they have been restored!  A tall order, and I’ll have to be in the right mood to tackle them!

12th April – My client opted for the Richard’s lock to be properly fixed and cleaned, so first job was to put it in the derusting tank in its entirety for a couple of hours.  The result looks much worse because the deep hard rust is now friable red or black rust ( it seems to depend on the nature of the original rust – see later) . One feature of derusting is that its almost always easy to remove screws afterwards, and in this case it was easy to strip the lock so that all the parts could be given a thorough brushing with the .03 wire wheel, which removes all the loose stuff and leaves a nice uniform patina.   Stripping and cleaning the parts  revealed a couple of interesting things; The bridle was cracked and in two bits, although it was more or less doing its job, and there was a brazing line on the back of the cock where the shoulder stop had been altered, presumably during the working life of the pistol, thereby confirming that the cock had been a replacement, and explaining the two different positions it could take on the tumbler.  In fact looking carefully at the stop shoulder shows it hardly works as a stop because the replacement cock differs a bit in shape from the original.   Anyway putting it all together with a scrap of flint shows it all works and sparks.  Its now gone off to Dick to get the bridle welded and the cock hole sorted while I get on with the 8 bore.

Straight from derusting (dried on the AGA).  The previously hard rust will now brush off.

Arrow shows where a piece was brazed in to modify the replacement cock – presumably during pistol’s working life.  The bridle is broken just below the arrowhead but it doesn’t show  until  it is taken off.

Cleaned and waiting for the welding. The flint is a bit  blunt, but I don’t have any good small ones.

Having got the Richards lock on its way I returned to the 8 bore.  In preparation for trying to lap the barrel I decided to derust it inside and out.  My previous derusting of barrels had been done in a 2 inch pipe, which wasn’t really very convenient and not big enough for the 8 bore barrel.  One of my favourite distractions is making tools and aids to restoration, so this morning I quickly made up a derusting tank 40 inches long and big enough to hold a single or double barrel.  I had a length of 50x 200 PVC ducting left over from the extractor fan duct at Giles’s flat, and a nice strip of worktop from the cottage washbasin fitting, plus a load of leftover black sealant and white adhesive – saw, squirt, glue and a tank appeared.  It holds about 4 litres of Caustic Soda solution and I fitted a piece of 1/2 inch angle as an electrode in a bottom corner with a steel tab for electrical  connection welded on (don’t allow copper in the solution on the electrode side) and found my length of 1/4 inch bar with grommets as an internal electrode and Robert is your avuncular……      It took about six hours to derust the barrel in a number of different orientations and inside the bore – my tank is set up in the cellar so I don’t have any problems with it getting in the way while its working.   I took the barrel out and wiped it and intense black oxide wiped off, so I left the barrel to dry and then went over it very carefully and firmly with the .03 wire wheel, which left an intense even  black graphite like finish that didn’t wipe or rub off.  You can see the twist pattern in the structure of the metal but its all an even black colour  – I’ve never had that result from derusting barrels before and I’m not sure why it happened this time.  The black must be pure ferric oxide, but it doesn’t usually bond so well to the surface, it didn’t in the Richards lock for instance, which cleaned up to a grey finish.   I am almost tempted to leave the barrel graphite black, its so even!  I suspect that it ended up like this because it had a very heavy layer of browning, possibly as a protection from water – wildfowling must he very hard on guns…..

Tank in use in the cellar – bubbles are hydrogen reducing the rust from ferrous to ferric oxide

Fine black finish – I’m not sure how durable it would be.  I’ll probably strike up the barrel and brown it after lapping it.


11 April – I received a nice old T Richards flintlock lock from a blog regular this morning to sort out – the mainspring was slipping off the end of the tumbler well before the cock had reached its stop and come to rest in the pan.   Thomas Richards was a Birmingham gunmaker (c 1749 to 1784) and the pistol this lock came from was probably made around 1760 – it has a rounded profile, a pointed tail, not link on the mainspring or roller on the frizzen or its spring and has traces of engraving in the appropriate style for that date.   The cock looked original, as did all the parts, and they were all lightly rusted to an more or less equal extent, with no evidence of significant repairs.  Looking at the lock the cock seemed to be rotated about 20 degrees from its correct position in relation to the tumbler, yet the tumbler and cock seemed OK.  Taking off the cock revealed the answer – sort of!  Or another puzzle, depending on how you look at it.  One position of the cock on the tumbler shaft is right and works well,  the other is wrong.  I’m not sure why this was done, and I wouldn’t want to use the pistol many times as the bearing surfaces are not great, but for an antique it is fine, and preserves the puzzle for future generations to mull over!  The ‘works’ need a good derusting as the sear is a bit stiff, and the engraving would show up a bit more with attention.

As received the mainspring falls off the end of the tumbler before the cock hits its stop on the lockplate.

Here is the answer, sort of, two sets of notches on the cock, so a choice of positions, one is right, one wrong- but why?

11 April –  Disaster struck!   My old Welcome Post on this blog got so big that my system wouldn’t allow me to edit it as there wasn’t enough memory available on my server!!  I had been meaning to prune it a bit but left it too late, so I’ve had to leave the old one and start a new Post.  The old one is still there, now called April 2018 Post.    I am now back from a short break in Cornwall fixing up our holiday cottage (see tinminerscottage.co.uk & on airbandb ) – I don’t advertise my absences on this blog for obvious reasons!

Now I’ve just got to work out how to sort out the too big post – the housekeeping involved in running this blog is not inconsiderable, so I’m always grateful for the encouraging messages I get from regular viewers – I now have quite a few friends out there!   To finish off the last post, the ‘missing’ basin was eventually scheduled for delivery by Parcelforce an hour after we left the cottage – great timing – I phoned them and miraculously got through within 5 minutes ( a record ?)  and told them not to bother!  I hope they don’t just dump it outside.  Anyway now to catch up with all the things that are waiting for me……..

 Posted by at 8:34 am
Jun 272018

I bought this in the June Holts auction – it is a really fine London proofed gun with excellent wood, fresh and crisp chequering and true damascus barrels with  very good bores, and the furniture and locks have high quality engraving.  I keep thinking that there should be something major wrong with it to justify the low estimate, but if so its not obvious to me –  as usual, the possibilities are that its a bitzer – ie the barrel doesn’t belong with the stock, or there are other bits from other guns , but it all seems to belong   It weighs 6 3/4 lbs and has about 3/8 to 1/2 inch of cast for a right hander, and comes up well for me, although it might benefit from a thin pad on the stock.   Here are some photos…..

My motto in gun buying is ‘if it looks too good to be true, it probably is’, but in this case it will do very nicely thank you, with or without hidden mysteries!


The wood would not look out of place on a modern Purdey or H&H etc….

The other side is even better figure.

Slight gap between corners of false breech and breech block – the gap between the rib and breech block is due to poor fixing of the rib 

Lovely true damascus, maybe forgings from Leige, which made most of those barrels…


Butt plate and tang as clean and unmarked as the day it was made.

Chequering as clean and unworn as if done yesterday – maybe recut??

The trigger guard is a bit rifle-like but no other signs it doesn’t belong.  The locks are shotgun locks (no detent).

Escutcheon on the underside of the stock with initials  F P (?).

The barrel has been rebrowned, but in a good colour so I won’t have to redo it – London proof marks.

 Posted by at 9:22 pm
Apr 172018

6th  November.  I was asked about safety catches on muzzle loaders by a correspondent, so I thought it was time that the website had something gun related!  I’ll start a separate post ‘Muzzle Loading Safety Catches’ but in the meantime  here are a couple of examples that come to hand.  The ‘standard’ safety e.g. on pistols like the Andrews described on this site being back converted to flint – acts to lock the tumbler in the half cock position when the slider situated behind the cock is slid forward.  The slider moves in a groove cut in the outside face of the lock plate with a tab passing through a slot cut through the lock plate within the groove – the groove and slot define the movement of the slider.  A ‘ bolt’ is fitted on the tab of the slider on the inside of the lock and held by a pin. The bolt has a protruding square that engages with a slot in the tumbler when in the forward, lock, position.  There is a small triangular spring which attaches under the head of the screw that secures the sear spring and covers the V of the sear spring.  It has a small protrusion on the inside of the spring that engages with depressions in the bolt and acts as a detente to hold it in either the safe or fire positions.  The spring has a small notch near the attachment hole that engages with a small notch in the sear spring and helps to hold it in the correct position.  The safety spring is a very fiddly thing to make on account of the small protrusion and detailed shape.

looks like a bit of rust on the safety!

The safety catch spring sits over the V of the sear spring.

The bolt on the back of the slider is held by the pin you can see.  The tail of the bolt is shaped as a detente for the spring.


 The next example will have to wait – I’m exhaused by all the building work!

5th  November – Went with Giles to take the cast iron bath (in 2 parts) to the skip, so we struggled to get it out of the flat and down the stairs on the stair climbing sack barrow and just managed between us to lift it into the land cruiser.  At the dump we got it out, and one of the dump men came and gave Giles a hand getting it up the steps to the skip – I think he then decided we were wimps because he then picked up the second half, put it on his shoulder and took it up to the skip and threw it in – we felt rather deflated at our pathetic attempts to lift it – office work doesn’t prepare you for heavy lifting.  I was still a bit stiff from walking through thick gummy mud yesterday on the shoot with a Kg of mud on each boot – driving back I got bad cramp in my right leg – I had cruise control on but thought I might have difficulty braking in emergency –  anyway a lay-by appeared before I panicked!

4th November  – apologies for going  AWOL…..  busy & then some!   Just come back from a splendid shoot near Beccles organised by one of our AML group.  Quite damp, but not enough to spoil the day although by the end there were a couple of guns that had started to hangfire or misfire – the guns were quite wet, and mostly had to be carried from drive to drive inside a damp slip, so not ideal for their welfare.  My Egg double 16 bore performed impeccably as usual  (touch wood) – the only problem I had was when I forgot to put any shot in one barrel!  about simultaneously Martin double shotted one barrel of his gun – probably just coincidence, but who knows?   By the end of the shoot my Egg had developed a light pattern of rust spots on the barrels  – it had been lightly oiled but obviously not well enough!   When I came to clean it the spots merged into the browning after a bit of work with grade 0000 steel wool and oil, but I’ll be more careful to do something more protective next time there is rain about on a shoot!  My shooting wasn’t too bad – I wasn’t on very plentiful pegs for several drives, although my peg partner (double pegging) managed two right & lets in good style – I had enough good shots to make the day both enjoyable and satisfying!    I need a rest tomorrow, but its the only chance to get help taking the bath to the dump!  I feel terrible about cutting the bath in half – I can hardly maneuver the lighter half, the whole thing must have weighted around 100 Kg.  and apart from the enamel was in perfect condition  – the casting was a very even 7 mm in thickness – a masterpiece of the casting art!  Anyway we’ll try to get rid of it as its taking up space we need to work in.  The windows are going to be fitted on Monday, so that is another bit of progress.  I’m going to have to do my VAT tomorrow as I got a nasty letter from the vatman saying he was watching me!   And so on…………

1st November – Another month gone!  Still destroying Giles’s flat with  abandon!   The kitchen has paused and I am now reducing the bathroom to a shell.  I spent most of today unplumbing the bath and washbasin, having taken most of the tiles off yesterday.  In order to disconnect the bath and basin I had to remove most of the original plumbing, including some in the almost inaccessible  service duct – very tedious!   Having done that I tried to lift the full sized cast iron bath but it was jammed between the walls and very heavy – desperate situations call for desperate measures so out came the angle grinder and I cut the bath in half- I was amazed that it was so easy and only consumed a couple of disks, but it made a horrible dusty mess!  I don’t know if I’ll be able to move it now – I went home immediately I’d done it and had a bath!     My evening reading of one of the Badminton library books of the 1870s is quite interesting on the subject of gun cleaning, which seemed to consist of  a lot of use of paraffin – two things seemed odd, one was the use of felt covered rods that fitted snugly in the barrels to keep them rust free (!), and the other was running mercury up and down the barrels to form an amalgam with the lead and thus remove it.    Apart from some use of neatsfoot oil they didn’t seem to have any good  oils, although it did mention the possible use of clock oil – presumably one of the only non-gummy oils available.   Wikipedia explains that neatsfoot oil is extracted from the feet and lower leg bones of cattle and is used because it is liquid at room temperature, unlike the rest of the fat in the animal’s body – the lower legs and feet not being kept at full body temperature – so now you know – another pearl of wisdom courtesy of cablesfarm!   I have another shoot this Saturday in Norfolk – I’m going to have to acquire some more No 6 shot after this one although I’m not sure where from as the carriage charge is so high!

Desperate measures!  It was surprisingly quick and easy with 1 mm blades.

30th October – I’ve been oiling the worktops in Giles’s flat with linseed oil and driers (terbine) using paper kitchen roll and wearing latex gloves – the finish is coming on well, although I’m not sure it will be robust enough – any way the point of mentioning it is that I was aware that any rags soaked in oil could in theory ignite so I didn’t leave them in the flat but bought them home to light the woodburner – when I picked them up a couple of hours later they were very hot!  I carefully put today’s on a piece of metal and bought them home again – this time they were cold but the paper was badly scorched and  brittle!   So be warned – the most dangerous combination is when fine steel wool, itself highly inflammable,  has been used with linseed oil mix to rub down a stock.   I burnt a hole half way through a 3/4 inch MDF benchtop with a spark from a grinder  landing on a dry lump of 0000 steel wool  the size of a bar of soap – I was lucky not to burn down the workshop as I didn’t see it ’til days later! – with oil it probably wouldn’t need the spark).

29th October – Handed back the Hawkes and Mosley pistol today and realised it was the dead spit of the Andrews pistol I reconverted – they were a pretty standard pattern of heavy personal protection pistols – presumably carried on horse or in a carriage, but not in the pocket!   My shotgun and firearms and explosive certificates all need renewing together in January so I shall find out if my GP tries to charge me for a letter!  I’ll use it as a good opportunity to sort out what could be returned to section 58 and what to include on the FAC from section 58.   Shotguns are no problem but its a hastle to change the FAC so I might as well get it right.  I gather that the Cambridge Gun Club is planning to open a pistol range in January, and there are several people wanting to shoot muzzle loading pistols, so I might see what I have that would be fun to shoot – the trouble is that I’d really like to try all my antiques, but that involves a lot of paperwork!  Went to the flat with Giles and agreed on the bathroom layout and units in about half an hour – I guess choosing the wall & floor tiles will take a lot longer!   I am planning to put down underfloor heating as its easy and out of the way – it is of course a very low wattage so not sure if it will provide adequate heat – I’ll probably put in an electric towel rail to supplement it, then if necessary we can install a bathroom fan heater (- we have one at home for really cold mornings).  I got the instant water heater plumbed in yesterday – as usual there is one compression joint out of a dozen that leaked a bit, but I think that is now OK – I forgot to turn off the stopcock when I left, so I hope so!

27th October – I collected the Hawkes and Mosley pistol from Dick and touched up the engraving on the cock – I hadn’t touched a graver for weeks but fortunately it wasn’t a complex job!  Anyway the pistol looks great – when seen in the flesh it’s complete transformation without any fakery – the best sort!  Photo below and a few more in the post on the pistol.  I had a further email from my rifle club about the medical fee – the police are NOT asking for the fee, and in fact tell applicants not to pay it, and that it won’t change anything!  Well done them.   AML shoot tomorrow – its the Big Bore competition so I have got out my Gasquoine and Dyson 6 1/2 bore and made a batch of wads and cards and semi-wads out of cork table mats.  I can’t remember if I can shoot with it or not – when I mount it my eye is above the sight line, so it will shoot high – I have put on a butt extension to correct it slightly, but the pigeon guns were designed to shoot high as the birds were always rising.  I’ll probably load 3 drams and 1 1/4 oz of shot, maybe 3 1/2 drams – I’ll see.   I really should stick with my usual gun as I do need the practice for game shoots – I am beginning to get a much better image of what the ‘bird’ should look like when I pull the trigger, so maybe the penny has dropped at last!    Work on the flat continued – I was plumbing in an instant water heater but couldn’t find a fitting that mated with the inlet and outlet connectors except a flexible connector, which I used on the outlet side.  The male 1/2 inch nipples on the unit look as if they should take a tap connector but the hole in the middle is too small for the nozzle of the tap connector – I’m sure there is a proper solution, but I just made a modification of the tap connector on a service valve and it fits fine for the inlet.   There is the usual one leaky compression joint as usual – probably because the alignment isn’t perfect!    One of the joys of working on the flat is that there is a fantastic boulangerie and patisserie – Maison Clement- just 70 steps from the  door ( once you have gone down 4 flights of stairs) so my treat of the day is a trip out to buy the paper and have a cappuccino and pain au chocolat at 11.   It also means I can pick up a decent loaf and don’t have to bake bread twice  a week! Simple pleasures……

26th October – The Hawkes and Mosely pistol is now ready for return to its owner.  The barrel has been lightly struck to restore sharp corners and it has come up with a beautiful twist.  The damage to the wood came out with gentle steaming and its been lightly refinished to even it all out.  The cock has been precision welded – it turned out that it was a break in an old weld repair, which is better than the more common brazed repair that needs extensive clearing out to get rid of the braze.   Anyway it is a very neat weld by Jason and I doubt it will fail again.  I am sure flintcocks fail because they are snapped off without a flint or with the frizzen open so that the cock comes up hard on its stop and inertia puts s strain on the back of the cock.  If there is a proper strike of flint on frizzen the cock is substantially slowed at the crucial moment of impact.  If the breaks were due to the impact of the flint on the frizzen  then  cracks would open on the other side of the cock, nearest to the frizzen – and that is very unusual.  I have to pick the pistol up tomorrow and I’ll photograph it then.   Work continues on the flat – we have now hit a snag with the location of the gas hob in relation to the units potentially not complying with new regulations, so probably have a bit of a rethink…..  I removed the hot water tank today – to my surprise is seems to be made of fibreglass or similar and to be rectangular – its very shallow – less than 2 feet tall – and encased in a rectangular hardboard box with foam insulation with a plastic cold water tank above – obviously a ready to install unit with built in immersion heaters etc.  Anyway its now gone and will be replaced by an instant water heater – it didn’t work a proper shower anyway so no loss.

25th – More flat work ( not what it means in the racing industry) – got thesink plumbing working – there is always one compression joint in a system that insists on weeping ever so slowly and resists efforts to tighten it – I had a bit of a battle with one joint this afternoon, lying on my back on the floor with a head torch watching for a tiny meniscus to grow – its a real contortion as I wear bifocals and so I can’t look up and focus on things close by!  I think I fixed it but I’ll see in the morning – I wrapped the joint in tissue.  The island worktop is now in place an the oiling process has started – its amazing how uneven the absorbance of the tops is – its what is incorrectly called butcher block – proper butcher block is of course end grain beech.  The next problem is getting two waste pipes – from the dishwasher and washing machine – into the waste system with only a single inlet – I have now got hold of a non-return valve so I can plumb one directly into the waste pipe downstream of the U bend.

24th October – The Land Cruiser MOT gave me a bit of a scare as the mechanic said it needed the front wheel bearings replaced – as I had spent a small king’s ransom having the front wheel hubs completely rebuilt six months ago I was getting ready to do a bit of forensics and get legal – but it turned out that they just needed tightening – still shouldn’t have needed it but…………. anyway my number-plate lights obviously passed muster!  One LED bulb is in a TicTac box and the other  in a wee sample bottle – all held together with silicone sealant!    Giles’s flat is now has a virtual kitchen – just needs the water, drain, gas and oven connected and the appliances fixed, plus the window and fix up some lighting.  Then I have to remove the hot water cylinder and put in a 10.8 Kw instant water heater for shower and sink and build a couple of cupboards in the space it occupies…… and re-do the bathroom… and rewire the living room and skim coat it and  put in a fancy fanned storeage heater……………..  and then re-decorate everything (except the kitchen, which has been done…….


Worktop in the foreground has to have its corners radiused  and then it can be oiled to match the others.

23rd October – Just had an email from my rifle club saying that Cambs Firearms Licensing are ( at random)  asking GPs for medical information when they receive a renewal or new application for a shotgun or firearms license and either they, or the GP are asking holders for a fee for supplying the information.  This is contrary to Home Office Guidance and to the agreement made by Doctors representatives with the government during negotiations.   The advice from BASC ( https://basc.org.uk/blog/press-releases/latest-news/basc-urges-members-not-to-pay-gp-fees/)and clubs is that you should not pay.  If you don’t pay the firearms officer must, if a letter to the contrary is not received from the GP within 21 days, assume that there is no medical reason to withold a certificate……..  Giles’s flat kitchen has started to look a bit better now – the tiling is done, the worktops are in and the wiring is functioning – I was particularly pleased with the bank of switches and sockets in the tiles that have slate effect pop-on fronts and line up and fit perfectly – as Giles’s cousin says, it is a masculine looking kitchen, but that is appropriate!  Inspecting the consumer unit I discovered that it only takes circuit breakers and switches etc that are of one particular make and design – I really hate proprietary bits and pieces – I found that the consumer units in our house were a proprietary design that became obsolete about ten years after fitting, so spares had to be located at great expense.  The electrics in the flat were a bit hairy – there is a protective RCD on the power sockets,  but the metal radiant heater on the wall of the bathroom has none!  I am fairly gung-ho about some risks, but that is a step too far for me!………   I came home from the flat late and had to fix the number plate light on the Landcruiser as it has to have an MOT tomorrow – like many old LCs the bottom of the lift up back door is rusted, so I had to do a bit of improvising – I had some suitable 12 V LED bulbs that fitted, so was able to cobble something together – probably a better light than the original – lots of silicon sealant was used – enough said! Probably time for an upgrade, although the Land Cruisers have been on a downward trajectory since they started adding more and more fancy bits and pieces of electronics.

The American Walnut worktops are getting an oiling that would do justice to a Purdy –  it may be some time before the sink and hob are fitted!  The grain of the American is much more open that that of the European Walnut and the oil just gets sucked in in patches – I’m applying a little talc and a drop or two of driers with the oil to fill some of the grain  – at the moment when you wipe off the excess it leaves a beautiful satin finish.  Protecting it from dust is a bit of a problem!  I probably should have centered the right hand sockets etc on the vertical tile joints at top and bottom – never mind, that would probably bring them too near the hob.  The extractor duct is a little inelegant, but there is no where else to put it – the ceiling is cast concrete and its a party wall.  I haven’t yet figured out how to get my phone to focus!

20th October – Still a lot to do to the kitchen – the nearer it gets to completion the more jobs emerge from the woodwork, so to speak.  We have started fixing the units in place, and I’ve done about half  of the second fix electrics and made reinforcing angles to stop the worktops bowing.  Giles has painted the walls and ceiling.  We need to sand and pre-oil the Walnut worktops before they go in, then we can fix the tiles after cutting them round the electrics, which will be quite a challenge.   We ordered the kitchen window from ‘supply- only.co.uk’ and they told us a week ago that it had gone into production – when Giles rang today to ask for the delivery date they said that they had to order the sections in because we had ordered black, and there was something wrong with the specification – which they didn’t seem to be clear about.  So that is still some time away, so much for 3 week delivery!   I can see that Sunday working is called for this week!  Even so it won’t be finished by Monday……..    Evening reading has now taken in hunting all the Indian animals that it was possible to hunt in 1890 – It was unsporting to  shoot wild boar then because they were hunted on horseback with spears – pig sticking.  An elephant charge was described as magnificent, although presumably less so if you are the focus of the charge.  Apparently it is possible to shoot an Indian elephant head on, whereas an African elephant has a bony mass at the root of the tusks that stops the low velocity 8 bore ball (driven by 12 drams of powder, no less).   By 1890 the writing gives some clues that big game hunting was recognised as not altogether good for the natural balance of things, and there was a concentration on collecting specimen heads and skins of the largest specimens – which  mostly took out the older males, which is more or less what culling does now.

It doesn’t look much like progress – but it IS coming together, we keep telling ourselves!   My plastering doesn’t look too bad with a little local rectification – its now gently rolling hills instead of a mountain range! Its mostly  going to be covered up anyway.

18th October – Big push to get the kitchen sorted by the end of the week!   It’s beginning to come together – I did rest of the plumbing and we got half of the worktop cut for the sink and the units perforated for the numerous wastepipes and plumbing that wends its way in and out of the cabinets.  We have now offered everything up to check where it will fit, but so far haven’t permanently fixed anything.  The oven arrived, weighing 55 Kg, but the Hotpoint delivery driver wouldn’t bring it up the necessary last flight of stairs from the lift on his own, and wouldn’t let us help him on health and safety grounds so we had to take delivery on the landing and bring it up ourselves, although he did, perversely, offer to help us ! – John Lewis hadn’t asked us if we had stairs, and had sent the delivery by a single driver.  He had already aborted two John Lewis deliveries by the time he got to us and wasn’t in the best of tempers!  Another annoyance trying to fit together the folding doors of the corner unit – it looks like a production fault in the fancy hinge parts resulted in a slot being too narrow to fit over a 2.5mm pin – since it will take weeks to get IKEA to sort it out, we’ll take a needle file and do it ourselves tomorrow. As you can see from the photo the new kitchen has a large double oven and a 5 burner gas hob – Giles takes cooking seriously!   My evening reading – for as long as I can stay awake – was about tiger shooting in India in the 1890s  – I hadn’t realised that India had both lions and tigers in those days.  The lion was regarded as as a rather inferior animal and not so much sport to hunt as the tiger which as everyone knows from innumerable illustrations was most often hunted on elephants, with dozens of supporting elephants used to surround the tiger and get it out into a position where it would be exposed, when it often then selectively attacked the elephants carrying the hunters.   Makes shooting pheasants seem like a walk in the park, which I suppose it mostly is.


17th October – Had a fantastic day’s shooting at Glemham Hall in Suffolk with   7 other muzzle loading  game shooters from Anglian Muzzle loaders on Monday.  It started as a driven stand, that was followed by a walk up through sugar beet with  half a dozen pointers working the beet field ahead of the guns  which flushed a few pheasants, we then crossed a ditch into a beet field that converged on a bit of rough and more pheasants and a couple of partridges –  I hadn’t been on a walk-up shoot before and had only seen dogs used to find and retrieve, but these dogs were amazingly well trained to hunt  to the whistle and voice,  and to point, and were controlled as if on rails.  I was amused to see that when retrieving a dead bird, the dogs  would point the bird and wait for the command to retrieve before collecting it.  Giles’s flat continues to make progress – while I was out shooting he did a round of the ‘white goods’ emporia and bought a hob, oven, dishwasher, washing machine and fridge, all in a remarkably rapid trip!  I am concentrating on getting the plumbing sorted – I always seem to end up with dozens of service valves – which are now normal on every tap or appliance.  We are putting in a charcoal filter in the kitchen tap supply as the Cambridge water makes horrible tea (regular readers will yawn at another reference to tea) so that is another service valve – total planned  so far is 5 under the sink!   I just hope my plumbing is neat enough to put a photo on the blog – I normally use ‘Coppefit’ push fittings but they take up too much room for  complex pipework so I’ll have to used Yorkshire fittings and solder them for the maze under the sink.

15th October – I went to look at the Hawkes and Moseley pistol that Dick is restoring for me – you would not recognise it as the same pistol, it looks fantastic – the barrel has browned beautifully and Dick restored the flats a little so it looks like new.  I was intending to photograph it but by the time we had had a cup of tea the light was too bad.  (I realise that tea has figured rather often in the diary of late – I wasn’t aware that I had become obsessed, but then one never is aware of one’s own obsessions!)

14th October – Two weeks into the renovation of Giles’s flat and we are seeing some progress on the kitchen – walls plastered, first fix electrics, floor laid, part plumbing fixed, window opening sorted with vent aperture, and  units pre-assembled – definitely time for a cuppa!    The aim is to get the kitchen usable by the end of next week when Giles starts his new job and moves in – I’ll carry on with the rest on my own as long as it takes to get the rest of the house in order – the only big job to be undertaken is the bathroom, which needs completely stripping out and underfloor heating installed.  Getting a new bath up to the 4th floor will be interesting!    I have another shoot on Monday this time partly a walk-up shoot over dogs, which I’ve never done before.  This year I seem to have more shoots arranged than ever before – all muzzle loading.  I think I am going to try to do a few with a flintlock, but I probably need more practice at clays before I swap!  I’m also going to have to get some appropriate clothing for the period.  On the mechanics of running this blog site, I was getting about a thousand attempts to hack the site every day – I keep a careful eye on who gets blocked by my security software for trying to hack the site, and every so often I spot a persistent attacker and contact their Internet Service Provider and ask them to stop the abuse – last time it cut the attacks down to 300 per day.  It will build up again but by careful checking I’ll probably manage to stop a fair bit of it!

I appear in these photos as they were taken by Giles – not my choice!

The problem of lack of space behind the IKEA units was solved by half burying the waste pipe in the wall – the units are now spaced 25 mm off the wall  – allowing space for the water pipes, trunking and half the waste pipe.  On the wall to the right they will run inside the cabinets.


My plastering is not so hot – on the first wall I made the mistake of working from left to right so I kept touching the wet plaster with the hawk in my left hand!

13th October – Decided to start skimming plaster on the kitchen walls at 4:30 so didn’t finish till late – now well past thinking….

12th October – beginning to see a bit of progress on the flat – the first fix of  the electrics in the kitchen is done and the plasterboard is back – so now its time to skim the walls  and lay the new floor, then finish the plumbing of the water – which is fixed to the walls behind the cabinet backs ( there is about 25mm of space max)  after which the cabinets will be fixed and the waste plumbing installed completely inside the cabinets – I’m still puzzling over the design of the IKEA units – even with 650 wide worktops we can’t get space to fix the waste pipes behind the units.    For my evening reading I’ve been browsing another 19th century Big Game shooting book – this time about  shooting in the Arctic, the prey being Walrus and Polar Bears – the author claims that its more sport shooting Walrus than Polar Bears, although by his accounts I’m not sure either sounds very sporting.  The problem with Walrus is that their ivory tusks are not big enough to make billiard balls from (!), and that if wounded, even severely, they dive deep and are lost.  There is a sporting element, I suppose, in that occasionally one will attack the small boat used to hunt them and puncture it (the boats carried sheet lead to make temporary repairs).  The preferred method of taking them was to harpoon them, but that depended on a professional harpooner so didn’t seem to involve much skill on the ‘hunters’ part.  Part of the difficulty in shooting them is that the front of the head is a mass of bone and the tusks and is difficult to penetrate – the (small) brain is situated in what looks like the neck.  The recommended hunting trip was to leave Tromso in May with a 40 ton walrus boat carrying a couple of the light 20 ft.hunting boats aboard, with a crew of 15,  returning in September – the cost was then estimated at £450 but that didn’t include tea!  £450 then converts to  around  $60,000  now,  which sounds like a bargain for 15 men and a boat for almost 4 months.  Tea seems to be a constant in all Big Game expeditions from the late 19th century – about the only sentiment in the whole ‘adventure’ that I can share!

Things are on the upward path!

11th October – More renovation – started first fixing the kitchen electrics, it all seems very slow but we are counting on it speeding up when the floor and walls are done and we can move on to fitting the units etc.,  hopefully by the end of the week if we put in a few extra hours.  I had a call from Dick, who has been working on the Hawkes and Mosley for me – he says that the quality is excellent, and the engraving very good – he has struck up the barrel and is pleased with the way the browning is going and the dents and marks have come out of the stock. Unusually the finial of this pistol is clearly poorer quality engraving than the rest of the pistol – this part is usually better engraved than the rest – I always think that it was given to a journeyman to demonstrate his skill, while the rest was banged out on an engraving production line!  I will go and photograph it shortly, or bring it back if it is finished – I’ll have to touch up the engraving on the cock where the crack was welded.   It promises to be a very fine London gentleman’s pistol – a cross between an overcoat and a horse pistol – I’m never quite sure what to call them – I don’t think they would have been carried about the person but kept in the home or possibly taken on a coach journey – a pretty deadly weapon at close range if you were a good shot – I did try a pair of  quality percussion target pistols at man sized targets at about 11 paces ( a typical duelling distance) and while I could hit the area of vital organs (burst a balloon!) reliably after half a dozen shots, four or five  experienced rifle shooters who were not used to pistols failed to hit the ‘man’ at all on their first shot – so my guess is that to be of use as anything other than a deterrent one needed to practice occasionally with the actual pistol you intended to use for defence.  I feel its time for a bit of pistol shooting, but I have to keep my nose to the grindstone for a bit!

10th October – Doing my duty as a school governor this morning and Giles’s flat this afternoon – struggling to work out waste pipes and plumbing with the awkward IKEA base units – now I see there is the gas pipe in the way too!    I had a correspondence with a new recruit to the blog about a ‘rash’ that he had on a barrel he had browned, which I suggested was probably caused by using copper sulphate to etch the barrel  in an aluminium container ( the electrochemical voltage between iron & copper is 0.8 Volts, between aluminium and iron its 2 Volts – so plenty of potential for trouble (pun intended)).  Copper sulphate is quite aggressive stuff – I tend not to use it as I have had copper plating out onto barrels before and its a pain to get off.  I do sometimes use old printed circuit etching solution as a browning, and that is pretty loaded with iron and copper, being based on acidified ferric chloride.  French barrels with fine damascus are sometimes deeply etched and left like that, but I suspect they acid etch them.  I had a moment this evening to deal with the birds I bought back from the shoot yesterday – they didn’t have any way of selling them so we took as many as we wanted – I took 4 partridges and the cock pheasant I shot (the only one shot),  and have crowned them and put them in the freezer – I’d have taken more but its full to brimming now!

9th October – Fantastic day at Bareham Hall on a muzzle loading Partridge shoot – the bag was 190 for 400 shots and very few runners etc.  The beaters were amazed at the performance, which they said was much better than the breech loader’s manage.  Probably because we shoot all year round, and  also you know how much bother it is to reload and you don’t want to be reloading when the best birds come over – so you let the dodgy shots go!  Anyway there were some fantastic drives and I had plenty of good clean shots, and my average wasn’t that much different from the overall – so a good day out!   I suspect we may have made some converts to the muzzle loading cause – trouble is it puts up the demand for shootable antiques! I managed to clean my percussion gun in about 30 minutes, and got to thinking about how people clean their flintlocks – I know someone who shoots high quality original flintlocks who takes the locks out each time and immerses them in boiling water, and I usually take out the lock of my ‘Twigg’ and give it a spray with cleaner and a wipe and then a light spray with lube – if it looks too dirty I pour boiling water over it and dry it on the AGA before oiling it.  Manton cases for sporting guns were designed to hold the locks separate  from the stocks – I guess that was because they were normally removed for cleaning.  Nowadays I tend to use Napier cleaner quite liberally as it contains VP90 corrosion inhibitor that works as a vapor – I also put a sachet of VP90 in each of my gun cabinets – I noticed that Purdy used it in the (many) gun cabinets at Sandringham so I figured it must be effective as they were not obsessive about oiling the guns.

Giles spent part of today putting together an IKEA base unit for the kitchen – there is a BIG problem with these units – whereas all the previous units I’ve bought have a space behind the back panels deep enough to house a 1 1/2 inch drain pipe etc, the IKEA units only have about 1 cm behind the back panel so they will either have to be spaced off the wall or have the pipework run inside the cabinets – I can’t think why they would make them in such a stupid way, I’m pretty sure that other units have about 2 inches dead space for pipes – I bought one such from B&Q in April.  We might be able to space them 1 inch off the walls, but it is going to be tight!  We spent some time trying to find out how deep the space behind the cabinet was before we bought them but couldn’t find the answer.  Anyway its yet another problem to overcome, or else we’ll have to take them all back for a refund, which will be a monumental pain – life is like that, no job is straightforward!


8th October – A day catching up with domestic duties like fixing the mower and mowing the lawns!  I went over to Dick’s for the first time in a couple of weeks to collect the Stephen Grant that we had repaired the cock of some time ago as I need to return it tomorrow.  I took the Hawkes and Mosley flintlock pistol to get his view, and he offered to restore it for my client – there is a small crack in the back limb of the French cock that will need a touch of weld from Jason, and the barrel needs browning and a few dings in the wood need raising and the spring on the safety is missing, but it will make a very nice pistol – its basically sound and genuine – nothing to hide or fudge here!  Dick will make a very good job of it – I’ll get it back at some point to touch up the engraving on the breech block a bit.  I’ll try and put up some progress photos but it may be a bit difficult.  I’m off to a driven  game shoot tomorrow so I got out my shoot gear – I am trying to minimise the stuff I take to the peg as it often involves a trudge across a muddy field and the less one carries the better.  Like most (more) experienced muzzle loading driven game shooters I have a spiked tube that holds my loading rood that can be stuck into the ground so the loading rod can be to hand and keeps clean.  I had a bin attached to the tube that  held my shot and powder flasks, but they tended to fall out if I left them in while carrying the tube – I have now attached a piece of 1 1/2 inch plastic tube to hold my sectional unloading rod with worm, and changed the bin for a smaller, deeper one so the powder flask doesn’t fallout.  It all looks a bit Heath Robinson, but it will do for a trial!  I am expecting mostly partridges on this shoot, so I’m in two minds as to whether I should use  No 6 or No 8 shot – I guess I’ll take a flask of both and take a straw poll amongst the more experienced shots!  I got out my usual double, the back action Egg 16 bore, and as backup I’ll take my little 16 bore single Henry Nock percussion conversion.  It’s very convenient that all the guns I use regularly are 16 bore as the wads and cards are common to them all.  Converting the Nock back to flint has been on my agenda for a long time, and now that I think I can hit clays with a flinter, the conversion of the Nock seems an attractive prospect – my only reservation is that the barrel is short – around 26 inches – and I’m not sure that is long enough for the slower powder burn of flint ignition to take full effect – I’ll have to ask Bev as our flint guru!   Giles was off buying stuff for the flat- he wants to get painting!  The flat is just 5 minutes walk from the Cambridge Farrow and Ball paint shop – there can’t be many flats that close to an actual F & B outlet, so I guess the temptation is strong.

7th October – All the renovation has been leaving me with little energy or time for this blog, I’m very sorry to say!  It is quite amazing how much of the time is spent shopping for bits, and then going back for more – I guess that is the trouble with being an amateur – you don’t have a big stock of materials and have to work things out as you go along… At a guess we are spending about 25% or more of the time getting stuff and shifting it from vehicle to flat.  Yesterday morning was a trip to Ikea ( 4 1/2 hours) to buy all the base units and bits for the kitchen and today  we bought a stair climbing sack barrow and shifted almost half a ton of the Ikea stuff (2 hours) to the flat- there is a lift but it only serves alternative floors and so we have one flight of stairs.  Anyway its coming on, and I’ve got the positions of most of the kitchen wiring sorted – so the plasterboard will go on shortly.  We spent some time trying to find suitable black electrical fittings – the ones we liked didn’t have a small 45 Amp cooker switch which we need, but in the end we found that we could stick the front plate from a 20 Amp one we liked onto  a not so nice 45 Amp one – job done, or rather fudged…… I’m going to have to concentrate on getting myself into shooting mode tomorrow as I have the first shoot of the season on Monday – we are all using muzzle loaders and for this shoot will be doubling up on the pegs to give ourselves time to reload.  One feature of double pegging is that you shoot one barrel and then hand over to your peg mate, so you have to reload with one barrel already loaded – to do this safely you need to take the cap off the loaded barrel (unless you get a left and right) – so I plan to make a few more de-cappers for sale.  I’m also going to try out the idea of a plastic collar that fits round the cap and is held by the cock so that there is no possiblity of the cock hitting  the cap and firing the gun – I’m not sure the idea will get universal approval, but I’ll test it out myself.   I managed to sell the Passat on Ebay for a reasonable price, and it should go tomorrow. The flashy red Mazda that replaced it is much enjoyed, although apart from fetching it I haven’t had a chance to drive it! Tomorrow I’ll take the  Hawkes and Mosely pistol (see below) to Dick for his opinion – he might like to do the work too.

4th October – Still working at destroying the kitchen!  All the units have gone and the inside of the flimsy studwork outside wall has been stripped and the rather skimpy insulation removed.  We removed the old window and have ordered a new UPVC one – the price for supply only was very reasonable, so we’ll fit it ourselves, which will enable us to move the opening slightly and lower the top of the window so we can get an outlet for the cooker fan above the window.  The old floor tiles were stuck down with incredibly sticky glue – we tried wearing latex gloves but they got stuck to the tiles – we did eventually get the tiles off after getting through half a dozen pairs of gloves  – the floor underneath is  rather friable chipboard that has suffered from damp in places but I think it will serve as a base for the new laminate floor  – we would have put down ceramic tiles but didn’t trust the sub-floor to be stable enough.  We couldn’t face carrying all the bits of the old cabinets and plasterboard down 4 flights of stairs, so got a rope and lowered them from the external stair tower in about 10 loads.  Giles stood at the bottom wearing a hard hat and high viz jacket, on the principle that probably someone would object if they thought a resident was doing it, but no-one ever questions a workman wearing a hard hat, as every criminal knows!  We still have the old window to get down!


2nd October Busy today wreaking havoc in the kitchen of Giles’s flat!   The units are on the way out, the tiles gone and the wiring has been carefully removed from the unsightly trunking running in sight, and will be put back in trunking behind the units where it can’t be seen – In my books that doesn’t count as rewiring, merely slightly re-arranging the existing wiring.  I will get it checked when we have finished and I will consult the latest IEE regs as my understanding may be a bit out of date.  All the wiring is in red and black T & E so is somewhat dated, but looks perfectly good. I tried to buy some special plaster for skimming all surfaces but found that no-one stocked it so I’ll have to use a P.V.A. layer to cut the absorption and use Multifinish.   I think we are making progress on ordering things – we ordered two   3 meter x 650 mm worktops in 38 mm walnut but realised that  getting them up 4 flights of stairs was going to be somewhat tricky as each weighed 75 Kg and they won’t fit in the lift – anyway we have got the supplier to cut each into the bits we want, so the largest is 50 Kg and will fit in the lift.   It is a bit of a pain working on the forth floor and at the opposite end of the building to the lift!   We also have reasonable quote for replacing the windows – I didn’t much like the quote for £3500 for four UPVC windows that you can buy for about £250 each including V.A.T. – I would fit them myself but we are pushed for time and can’t get at the outside so the windowns have to be installed from the inside – this way someone else carries them up 4 flights and takes the old ones away!  We have 3 old storage heaters to dispose of – I’m tempted to throw the bricks out of the window, or more responsibly, lower them on a rope.  Anyway as you might guess, no time for starting the pistol yet, although I might just nip into the workshop for half an hour tonight……….

Fuzzy photo of partially destroyed kitchen. 

1st October – Here is the promised photo of the Hawkes and Mosley pistol I have to restore,  the main obvious issues are the crack in the cock and the replacement cock screw.  The lock appears to have been painted with silver paint, which is mostly removed but the residue may be hiding secrets!  At the moment it looks original, although the spur on the cock looks a bit short?   There are some nasty marks in the woodwork opposite the lock, and a few stains.  The barrel is not too bad, but needs a little attention before re-browning.  The action works well.  I’ll show it to Dick and we can have a good look at it together.  The lock needs paint stripper and then de-rusting and the cock welded and the cock screw replaced.  Getting rid of  the finish on the wood and steaming it will reveal how deep the marks are.  I have started a new post for it, Hawkes & Mosley,  with the original photos.

Three of us spent the day at  Giles’s flat finishing the preliminary clean so we can see what we are dealing with – Some of the details need sorting, and I’m trying to understand the wiring.  It looks as if a foam cornice was put round the ceiling edge then the flat was completely re-wired in surface mounted trunking including trunking skirting boards, and then a new floor was laid in the living room, butted up to the skirting, then a strip of coving glued on to cover the joint between floor and skirting.  I now need to replace the trunking skirting as I want to skim the walls, and can’t get more sockets to fit that trunking.  All a bit involved – the existing arrangement looks a bit of a mess, as does a lot of the plastic trunking!  I don’t want to rewire the flat, but I think a bit of re-arrangement of the trunking is going to be essential to improve the look of the place.  See post Hanover Court.

Giles removing the foam cornice.

Elegant wiring in surface trunking!

30th September – Back from the AML shoot where I exercised my ‘Twigg’ single 16 bore flintlock.  Its the first time I’ve shot flintlock in a scored AML shoot, and I’ve only ever hit a couple of clays with one, so I wasn’t expecting much!  I didn’t hit any for the first half dozen shots, and I made what for me is a capital mistake, which is to try too hard and shoot ‘gun up’  ( gun in the shoulder ready to pull the trigger as soon as its aiming properly) – the extra thinking time  just spoils the flow for me, although about half of the group shoot this way, or at least nearly up.  About half way through I had hit a couple of clays and began to think positively and reverted to ‘gun down’ where you don’t mount the gun until beginning your swing.  At that point I got a bit more relaxed and hit a few more.  The clays were not easy for flintlocks, which are more difficult to get kills with than percussion, which in turn are more difficult than breech loaders, but I did manage 10/30 and came joint second out of half a dozen flint shooters, so a very good result by my usual standard – I think I may stick with the flintlock for a while as its more fun.  I managed most of the shoot on an old flint that looked so bad that I got teased about it – it carried on working for a good few shots before bits cracked off and I had to replace it.  After lunch we had a breech loader shoot so I used my 1955 Beretta 20 bore hammer gun with reasonable results – both barrels are fully choked so it shoots a very tight pattern, and  ‘kills’ well at longish ranges, but it calls for accurate shooting.  At the shoot I got asked if I could renovate a flintlock 16 bore overcoat/horse  pistol signed Hawkes and Mosley – who were apparently London outfitters, so presumably it was made elsewhere.  At some point it has been silver painted, and that obscures some details.  Photos will appear when I’m not being pressed to change ready to go out………..

29th September –  At last, after six months and 2 days Giles’s flat purchase completed!   So the ‘Great Renovation’ has begun with a clean – the flat has been unoccupied for 18 months and was looking very dirty and scruffy, but we’ve removed the worst of the grime from the living room and started to plan in detail.  It looks as if the electrics will suffice with the addition of a few more sockets – its all in a plastic skirting board trunking with built in sockets, so its a matter of trying to find the same system now  – under the current regulations its possible to extend existing ring mains without having it certified, so I’ll do that.   The plumbing will mostly be redone as the kitchen and bathroom will be ripped out and re-fitted, but I can do that, and I’ll put in lots of service valves – there are none at the moment and there are several leaks so the water has to be turned on and off at the incoming main.  We wanted American Walnut worktops and had to measure up and order them as there was a 17% off offer that expires on 30th Sept – so 6 meters x 650 mm of 38mm thick American walnut in what is incorrectly called ‘butcher block’ is on order.    We spent some time yesterday looking at paint colours and collecting cards and samples, but ended up at the local Farrow and Ball outlet.  One of life’s mysteries is why the F&B colours look so much more natural and agreeable than most other paint colours – I’m fairly sure its because almost all other paints are made from only 7  to 9 synthetic pigments mixed to (theoretically)  give any shade under the sun, whereas the F&B colours use a much wider range of more basic natural pigments.  Certainly if you get one of the F&B colour fakers to mix you a F&B colour from their 9 or so pigments it is just sufficiently ‘off’ and unnatural looking to make you want to spend at least twice as much money on the real thing.   Fortunately Giles and I agree about colours so no discord, although its his place so I would defer to his judgement in the end!  I also picked up Penny’s nice shiny red Mazda from Milton Keynes – I thought it was much more fun to drive than the rather boring Passat, and I’m rather jealous – plus its a much more sensuous shape!  I can’t believe it is only £20 per year in Road Fund Licence – it is supposed to be capable of around 60 + mpg but I got the feeling from watching the figures on the dashboard that you need to take full advantage of the 6 speed gearbox and always be in the highest gear possible – the engine pulls well from about 1400 rpm so its not really necessary to go much above 2000 rpm unless  being a ‘boy racer’ – as I normally drive an automatic I often forget to change gear, so don’t do very well on the mpg front in a manual car.  Tomorrow is an Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot at Cambridge Gun Club and, I believe, the flintlock competition so I’ll continue my new found enthusiasm for shooting clays with a flintlock – there are not many of us although more are joining all the time – those who shoot flintlocks tend to be the best percussion shots anyway ( except me).  I’m resigned to my usual place among the back markers – but someone has to come last!  Anyway the old ‘Twigg’  will be fired up, and I might treat it to a new flint as I had two ‘no spark’s last time………

28th September – I put the Volkswagen on an Ebay auction this morning for repair or spares and within 30 minutes had 8 contacts offering to buy it – I didn’t take it off auction and its now bid over £1000 so I am glad I just let it run.   Tomorrow is set to be an exciting day as I collect the Mazda in the morning and Giles expects to collect the keys of his new flat sometime during the day – then ‘The Great Renovation’ begins.  I got my copy of Black Powder magazine today and was reading Fred Flintlock’s article on nipples.  He is mostly dealing with revolver nipples so my experience of long guns is not the same, but he advocates nipples with the small hole at the bottom which is also the preferred long gun configuration. Interestingly ‘Stonehenge’ in his book (18 82) also favours them, rather than the opposite configuration as found on most old guns I have encountered.  I have some guns with original nipples that have a larger opening at the bottom that almost never misfire, but  if an original gun does misfire often it is almost always cured by making a nipple that is narrower at the bottom.  I have found that original caps by Joyce and Eley seem to make a much louder bang than normal modern caps, so I assume they were stronger, which may explain why original nipples often misfire with modern caps.   Fred discussed ‘blowback’ and the consequences of the hammer lifting, (which a video of a percussion gun going off will reveal as a common phenomenon) in terms of the Venturi effect, but that probably doesn’t apply in the case of nipples as its essentially a steady state effect and the impulse from a nipple exploding is a pressure pulse.  The best way to illustrate the differences is to look at the bulge in a barrel that has ‘ringed’ as the result of a blockage – its purely a wave phenomenon caused by the reflection of the shock wave by the obstruction ( which doubles the pressure) and can’t be modelled by any quasi steady state physics, which would bulge much more of the barrel than a tiny ring. One difference between a revolver nipple and a long gun nipple is that while the former opens directly into the main charge, in a long gun there is a secondary volume next to the nipple. The Venturi effect is interesting, its actually one aspect of the Bernoulli principle – basically  says that if a stream of fluid is accelerating  the pressure is lower as the stream goes faster – so forcing a stream of gas into a reducing space causes the pressure to drop in the constriction.  An interesting further effect is the cooling of  a gas as it expands after being forced through a jet.  Count Rumford exploited the effect in the design of chimneys  at the end of the 18th century to stop firelaces smoking into the room,  – his chimney design incorporated the throat leading into the chimney so that the smoke was accelerating through the constriction so the pressure  dropped and the smoke was sucked up the chimney instead of escaping into the room.  When I uncovered an inglenook fireplace in this room, it smoked so badly that it was unusable, so I applied the Rumford/Venturi principle to make sure that the smoke above the fire was always accelerating until it got past the narrow throat and by then it couldn’t get back.  I built a streamlined shell of chicken wire plastered with lime mortar linking the top of the fireplace opening to the chimney with a movable flap to control the throat – the secret is to avoid any dead spaces where an eddy can form and spill out into the room  –  its now pretty smoke free unless you mismanage the fire.  This blog continues to attract more and more viewers, but alas, I think many of them are not interested in the contents, just in hacking the site – luckily I have good software that defends it, touch wood!.

27th September – Wearing my school governor hat I had a governor meeting at school  on ‘Safeguarding’ – I do have to bite my tongue at times – its quite sore at the moment.  We seem to be rearing each generation less robust than the last and the layers of cotton wool we wrap them in get thicker and thicker until they can’t feel the world!  The latest news filtering through to  me is that students starting University in Cambridge are being brought by their parents ( as is  usual), but the parents are staying around for a few days to ‘help the student settle in’ or some such nonsense-  Ye gods, if my parents had come anywhere near Manchester when I went to university there I would have died of mortification – I only went there because it was about as far from them as I could find a suitable course!  I trundled up the A6 etc from Colchester on my 50cc NSU Quickly – which was anything but with all my kit on the back and left home well and truly behind – I think I went back once after that.   Our tame mechanic told me today that the Volkswagen clutch was nearly dead – its making a horrible racket.  I’ll try to sell it ( openly) with a duff clutch as its quite an expensive job to repair as its a ‘dual mass’ clutch/flywheel assembly – the dual mass flywheel is a complex device that has become necessary with engines that are producing more power from fewer cylinders at lower revs to give the very high m.p.g. figures needed to cut emissions. The basic idea is that the flywheel is in two parts, one part attached to the crankshaft and one to the clutch assembly, the two parts being linked by springs so that the pulses in rotation caused by the cylinders firing compress the springs which then give back the energy before the next pulse – its a very complex spring system and is carefully tuned to smooth out resonances and reduce stress in the drive components.  Anyway I don’t think I’ll be going anywhere in the VW from now onwards so I’m without a car until we pick up the Mazda and I can get my Land Cruiser back from Penny.  I realised that there are two basic ways to buy a used car – you either go to a few garages and see what takes your fancy, or like me you spend hours researching different vehicles until you have a clear idea of what is ‘best’, then you go and test drive one and if it goes OK you then look carefully at all the adverts on the internet  etc and try to buy the best of the bunch.  There is a lot of information on the web – reviews, price guides, reliability figures from Warranty Direct etc, but I always get an up to date copy of Parker’s Guide to used car prices as it has all the models listed and you can work out depreciation rates etc and see how much ownership is going to cost you.  I’m not sure which method is the best way to buy, the first method is certainly more relaxing and probably involves less travel.  At the end of the day a car is just a box with a wheel at each corner!  I did read more on East Africa, but this bit is not so interesting, being about the behaviour of the individual animals, which is just a repeat of comments made in the narrative part.  He is very dismissive of the lion, and the Rhino, which he says is always half asleep and only wakes up in response to approaching hunters because the bird that habitually perches on it and cleans off parasites gives the alarm.  The Rhino has a reputation for charging the hunter if wounded, but Jackson says that it isn’t a charge, its just running off and the hunter happens to get in the way very occasionally!  Ah well, that’s OK then…..

26th September – My education into organising a big game expedition in British East Africa 1890’s style continues, although I feel I may just have left it too late – Jackson writes that between 1891 and 1893 the vast herds of buffalo were struck down with a form of anthrax, and the elephants also suffered from indiscriminate hunting, and all forms of game were getting more difficult to find – he cautions that hunters should only take the males of the species, but that there is still good hunting to be had with a little effort – he argues that its not the skilled hunter after trophy animals that is doing the damage, but seems to realise that the writing is on the wall for that form of sport.  One aspect of his advice that I found interesting was his analysis of the relative dangers of the animals to humans – he rates elephants and buffalo as particularly likely to charge – but thinks that the buffalo is the more dangerous because it is not so easily spotted and so may take the hunter by surprise.  The lion doesn’t seem to him to be so bad beacause it often slinks off if it can, and usually gives a low growl that gives its presence away.  The very worst is a buffalo that is wounded, which will track down the hunter with great determination.    Interestingly he thinks that his 4 bore rifle is not effective at 70 yards, and that he needs to be closer than 50 yds with dangerous game – some authorities would say that there is not much difference between a rifle and a smoothbore gun at that range….    I managed to buy a car for Penny today that met my targets exactly  – a very nice shiny ex-lease 14 reg. red Mazda 6 with 83000 on the clock – should be good for another 100000 miles, by which time it will have suffered from our normal level of abuse and be on its way. I’ll pick it up in a few days when its had its first MOT test … job done, except for disposing of the tatty 09 reg VW Passat. I’m quite envious – my turn next!  Now I need to sort out tools and stuff to take to the flat for the ‘Great Renovation’, which will probably begin on Sunday.

25th September – Rushing about a bit today.  I’m trying to find a car for Penny – the VW Passat estate is on its last legs – it gets a hard life one way or another, and I’m a bit fed up with the constant drain on the battery that no-one has been able to sort out, so its time for a change!  I’m a fan of Japanese cars, my Land Cruiser having done 10 years without problems (except those caused by garages!). We do at times carry a lot of junk about so a decent estate is called for and it will do around 15000 miles p.a. plus so has to be economical to run – Prime suspect at the moment is the Mazda 6 Tourer, which seems like a decent vehicle.  I hate the thought of the £10K depreciation in the first couple of years, and I’m not afraid of cars that have done a high mileage, but as fuel economy has improved dramatically in recent years its better to get a newish car – my preference is therefore to let someone else take the edge off the price.  Most of the cars in our sights are ex-lease cars with about 100K on the clock (the mileage at which the lease companies dispose of them) and around 4 years old,  at about 1/3 of the new price – that takes in many of these cars on Autotrader so lots of choice.  This time I’ll try not to ‘reshape’ bits of the bodywork on gateposts etc………….  I continue to prepare for an 1880s style expedition by reading the Badminton Library ‘Big Game Shooting’.  Instructions for organising a ‘caravan’ for an expedition in the North East of Africa are interesting – The porters, of which there are many, were divided into teams of 10 and  here carry the loads as wagons cannot not used as there are no suitable tracks or fodder for the oxen.  Each porter has to carry his designated load of 65 lbs, plus his bedroll, his own staple food for 10 days (rice, beans – 10 to 15 lbs) and his water for the day ( 3 lbs?) and some had a Snider Carbine and 10 rounds in a belt (my grotty 1871 Enfield Snider conversion weighs 6 1/2 lb). The loads must have been difficult to manage – for instance, a crate of fowls.  On the subject of  arming the porters Jackson says that normally 25 armed porters (plus many unarmed ones) was enough for a trip as far north as Kimangelia, but a more extended trip to the Nijiri plains it would be better to take 50.  He thinks the Masai warrior is a much over-rated individual but the porters fear them. For a trip to Suk country he would take 80 to 100 armed men.  ” If the trip should be extended further North into the Somalia country, it would not be worth while running the risk of entering the country of such grasping, treacherous, religious fanatics as the southern Somalis are with fewer than 150 rifles“.   So,  a veritable army – some things never change……………….  I begin to think that organising such an expedition may be beyond my means – maybe I’ll just stick to buying a car…..

24th September – More lawn mowing and hedge cutting!   The Badminton Library ‘Big Game Shooting’ has now got on to F J Jackson’s 1880s recommendations for equipping an expedition ‘up country’ in Africa, which makes interesting reading.  he doesn’t set much store by a .450 or .500 Express rifle for dangerous game, his preferred ‘battery is as follows;-  A  4 bore single rifle sighted for 100 yds firing a spherical ball with 12 drams of powder and weighing 21 pounds, a double 8 bore rifle sighted for 100 yds weighing 15 lbs again firing a spherical ball with 12 drams of powder (I assume these are breech loaders, it isn’t specified), a double .577  Express rifle shooting magnum cartridges with 6 dram loads and 3 different bullet types, sighted 100 and 200 yds, a .500 Express,  a 12 or 20 bore Holland Paradox and a .295 rook rifle – that ought to be enough?   He recommends taking food from England and adds;-  No expedition should be undertaken without a few pint bottles of really good champagne, to be used medicinally, as few things are more efficacious in pulling a man together in cases of extreme prostration after fever, or when thoroughly exhausted and knocked out of time from long and violent exertion…… of course they should not be taken until the sun is down ( which, this being the tropics happens swiftly and early)  – one wonders about ‘pint bottles’ and ‘a few’. My mother used to recommend Lucozade for that, I prefer Jackson’s idea.  He also includes brandy, wine and whiskey in his grocery list and suggests a teaspoon full of brandy stirred into a cup of champagne to revive a lost appetite.   I was impressed by the following too;-  (after recommending mosquito nets) .. Before having the mosquito curtains removed in the morning it is a good thing to take a cup of coffee or cocoa before getting out of bed ( at 4 or 5  a.m.), as I believe when so fortified a man is less liable to the influences of miasma, which, if floating about at all is worse just when getting up.  (miasma or night air was thought to carry infectious diseases and germs in Victorian and earlier times)   Although I don’t habitually sleep in mosquito curtains, or have a ‘tent boy’ to remove them, I do have a cup of tea before getting up, although sadly I have to get it myself – I’d never realised that my insistence upon this custom was to ward off the effects of miasma but henceforth I shall attend to the habit with renewed enthusiasm……..  but since its now evening and the sun is down and I’m exhausted, could you pass me a cup of really good champagne, with or without the teaspoon of brandy?   Thanks………………………..

23rd September – Trying to get the lawn in some kind of order today – it has been ridiculously wet of late and this is about the only day it has been dry enough to cut.  It was so lush that I had to go ever the lawns with the mower on its highest setting and with the grass-box fitted ( I normally self mulch)  – the grass was just like an early spring flush, not a tired August/September parched lawn.  I’ll have to go over it all again with a lower setting as soon as I  get another dry day – I need to fix the mower sometime as the belt that drives the wheels has worn loose and there doesn’t appear to be any adjustment.  I’ll have to do an internet search, there is bound to be a Youtube on it.    I read more from my Badminton Library book on big game shooting over my coffee this evening -W Frank Oswell’s account of his African expedition.  Some of the logic behind his slaughter of the game becomes clear as I read more, although to modern readers it sounds diabolical!  In his journeys across Africa he does offer to feed whole communities in return for guides and helpers.  In one place he offered to feed them but refused to give them ‘presents’  so got no help but at the next community the 600 inhabitants were starving to death so he offered to take them all (men women and children)  on his expedition and feed them, which he did – on just one day shooting 6 elephants to dry into biltong  for them to take back to their kraal.   He claims that he sent back more than  60,000 lbs of biltong with them – they had to make several trips to carry it all.  He of course was only interested in the Ivory which then fetched about 5/- per pound in Africa.  A later writer (1880) in the same book wondered where all the game had gone, speculating that it might have gone elsewhere, or, just possibly, been shot to extinction!   I wonder how much habitat loss there had been by 1890?

22nd September – Sorry for missing entries!  I spent three days at the Cavendish lab at Cambridge University doing ‘Physics at Work’ presentations.  I give 12 each day, of about 20 minutes each with a bit of time between each to allow the students to swap presentations.  Its very intense as you have to get them  interested and involved and participating  – its not too difficult for those groups that are lively, but you still need to put a lot of energy into it to keep their enthusiasm up.  The worst groups are those that appear dead from the neck up – you really have to work hard to get through to them!  We get groups from far and wide, and all sorts of schools, state and independent and academies. Interestingly there isn’t any consistent pattern as to which schools will have the most buzz and be the most fun, although I always enjoy those from London and Birmingham that have very mixed classes. I think my deadest groups were from an independent girl’s school not a million miles from Cambridge.  Anyway by the time I got home in the evenings I was well past blogging and just fell asleep on the sofa!    Today a couple of loads of logs arrived and had to be stacked, so no playing, but I did manage to post a few parcels of camera bits I’d sold on Ebay.  The good news for us was that at last, after yet another last minute hitch, Giles has exchanged contracts on the flat – completion is scheduled for next Friday so from then I’ll be up to my ears in plaster, wiring, plumbing and kitchen fitting for a few weeks ( or months!) – I’ll try and keep a blog going on the progress as I don’t expect there will be much time for playing with guns.  I have been reading one of my old books in the ‘Badminton’ series on big game hunting – this one on hunting in Africa in about 1845 by the first hunters to venture into much of the country.  Its interesting to see their attitude to killing the game – if they didn’t present a challenge then they were shot to feed the many people who were essential to support the camp as it moved by wagons and ox teams for months on end, or at least that was the pretext – referring to rhinoceros, the old hunter said the most he ever shot at one time was 6 as he needed that much meat for food!  I would have thought one rhino would have kept a supermarket in meat for longer that it would keep fresh, although it is possible that the the bargain with the local people was that they would be provided with meat while the hunters were in their territory as a sort of ‘visitor tax’.  The hunter used a double 10 bore smoothbore percussion gun weighting 10 lbs with a round ball closely patched by rolling it in the hands and cutting off folds, without any wad, with 5 or 6 drams of fine powder – as he often shot from horseback and reloaded there too, he found capping the gun the most difficult part – even on the ground I sometimes find it very tricky when standing in a windy field on a cold day in winter!  He didn’t hunt in the way that a modern hunter would, using a rifle at ranges of 100 to 200 meters, but got within less than 50 meters, often much less, at times riding his game down for many miles until he could get alongside them – although many game animals are faster than a horse, the horse can outrun most animals over long distances.  That reminds me of some recent research that showed that women can sustain their running performance significantly longer than men, and can compete equally in extreme endurance events!  This blog is nothing if not a source of obscure ‘facts’…………….


18th September – I was at the Cavendish Labs today setting up my demonstration for the 13 & 14 year old school students who are coming over the next three days to find out what scientists & engineers do with their lives – well, leaving out the bits about shooting!   I have a colleague from my school STEM club coming to help on Wednesday, so I won’t have to do all 36 talks on my own.   I have finished the book on Wyatt Earp and his ‘Buntline Special’ Colt ’45 with a 12 inch barrel.  The book ‘He carried a Six Shooter’ is supposed to be a factual account and uses a lot of historical sources to try to unravel the truth about his exploits.  I found it interesting because, although he had a reputation as the fastest gun  etc… he depended on careful observation and an understanding of the psychology of his adversaries to avoid too many shootouts – often disarming them or occasionally wounding them to control and sometimes to humiliate them.  He and his brothers made many enemies among the bad men,  brother Virgil was badly wounded and  brother Morgan was assassinated, after which he was probably less generous towards the gang involved.  The book, of course, has detailed account from witnesses of the famous shootout at OK Coral.   The book  was set  in the 1870s to 1890s and covered the driving of the railways across the West to support the great cattle ranches and the associated massive cattle drives to the railheads, and then the rush to mine silver.  The guns by then were all breechloaders,  basically the Colt ’45, the 1873 Winchester   carbine and sawn-off double barreled shotguns – presumably 12 bore, loaded with 9 buckshot per shell, with the wads split, which was claimed to spread the shot  – the implication being that putting the slit vertically  caused a horizontal spread, although that isn’t explicit in the book – Wells Fargo favoured these shotguns for the guards on stagecoaches – thus using them exactly as earlier coach drivers used blunderbusses .  I have a Winchester 44-40 of later date but basically the same – my grandfather is reputed to have brought it back from the First World War  but as he died and was buried in France I’m not sure about that.  I do know that for a very short time the observers in the first, unarmed, planes were issued with Winchester Carbines to try to shoot down enemy planes, or rather the pilots and observers – possibly it was one of those. I guess in the very early days no-one had really addressed the need for armaments on planes as they were used exclusively for spotting and it was  a little while before they worked out how to syncronise a machine gun to fire through the propeller without shooting off the blades.  I seem to recall that the first guns just had steel deflector plates on the prop to deflect the bullet, but I may be making that up………………………….. Any way the Winchester is a fantastic example of perfect fitness for purpose – tough, simple and handy – its difficult to imagine a better suited gun for either of those situations.  One day I must convert mine from a Trophy of War on my certificate to Sect 1. so I can shoot it.

17th  September – to celebrate Penny’s birthday we visited Oxborough Hall – a fine National Trust property in Norfolk built in 1482 and subsequently altered and ‘improved’ by the family that has lived there for many generations and still does.   I’m quite an old buildings nut, so I enjoy that sort of place although I am rather conscious of  things that don’t seem right  – a lot of the windows were added or altered in the late 19th century in brick that doesn’t match the old structure and most of the large windows  have fairly recently had their leaded glass removed and plain, modern glass put as single panes into the frames.  I always look to see what the National Trust does about the display of firearms, which of course would have been a major part of  almost any grand house, from the personal sporting guns  and pistols of the owner and family plus those of his guests to the matching sets of muskets that would have been provided for the militia  – most wealthy families had guns from famous manufacturers and kept them for generations. At Oxborough Hall the ‘gun room’ near the entrance had but 4 guns on the wall very high up where you couldn’t see them, and looking neglected – a blunderbus, an Austrian military air gun, an English musket and a foreign musket.  In the ‘King’s Room’ things are even sadder – there is a a pretty poor pair of nonedescript percussion pistols that look like something cheap from Liege but were supposed to be Venetian ( I wasn’t sure they weren’t repros! – I could have made more convincing pistols myself), and a more fancy but still fairly uninspired flintlock pistol from France or Italy, it was so unremarkable I can’t even remember what the steward said, but she was quite amused when I said they were pretty  poor examples of anything! I should have taken a photo but I’m sure its forbidden.  Its a real problem that bodies like the NT think anything to do with guns is politically incorrect or anti-social, whereas in reality it was a big part of life in times past and has a rightful place in any true representation of how things were. Part of my ‘trouble’ is that I say what I think about guns, although I have given up commenting on guns for sale as it was getting a bit embarrassing telling dodgy dealers what had been done to their guns!  Which reminds me, I forgot it was the Birmingham Arms Fair today and I can’t make it to the viewing at Holts so I am safe from buying any more guns at the moment!  I still have a few to shift, must put them on this site.

16th September – I was busy clearing up the house and sorting piles of old papers and came across an old loose page catalogue from my father’s things.  There is no indication of the firm’s name but a page with a letter to customers is signed Kit Ravenshead, Framlingham 1969. It offers a wide range of parts for restoring flintlock and percussion guns, more or less a combination of Kranks and Dysons or Blackleys, including castings for all parts, barrels, reproduction flintlocks, and restocking of all pistols and guns.  With it are two separate price lists, one dated 1968 and one dated 1969.  As you would expect the prices are very different from present day prices,  but interestingly the factor between now and then differs enormously for the different items and for labour.  It is also interesting to note that some prices jumped by a lot between the two price lists.  I’ll give some prices taken at random compared to Blackley’s website;-

Gunpowder was 11/- a pound in 1968, and 13/6d in 1969 – quite a steep rise, but its now  around £20 a pound  a rise of about 30 times.

A Repro Queen Anne pistol kit was £12 in 1968 and  £15 in 1069 – Blackley’s price £339 but that includes springs and screws, about another x 30

A New Land Pattern lock set was 160/- in 1968 and 200/- in 1969 – Blackley’s is £125 including springs, a price increase of about x 15

A flint cock casting went from 32/6d in 1968 to  70/- in 1969 – Blackley’s price would be £20, a rise of x 12 ish  from 1968 or x 6 from 1969!

Browning solution was 7/- but had to go by rail –  Blackley’s now £15  an increase of  x42

A repro Kentucky flintlock rifle was £55 – I guess depending on what it was like, between £600 & £1000 now – around x 15

The catalogue quotes guide prices for various jobs  –  £15 – £25 for restocking a shotgun, £2./10/- for a wooden ramrod with screw, 10/- to £2 for making up a spring to a pattern, £3 for relaying ribs and thimbles etc…..

1968 was during Harold Wilson’s premiership and after the pay freeze and the 4 day week – inflation for the year was 4.7%   – The Beetles were in vogue!  A pound then is worth about 12 pounds now according to the retail price index.  I wonder where Kit Ravenshead went and where the castings came from – some of the stuff came from the US.  I’m not sure when Ed Blackley started – (I must ask him, he’s a friend of Dicks and lives nearby) –  he started not far from Framlingham I wonder if there was a connection?   I’m sure someone will tell me…………

I’m still engrossed in the Wyatt Earp book – I used to enjoy Westerns and  WWII stories when I was a teenager but my father thought they were just trash and discouraged me from reading them, so I stopped reading fiction of any shape or form, and still don’t.  Not the effect he intended, but the law of unintended consequences plagues parental attempts at control – he was never smart enough to realise this.


15th September – Oh dear, I picked up the copy of Wyatt Earps book, ‘He Carried a Six Shooter’ that I bought to take on holiday and couldn’t put it down so its now well past midnight (strictly the 16th) and I haven’t done anything constructive!……..too late now…..

14th September – A grand day out, as they say.  I took the ‘Twigg’ flintlock, the John Probin and my O/U 12 to CGC , primarily to have some flintlock fun. I collected the SWISS OB powder that Viking had kindly got for me, plus another 10Kg of shot and bought another 1000 caps (I have no idea where they go – I’m sure it was only a few shoots ago that I bought 500)  Be that as it may, I really did manage to get to grips with the flintlock – it was going off acceptably fast, I managed to break a few clays, and only had two misfires out of 2o shots, without even a ‘flash in the pan’ and that was because the flint was pretty knackered, having been in the gun since I got it – and it had done several ‘have a go’ sessions – so altogether for the first time I felt it was fun and worth the effort! A result.   The Probin turned out not to be great shakes on the breaking clays front although it went off OK – I used SWISS 2 for a while as I thought that the short barrel needed a fast powder, but didn’t hit much with that or the Nobel No 2 I usually shoot.  It will have to go!  I did feel that the SWISS No 2 was shaking me up a bit with the flintlock – its quite a light gun.   Having got bored with missing clays with the Probin, I reverted to the Miruku 12 bore using 21 gram cartridges, which as its a 7 1/4 lb gun is therefore quite nice and comfortable with 21 grams – I was gratified to discover that I managed to knock down a decent proportion of the clays.    On the drive home I was trying to work out how much it costs to shoot a muzzle loader –  you get about 200 shots per Kg. of powder, and 35 shots per Kg of shot, so at around £50 a Kg for percussion powder and £3.50 per Kg for shot that is 25p + 10p + 6 p for a cap for percussion, plus the wads and card (might be home made), so that is around  40p – 45p per percussion shot – flint is more as the powder is more expensive  – probably around 50 – 55p per shot.   That compares with about 30p for a 12 bore cartridge – so its a lot more expensive to shoot a muzzle loader, although I don’t expect that will come as a surprise to anyone who does it regularly.  Mind you, it takes at least twice or three times as long to shoot muzzle loaders in a group as it does breech loaders, so it probably averages out at a similar hourly rate! – and you use less clays so it is cheaper – Phew, thank goodness I’ve managed to justify that then!   I always feel at the end of an exhausting days shooting clays  that the cost of the clays and all the on-site facilities is a real bargain – something less than 30p a clay at CGC – where else can you have a ‘grand day out’ with food and drinks and have change from £30 (conveniently forgetting the powder and shot etc…. )   30th Sept is our flintlock competition with Anglian Muzzle Loaders – I’ll take part for the first time!   I suddenly remembered that school term had started and there would be loads of Governor meeting – I always forget to log onto the secure email server for govenors, but when I did there were the calls to action ( or inaction!)………. bother.    Now I need to order 1000 No 16 bore wads – luckily both the ‘Twigg’ and the Egg double percussion I usually use are the same bore –  I think its now time to pass on the Probin, and also my Pedesoli Mortimer single barreled flinter to make a bit more room.

13th September – Life is rushing by! Giles’s flat looms in a couple of weeks – the buying has taken 6 months so far – incredible.  I’m still sorting out the holiday stuff and putting the boat to bed for the winter and putting more stuff on ebay.  Now there is just time to dig into my shooting supplies to sort out what I need to take to CGC tomorrow – I’ll take the old ‘twigg’ flintlock as I’m beginning to like it and it isn’t a good idea to chop and change too often – there is a saying amongst our group – watch out for the shooter with only one gun.  Having said that, I do want to try out the little Probin double I bought a couple of years back at the Birmingham Arms Fair and decided it was a mistake so put it away.  It actually looks quite useful, although it has a very short barrel – a barely legal 24 1/4 inches long!  Not sure if I have wads etc for it, and I’m definitely getting short of cards.  Anyway I will take it and see what it shoots like – if its not a good fit for me I’ll sell it – I think its probably a £550 gun……

12th September – gradually getting back to normal – holidays are always so stressful, one wonders why one takes them!  I am continuing my clearout policy by listing a load of camera stuff on ebay.  Back in the swing Viking has acquired some SWISS OB  priming powder for me so I can have another go at flintlock shooting at clays on Thursday with some of the lads.  I need to get in training for  percussion too as I have a number of game shoots this side of Christmas and it would be a bonus if my hit to shot ratio got above 1:2 1/2 !   Reading Bosworth (1848) again tonight he had the idea that after about 100 yards balls have lost 1/7th of their initial velocity and thereafter don’t loose any more – he maintains that what they loose in air friction they make up for in falling under gravity, which is a pretty far fetched idea unless he is shooting up at an angle – I guess it might be (almost) true if you shoot vertically upwards – If there wasn’t any air friction the ball would convert  all its kinetic energy to potential energy on the way up to the peak, and then convert all that potential energy to kinetic energy on the way down, so IF there were no losses it would arrive back at the muzzle height with exactly muzzle velocity – taking air friction into account it will, of course, always land slower than that.  He develops this argument and then attempts to prove that very short barrels are as effective as long ones and that one can effectively ‘do execution’ with a 40 bore pistol with a 10 inch barrel at 300 to 400 yards if one can get round the problem of a very short sighing base.  All this with balls not shaped bullets, which are of course much better at long ranges because they can carry more energy due to their higher weight, but don’t, in general loose as much as a ball due to drag.  Anyway, I feel a flintlock riffle is called for – or maybe I’ll shoot the Charleville musket some time?

11th September – Today was pretty chilly so I decided that the AGA had to go back on, and the woodburning stove had to be cleaned out ready for winter.  The AGA is a bit of a pain since regulations brought in low sulphur fuel oil – they have the most primitive burner system imaginable, consisting of two wicks sitting in a puddle of oil that is connected by a pipe to a pool of oil whose level is controlled by a float and needle valve.  Controlling the heat is entirely manual on mine – just tweaking the needle valve to raise of lower the oil level – fancy AGAs have a motor controlled needle valve that is connected to a temperature sensor to give a constant heat.   The problem with the low sulphur fuel is that ash and hard carbon gradually block the part of the burner where the oil flows in, until it finally goes out, at which point you have to take the burner out and dig out the gunk and run a 10 inch long x 1/8th inch drill down the feed pipe to the burner and then put the burner back and fiddle the wicks and flame deflectors into place.  The filter by the tank also blocks up from time to time due to fine black particles – it happens every time the tank is refilled as that shakes up the dirt in the tank.  The only plus point is that it only involves time and doesn’t cost anything except a replacement wick every few times.  Anyway that should keep it running for a month or two.  Reading Bosworth’s book again this evening I came across his take on the accuracy of  rifled against smoothbore firearms.   He was sure there was no difference until he tried a precise experiment with a carefully made smoothbore gun that was subsequently rifled so everything else was the same and got a 3 inch group with the smoothbore and all the rifle balls through the same hole at a range of about 80 yards.  He made the interesting observation that if the barrel of a smoothbore musket is very slightly bent to the right the ball will curve in the opposite direction to the left – the argument being that in passing through the barrel the ball experiences more friction on the left side, which slows that side and causes the ball to spin around a vertical axis – he claims that the effect of this rotation is to cause the ball to deflect to the left, contrary to expectation.  Basic physics tells you that once it left the barrel the ball would travel in a straight line in the horizontal plane if it wasn’t rotating, so any curve must be due to rotation.   My guess is that the air on the left side of the ball is accelerated by the spin, which has the effect of reducing the pressure on that side (the Bernoulli  effect), with the opposite effect on the right side, thus curving the ball left.  Obviously rifling would spin the ball  about the barrel axis and remove any net deflection due to the friction spin.   He was also adamant that a smoothbore must be shot with a light powder charge – he recommends about 1/8th of the ball weight maximum – I’ll have to check how that corresponds to what we use now – its always a fiddle as I use different units for ball and powder ………  it turns out to be what I reckoned I should be using with the Nock 16 bore rifle – 365 grain ball and  about 1.65 drams (45 grains)  of powder ( He was writing about smoothbores, I am referring to a rifle, but the numbers correspond).  Part of his argument for small charges was that with large powder charges the wad came out and tried to overtake the ball and knocked it off course!  Is that a thing?

10th September  – trying to tidy up all the holiday stuff!  Ran the outboard motor to flush it with fresh water and get rid of any salt left in the engine, but puzzled that after about 10 minutes running the stream of cooling water coming from the engine was still cold, but steam was rising from the engine casting and it was quite hot to the touch – earlier in the year I did have to replace the water pump and remove solidified salt from the bottom of the leg, so I’m a bit concerned that the waterways in the engine are similarly blocked with just a bypass somehow letting the water through  – I’ll need to sort it out before next year – I’ll have to phone the very helpful parts shop in the Isle of Man who helped me sort the water pump. – another job to do!  I haven’t yet dug my copy of the infantry tactics from the heap of holiday luggage, so my lessons are temporarily halted!   I don’t have any English military flintlock or matchlock muskets to practice with – the nearest I have is a nice Russian version of the Charleville musket made around 1830 in the factory at ISCH that became the Kalashnikov factory – so I guess it counts as  my Kalashnikov in a way – I haven’t been able to find a bayonet for it yet, so my practice will be less than realistic…..  I was troubled to realise how few of the books I took to Cornwall got read ( 1/4 of 1) – its amazing how tiring being on holiday is, even (or especially) when you are doing nothing – it confirms my belief that holidays are intrinsically bad for you – our family can just about manage 10 days before things begin to unravel………..


9th September – back in Cambridge after a somewhat tiresome drive with some torrential rain and a couple of stupid  artic. drivers playing blocking games on the M25 – they stopped after we drove alongside and photographed the drivers and numberplates!   The Sensitive plant suffered the indignity of another car journey – probably set it back again.  It was dark and raining when we got back so haven’t been to see the chickens yet.  I picked up my repro copy of  Bosworth on the Rifle (1848) to read over coffee – I particularly liked his assertion that the hardening of steel by quenching was due to electricity, and his statement that ‘It is highly probable that our knowledge of  carbon may be very limited’.  Science was beginning to be applied to metallurgy but was in the very early stages – it was not long before he wrote that diamond had been identified as a form of carbon!   By the time of his book cast steel was becoming available in America, and he was extremely dismissive of the properties of English wrought iron……   This is going to be a busy Autumn for me – I have to do presentations to GCSE students at the Cavendish Labs as part of the University’s outreach project – I’ve done it every year for the last 21 years and really enjoy it, although its tiring doing it 36 times in 3 days – I am usually loosing my voice by the end!  I have to sort out and run my STEM club for primary kids at the local school – also fun, and Giles is about to complete on his flat in Cambridge that I have nobly/stupidly offered to do up for/with him – its a complete mess and needs a new kitchen, new plumbing and heating and skim plastering before it is completely redecorated and carpeted, plus we want to sort out some up to date LED lighting with remote controls. We might also need to put some internal insulation on a couple of walls – we need to check the existing construction and do some thermal calculations – I’m thinking of  plasterboard backed with 1 inch of Celotex – there isn’t room for more.   A nice little project – hopefully completed before Christmas! – So if I am a bit remiss in my attention to antique firearms and this blog, please forgive me!

8th September –  Took the boat out of the water today in preparation for  our return home.  There were 3 square rigged ships in Mounts Bay today, and Tom & Giles took the boat out for a last trip to look at one, the Earl of Pembroke registered in Bristol.    My training in infantry tactics goes slowly but I now understand the limititions of platoon firing that left chunks of the front line unloaded and vulnerable.  It was replaced in the early  18th century by a new drill – the firings – that divided the regiments into 15 platoons and had a complex firing system that distributed the fire more evenly along the front,   It was organised and controlled very carefully using flags and drums to signal which platoon was to fire, and when required the each platoon was divided into two firings to distribute the firepower more evenly in both time and space.  Unforunately there is very little written about the precise signals used, so if I find myself in charge of a regiment of infantry I guess I’ll just have to make it up as I go along – which, to be honest is what I usually do anyway!  The firings probably originated with the Dutch Army, and were used by Marlborough against the French with some success.

The Earl of Pembroke at anchor off Newlyn Harbour   (photo courtesy Tom)

7th September – managed to pull ourselves out of our dozy state to visit a couple of local iron age villages from the Romano-British period (AD43 – 400) at Chysauster  and Carn Euny.  We all get quite deeply involved in what it would have been like living there at the time they were inhabited – Our view of that is much influenced by the weather  at the time of our visit – today it was overcast with light rain at times so our view was that it would have been pretty damp – but who knows, maybe they had long hot summers like I remember when I was a child – and maybe enough snow in the winters to need tyre chains for the car – although snow and frost was pretty rare in Cornwall even then.

Entrance to the ‘courtyard’ of one of the houses at Chysauster of around 200 A.D.

7th September.  Slow start to the day following a superb meal and some interesting wine at Ben’s Cornish Kitchen.  It was clear why Ben’s is ranked third best restaurant in Cornwall – if you want to go there you’ll need to book a long time in advance, we were very lucky to get the last table at a few days notice.  I’m still reading up on early infantry tactics in case I find myself having to organise an infantry battalion using flintlocks against infantry or cavalry.  The first uses of platoon firing ( see earlier post) occurred when infantry regiments were still composed of  musketeers and pikemen armed with iron tipped 5 metre long pikes that were considered the prime defense against cavalry in the ratio of about 2 musketeers to 1 pikeman. A minor improvement in platoon firing at the end of the 17th century was the drill of ‘locked-in’ shooting where the 3 ranks were slightly staggered so that the back rank fired over the right shoulders of the second rank, thus saving the second rank  having to stoop to shoot when the three ranks fired. At this stage not all regiments had upgraded from matchlock to firelock.   The next major change in organisation came with the introduction of the plug bayonet for musketeers that enabled the pikemen to be armed instead with muskets, thus increasing the available firepower by about 50%.   The major disadvantage of the plug bayonet was that once fitted by ramming  the handle into the muzzle the musket could no longer be fired, and it occasionally got knocked out.  This could be a problem when the line was defending against a cavalry charge as it meant that fire could not be withheld until the last moment because of the time taken to fit the plug bayonet.  It was not long before the plug bayonet was replaced by one that fitted round the outside of the muzzle so  that it could be in place during firing if necessary, although presumably it got in the way when reloading.  With these improvements the Dutch were able to drive off French Cavalry charges by withholding firing until the last moment, which thoroughly shocked the cavalry.  From the drill books there is a suggestion that the musketeers were actually drilled to present their arms in a firing  position and not fire, so that they could intimidate the approaching forces.  In one battle indeed the cavalry were so scared by this tactic that they baulked at attacking.   Anyway, I’m feeling better prepared for the eventuality that I find myself in command of musketeers  – by this time the command function had become much more important as tactics got more complex.  Still, by learning what I have so far and with improved weapons etc, I’ve probably advanced to being able to deliver 5 times the firepower that was normal during the English Civil Wars.


6th September   Giles and I went sailing today as it looked like a nice breezy day – we set off from Newlyn heading south down the coast heading for Lamorna Cove, but the further South we got the bigger the waves got, and after we had entertained a substantial amount of the English Channel inside the boat we decided that it would be somewhat less wet going in the other direction, so we headed off to visit St Michael’s Mount from the sea – something I have always wanted to do.  We anchored off to have  a bite to eat and make the obligatory cup of tea – a ceremony made possible by the amazing design of the ‘flat’ camping stove. Unfortunately the tide was too low to let us into the Harbour. Then back to Newlyn  and a look at the Lady of Avenal – a square rigged charter boat.  On entering the harbour at Newlyn the outboard motor ran out of fuel – how they know to do it just when its awkward I don’t know.   Tonight off to Ben’s Cornish Kitchen for a birthday meal for Penny.

Filling the kettle for tea at anchor off St Michael’s Mount in a slight chop.

5th September  Blowing half a gale today so no sailing – I replaced the hinges of the double glazed PVC window in the bathroom with a pair bought from Screwfix – they didn’t include new screws and as the – old ones were mostly rusted beyond use I had to search my boat fixing kit for stainless self tappers , fortunately finding enough to do the job.   In the afternoon we did our annual scour of the galleries in Marazion but didn’t see anything we felt compelled to buy!  It is, however, cheering to see pictures by artists whose work we bought in previous visits increasing in price!  Now anything by Fred Yates fetches a mint, even a few square inches of quick watercolour, and the quirky artist Siobhan  Purdy we liked on a previous visit is getting something of a cult following!  Anyway, apart from the news that the Sensitive plant is looking better by the day, and the cockerel at home hasn’t attacked our house sitters, that is enough news for now!     I’ve been reading up on my infantry tactics in case I find  myself in command of a company of musketeers.  As you will recall, in the English Civil Wars the armies discovered the shock power of  mass firing at close range, but in any situation that didn’t immediately lead to direct contact with the enemy, it left the whole battalion unloaded and thus unable to return fire.   There were several schemes for maintaining a sustained fire, a couple of which I have already covered, and one in which the musketeers in  six ranks fired from the back rank while the front five knelt, then the fifth rank stood and fired, then the fourth etc until the front rank had stood and fired, the only problem then being that as you had to stand to  reload, the firing couldn’t restart until the front rank had reloaded.  One way or another all the drills for sustained fire across the whole battalion had disadvantages and slowed the firing down to less than 2/3 of the theoretical maximum rate based on how long it took a soldier to fire and reload – typically about 1:4 for a firelock using cartridges (as in powder and ball in a paper wrapper, in case you haven’t been attending!).   By around  1689 a solution had been worked out that gave much greater all round flexibility – platoon firing.   In this drill the battalion was divided into platoons of  around 24 to 36 musketeers  and lined up on the front with 8 or 12 platoons, each 3 or 6 ranks deep depending on how long a front was expedient.  The size of the platoon was based on the ability of its platoon commander to communicate effectively with the entire platoon.  If sustained fire was required  from the battalion then one in four of the platoons would fire and immediately reload while the three other platoons fired in sequence.  This arrangement gave the ability to produce the shock mass firing if needed in the event of a cavalry charge.  Ok, that’s got that straight – anyone care for a bit of practice?

St Michael’s Mount, Cornwall, in a fresh breeze.

Here is our picture ‘Dear Friends’  by Siobhan Purdy  – an artist who is going places!

4th September   Pretty wet this morning, but we went and moved the dinghy from Mylor to  Penryn Harbour (near Penzance) so that we could sail a new bit of coast, but the weather tomorrow looks a bit hairy with 25 knot winds.   I read a bit more on the infantry tactics – of course by around 1680 the matchlock was a bit old fashioned and the military began to introduce both the snaphaunch and the true flintlock – then called the firelock.  The distinguishing feature of the snaphaunch  was that the ‘hammer’ – or ‘steel’ was  separate from the pan cover whereas the true flintlock – a French invention – had the frizzen as we know it, integrating the pan cover and the steel.  Amazingly the flintlock appeared in more or less its final form – the only real developments of significance was the change from a vertically pivotted sear acting through the lockplate to a horizontally pivoted sear, the abandonment of the ‘dog catch’ that gave rise to the name ‘doglock’ and acted as an external safety catch, and the change from the tumbler shaft forming part of the cock, with a separate tumbler pinned on the shaft to a tumbler with integral shaft held in the cock with the ‘cock nail’ (cock screw).  Further refinements included the provision of a ‘bridle’ to support the inner end of the tumbler shaft, and of a bracket to hold the outboard end of the frizzen pivot.  Alongside the introduction of the the snaphaunch and firelock  and the continued use of the matchlock as the changeover proceeded, there was a changeover from the use of bandoliers of wooden chargers containing the powder for a single shot, with the balls kept separately, to the use of cartridges – paper tubes containing the powder necessary for the priming and the main charge plus the ball – the soldier taking the cartridge, biting off the paper end opposite the ball, putting a little of the powder in the pan and the rest in the barrel, then either dropping the bare ball down the barrel and following it with the screwed up paper, or dropping the ball and paper down the barrel.  It should be noted that in smoothbore military muskets the ball was always smaller than the bore with enough ‘windage’ (clearance) so that the ball was a rolling fit and could be dropped in, even when the barrel had begun to foul after a few shots. To require the loading rod to ram down the ball would have significantly slowed the  rate of fire – which was one reason why rifles were not introduced before the American War of Independence, when we took a bit of a battering from American irregular hunters who were used to accurate shooting with their rifles.   Until the mid 18th century it should be noted that the powder supplied to the English troops was inferior to most of that used by the European armies – if you think of the very fine and expensive priming powder that we use to shoot clays with a flintlock so that we get fast ignition you can imagine how long the typical 17th century musket took to go off once the  trigger was pulled!  In passing its interesting to note that the basic flintlock mechanism lasted with only minor developments for around 200 years.  The matchlock probably had a similar lifetime in one form or another, but the percussion era, including all the variations from ‘scentbottle’, pellet lock, tubelock, Maynard primer etc lasted barely 60 years before the breechloading cartridge era, which has now clocked up some  150 years.

3rd September  Very windy this morning, and lots of rain, but this evening its quiet.  Anyway, a bit of time to read  up mid 17 century infantry tactics.   Around 1648 the musketeers stopped being issued rests for their muskets, presumably because if they were shooting 3 ranks deep, only the standing rank could use the rest.  It’s not clear if shorter barrels were used, or if they just had to support the long heavy barrels.   The English Civil War kept us out of European Wars  while the Thirty Years War went on there, but eventually we got drawn into the battles of France, Spain and Portugal.  After a brief time when the Parliamentarians and  expat. Royalists fought on opposite sides in Europe, the Restoration put Charles II on the throne and  a small body of English troops, including many from the New Mode Army of Cromwell  fought on the side of the Portuguese  trying to secure independence from Spain.  This highlighted the difference between the Continental  infantry tactics, unchanged for 30 years, and those of the English.  At the battle of the Dunes the English held their fire while cheering, until the Spanish were within a pike’s length before firing 3 deep twice (they were formed up in files of 6) and setting too with the butts of their muskets to devastating effect.  The Spanish Generals watching the battle were reported as thinking that the English were going to defect to the Spanish side because they didn’t fire at range!  As you might expect, a few  battles like that and the continental armies followed our example and to some extent our advantage, particularly the surprise element of it, was lost.  Reading accounts of the period make me want to try a matchlock rifle!

The coast at Godrevy  looking towards the lighthouse – not a place to try to land by boat!

2nd Sept.   A lazy day as its my birthday – we visited Charlestown Harbour where there are a number of square rigged ships that are used in films, thegging is incredible – I guess it takes a while to know which is which, I don’t know how volunteers get the hang of it.  We are off to dinner at the Gurnard’s Head at Zennor, the nicest restaurant we know in Cornwall.

1st September  Another fantastic sail – good breeze and warm and sunny.   Sailed across Falmouth Roads to St Just in Roseland and then across and up through Falmouth Harbour to Flushing Town Quay where we landed for a walk and a Cornish cream tea with clotted cream ( put on the scone before the jam, not the heathen way) then back to Mylor and home for a Barbecue in the garden.  If I can now stay awake I’ll figure out more about early infantry tactics, but please forgive me if I fall asleep before writing it up!  As promised here is a photo of the sensitive plant – I have no recent photos of the cockerel as I don’t feel I can ask our  house sitters to risk life and limb.

Some of the leaves are quite dead, but there are enough to keep it alive, I hope.


31st August   We had a good sail yesterday although it was on the verge of raining a couple of times and there was a bit of breeze so we had occasional spray on board.  We have the dinghy on a pontoon at Mylor Marina, a bit of an extravagance but this is a holiday.  Followers will know that the Sensitive plant is in intensive care – it is probably going to survive – I plan to take a photo tomorrow.  I hear from our house-sitters that the cockerel is in good form!    From the sublime to the ridiculous( or v.v), on  a historical front, the battle of  Edgehill in 1642 at the start of the English Civil Wars showed that the tactic used by the infantry on both sides of a single rank of musketeers firing  while the rest of the battalion  was either waiting or reloading produced very inconclusive battles and was not effective against cavalry charges.  Thereafter both  the Parliamentarians and the Royalists  changed to a much more decisive drill that involved the front three ranks firing at once, the front rank kneeling, the next rank crouching and the rearmost of the firing ranks consisting of the tallest soldiers standing.  In addition they held their fire until the enemy was  within less than two pike lengths –  at most 32 feet away. Even a hyped up soldier with a fairly inaccurate weapon would stand a good chance of doing harm to the attackers at that range.   The musketeers in the three ranks fired together when the enemy came within  range and  then immediately set about them with the butts of their guns, joined by the pikemen who were usually part of the infantry battalions  – although some were  exclusively composed of musketeers.  The effect of the initial heavy fusilade at very close range was usually devestating, especially when followed up so rapidly by a direct onslaught.  Even cavalry could rarely break this defensive tactic, especially since the cavalry relies upon the speed of its charge, and once stopped is vulnerable.   In addition to the heavy close firing, the infantry retained the ability to revert to a continuous firing regime when necessary to pin down parts of an enemy army. In the North of England battles took place in areas where there were a lot of hedges and obstructions, so that direct charges across a long front were not possible, and so different tactics were used, although there are no records of what those tactics were!

30th August  It’s raining – this is a mistake, its supposed to be a perfect fortnight!   I  noticed that my recent posts have had the odd word displaced – sorry, its because I’m using my laptop and if I occasionally touch the touchpad by accident it jumps and starts typing somewhere unexepected and I don’t find where it has put the spurious text.  ON the subject of the mechanics of this blog, I still get almost as many attempts to hack the site as I do genuine visitors!   Hackers use networks of other computers around the world that they have infiltrated  to launch their attacks – called botnets.  I can look at the IP addresses of every hacker who visits the site and what they are trying to do, and it is fairly easy to identify particular networks of bots under a single control as they follow a pattern – some networks only use each computer once, but some repeat attacks from the same IP address.  I can sometimes pick out one member of the net that visits more frequency from the same IP address – if I see that that an address is attacking often I check out the IP address with ‘whoisit’ and send an email to the service provider complaining of abuse – so far I have made two abuse complaints and killed two botnets!  But it’s an ongoing problem – today another one has emerged!   Anyway the news from our house-sitter is that the cockerel is behaving – the chickens are currently shut up so that contractors can fix the roof of the neighbour’s barn without being attacked!

29th August  We decided not to go sailing today to give ourselves a break – 10 hours of being out in the fresh air having been too much for some of the party – . anyway we needed to stock up with food (and wine).  We went for a walk at Lamorna Cove in the afternoon, and looked at the remains of the old quay that collapsed in a storm a couple of years ago and will now never be repaired.  No change in the situation of either the Sensitive Plant or the cockerel!   To return to the English Civil Wars, the problem for the musketeers was that it took somewhere around 6 to ten times as long to load a matchlock musket  as it did to stand, blow on their match to get rid of the ash and make it glow well, aim and fire it.  It was therefore necessary to devise a formation and a drill that allowed the battalion to keep up a steady rate of fire.  Obviously you don’t want a front line that is only one soldier deep, with 9 out of ten reloading, so you organise them in ranks and files, ranks being the lines parallel to the front  and files being the lines formed behind each soldier on the front rank.  The basic principle would be along the lines of the front rank firing, then turning and marching to the back of their file to reload while the new front rank marched forward one pace to occupy the place of the departed man, thus maintaining the position of the front, at the expense of the men reloading having continually to move.;  An alternative method had the men reload where they fired, and the back man of the file marching forward to take up a position one pace in front of the previous firing position, thus producing a gradual advance.  either technique required a 6 feet spacing along the ranks to allow the men to march through – remember that they each has a lighted match and those loading were likely to be exposing powder.  In a nutshell, the issue of keeping up a steady rate of fire was the infantry problem as long as battles were fought by armies drawn up facing each other in ‘open’ combat, and it only changed with the introduction of the rifle in the American war of Independence and the use of long range targeting.  Up to then it was considered advantageous to hold your fire until the enemy had advanced to within around 20 meters or less of your position – hence ‘wait ’til you can see the whites of their eyes’ . Hence the need for very strict discipline and a strong  sense of duty in your infantrymen!  With the introduction of the flintlock musket reloading was faster and a typical time to reload might be 4 times that allowed   to fire, so if the if using the previously mentioned formations, the files might be 4 deep  instead of the previous eight or ten deep. In fact as time passed many different schemes of firing were tried in an attempt to create the optimum fire pattern, sometimes  organised so that if necessary more than 1/4 of the available muskets could be brought to bear in one volley, for instance against a cavalry charge when it would be all over in the time it took to reload.

Typical Cornish engine house from the 19th century  – usually associated with the tin mines, although this one at Baker’s pit may have been associated with china clay workings.

28th August  Yet another beautiful day – what has happened to Cornish weather?  We launched the boat at Mylor  and spent the day gently wafting about in the breeze soaking up the sun – we even managed a short swim, although the water was a bit chilly.  We felt quite intrepid until we saw all the kids immersed for hours!   Regular viewers of this blog will be pleased to hear that the Sensitive Plant is still with us, and reports from home indicate that the cockerel has not savaged anyone (yet).   I started to read up my military tactics – starting with the formation of the first English Standing army at the beginning of the English Civil wars.  The first battle at Edgehill was fought in October 1642 and since we didn’t have any established military infantry formations, the Parliamentarian forces adopted the Dutch formation, and the Royalists adopted the Swedish , although only decided on the morning of the battle, so they can hardly have been well rehearsed.  Both sides fired away at each other all day without gaining advantage until nightfall and ammunition supply problems brought the battle to a halt.  The rate of firing must have been slow because the drill for shooting the matchlocks was complex due to the hazard of having a permanently glowing match in hand while reloading from one of the 12 wooden tubes of powder in the infantryman’s bandolier – balls were kept in the mouth in the heat of battle.  The danger of the glowing match led to accidents – a soldier at Edgehill went to get powder from a barrel with a glowing match between his fingers and set off the whole barrel, killing several nearby…….

Just lying in the boat looking at the sails……… be envious!

27th August   Another beautiful day – we went to the  Young Farmers Annual Show at Swithians Showground  where we saw a demonstration by the Ferrgie Fillies (a group of country women) who did a splendid demonstration of formation   driving of vintage T20 Ferguson  tractors   – the commentary was hilarious  –  for a formation of  the 8 tractors as an arrowhead we were told that although it didn’t look particularly impressive from ground level, it looked much better  from directly above!    The sheave tossing involved  pitching a bundle of straw over a  high bar on a sort of rugby post –  I misheard and thought originally that it was sheep tossing, which would be a bit much for a public display!  We did a round of places to launch the boat, Mylor was full of cars and people, and Loe Beach was its usual delightful slightly scruffy self.  Here is a view of the beach at Hayle:-

Low tide –  this is the channel into Hayle Harbour – a tricky entrance at anything other than high tide.


27th August – resting in the garden in brilliant sunshine this morning after a rather tedious drive to Cornwall towing the dinghy – bound to be slow on a sunny bank holiday, although its past the peak as the schools go back soon.  Penny is a bit concerned because the Sensitive plant we brought with us is looking a bit the worse for the journey in a hot car – we brought it because she doesn’t quite trust our house guests to look after the it (hope they don’t find this blog!)  –  we do seem to bring strange things on holiday with us – last time we brought a dinghy to Cornwall on holiday years ago we had to bring a cage full of young ferrets that we couldn’t find a sitter for, so I put the cage in the boat.  When we got to Cornwall we had to call at Tesco to get milk and someone saw the cage of ferrets and asked what they were doing, so not really knowing what they expected me to say, I explained that they had never been sailing before so we had brought them so they could try it.  The chap looked at me strangely and then ran away…   It takes all sorts!

25th August – not sure what happened to yesterday!     One way or another I’m afraid that the next couple of weeks is going to be a bit gunless on my blog!  We usually charter a boat on the West coast of Scotland about this time of year, but we need one or both of our sons to crew a 43 ft sailing boat and this year they couldn’t be sure that they would be able to come, work possibly getting in the way, so we are going to our cottage in Cornwall  and taking our 16 ft dinghy to do a bit of pottering about around the south coast – we have been through every size of sailing boat, so this is more or less back to the beginning when we sailed a Wayfarer with a couple of young children – not the ideal boat for safe and gentle pottering.  Our Cornish Coble is a pleasantly staid boat but still manages to get along reasonably.  Anyway we’ve got friends coming to stay in our house so they can visit Cambridge – and look after our rather vicious (and noisy) cockerel.  I did post a picture of him last winter – I’ll see if I can find it.  He is magnificent  and struts about the garden king of all he surveys – I think I have got him to remove me from his list of creatures to threaten – when I went  near him in the garden he used to turn side on and edge towards me, twitching his near leg – he has pretty formidable spurs and was clearly preparing to use them – my ‘defence’ was to lunge at him so he backed off, which he did – he now doesn’t threaten.  Anyway I’ll expect almost daily reports from them on his conduct.  I had an amusing conversation with a neighbour, who is a farmer and keeps chickens  – he was telling me that he had  hatched 5 cockerels last year and that they were making a terrible noise at 4 in the morning – presumably he was being polite in not including ours in the number – anyway he did say he was going to move them to another part of the farm as there were neighbours there  who might ‘appreciate’ the noise!    I am taking a few things to do in the evenings as I sit by the woodburning stove (see Cornish Cottage) – I’m trying to get my head round the Mindstorms robotic programming so that I can keep up with the 9 year olds in my Science and Technology club!  I’ve also packed a couple of gun books – Crudingtons books on the British Shotgun, and  a book on infantry tactics in the Brown Bess era, when massed ranks of soldiers in brightly coloured uniforms stood facing each other  and the side that kept its head and had the best disciplined firing plan won.  It is called ‘Destructive and Formidable’ by David Blackmore and cover the period 1664 to 1746 – I hope it will give me some interesting insights to pass on through this blog.   I also packed the typescript book on William Palmer, Master Engraver as I want to go through the data and summarise it.

23rd August – I had an email recently from a collector who I’d done some work for asking if I knew anyone who had a Lancaster cartridge pistol with 2 or 4 barrels.  As he is a section 7(1) collector I got to thinking about possibly extending my own collection from the percussion era and a few obsolete calibres – .32 and .41 rimfire pistols that I got from my father’s estate.  Section 7(1) lets you keep what would otherwise be Section  5  pistols.  Section 5 pistols require the Home Secretary to authorise possession and is very restricted, but Section 7(1) is available with the normal firearms authorisation – it is still quite restrictive – you cannot shoot them or have ammunition for them, and the pistols have to meet one of four of strict criteria – historically important, aesthetic quality, technical interest or particular rarity – it also helps if they are part of a serious and relevant collection, but you can keep them at home.  Full details are in the relevant home office guide, see LINKS or LEGAL, I put them on both.  My interest in pistols is spreading out from my flint and percussion pistols – I am interested in the transition from the individually fettled guns of the 18th century to the mechanised production of the mid to late 19th.  It’s the transition from forging and filing to machining to final size that I find fascinating – what happened to the thousands of outworkers who made the individual parts of the guns – each person more or less specialising on one operations on one part of the gun!


22nd August – Pete came today to collect the repaired ejector nib on his hammergun – I hope it will do for another 100 years use!  He was interested in finding a gun to restore in some form or another, so I dug out an old Witton single barrelled gun – originally a rifle but now with a very rusty and battered smoothbore barrel of around 14 bore.  I’d had it for years and it wasn’t doing anything for me, except reminding me all the time of the jobs I still had to do so I passed it on to a good home.  It would make a passable rifle with the right barrrel, which I don’t have, and if I did I’d want to make a flintlock not a percussion.   I found another little facimile book today, its title is ‘Suggestions for the Cleaning and Management of Percussion Arms’ by George Lovell, ‘ Inspector of Small Arms for her Majestie’s Service  –  Published by Authority of the Master General and Board of Ordinace  etc.. – Lovell was a well respected figure in the development of military arms.  I don’t know when the facimile was printed, but the original by Lovell was printed in 1842 and describes in detail each part of the service musket of the time and how to clean and maintain it in some considerable detail with lots of line drawings – one day I’ll scan it and put it on this blog.  Dick rang to say he had a very fine pistol to fix with a beautifully stock inlaid with silver wire and would I like to go and see it?   as my car was away having the bushes on the anti-roll bar fixed, the answer was not today!  Its not back tonight, so I assume the parts were difficult to come by. Vehicles are a constant pain – we tend to buy good, often  high mileage cars and run them into the ground, having done a little ‘reshaping’ of the bodywork in the meantime.  We try to buy reasonable quality medium to large cars, and aim for a depreciation plus all costs except fuel of well less than £2K p.a. on average, which we usually achieve – I’m conscious of this as its coming up to  vehicle replacement time which requires a bit of research online to make the right choices.

21st August – A number of irrelevant struggles today!  Last night I read an interesting bit in Bosworth’s 1848 book (see yesterday) concerning the construction of ordinance and the strengths of various metals. Interestingly he says brass, which he specifies as an alloy of tin and copper that we would now call bronze, brass being the name we now give to predominantly copper – zinc alloys, is twice as strong as wrought iron or cast steel!  Talking of ordinance (cannon) he says that wrought iron is seldom used as  it is not very strong, and that cast steel forms  large, weak crystals when used in large masses as it cools slowly (can be true but is not the full story).  Its quite interesting to see how a lack of understanding of the crystal structure of iron/carbon solutions with face or body centered carbon atoms and cementine led them to ‘invent ‘ all sorts of explanations for   the hardening and tempering processes.  One piece of information that was completely new to me concerned very large ordinance – cannon with bore over 2 feet – used in Constantinople (now Istanbul) overlooking the Bosporus waterway against ships passing through or attacking the city.  It was virtually impossible to hit the ships by judging the trajectory – presumably the powder was not consistent enough to get repeatability – and the breech pressures with iron balls was too high for any barrel material known at the time, so as in very ancient times they used carefully worked stone balls.  The use of such a relatively light ball enabled them to fire the cannons more or less parallel to the water surface and let them bounce along the water  like a skimming stone thrown on the beach, thus relieving them of the necessity to get the elevation right – they just had to point the guns in the right horizontal direction!  Apparently this led to high kill rates –  it must have been terrifying watching a massive ball skimming across the water towards your ship. Shades of Barnes Wallis and the Dam Busters, only 100 years earlier –  I don’t suppose he had read Bosworth’s book!  I’m tempted to find a nice pond and try firing marbles along the surface- I wonder if I have a suitable marble-bore smoothbore gun – A couple of wads and a very light powder charge might work – I would of course need a model ship to make the experiment realistic ( and put the gun on a Sect 1 firearms certificate)!

This blog is getting a steady stream of visitors – around 220 per day quite consistently – which is gratifying, and I get a number of appreciative emails, usually with an interesting question attached – like the recent one asking if it was possible to resurrect a fine deactivated shotgun as an obsolete calibre rifle – I think the answer was that it would in all probability strictly speaking end up as a section 1 firearm, although if  all the parts used were pre 1939 it might possibly qualify as a section 58(2) obsolete calibre.  Even if it was initially it was a Section 1 by virtue of the re-modelling, if it was indistinguishable from an original and essentially pre 1939 it is difficult to see how it couldn’t subsequently revert to Section 58, possibly via a Registered Firearms Dealer.  I did discover that you can take any gun to the proof house and bring it back as a section 58 firearm – i.e. without it being on a firearms certificate.   In truth a lot of the aspects of firearms law are a bit woolly where antiques are concerned – the difference between say a .577 Enfield rifle kept as an ‘ornament’ or ‘curio’ and one kept with the ‘intention’ to shoot is clearly all in the mind – the first is  section 58(2) and can be freely kept and displayed (as long as I don’t have a criminal conviction) but the second is a section 1 firearm and I can get a mandatory prison sentence for having it without putting it on my certificate, and it has to be locked away!  What is more, I think I  can swap it back and forth, and in theory leave the slot for it on my certificate even when I’ve reverted  it to my collection at section 58 as long as I notify them each time, although I don’t think that would make me very popular.   What about intending ‘one day’ to shoot my section 58(2) Gibbs-Farquerson falling block rifle (Obsolete calibre – Gibbs No 2)?  It all points to the need for us to join both the MLAGB and BASC,  who work hard to protect our sport.

20th August – In the course of redecorating I had to move a bookcase full of miscellaneous books and as part of an ongoing de-cluttering process I have been sorting out some of the old books I have acquired from my father and other places and taking carrier bags full to Oxfam.  I am building a pretty comprehensive library of gun books – some inherited but a lot purchased at considerable expense and am always on the lookout for anything original.  As you can see from the picture above, one of my treasures is an original hand coloured copy of Ezakail Baker’s  handbook for the rifle at about the time of the first rifle regiments (see post Ezakail Baker’s Practice &c ….).  In my hunting upstairs earlier today I came across a copy of the ‘Text Book for Officers at Schools of Musketry’ revised in 1868, which covers theory of rifling and trajectory as known at that date plus how the ordinance made gunpowder – it appears to be concerned only with military muzzle loaders – mainly the Enfield.  A similar and slightly earlier book that I have in an old facsimile copy is ‘A Treatise on The Rifle, Musket, Pistol and Fowling Pieces’ by N Bosworth, originally published in 1848 – it is a pretty comprehensive treatise on almost random aspects of  guns, from refraction of light to the strengths of different kinds of tin – another interesting read…… While taking the books to Oxfam I stopped to browse their stock of old books and picked up a copy of ‘He Carried a Six Shooter’ by Stuart N Lake – the biography of Wyatt Earp  – it cost me £7.99 so it better be good – I’m saving it for holiday reading!  On the subject of books I am currently reading an original copy of  ‘Field,Cover and Trap Shooting’ by A.H.Bogardus – the champion wing shot of the world (and originator of the glass ball trap) – as he described himself. Published in 1878 it covers the transition from muzzle loader to breech loader. The bags he shot, almost none of which were driven shoots, are mind boggling to us now and he did it daily for years!  Another old book that is from a different age I am also reading is ‘The Sportsman’s Handbook of Practical Collecting Preserving and Artistic Setting Up … by Roland Ward – one of the most famous taxidermists ever, published in 1890!  Again it is so out of kilter with the modern age, although not as much as some of the older hunting books that describe Africa before loss of habitat and  over hunting  destroyed most of the big game.   Having written this paragraph I’m struck by how long book non-fiction titles were in the 19th century  – almost an essay in themselves.   Just to show that I’m not stuck in some Victorian swamp, I am also reading, or to be honest, struggling to read a very recent book – ‘Gun Culture in Early Modern England’ by Lois G Schwoerer, which SHOULD be an interesting book.  Unfortunately reading it is a bit like wading through treacle- English is not Schwoerer’s first language and he doesn’t know much about guns, neither of which are conducive to an easy read. Add the fact that it was clearly originally a thesis ( You can tell by the title – Early Modern is a term exclusively used in the history trade!)  and seems to have dispensed with the services of a copy editor, or indeed any kind of editor. Shame really as I’m sure there is a lot of good work if only I could see through the lack of logical order and the repetition.  I might have another try, it should at least be good for sending me to sleep, not that that is a problem I normally have, if only I didn’t find it so annoying………….

19th August – I’m not sure what I had in mind for tonight, but I got sidetracked by an email asking about a complex problem related to deactivated guns and obsolete calibres that had me reading through the Home Office Guidance on Firearms Licensing 2016, which effectively filled the hour I set aside.  It makes fascinating reading, particularly some of the illogicalities of the law  – for instance the occupier of land, including those who have shooting rights, can lend a shotgun to a non-certificate holder to shoot in his presence on the occupied land but only in person, whereas in the case of a rifle he or his servant can lend the rifle!  Anyway I found the information I was looking for – obsolete calibre firearms must have been made before 1939 to count for section 58(2).  The Acts are full of assorted cut off dates that probably have logical relationships to gun development, but they are not always obvious – as another example, you can make an inert gun with only relatively simple safeguards against making it shootable as long as its a replica of a gun made before 1870.  And then there is the section 7 cutoff of 1918, or so I believe – I must look into that…….  I have put the two most useful Home Office Guides on the bottom of the LINKS page,  Guidance on Firearms Licensing,  and Firearms Security Handbook  – they are both the definitive guidance issued to police and trump anything else you are told – until it changes!   see LINK tab at the top of this page.

18th August – Finished the decorating – I tried to get a local firm that matches paint colours to do me a Farrow and Ball colour but they didn’t get anywhere near so I left them with 2 litres of a failed attempt and went and bought the real thing at exorbitant price!   I always used to mix my own colours but I’ve got lazy and want to use colours out of a tin – the only trouble is that I don’t actually like the result that much!  I have dozens of tins that are not the colour on the label but are never the colour one wants now, or if its the right colour its not the right type of paint….   I did a little bit of engraving – literally!  I had another go at engraving round the edge of a 1p coin – its quite a big space – have a look at one.   I might try getting two rows of lettering on the edge next time but the copper is a bit soft for the finest work.  I’ll try to get some photos but it will involve setting up my microscope camera and I’ve probably forgotten all its little foibles!

17th August – Distempered the landing ceiling and walls – so my shoulders ache!  I had another gun to repair today – another 12 bore hammer gun that had a broken spur that pushes the extractors out then the gun is opened – on this gun it was filed up as part of the action flat so not a replaceable part. As in so many of these repairs, this was a re-repair of a brazed or hard soldered repair from the past.  They are always more of a pain than a straight weld of a fracture because you have to get rid of all the  foreign material before you can weld, and that invariably means that the close fit between the parts is lost and you have to make a guess at the exact alignment and find a way of holding it in place.  I tried holding the parts together with Plasticine but it had to be too close to the heat and didn’t work – its a difficult weld because the action flat side of the break is a massive heat sink, and the bit has no thermal inertia, so the bit gets red hot almost instantly at least until it has some weld connection to the main part.  Anyway I managed to jig it up and put on a bit of weld – I was using piano wire as a rod, to get a bit of carbon into the weld, but the danger is that you will let it cool too quickly and then it is too hard to file.  – Anyway after a bit of fiddling I got enough weld around it to look strong enough for the job and managed to tame the hard bit – it was then a case of filing it to fit and checking that it moved the extractor but also let it go right back in as the barrels came to the face.  That was all working nicely, but the fore – end didn’t fit and needed a bit more taken off the sides of the spur and general tidying up of the hinge area before the gun would open and close easily – I guess in total it took a couple of hours to get right – mostly because I am not a very expert welder and haven’t done that job before……  Here are some pics;-

The ‘spur’ had been brazed on but failed, so the joint had to be cleaned of brazing.

Finding a way of holding the parts in the correct alignment was a bit of a fiddle, but worked in the end…

I should point out that this is a fairly basic but decent working gun – I wouldn’t trust myself to do the same on a quality gun – I’d leave it to Jason..!

It’s nice to have photos coming out without the pink tinge!


16th August. Just got back from a trip into deepest Norfolk for a North Norfolk Music Festival performance of Walton’s Facade at South Creake Church – Brilliant, one of my favourite pieces of music – a good friend was playing trumpet.  That’s our bit of culture for the summer!  I went to see Dick today to give him the Steven Grant to store until collection.  He was giving me a lesson on ejector mechanisms, including a neat little box of tricks designed by Westley Richards, a genius a slightly off beat inventions.   He is working on a Purdy style ejector on a pretty little double .410 – I’ll take my camera over next week and get s few pictures.

15th August.  I had a visit from a fellow AML shooter with a 12 bore hammer gun (rebounding Stanton patent of 1866 locks, triple bite top lever action) with the rear trigger snapped off, with the bit in a bag.  I prefer not to keep other people’s breech loaders for longer than necessary, and then I take them to an RFD for storage as I’m not one myself, although as things are going that may become necessary. In this case I figured I should be able to do a ‘ while you wait’ repair myself, and only keep the gun if I failed!  I stripped out the broken trigger blade and clamped it to a slab of steel and positioned the broken bit with Plasticine while I tacked the sides of the break, then filed a deep ‘V’ across the face and fill welded it with piano wire as the welding rod.  All very satisfactory and not too much metal to file off  and it didn’t get hardened too much to file down and polish on the fibre wheel.  A quick flash with the fine oxygas flame to put a bit of colour into it and pop it all together, removing the caked grease and cleaning the rust off the trigger guard back and recess in the stock – all done in an hour or so and ready to go.  Plasticine is, as I may have mentioned, the precision welder’s best friend – it holds bits in position and doesn’t move when it gets hot – it is more or less a mixture of dried clay and Vaseline or something like that, and if it gets very hot the Vaseline evaporates and the clay remains in position, but usually the tack welding has been done by then.  As promised, I did take the locks off the LePage pistol to investigate the single trigger mechanism, but unfortunately I couldn’t get a stud out without damaging it and so couldn’t expose the mechanism well enough to photograph fully, so you will have to make do with a verbal description…   The trigger has a vertical axle sticking out of the top.  pivoting on this axle is a blade the longer  back part of which forms the trigger blade – It sits below the conventional sears and can swing to be under either the left or the right sear. a spring biases it to sit under the left sear.  An extension of the blade in front of the axle carries a stud that sticks out on the right hand side of the blade.  A cam slope on the tumbler of the right hand lock pushes the stud when the right hand lock is fully cocked, causing the blade to swing its front to the left and its back section to the right so that it sits under the right hand sear, at which point pulling the trigger  fires the right hand lock which fires the front charge.  If the right hand lock is not on full cock the blade always sits under the left hand sear and that lock will fire if it is cocked.  I noticed that if both cocks are on half cock the left cock will fire if the trigger is pulled – the half cock bent does not appear to be of re-entrant shape as you can see from the photograph.

Showing the stud in the blade in front of the pivot. 

The ramp on the tumbler  that acts on the stud is arrowed.  Notice that the half cock bent is not designed to resist a trigger pull – ergo it is not safe!  You’ll also notice if you look on this site regularly that I have got rid of most of the colour cast in these two photos – I changed 3 flourescent tubes near my photographic station to daylight tubes  – no expense spared in making your experience better!  I did buy a 50W daylight flat panel to put above the station, but left it in the shop, so that is another trip to Cambridge!


14th – I felt for the regular followers of this blog, having put up with my ramblings for far too long  (do I hear faint cried of Hear hear?) so I dug out an interesting pistol from the recesses of the collection I inherited from my father.   It’s French, by the well known Paris gunmaker Le Page and is a large bore percussion pistol firing superimposed charges – it has two cocks and a single bore into which two loads are placed, one after the other.  The right hand nipple leads to the front charge, and the left hand nipple leads directly to the rear charge.  It has a single trigger that releases one cock at a time – if both cocks are at full cock, the first pull fires the front charge, and the second pull the rear charge, but if only the left cock is at full cock it fires that one (corresponding to the rear charge, so it would be a bit unfortunate if it was double loaded and you accidentally cocked the left cock and didn’t cock the right!   Maybe I will take the locks out and have a look at the mechanism that achieves this and put it on the site- I’d like to see how it shoots one day, its a big bore (a 20 bore cartridge just fits into the muzzle) for a relatively light pistol and must have used a pretty small charge.  Obviously you need to get the loading dead right to make sure the flame channels line up with the charges  – I can feel a dummy loading coming on………

Anyway here it is – more in the new post ‘LePage pistol’

13TH – Sorry, no time for guns today.  Up at 5:30 to start the car boot at 6:30 – madness!   Anyway I did get rid of a fair bit of junk from the attic, and made a bit of pocket money, but still loads to go.  One booter explained to me that my cameras and lenses were too good and should be on Ebay in September when the courses in photography and art begin as they all use film cameras.  So next target is to bite the bullet and do a bit of ebaying after the holidays – to that end I got out all the kit I used for 1 hour for making an underwater video of the reaction of fish to seismic surveying in Mexico and getting it working so I could sell it – its a bit old but good and it still works…..

12th August – Quiet day – I’m doing another car boot sale tomorrow in the hope of clearing some more space in the attic – I seem to have loads of camera stuff to get rid of – including a camera from a Spitfire – a 12 Volt electric cine camera that ran at the same frame rate as the guns fired – by coincidence there was a Spitfire parked in the middle of Newmarket today – on display. It was a non-flying one without a Merlin engine, but it had apparently taken someone 30 years to make and it did look pretty convincing inside and out.  I packed up a few gun related  bits to send off – part of my current plan to get rid of all the things I don’t want to keep  – my trouble is usually that as soon as I have reluctantly parted with anything, a sudden and urgent demand drops, metaphorically speaking, through the letterbox.  A couple of years ago I dumped a load of plastic parts I’d had made for a seabed system over 10 years before, that I thought had gone out of use years ago,  The bins went at 10 o’clock in the morning and an email asking if I still had any came at 4 p.m. the same day out of the blue! – that bit of clearing out cost me a few hundred pounds.   Similarly I dumped  2 large boxes of patent reprints from about 15 years before, only to get a query re similar patents 2 days later.  My current policy is ‘ If you can easily buy another one or its junk it goes, if not , keep it).

11th August – Looking further at the theoretical loads for black powder muzzle loaders, since by Newtons law force = mass x acceleration,  to keep the acceleration constant as we increase the shot load, we need to increase the force in proportion to the shot weight, so  1 1/2 oz shot load needs 1 1/2 times the powder used for a 1 oz load  and so on.  Simple really – more or less the same powder charge for the same shot load whatever the bore size (within sensible limits – probably works for 16 to 12 bore?).   That at least is the simple theory – but we all know life is not quite like that.   The hammer of the Steven Grant of a few days ago has now been expertly welded and filed up and I got it back to engrave.  The previous botched repair had had some re-engraving done to a similar botched standard, and some of it was still extant – we didn’t file it all off as the spur of the repaired hammer was already slightly slimmer than the original – anyway, I re-engraved it as best I could in the circumstances and it now looks a reasonable match for the right hand hammer – its a real fiddle doing hammers because of the compound curves, and some cuts are almost impossible – I used my lining graver as a sort of scraper to put lines down the middle of the hammer where the spur joins the body as you can’t get a conventional graver to the correct angle to cut.   I’m happy that it looks a lot better than it did, and it is now strong enough to stand any normal use.  Its all back together now and ready to go.


10th August – Went for an ‘informal’ shoot at Eriswell with half a dozen of the AML gang – I decided that I was going to get to the bottom of my failure to get any of my flintlocks to go off properly fast when others could load them and get them to work well!  I took my Twigg (see Twigg puzzle) which doesn’t have a link on the mainspring or a roller frizzen but should still be reasonable, and it has always given very few misfires.  I had tried various priming powders I had, including some OB ( the AML preferred primer) that I had bought at great expense so today I tried the OB again, expecting good results, but disappointment again – then I compared my ‘OB’ with Viking’s and we realised that mine was a lot coarser, in fact not OB at all!  I don’t know how that happened, but somewhere in the supply chain I had been given the wrong stuff – probably Swiss No 1.  Anyway Viking very kindly lent me a small flask of ‘proper’ OB and lo and behold I managed to break a few clays with a flintlock – quite a breakthrough for me.   While wandering from stand to stand I got to thinking about charge sizes, as muzzle loading folk use a variety of bore sizes from 6 to 20 or so, although mostly in the range 10 to 16 bore.  We seem to more or less ignore bore size in discussing what powder charge we are using, although most of us use quite similar shot loads and, for percussion guns, similar barrel lengths.  Anyway I thought I’d try to work out a theoretical optimum based on some simple physics (that being the only sort I can do while wandering about!).   Basically, a given weight of black powder converts to a given amount of gas, so to accelerate a similar shot load to a given velocity through a similar distance the force on the wad needs to be the same.   The fixed amount of powder converts to a fixed volume of gas, which generates a pressure that is inversely proportional to the volume – and for a fixed length of barrel that is proportional to bore area.  But the force driving the fixed weight of shot down the barrel is generated by the pressure acting on the wad, and for a given velocity and shot weight the force must be the same – the force is given by the pressure times the area.  So  for a fixed powder and shot load we have pressure proportional to 1/area and force proportional to pressure times area – so the area of the bore disappears from the calculation – so theoretically we should use the same powder charge for the same shot load irrespective of bore size. which is somewhat counter intuitive!  It does ignore practical considerations like the friction of the wad on the barrel walls, and speed of burning and the buildup of pressure etc. but in principle it explains why we can all talk about that powder charge we use without specifying too carefully what bore our guns are.

9th August – A visit from a Yorkshire muzzle loader down south to visit Holts – we had a very pleasant few hours looking at some of my collection and a few he had brought with him – He had brought a cased Beaumont Adams revolver in 54 bore so I showed him my almost identical one – I have an empty case I was going to put it in so I photographed his case and label to give me something to work on.  He had a bullet mould with his that didn’t have the spiggot on the base that holds the wad on the original Adams revolvers – I don’t know when it was dropped.  I have a rather beaten up early Adams stamped 56 bore that is unusual in that the action is the mirror image of the normal action – the cylinder rotates anticlockwise and when you remove the pin it drops out on the left side – a few were made like that by Tranter – I am not sure why, possibly for left handed shooters, although it seems it would be only a slight advantage to the shooter, and a significant trouble to reverse all the parts.  My visitor brought a nice 16 bore percussion rifle with a fairly authentic looking peep sight on the back, although like my Samuel Nock rifle, the pinhole in its lowest position is much higher than the bead of the foresight, so it won’t sight at shorter ranges.   I suspect that the peep sight had been adapted to fit the gun, but whether the foresight was meant to be replaced, as I have done, or it was only shot at longer ranges isn’t clear.   I think, as I’ve said eleswhere, that these rifles were shot with quite light powder charges (1 1/2 dr) so the velocity was quite low and the drop at range would have been considerable – even so I’d think that the sights would not be much use below about 200 yards or more.   When I get our a few of my guns I always end up realising how many still have things to attend to – like finishing the locks on the Lancaster  double rifle!  And stripping and documenting and repairing the enclosed lock J R Cooper patent percussion gun.   I did venture into the workshop and made a nipple for the New Land Hanovarian conversion – it turned out that the nipple hole was a good fit for 9/32 B.S.F. for which I have taps and dies.  I always turn the nipple thread end and cut the thread and drill the bottom bit of the hole, then rough down the nipple area and part it off, then put a tapped block in the chuck and screw in the nipple and finish it off.  I stood the nipple up in the vice with lead on the jaws and filed the square – normally my filing is a bit wonky, but this one was good!  I hardened it with Blackley’s colour case hardening powder to colour it down – I probably ought to temper it a bit- I usually take them to a purple-blue if I’m going to shoot them, so they don’t fracture – I’m using EN8 steel.  It could be a bit longer and a bit fatter to hold the nipple better and so that it doesn’t come off when the cock is on the bolt, but it will do for the time being…. I don’t intend to shoot it…….

Could probably do with a bit of rusting etc!  It looks a bit new.

Cased Beaumont Adams 54 bore revolver


8th August – Had a couple of chaps from ‘Green Deal’ here insulating my roof for free, courtesy HM government, with 12 inches of glass wool.  When they first came to do it a couple of weeks ago they  couldn’t get through the 10 inch square loft opening so they sent a different team today who made me a nice hatch into the loft, which I had been meaning to do for years – in fact for 23 years since we moved in – and then laid the insulation!   And all free!  The only downside is that clearing the landing of books, pictures and ‘treasures’ like an original ticker tape machine and an old railway ‘train on line’ single line working indicator so they wouldn’t get covered in dust just showed up how much the decoration had got tatty since it  was done about 20 years ago.  So I suppose that is a job to be done now the place is empty…………better see if I still have the original can of paint handy!  I really think decoration should last 50 years, but it was done with distemper which is a bit fragile………  Dick had a go at sorting the hammer of the Stephen Grant (see a couple of days ago)  and it became clear that it had at some point in the past had the spur completely broken off and very badly welded back on without any penetration – hence it was so weak it eventually broke on the impact of the hammer on the firing pin.  It will be fixed properly this time!

7th August – I took some photos of a relic I saw in someone’s collection of bits and pieces on the way to be destroyed so that I could put one on this website – its an early centrefire double 12 bore to Joseph Needham’s patent 1544 of 1862 with what Cruddington describes as Rotating single bolt snap action.  The lever pivots on a shaft near the top of the action face and works a bolt that moves out from just below the  action face, giving it an advantageous leverage.  The unusual feature of Needham’s patent is that the lever has an ‘elbow’ that moves the hammer to half cock as it is depressed.  A similar ‘elbow’ fixed to the other end of the shaft cocks the left hammer to half cock.   The date of Needham’s patent indicates that it may have been made from 1862, although the gun and variations of it sold well, and the patent was also taken up by Holland and Westley Richards.  The locks are missing, but could be from before or after rebounding locks were invented around 1867….. although it hardly needs rebounding locks as the hammers are lifted out of the way before the gun is finally opened.  Shame this is all that is left of the gun….  On the subject of patents, I looked again at the Stephen Grant illustrated below with the cracked cock and noticed the action face was stamped E.C. Hodges Patent  257, the 257 being a serialisation not the patent number.  The patent is No 3113 of 1865 for a firing pin that is in line with the axis of the bore – achieved by a rather indirect coupling between the firing pin hit by the hammer, and a separate bit that fires the cap – you can’t see anything from outside.   The Grant gun does not have rebounding locks so probably dates between 1865 and about 1870 . I gather that the hammer failed due to the shock of it stopping when it hit the firing pin and the nut around it, and that it was known to have a fault.  I has now gone to be very carefully welded by our expert Jason at Speciality Welders in Haverhill.   The fun thing about these early breech loaders is that there were so many patents and variations, and  examples of many of them still exist.

Needham’s patent 3113 of 1865  –  The ‘elbow’ that lifts the breast of the hammer to half cock position can be seen on the back of the lever.  A similar elbow is fixed on the other end of the cross shaft.

The bolt is close to the action face – I’m not sure of the function of the little spring near the hinge pin.

6th August – I picked up one gun to play with at CGC yesterday – an early Stephen Grant hammer gun with Jones underlever and non rebounding locks that had a cracked cock.  The owner wanted the cock replaced with a casting because he was not convinced that a welding job would be strong enough.  The crack is at the back of the spur and so must have been caused by the gun being dropped butt first and the spur catching on something pretty solid – or some similar action, but not over enthusiastic cocking which would crack it from the front. (p.s. it cracked from the shock of hitting the  firing pin and surrounding nut as there was a fault in the metal almost fully across the spur).  In order to replace the cock with a casting, the existing cock would need to be repaired carefully to match its opposite number exactly, which would probably involve welding it back  in position.  A silicone resin cast would then be made to form a mould for a wax to be cast, the wax would then be mounted on a ‘tree’ with lots of other wax castings of other moulds, dipped repeatedly in suspensions of fireclay and sand to form a composite mould, then dried out carefully and finally heated in a furness to melt out the wax – molten steel is then poured into the near white hot ceramic mould to make the steel casting.  Some detail is inevitably lost in the three transfers  ( part to mould, mould to wax, steel to ceramic mould), and there is some shrinkage in the wax and in the steel so that the final casting is some 2 to 5% smaller than the original.   Looking at the cracked cock I am sure it can be repaired as strong as it was  originally, although I would get Jason to do the welding rather than attempt it myself to be on the safe side.  I’ll take it to Dicks when I get a chance to get his opinion, but I don’t think a casting will match the right hand cock particularly well, even if I re-engrave it carefully.

Pretty gun – It must have been quite a blow on the back of the cock, or else there was a bad defect in the metal. – Under the microscope it looks like the latter – there wasn’t much good metal holding it on, just a thin skin at the back, the rest of the break is an old fault.

5th August – One benefit of keeping this blog up to date is that when I got to CGC today to shoot I was handed a plastic bag of 16 bore cards in response to my blog that I had run out!  Thanks Bev!   I did the competition in the morning with my trusty Egg muzzle loader with mixed results, but I felt that my lesson had got me back on track as most of my misses were at tricky clays.  In the afternoon I used the Beretta hammer 20 bore, which I didn’t do too badly with, although I did realise, prompted by some recollections from Viking, that it had a pretty tight choke in both barrels (at least half choke or nearly full ) – apparently typical of Beretta hammer guns from the 1950s.  Anyway it seems to throw a pretty tight pattern compared to the typical modern 12 bore so I’ll use that as an excuse for not hitting more clays!   I think it does need the trigger pull regulated – possibly just the sear spring taken down a bit and a bit of polishing on the nose of the sear – I will consult Dick, who is much more used to modern guns than I am.  I had another look at the Lees 8 bore percussion gun that I described  earlier as a wildfowling gun, but we decided that it wasn’t heavy enough – wildfowl guns were meant to shoot large shot loads and were pretty heavy to control the resultant recoil  – this was only about 7 to 8 lbs, so was probably a live pigeon gun.  Anyway the consensus was that 3 to 3 1/2 drams of Czech powder (2 3/4 of Swiss) was plenty enough, with 1  1/8 to  1  1/2 oz. of shot.  A 12 lb wildfowling 8 to 6 bore might shoot 5 to 6 drams and 2 or 2 1/2 ox of shot if one felt brave enough.

4th August – Off at Cambridge Gun Cub all day – Martin was kindly giving me a lesson, which certainly highlighted where I was going wrong – I now need to get that embedded in my reflexes so I don’t shoot with my conscious brain!  Difficult for someone who likes to think about everything and is prone to analyse.  Very well worth it, and my little 20 bore suits me well, although Clare thought the trigger pull was a bit heavy – I’ll check it out when I can find some 20 bore snap caps.  After my lesson we entertained a party of newcomers to muzzle loading to give them a chance to try both percussion and flint  – I think I used up my entire supply of  16 bore cards so I may have to scrounge some for the regular Anglian Muzzle Loaders’ shoot tomorrow – or make some if I have time after cleaning my guns from today and making bread ( not, I hope, gunpowder or oil flavoured!).  I need to take some 1/4 BSF nipples for a fellow M/L shooter if I can find some.  I could actually do with some more myself as the nipples in my ‘working’ muzzle loading double are getting a bit mushroomed and the caps don’t fit properly – I did try to grind them a little on my fine diamond hone, so I think that will act as a holding operation!  I might have a go at making some more titanium nipples – the last ones were good, although its early days yet as they have only fired 30 or 40 shots so far.

3rd August – I had a very pleasant day cruising on the Thames on a narrow boat, and came across an amazing sight at Caversham Lock – we came up behind a convoy of amphibious vehicles waiting to go down the lock.  There was every kind of amphibious vehicle you could wish to see, from a Citroen estate car with a big outboard on the back to a number of military amphibians, in a rally from all over Europe that apparently attracted some 55 entrants.  The military vehicles included  a couple of amphibious U.S. army Jeeps circa 1939 and a couple of US Personel Carriers that looked really interesting – they had apparently been designed and made in 3 months for the Normandy landings and were intended to have an operational life of 3 weeks!  And here they were more than 70 yeas later, still in very good condition and fully functional – amazing.  I had a very interesting conversation with the organiser (from UK) about a book I remembered reading some 50 years ago called Half Safe about a chap who crossed the Atlantic in an amphibious Jeep ( in the 1950s?) with his newly acquired wife  –  according to my informant she left him as soon as her feet touched dry land, but he knew much more of the story and indeed he had the manuscripts of two further books describing his continuation round the world, which apparently have been published – I must follow them up!  I didn’t see a British DUWK amphibious vehicle amonst those waiting, but most of the vehicles/boats  had already gone through the lock.  On the shooting front, which after all is what this blog is supposed to be about, I’m off to Cambridge Gun club tomorrow for a shooting lesson to see if I can get a bit more consistency into my shooting – I’ll take my usual muzzle loader, the D Egg double with back action locks, plus my Miruku 12 bore and the Beretta 20 bore hammer gun I bought recently.  So we shall see if lessons do me any good!  I’ll report back, unless I turn out to be so bad that I want to keep quiet about it!

1st August – The year rushes on!  And I spent most of the day on the telephone with the service department trying to sort out a friend’s alarm system – I think in the end I got there….  I just had time to get back to micro-engraving this evening, so I thought I’d see  how I got on with curved letters at the 1/2 mm scale… Finding words that only have curved caps in them is difficult – you only have 2 vowels to play with , U & O, which limits vocabulary somewhat!  there are several that end in ..USS or ..OSS but I couldn’t come up with a complete sentence!  Anyway engraving curved letters is an order of magnitude more difficult than the straight line caps and I had to revert to EN8 steel to get it right – I also need a tool with an almost non-existent heel or it drags round the bends and spoils the  shape.   I can just about do 1/3 mm (13 thou) but a bit ragged!  In the end I  started to engrave round the edge of a 1 p piece, which worked out well…    Today was almost a record for visits to the site  270 so far today and 37 referrals from search engines.. I can usually see from the search words why they got to this site, but today I was left wondering how a search for ‘ oil field Bator’ on Bing directed someone to this site, maybe I’ll try myself!  – I just did and I’m none the wiser!   I am sorry that I’ll probably not be posting until Friday as I have a very busy few days and evenings….  I’ll have to think of something appropriate to engrave round the edge of my 1 p piece – a good use for what is becoming a completely useless coin.

30th July – I left at 6 a.m. to go to the car boot sale at Fulbourn- I only do them when I feel that I must clear some space in the attic  – it has to be pretty desperate for me to raise the energy, but it was, so I did!  I actually got rid of a lot of stuff in to the ‘zombies’ in the first ten minutes at the prices I wanted, and ended up taking very little home with me in the way of bulky things. So successful was it, in fact that I might have another go before long and clear out some more stuff……..   I even had a wildfowler on the stand who had a muzzle loader at home – I suggested he might look at this website, so welcome if you do!   Having another look at the New Land, I think it would improve things if I did de-rust the lockplate and the cock – I probably won’t strip the lock first – we’ll see what happens!

29th July – Today there were 5 times as many visitors attempting to hack this site as there were legitimate users!   They probably represent a few hundred warped individuals using botnets hosted on the computers (or routers) of unsuspecting  owners – there are tens of thousands of  routers in use that have a shocking vulnerability that makes them very easy to load with rogue software.  Most of them get permanently blocked from accessing this site, but it all makes work!  I finished off the New Land as far as I planned to go, but I’m now wondering if it would look better if I derusted the cock and lockplate – I will contemplate the issue!  I spent the afternoon filling the Land Cruiser with ‘stuff’ to take to a car boot sale tomorrow – not so much to make money as to get rid of clutter – I’ll probably give most of it away for a few pence  rather than bring it home!  I love the ‘zombies’ at car boot sales who descend on you the moment you arrive and want to see what you have so that they can buy anything they think they will be able to sell on for more – they almost climb into the car in their rush to uncover supposed treasures – I contemplate just having an auction on the spot and getting rid of the whole car contents in one go and leaving – the chap in the buchers’ shop suggested I might throw in my car as well, but I wouldn’t want to put potential buyers off!   So that is most of tomorrow written off!  Anyway, here is the Hanoverian New Land as of today…….

I probably ought to recover the background board!  More pics in the New Land post.

28th July – Where has the summer gone?  I lit the woodburner this evening for a bit of cheer!  The New Land is almost done – a nice sticky layer  of ‘slakum’  ( linseed oil & beeswax & driers ) is just setting up on the stock at the moment, and the barrel looks OK so I should have the finished photos tomorrow.  I spent the day struggling to get a control system to talk to the internet – frustrating… So I reverted to the mind numbing activity of trying to engrave smaller and smaller writing!   I decided that my EN8 steel is a bit soft so I changed to hard brass – usually a pig to engrave, but good for very small things.  It is difficult to do letters with curves in them, especially ‘S’s and ‘B’s so I tried a short sentence that only had straight letters – WE ALL LIVE IN A HAZE – which just about sums life up.  When I have mastered the straight line letters I’ll have a go at the curved ones, but I think I will have to come up with a more suitably shaped graver.  Here is my test piece – the scale is in 1/2 mm divisions (20 thou)  so the letter heights from the top line are  about  2/3 m.m. (26 thou),  1/2 mm  (20 thou) , 1/3 mm ( 13 thou) ,  1/4 mm (10 thou)   and 1/6th mm  (6 thou).  By the time I got to  1/6th mm I had to stop putting serifs on the letters as I was running out of magnification on the microscope (max x 25) and I didn’t have an arm steady for my right arm.  My aim is to get to 1/4 mm including curved letters but it is quite challenging!   Why bother, I hear you ask – there is no answer!

Click on the photo for a clearer view.


27th July – I went with Dick to deepest Norfolk to visit a fellow collector – as usual we took a few choice pieces to show and looked at some interesting guns including a little single barrel hammer  shotgun with Jones underlever engraved below the knuckle with the words ‘converted by Richards Norwich’.  We spent some time trying to work out what the conversion had been from.  It could not have been from percussion as the breech had integral lumps etc,  there was no sign of a notch for a pinfire, and the cock would have been funny if it had reached the pin, and the firing pin was obviously part of the original design.  It couldn’t have been from a rifle as there was no sign of a rear sight mount, so we were left with a change of calibre – the barrel seemed too light for good balance, and the breech seemed too thin.  We surmised that it was now a 24 bore ( there were once cartridges in that size) from the 25 stamped under the barrel between two Birmingham proof marks – we didn’t have a bore gauge.  What gauge it was before ‘conversion’ we couldn’t guess – possibly 28 bore?  Anyway it kept us amused for a while.  We also saw a fine Blunderbuss with a Forsythe scent bottle lock that had come from a Bonham’s sale – it was in near perfect condition, but not looking quite like a perfect sleeper – it had apparently been in the Holland and Holland collection in the past and I thought that it had probably ‘gone through the works’  at Holland’s at some point.  The trouble with extensive refinishing of a gun is that it leaves you wondering if it could be a complete fabrication, although in this case I think not.  I took the New Land pattern to show as it has the clever safety bolt – the main purpose of the bolt is that it blocks the cock very securely from hitting the nipple but holds it fairly close so that a cap on the nipple cannot come off but cannot be fired, even if the pistol is dropped on the cock, until the pistol is put on half cock – some way back from the bolted position – and the bolt withdrawn.  The bolt has a spring fixed within the false breech acting in one of two grooves in the underside of the bolt so that it is firmly held in the lock or the free position.  This means the pistol can be carried with a cap on the nipple and the cock let down onto the bolt in complete safety – it can then be fired without having to fumble for a cap – put it on half cock, move bolt to left, full cock fire……   Clever and safe!     Unfortunately my pistol got banged on the butt cap, which dislodged one of my repairs that I’d stuck on with superglue that had not for some reason done its job properly – I have now glued a new piece in using Araldite and used an Araldite walnut dust mix to fill in any gaps.  The barrel is still rusting but the tang nail is finished – 20 minutes in the derusting tank with the voltage reversed so it acts as a rusting tank  dulled it down enough to look OK.   It had had a going over with Blackley’s colour case hardening compound which basically makes everything look greyish.

26th  July – After a morning spent struggling with websites I thought to make the tang nail for the New Land Pattern – making screws being one of my favourite things (Julie Andrews singing in the background…….). Having established that it was about 1 B.A., and having a 1 B.A. die I went out to the outside workshop where my lathe is, to begin turning a piece of 10 mm rod to size – BUT turning the handwheel on the saddle didn’t move it, so no nail without first stripping the saddle which is a pain and I’d forgotten how it came apart… Anyway it was a 5 m.m. roll pin that had come out or sheared – I didn’t find the parts but I had some spares so it is now fixed and the screw made – first a blank with a false head as below, then make it fit and mark the lower flange with the slot alignment, cut off the top and put in the slot and finish the head ( on a grindwheel and a 240 diamond hone and a fibre wheel.  Having done that I’m not sure if the military pistols would have bothered to align the slots.  I would put up a photo of it finished but its in the cellar being rusted…. along with the breech end of the barrel –  here is an out of focus photo of the nail start – I don’t often get photos out of focus – I use manual focus, and because my camera is up high so that I can put things on the bench to photograph, I use the camera screen and magnify to get a dead sharp focus where I want it.  I almost always use around f6.3 aperture as it gives a compromise between image sharpness and depth of field, and lets me use the room lighting, or sometimes with a white LED  panel handheld to show some particular feature.  Using the screen to focus means that the reflex mirror is already up when the shutter is released, thus minimising any camera shake in case the tripod isn’t steady enough.

I had to grind the thread end a bit, as it was too long.

26th July – Had a  bit of a battle with the website as I couldn’t log on due to my having changed a file to try to stop people logging on to disrupt the site – so I suppose it served me right – but then I tied to sort it and made the site so that no-one could even look at it! Oops….   Anyway I spent some time moving files from my other WordPress websites and generally fiddling in a desperate attempt to regain entry – a case of thrashing about like a headless chicken… Anyway, as you might gather from the fact that you and I are here now, I succeeded!   I’m getting on with the New Land pattern – the stock is looking good – I’m pretty happy that it is now finished.  I made new pins to hold the trigger guard and trigger in place using lengths of an old steel knitting needle, so that leaves getting the browning on the barrel sorted where I stupidly derusted the breech area some time ago, and making a nipple for top hat military caps.  I am unsure what thread they are – since the breech block was made in Germany, it could be anything.  The metric system was first   realised in France in 1799, abandoned in 1812, and readopted in 1837, but didn’t become a true international standard until 1875.  The thread looks like 26 or 28 t.p.i – anyway finer that the 20 t.p.i. of an Enfield musket.  I think 9/32 x 26 t.p.i. will fit if I make it a bit oversize and swage it in the hole!  The only problem is that I have a plug tap in 9/32 x 26 but no die!  I keep buying odd taps and dies but never have the size I want apart from my set of UNF & UNC up to No 8.

25th July – I now know the origin of the converted New Land pattern thanks to a German follower of the blog – it was converted in Hanover  for the Hanoverian Artillery  around 1844.  see http://www.waffensammler-kuratorium.de/HannArtillerie/hannArtillerieti.html     see also on the post on this blog….  Thank you Joerg!    So now I know its an interesting pistol, not just a boring conversion I had better sort it out!   At some time I started to repair it by gluing in a new bit of wood on the butt, and re-gluing a chip the other side – but I think it was before I had much idea about these things and I got the chip a bit displaced.   There was a ragged chunk missing around the barrel bolt on the muzzle end of stock, and when I came to dig it out I found that quite a lot of the ‘wood’ was pretty weak filler – one thing I have learnt is that it is easier to repair things if you cut back to a clean surfaces with the minimum number of  faces, all flat… see teh New Land Hanovarian conversion post for more photos..

The break down the back face of the cutout bit is from the pin that held the bolt in – I guess someone pulled the bolt out too far and broke off a chunk of wood with the pin and bolt – they tried to use filler, but most fell out……. I’ve cut it all away.


24th Off to King’s Lynn to listen to 17 yr old nephew Ben’s composition played as part of the King’s Lynn music festival by a  professional string quartet  – amazing what the young can achieve given the opportunity.  That is why I run my club for primary school children – left completely to their own devices they (mostly aged 8 & 9) planned and put on a presentation to parents with comperes, computer presentations and live displays of their  Lego Mindstorms robotic devices.  A big problem of today’s education system is that the kids are not given the opportunity to screw something up without it being labelled as failure!    While in that part of Norfolk we visited Castle Rising castle – a splendid castle of 1140 with the usual changes and additions – mostly sadly a ruin but with a couple of rooms in the forebuilding – I always come away from places like that dreaming of reconstructing them – strictly a dream as any messing about with historic ruins is definitely a no-no in the heritage trade!  …. All that by way of saying I didn’t have time to do anything with guns!   However, my contacts in the muzzle loading shooting game continue to multiply – I had a call from  someone who wants a shootable double 10 bore – but not a heavy wildfowl gun of 12 lbs – email me if you have one for sale – see CONTACT.   Talking of lbs and inches, I guess after Brexit we will no longer be allowed to use Kg and metric measures – I bought a metric ruler today in case they become unavailable…………………………………………………..

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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

Outline design.

Cut edges of raised part more or less vertical


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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


 Posted by at 3:12 pm
Apr 172018

___________________ DIARY _____________  _________

7th April – Gave up on Parcelforce after another ‘I’m very sorry but there is nothing I can do…’ so went and bought another basin and fittings for another £150.  Now I suppose there will be a fight to get the money back on the original order from Better Bathrooms!  I heard  today that E.J. Blackley, the founder of the eponymous company has died.  A great guy and a great inventive genius – the business continues to be run by his son Kevin.     I had a look at diamond sharpening stones, and was pleasantly surprised that the prices were considerably less than the last time I tried to buy one.  From  www.buybettertools.com  a 6 inch DMT (reliable brand) stone in 1200, 600 or 325 grit  costs 29.99 including VAT.   My very fine diamond stone is a DMT extra extra fine at 8000 grit, but I didn’t feel it was worth the cost (£101.99)  as it didn’t give a very good surface finish.  A half decent 6 inch x 2 inch Arkansas stone is going to cost at least £50, but with care you could make do with a  slip of 1 inch x 3 inches. (disclaimer – I have no connection with ‘buy better tools’ and have never used them, but the stones are branded so shop around for DMT diamond stones…)  I looked at optical visors before I got a microscope, and borrowed an expensive Optivisor, but it didn’t really do anything special for me that a cheap one didn’t do perfectly well.  As explained elsewhere, with simple optics there is a direct relationship between magnification and working distance  – the higher the magnification the shorter the working distance. A magnification of 3.5 is about right to give you enough room to engrave without sticking the graver in your nose.   A number of professional engravers use a single loupe or eyeglass in one eye, and engrave with their face very close to the work, but I find it very difficult.  I now rely entirely on my microscope which gives me magnifications from about 5 up to  x  25, but a decent stereo microscope that is suitable for engraving will cost you several hundred pounds secondhand, or about £600 or more for a Chinese version.  I found a very good second hand Wilde ( later Leica) with stand for the price of a new Chinese model.  I was lucky that the microscope I found had almost suitable magnifications for engraving, and I found an add on lens that made it perfect for my work.  The big advantage of a microscope is that the more complex optics breaks the relationship between magnification and working distance, so that I can have about  120mm of working distance at all magnifications I can use.  Don’t buy a microscope until you have checked out the magnifications available and the working distance- you need a low mag. of x5 or less, and are unlikely to need much above x25 even for very fine work.  A  working distance of around 120mm is good – much more and you can’t get your hands and eye into comfortable relative positions, much lee and there isn’t room for your hands between the objective lens and the workpiece.

6th April – Still tearing my hair out over my missing parcel which hasn’t materialised. Hours trying to phone just gets people who say ‘ terribly sorry, but there is nothing we can do’  – Its still in Birmingham as far as I can see, but in the digital pipeline and inaccessible to mere humans – it it doesn’t materialise tomorrow I’ll have to find a substitute.  The missing item is a bathroom basin that I need to replace one I have already taken to the dump, and I need the room  finished soon as it will be used next week.  It’s supposed to be delivered tomorrow, but I’m loosing hope…………………   Thinking about starting engraving, I realise there is quite a threshold to cross, because, althought it seems that it is a fairly simple process, you can’t really see well enough with the naked eye so you need an optical aid of some sort, which you won’t at first be used to using.  You also need some means of holding the workpiece, and  since the force you need to exert for engraving steel is quite high, the holding needs to be secure but you need to be able to move it with your other (left) hand and to use it to oppose the force of the engraving hand.  All this bearing in mind that in the beginning your graver will occasionally come out of the metal  suddenly and fly off and impale your other hand – all that without the complication of actually engraving.  Plus there is the problem of what you are going to engrave!  I haven’t managed to find a source of suitable soft, uniform steel with a fine or polished surface in pieces that are handy for engraving.  I usually buy cold rolled mild steel bar in 6 or 8 x 50 mm in 3m lengths and get it cut into 150mm lengths by the supplier  ( I need to check who is best)  and then get a local firm to surface grind it, but I haven’t found anyone who will produce a suitable surface, so I have to do a lot of work to get the surfacc fit for engraving with a fine file and then wet and dry down to 1000 grit.  I have bought cheap little engineers squares and engraved those for practice – check out Tracy Tools on the web, great service and very very cheap for what seems like perfectly good stuff – I get blanks for gravers from them, plus drills, taps and dies.   I must investigate getting steel with a decent finish and add it to my shop.  Having got that far with our beginning engraving, we then meet the next little problem – within a few minutes you will either have blunted your graver or more probably broken off the tip as you tried to finish off a cut without impaling yourself – so you need to sharpen it – whole new can of worms!  As a beginner you CANNOT sharpen a graver without a jig, you can get a proprietory one or get one of mine.  Then you need a ‘stone’ to sharpen it on, and since gravers are hard and the surface to be sharpened is small they will quickly wear the surface of anything but the hardest ‘stone’ into an uneven shape that won’t sharpen true. If you break the tip off your graver you’ll need to remove quite a lot of metal, perhaps 1/4 mm or more to get the point back, so you need a fairly coarse ‘stone’,  but that won’t give you a very good finish so you need a finer ‘stone’ for finishing.  Even that stone will be a bit fierce for putting the tiny heel faces on the back of the point  ( maybe a triengle of 1/4mm side).  So you need 3 ‘stones’, preferably the coarse and the finishing will be diamond ‘stones’, and the heel stone an Arcansas stone – about the hardest, finest stone in use – you can’t get proper black Arkansas any more, but the white is OK.  I use 260  and a 1200 diamond, and a white Arkansas stone, plus I have an old  10000 grit diamond that I just use for starting the heels so that I don’t score the Arkansas   ( the 10000 grit diamond was a disappointment for sharpening as it didn’t give a particularly good surface and was very expensive).  You can’t shirk the sharpening palaver especially when beginning as you’ll spend around  1/4 to  1/3 of your time doing it, and you won’t get much joy out of your engraving until you have mastered it.  BUT  it is perfectly possible to master it all in time – I did, and I didn’t have any hints on steel engraving, just an old graver that I used  rather primatively on brass 50 years ago……………  If all that sounds a bit daunting you can always cheat and start with copper, which you can buy with a good finish and won’t require so much force, or be so destructive of your tools, so less sharpening time, then when you have made some progress you can make the transition to steel.  I wouldn’t recommend brass  as it is difficult to get a soft grade that engraves easily – most brass is a pain to engrave as it requires quite a bit of force to cut but will then suddenly yield and your tool will skid off making a nasty unintended cut across the surface and into the side of your thumb!  I have found rifle cartridge cases engrave well but the curved surface is not easy for beginners……

5th April – Spent hours chasing a parcel that had gone astray and that I needed urgently.  The , I bought it off had given it to Parcelforce in time, but Parcelforce had ‘ sent it to the wrong depot’  – how you can do that with everything computerised with bar codes is beyond me.  Anyway I spent hours waiting in queues to talk to the supplier and getting no-where – the phone number they gave me for Parcelforce also got nowhere  In the end I googled ‘Parcelforce Birmingham phone number’ (the latest depot it had been sent to) and in 30 seconds got sense and a promise that it would be prioritised and arrive tomorrow morning – we shall see!  Anyway I got so frustrated that I took a chainsaw to a massive Budlia tree/bush and reduced it to a mangled stump, which left me with a very large heap of tangled branches to get rid of  – still, I felt better for it.  Still having some issues with my over enthusiastic Rottweiler blocking my visitor, but I’m working on it.  And so, unfortunately the Gun Case Blog is again neglected.  I had an email asking about what was needed to start engraving, so I might see if I can come up with a simple list.  I get a few emails every week from visitors to the site and I’m always pleased to hear from interested enthusiasts, so if you have any questions you think I might be able to answer, or constructive comments for that matter, email me as per CONTACTS………….

4th April – My Rottweiler (named Wordfence – see below if you are not a follower of my blog) bit me, presumably for interfering in his choice of who to block from this blog, and blocked me!   That is more difficult to deal with than his blocking of other people, as I can’t get onto the site to unblock myself!  Fortunately I have a ‘get out of jail’ card, otherwise I wouldn’t be on the blog now.  I’m sure it blocked me for some transgression that I hadn’t committed – If you get blocked from the site email me and I’ll sort it!    These tribulations are sent to try us……….

3rd April – Internet came back last night, probably somewhere flooded, there was a lot of  water about and the phone was on the blink too.    I managed to re-instate a regular visitor to this blog who had somehow got blocked by my  pet Rotweiler  – Wordfence – that guards my blog against the (literally) hundreds of attacks every day.  Anyway I managed to catch it blocking his IP address and duly admonished it.  Peace is now restored!   I was prompted by his recommendation to a watch ‘The Repair Shop’ on BBC2   that I’d recently been invited to apply to take part in a TV show being produced that wanted real ‘nutters’ who were prepared to go to any lengths to find parts etc to restore the object of their passion, the nuttier the better.  I did give them a brief  intro to the world of muzzle loading shooting and restoration,  but I must, unusually, have sounded too sane for their plans, and they went off in search of more interesting nutters – perhaps like the 40 odd families I met at a lock on the Thames this summer who were each driving some form of amphibious vehicle on a  rally  on the river – ex army DUKW’s, amphibious 1940’s Jeeps, converted estate cars and whatever the little amphibious car of the 1970’s was  – 40 of them in total – what a sight.  The extraordinary thing was that they had come from all over Europe, as far as Poland, driving the bigger vehicles or trailing the smaller ones – talking to them,  I realised that I and  my muzzle loading friend are indeed sadly far far too sane to qualify!

2nd April  – My internet is playing up and its almost impossible to do anything – try again tomorrow!

1 st April  Too late for April fool’s jokes, that has to be before noon.   I have been reading Keith Neal and Back’s book on gun cases and trade cards.  Its a very useful guide to dating cases and also for anyone who wants to case antique guns, either in an antique case or a adapted box.  While the best course of acction for anyone contemplating doing that would be to buy a copy of the book, they are hard to come by and expensive, so one gun may not justify the trouble and expense – I thought I’d extract some essential information from the book and put it in a Post, and add a table of dating features to my GUN DATES page – so that is the intention.  I also need to do the promised Post on duelling pistols…..

30th march – Almost another month gone…  I put all the furniture back on the 8 bore, where I know the fit is bad I put a bit of hard black wax on the edge using my tiny hot air gun (1/4 inch nozzle) to take up the gap, and melt more into any remaining gaps.  The butt plate needed the bottom edge trimmed slightly – they often stick out a bit and catch, anyway it all went together reasonably well, and I got the screw heads aligned perfectly.  So its beginning to come together – at the moment its all covered with sticky slacum ( boiled linseed, beeswax and terbene driers) waiting for it to go jelly like so I can wipe/rub it all off again.  This process will be repeated until the finish is good enough, although it is always possible after a few coats to change to wax furniture polish and cheat!  I was checking Brownell’s website for honing stones – I might just buy a few bits to make up a hone – the regular ones go up to 10 bore but I’m sure I can fudge things – the extension rod to make the hones long enough to go down the barrel are much more expensive than the rest of the kit and definitely won’t work with 8 bore barrels, so again I’ll resort to making something.  I wish I had access to a Delapina lap, but never mind!  I am not sure I have the perfect recipe for Slacum – I did a series of trials and came up with a maximum of 5% beeswax and around 1% terbene driers – but it didn’t seem that critical, apart from keeping the beeswax content at 5% or less.  On the last lot I made the terbene went into short strings when I added it to the oil – not sure what happened there………..  My hard wax is made up of beeswax and carbon black, but it is possible to buy very hard coloured wax for repairing scratches in furniture that would be better – trouble is it costs £100 for a kit and has mostly colours we wouldn’t use.   I was wondering today what essential kit one would advise someone starting out in restoration to buy initially – If I think what I would not like to be without, apart from the obvious collection of screwdrivers (turnscrews in gun speak) I guess I’d say a simple derusting setup, if necessary using an old phone charger or similar, and a cheap grinder with a very fine wire brush (probably as expensive as cheap grinder!).  If I were mostly dealing with guns in better condition than I normally restore, I’d probably come up with a different list.  Whichever you tackle, the need to be able to make screws will come up sooner or later if you can’t outsource that work, which takes you into the realms of a small lathe and taps and dies.  And so it goes on………& on……………..& on………………………………………………….

The steel cup is a bit thick (limited by size of available end mill!) and I didn’t get rid of all the defects around it, but its meant as a functional restoration.  Steaming has taken most of the dings out – minimal sanding was done – it is very effective.



The finial is quite badly rusted round the edges, which makes the fit rather poor, but improved!  It no linger looks like a tired old gun that has been neglected and I hope one day it will see use again when the barrel is done.


29th March – More 8 bore…   I forgot to mention when discussing removing screws that one of the problems with fitted screws in old guns is that the heads are contoured to fit the furniture and as you unscrew them you need to keep the screwdriver aligned with the slot, which often means tilting it as you turn it, otherwise you partially come out of the slot.  Anyway having stripped and cleaned all the furniture I escalated the job to include gently refinishing the stock as it had plenty of dings etc.  I inlet a small piece of wood where a bit had come out round the finial of the trigger plate and cut the surface flush and refitted the finial temporarily, then set about steaming out the dings in the spout of a kettle on the AGA – difficult to do if you are using an electric kettle, but a wallpaper steamer would work.  That got out or reduced a lot of the dings and destroyed some of the finish so I removed  most of the rest on the butt with 320 grit sandpaper and methylated spirits (wood alcohol) as it was varnished with shellac.  I cleaned  the chequering using an old toothbrush and meths, enough to show the chequering reasonably clearly.  Several goes over the stock with medium grade steel wool and meths got it to a reasonable finish – I didn’t want a complete strip to bare wood, just a somewhat better finish.  There were a number of black stains – probably iron stains, so I very carefully applied oxalic acid with an artist’s paint brush to soften the stains – you need to be very careful or it will bleach the unstained wood very pale – if that happens you will need to colour it down with Van Dyke crystals in water or a spirit stain, applied carefully.  When you apply oxalic acid or stain using an artist’s brush, apply it streakily along the grain of the wood – that way you hide any edges amongst the grain markings.   Having got the wood to a fair finish and acceptable colour I wipe over it all with a piece of kitchen roll dipped in shellac dissolved in meths – button polish is one name for it –  this seals the grain.  Applying a second coat messes up the finish because it leaves smear  marks, so at that point I’ll go to using ‘slacum’ to give an English oil finish, which will require several dozen coats, but before that I’ll remount all the furniture.  At the moment I’m waiting for the butt plate screws and the sling mount to derust….. I also need to fit the steel cup for the side nail.   The next big job will be to sort the barrel, but that may have to wait a while as I need to make/buy a tool for lapping the barrel before I rebrown it.  lapping the barerl will have to wait while I clear out the outside workshop as I can’t move in there at the moment for stuff bought back from the flat – I have just about cut up all the wood from the window surrounds and fittings but all the tools, plumbing bits and electrical wiring parts are scattered around – if you don’t get much gun stuff on the blog for a bit it will be because I’m trying to have a massive sortout – there is a certain amount of domestic pressure for de-cluttering etc in addition to the workshop……………….. Happy Easter!

28th March – Continued with the 8 Bore restoration today with a visit to Dick to use his vice and torch to shift the breechblock, which we did successfully –  its a strange fact that breech plugs almost always come out with  perfect threads without a trace of rust.  Any rust is usually confined to a tiny bit around the joint at the barrel and on the edge facing into the powder chamber.  I don’t know what they used to lubricate the thread, but it certainly lasted 200 years or so! This one was no different, once heated almost to wood charring temperature and held very very securely in the vice it yielded to a 2 ft lever and came out easily thereafter.  The passage from nipple to main chamber contained a lot of hard blackish powder, but as it was slightly damped with cleaner or whatever I couldn’t get it to flare like black powder although I think it may have had some in it – by the way, I DID carefully probe the barrel with a screw rod to check it wasn’t loaded before heating it!  Anyway a trip to the electrolytic bath and a bit more picking out the passages with bits of bent wire and I’m sure its clear now.   Now the breech plug is out I can see that the barrel is pretty reasonable, certainly shootable.  I may have a go at lapping it if I can make a suitable tool.   The side screw hole was a mess so I dropped a 16mm cutter into it and made a plug and glued it in, but I then made a steel cup for the head of the side nail so I might put that in instead.  I initially thought that I would leave the butt plate as they are usually horrible to get out, but the rest of the furniture looked so much better than it did, so I took it off.  The two screws holding the butt plate are almost guaranteed to be rusted around the heads and stuck fast.  The threads are often rusty and stuck in the wood too, often pulling most of the threaded wood out with them.  The technique to get them out is to very carefully pick out the slot in the head of the screws down to the metal, and put some release ‘oil’ on the joint – I put a small drop of gun oil and then take a brush of Acetone and brush it around the edge of the screws – it penetrates better than proprietary penetrating oils.  You need to hold the butt very securely and have a screwdriver that is a perfect fit and try carefully.  The top one is usually the worst – if it doesn’t budge fairly easily play a fine torch flame onto the screw head ( it does need to be a very fine flame) and try again.  The 8 bore butt plate screws came out fairly easily, the top one with heat, and once started the screws themselves were as clean as a whistle.  There was quite a bit of flake rust on the inside of the buttplate and on the wood and it took about 3 hours at 2.8Amps to derust the buttplate fully.  Having derusted the furniture and thoroughly wire wheel brushed them ( .03mm wire brush)  I generally coat the hidden surfaces with ‘Metalguard’ which leaves a thin anti-corrosion film over the surface of the metal as its in a fairly active state after derusting and will rust easily.  I’m generally happy to put the furniture back with just the Metalguard as protection, sometimes putting on another coat if the part has been handled much since first coating. Most oils and greases soak into the wood so be sparing if you use any behind the fittings.


You know how it is?  Having got so far with the restoration (actually more of a tidy-up)  I can see that the woodwork could be a bit better, so for completeness I might just steam out the dings, and possibly refinish it – in for a penny, in for a pound……

Yes, I know its not quite centered!

The buttplate is held on by two screws and the tab along the top.  After removing the screws the whole buttplate must be moved backwards by 6 mm to disengage the tab.  As you can see, there was quite a lot of rust under the plate- its surprising that the two screws were in perfect condition in the wood.

27th March – I think I have identified a couple of cocks from E J Blackley & Son for the Post Office pistol and the Mortimer, so I rang Kevin B up and had a nice long chat – Kevin asked if the P.O. pistols would have had a French style cock ( either a spur cock or a true French cock ) or an old style cock.  The French style use their ‘chin’ as a stop on the edge of the flash guard, rather than a step on the back of the cock hitting the edge of the lock. Kevin pointed out that the stock needs a small cut-away section for the stop of the ‘English’ cock, whereas the ‘chin stop’ doesn’t have the cut-out.  We decided that they had had English cocks and possibly his pattern FC91 would fit so I’ll order a couple.   The ‘Mortimer’ of course hasn’t yet got a stock so I can’t use that guide to the cock style, but the locks were made for a mainspring without a link, bearing directly on the tumbler as of old, so I guess that its an old style lock and  would suit an ‘English’ cock – I guess it probably didn’t have a roller or link on the tail of the frizzen or the frizzen spring either.  I reckon Blackleys cocks FC90 would fill the bill – I’ll have a look for frizzzen spring castings for the ‘Mortimer’, but I’ll probably make the mainsprings as I enjoy that.  I’ll see Kevin at the Birmingham Antique Arms fair in June so I hope they will be cast by then – Kevin says he is doing fairly frequent castings now.    I stripped the furniture from the 8 bore and put it through the electrolytic derusting.  It was quite pitted and the engraving is quite worn and pitted so it won’t restore to anything like original state, and as most of the bits are hardened, I can’t easily recut them.  I did try on the finial of the trigger plate by annealing it, but its too far pitted to make any difference so I’ll leave it.  The wood around the furniture is badly stained black, and on one side of the finial is missing – I think the staining is a combination of rust and too much oil on the wood – my father, who owned the 8 bore before me, used to slosh oil about on guns and several of ‘his’ guns suffered from staining, although in this case there is also quite a lot of rust under the furniture  that I have now scraped away carefully.  I’ll go down to Dicks tomorrow and we’ll remove the 8 bore breech plug (with luck) – I ran out of gas for my Butane torch today, and my vice is not really man enough.  I also need to take back the engraving I did for himon the Fowler duelling pistols.  I will start a new post on both the PO pistols and the 8 bore.

Looking at the insurance certificate that came after transferring my insurance to the new Land Cruiser I spotted an exclusion – apparently I was allowed to carry up to 2000 cartridges but no explosives – now of course black powder is an explosive so I was a bit concerned that my insurance would be invalid if I carried a flask of BP to Cambridge Gun Club, let alone brought a couple of Kg back from purchase from our group.  Anyway not wanting to find my insurance void I rang my broker and explained how I used black powder in a muzzle loader instead of cartridges.  They very helpfully said that’s OK, you can have BP up to the equivalent of 2000 cartridges – now at 2.5 drams per shot and 1.77 grams per dram that amounts to round about 10Kg. of BP !  Anyway I said thank you very much, and they made a note on my insurance that they have authorised it.  Result!  But you had better check your own insurance if you carry BP in your car.

A selection of cocks from stock, on the left ? for the good PO pistol, the rest are ? for the ‘Mortimer’, FC 90 is on the right.

Furniture as was – click on pictures to see in detail.


After an hour each in the electrolytic derusting bath and a fine wire wheel.



26th March – the year marches on…  I managed to sell my old Land Cruiser Amazon for the asking price and it was away within 8 hours of it being bought so that makes the new one a bit less of a shock to the finances.  I drove the old one to get it out, not having driven it since I got the new one, and immediately realised just how much more solid and hefty it was – a lot more tank-like to drive too.  But I did really like it and it didn’t let me down once in 10 years, so goodbye……   I took a photo of the two Post Office issue pistols I bought in Bonhams for a ridiculous price some time ago – I still can’t work out why as there is a lot of work in restoring them.  They were listed as rare so I guess I was taken in in an absent minded moment!

What a mess!

By Harding, some of the lock parts are missing, and one cock is completely wrong, the other is possibly OK but a replacement.  It will be a very good exercise in restoration for this blog!  I now need to source a pair of cocks for these pistols and a pair for the ‘Mortimer’ repros.

25th March – busy day – has the feel of the first day of spring which I define as being able to leave the back door wide open while you potter about outside without worrying about the kitchen getting cold.  I sorted the kit to go in the new Land Cruiser – it is the same position in the range as the old one but doesn’t have quite the solid feel of the last and while most gadgets  are identical it has lost the programmable driver’s seat positions and the steering column now adjusts manually instead of by motors.  I guess the weight has been cut down a bit to improve fuel consumption – I can now carry the (removable)  back row seats with one hand where I used to struggle to lift them.  But it does have a camera to view the tow hitch while reversing!  My old one is getting lots of offers on Ebay, but so far not quite high enough to temp me.

Looking round for guns to sell to make some space ( pistols don’t really take much room) I came across an 8 bore percussion wildfowling gun – its reasonably nice – wildfowl guns were never very fancy as they were strictly working tools for rough conditions, – I can’t read the name as the lock is a bit worn and pitted.  The barrel is pretty heavy and fine on the outside but had patches of rust inside so I set about cleaning it by running 320 grade paper up and down by hand and in a drill . This generated a lot of messy rust as I’d squirted Napier cleaner down the barrel.  Anyway after a long session including getting bits of 320 grit paper stuck in the barrel, and then ‘loosing’ a couple of tissues that I was using to clean out the mess I did get it clean enough to look at the bore – probably OK is the interim verdict.  I took out the flattened nipple with some difficulty but there is no passage through to the barrel.  The next stage is to remove the breech block – its  a round barrel with a scalloped ‘flat’  on  top so I’ll have to be very careful not to damage things.  I had a try with the breech cold but I was in my indoor workshop and the vice is not really man enough for the job and you do more damage that way, so I need to migrate to the outside workshop which I haven’t used since the Autumn and is full of junk – nothing is simple…….   Anyway when I’ve had a good look at it I will tidy it up and put it up for sale on this website – I suspect that it will again make a fine wildfowling gun…. but I’ll sell it as an antique anyway.

8 Bore single wildfowling gun – a typical functional working gun – it will clean up very nicely

24th March  I had a look at a typical Irish Duelling pistol from the height of the duelling craze in Ireland

Features of note are;-

  • Octagonal barrel – after about 1770 – Spanish form before then.
  • Round butt section – most early English duellers had flats down the sides, wider at first.  Post 1790?  The ‘hatching with 4 dots in each diamond resembles that used by Durs Egg in the early days of the genre.
  • Roller on frizzen spring (also known as ‘feather  spring’)  This is probably post 1780 ish.
  • Bolts secure barrel – replaced pins around 1775, later style pistols had silver ovals round bolts for protection.
  • non rainproof pan – not necessarily a good dating guide as many old style pans were made long after the rainproof pan was patented.
  • Running leaf (feather) engraved border to lock – this came into use in English guns around the turn of the century(?), along with little bits of engraving such as that on the cock of this gun – I’d rate this a strong pointer to a date.
  • No set trigger – the best duellers usually had a set trigger, but some customers probably didn’t want them on teh guns they ordered.
  • Tip of cock rolls forward – early or old fashioned feature.

By Comparison here is a duelling pistol by Hutchinson of Dublin.

It has;

  • No hatching, small flats on butt – probably earlier than the above
  • A link from the tail of the frizzen to the frizzen spring – probably an early feature, maybe 1770s. (later – roller on frizzen tail, then on spring.)
  • Similarly plain lock – the cock is a replacement, copied from another Dublin dueller by Edwards of about the same date(?).
  • Tip of cock rolled forwards .
  • More pronounced ‘swamp’ on barrel.  (i.e. a more pronounced ‘waist’)

I’d probably put the top one at around 1800  or a bit later,  mainly on account of the lock border engraving – other features support a date of 1790 or later.  The Hutchinson may be  a bit earlier – possibly around 1780 to 1790.   Estimates like this are always approximate unless you have something more concrete to go on, like an patent, or the introduction of platinum (John Manton 1805 ish) but in this case the link on the frizzen is an unusual feature and suggests an earlier rather than a later date, unless it was a speciality of Hutchinson.  Of the two, I’d say the Hutchinson is the more elegant pistol.



22nd March Had a look at the result of Holts Auction – quite a lot of guns sold at the low estimate and I noticed a couple that sold below the bottom estimate, which is almost unheard of in Holts, although fairly normal in Bonhams and other auctions.  A couple of guns went well above estimates, but its a difficult job picking out what will appeal to collectors and I guess its easy when you are pricing hundreds of guns to miss the occasional special.   There were a number of unsold lots too. It’s impossible to tell how much the price achieved is more or less set by the estimates, or its just that the estimates are accurate – for expensive stuff the price is determined externally to a large extent, but for the run of the mill stuff I suspect that the estimates are important in setting the price achieved.  Difficult to make a judgement about my area as there were not many decent muzzle loading shotguns, although I think it would have been possible to pick up something shootable at a reasonable price.   The Nock 7 barreled gun made £20,000 but it was very fine.  Unfortunately I couldn’t find any suitable restoration projects for the blog, so I’ll have to do one of the many that I already have.  Went to test drive a car for a friend but had to wait while the salesman sold a £50000 10 year old Aston Martin to a youngish looking chap – I can’t imagine what the insurance must have been – but not my cup of tea even if I had the cash.  Off tomorrow to pickup my ”new’ 9 year old Land Cruiser – come to think of it, by comparison maybe the Aston Martin wasn’t such a bad buy!   Dick has a pair of duelling pistols by Hawker of Dublin for light restoration – Hewker was second only to Rigby as an Irish gunmaker of the late 18th century.    ( ……Usual for breakfast)

21st March – busy day – off to Holts at their new location in Blackheath, S.E. London.  I drove because I had the Alex. Henry and the Theo. Richards to return, and I also wanted to go to Cricklewood to look at a replacement Land Cruiser so it involved a journey across London – not only did I have to pay the congestion charge but an additional ‘naughty boy’ charge for having an old diesel vehicle – around £21 in all.  But it is quicker than the previous journey by train to Hammersmith.  Anyway I meet increasing numbers of ‘old friends’ at the auctions as my circle of contacts widens, which is nice although it cuts down the time available for looking at guns.  I did check out a few percussion shotguns and had a quick look for good restoration projects (none) and checked out a gun that Martin fancied.  One  friend I met said apropos of this blog that I  included everything except what I had for breakfast!  Well, just to complete the picture, the answer is toast.  No more details will be revealed.  On to Cricklewood where I crawled under and over an ’09 Land Cruiser that was starting to corrode underneath – shame as the price was good, then onward to another on the way home which was the same age but much better and lower mileage but more expensive than my target – but I bought it nevertheless after a bit of a haggle, so now have to get rid of mine on ebay as the part exchange price didn’t excite me.  Now I will have a smart, undented vehicle for the first time in ages, have to try to keep it that way!   I’m pleased to report that our work on the Alex Henry met with much admiration – it was a good example of our ‘less is more’ approach – do the least that you can get away with to achieve the truly authentic result, and make your improvements incrementally – only resort to major surgery when a bit of simple cleaning and refurbishing leaves obvious problems.   Had a discussion about making ramrods – one suggestion was a section of an old greenheart fishing rod, optionally ‘ebonised’ with a blowtorch.  We all went away determined to have a try with out preferred method, so I’ll  have to finish the ebony squares I have cut – I will try and make a jig to plane them octagonal, or possibly 16 sided, and then experiment with a form of ‘cenreless grinding’ with a belt sander, or possibly turning in a lathe by advancing in short sections – we shall see, I’ll report here…..

19th march – I sold the pair of pocket pistols by Abbey of Long Sutton – it was a beautiful little set and quite a bargain – I am not sure why I sell my small stuff and keep all the big guns, they take up too much room!  now I’ll have to find a few more from my collection to put on the website – its time to go hunting for some restoration bargains, although I can’t pretend that there is any profit in it, (except to my wife, who fortunately doesn’t read this blog!).  I do have a little pair of flintlock pocket pistols made for the Post Office – at least it  is two almost identical pistols.  They are in very bad condition and missing the proper cocks.  I bought them at auction for a ridiculously high price – they were catalogued as ‘rare’ and I fell for it, more fool me, although I suppose someone else must have bid one offer down from me so I’m not entirely alone in the idiot stakes. Anyway I ought to fix them up, which involves getting cocks for at least the  one that has a very home made cock. The one with the almost right cock has 1969 and some initials  stamped tidily on the back of the cock, so that is hardly original!  I also have to get a pair of cocks for the ‘Mortimer’ pistols so I’ll have to hunt around. I’ll do some photos of the Post Office pistols some time.  I discovered this morning that my little CNC machine had managed to bend its spindle a bit so the cutter doesn’t run true – must have happened when it drove the cutter into the work in a mad moment – the only solution is a new DC motor at £40 or a nice brushless 500 watt motor at £90. Unfortunately neither have substantial bearings, but maybe I’m expecting too much.  Tomorrow is a day for car hunting if I can find any to look at – I also have a couple of meetings at the school which promise to be ‘interesting’……… c’est la vie.  Wednesday is Holts viewing and Thursday and Friday might wrap up the vehicle saga, who knows…………….

18th March.  I got into trouble from one of the regular readers  of this blog for my tardiness in keeping him entertained!  Apologies!  I will do better in future….  Yesterday we had an Anglian Muzzle loaders shoot at Cambridge Gun Club in the freezing cold  – I had lost my capper on the last game shoot of the season and hadn’t replaced it so by the end of the morning standing around for 2 hours in a biting wind I could only fit a cap on the nipple by a sort of random process of tries since I couldn’t feel anything.   Unusually we shot the ‘driven’ stand as part of the competition, which helped (almost) everyone’s scores – I can shoot those clays well when they are coming more or less overhead but the few that come lower to the side I miss.  I think the ones I can hit are the ones where the muzzle of the gun blanks out the clay as you try to get a lead on it, so you are effectively shooting ‘Churchill’ style ( follow, accelerate, fire as you pass the clay and keep going)  rather than maintained lead where you get in front and try to judge how far ahead you need to be as you wave the gun about.  I also manage to hit a few that are so fast I don’t think I stand a cat in hell’s chance of hitting them so there is no chance of a considered maintained lead  – I obviously need to train myself a bit better.   Anyway I had  a reasonable result by my standards!     Apropos  of  the parts for the Mortimer duellers, I looked through my bookcase for inspiration and came across a book that I didn’t remember – The British Duelling Pistol by John A Atkinson published in UK and Canada in or before 1978  which is a very thorough summary of the development of the type from 1770 to 1850 or so with particular reference to the key makers – Griffin (&Tow), Twigg, Wogden, Durs Egg, Staudenmayer and the Mantons.  It has lots of dating information and lots of typical 1970’s black and white photographs that are almost entirely useless as the only details visible are things that show up in outline!   In spite of that it is a very good reference, although how accurate it is I am not sure – I say that because its section on Forsyth seems not to agree with things I have read elsewhere – for instance claiming that his initial work was with chlorate mixtures rather than the fulminates as mentioned in his patent.  There is also no mention of Purdy who was involved in his business as far as I understand – I had better read Keith Neal’s book on Forsyth next…..  One detail that interested me was the observation that the gold poinsons set in the breech blocks of guns were stamped with a gold foil facing, rather than being solid gold pressings – bit like UK copper coins nowadays!   That might explain why those in my Manton double flintlock have lost their gold, and make it more acceptable for me to gold plate them.   This week I’m off to view Holts sale on Wednesday in Blackheath – first time since move from Hammersmith – its quite convenient as its an hour and twenty minutes away and plenty of parking  – I just need to remember to book the Dartmouth crossing on the web before I go or I’ll be in trouble.    I’m not planning to buy anything, although I have a few things to check out for friends and a couple of guns to take back for people who will be at the sale, plus a couple of guns that are going into the next auction.  I must try and find a day to go on another car hunt – I’ve promised to find a small car for a friend, so I’m looking at the baby version of the car I got for Penny – a Mazda – not as common as one might expect, but right at the top of the Warrenty Direct reliability index, and they should know as they insure cars against mechanical breakdown – also cool looking, although I’m not sure my friend will be as keen on a red one as Penny was ( I’d already bought it when she saw it so in truth she didn’t have much choice) !    And I started to strike up the barrels of the ‘Mortimer’ to see how much work they needed – quite a lot of file marks to get rid of, it turns out!   I’m hoping I can train my little CNC machine to cut the lock pockets and possibly profile the stocks – hope dies eternal in the human breast…..  Goodnight.

14th March – I just noticed – something strange has happened to this website.  A few days ago the number of daily visitors dropped from about 350 to about 170 – almost halved.  My first thought was that all my regulars had given up as I’d vanished, but I didn’t think I had that many daily visitors!  A careful check in my protection software showed me that almost all the attacks on the site that try to find a way to log in ( but don’t get anywhere near finding out how)  had stopped overnight – so half the traffic to the site was spurious, and presumably since it all stopped pretty suddenly it must all have come ultimately from a single coordinating centre.  I wonder if its gone for good?

14 March – Sorry, long time without blogging!   I decided that all my old shot flasks leak and because of the way they are sewn it tears the leather beyond repair, so I thought I’d make another one, using a modelling clay block to mould some soft suede round and then clamping round the edge it with a couple of bits of ply with the right shaped cutout .  Cutting out the profile for the clamping plates seemed like a nice easy job for my CNC miller but its got me totally confused – the actual milling seems OK  BUT the mill shoots all over the work area before starting and usually crashes into one edge stop or another.  I have tried editing the G code file but I can’t work out where or why its flying about in the pre-amble – maybe it will all come clear tomorrow!    I went hunting for a replacement Land Cruiser today – its fascinating what you learn from people in the used car trade if you chat to them.  I found that the reason there were virtually no 2009 or 2010 Land Cruisers on the market is that they all get shipped to Kenya, which won’t allow import of pre-2009 vehicles.  The older ones go to Tanzania.  Apparently a team comes over to the UK a couple of times a year from each country and just buys them all up to ship back – presumably new ones carry a huge tax and the bane of old Land Cruisers in the UK – underbody corrosion – doesn’t happen in hot climates so they last indefinitely.   I might have found a good one  but I have to wait for the boss to come into the showroom to see if he will accept my offer!  Then I’ll have to get rid of my old one, rust and all, although I did get a fairly decent offer in part exchange –  because he knew he could certainly sell it on to the Tanzanians. Unfortunately the P/E offer related to a Land Cruiser that I didn’t want to buy at a different used car lot.    I often get queries about gun related matters via this blog – at the moment I’m trying to help unravel a J Probin flintlock that is missing the locks and has a gold banner with ‘WESTLEY RICHARDS’ on the barrel which seems a bit out of place…. any ideas?

9th March – I am still working on the cnc miller, but making progress.  I have found a workaround for most problems, and I created a model of a curved shape as a trial – although it was only a small shape 30 mm x 100 mm it had radiused  top edges and they take a lot of passes to shape – the estimated time to complete was over 2 hours, but on the first run the cutter came loose in the collet and I had to abort the run – I couldn’t work out how to resume it, so I started again from the beginning with a new piece of wood . On the second try I accidentally closed the program on my laptop half way through, and that killed the job!  But each time I get more things sorted out.  The job I’d most like to be able to do is to cut accurate lock pockets, so I have started to look at ways to copy parts from photos as locks are not good for drawing using the normal tools in CAD packages!  Anyway here are the photos of the parts for the pair of Manton Duelling pistols I bought off Dick – the locks were beautifully made by an ex-Purdy man – the cocks are wrong so we’ll get some older style ones. One false breech is wrong, but it is possible to make one from stock steel with an angle grinder and a bit of welding and a lot of drilling and filing!   I’m not sure about the Blackley castings of the trigger guards – they may be a bit late – the originals would probably have had a simple acorn finial in front of the guard and a wider guard.  I’m not sure about the set triggers either – a bit of research is needed!  Going through some dating clues I would put the model for these parts at the late 1970s – it has the old pan shape, which changed around the early 1780s, but a fully octagonal barrel that came in during the 1770s.  It could have been half stocked, but I think probably without a rib, but with loops for the ramrod fixed directly to the barrel.  More research needed!

and they need mainsprings and frizzen springs………………………

6th March – I’ve been rather busy trying to get my little CNC 3040 milling machine working.  Up to a point I have succeeded – well I’ve learnt a lot along the way.  I haven’t done anything useful yet as I’m still struggling to get the host software (bCNC) working properly – after each job the P.C. looses its connection to the cnc controller box and has to be reset, which is a pain – I’m not sure if it will run a proper job without stopping but I’m getting near to trying.  I’ll have to get a CAD program up and running to generate something to make – probably Fusion 360 as its free!   I got a set of parts for a pair of fine duelling pistols from Dick – tehy were made by someone who was a Purdy gunsmith some time ago – the locks are fine – machined from solid, not castings but he didn’t have the proper cocks. They need a few more bits sorted but will make a fine pair of pistols.  The barrels are nice but I suspect they are not twist so won’t pass as the real thing.  I’ll make them up as a pair of inert pistols as I don’t want to bother with putting them on a certificate – at the moment the barrels are unfinished.  I have some nice walnut for stocks, so it should make a good project – Dick says thay are copies of a Mortimer pair – I must look out some photos so that I can get teh engraving right.  I’ll post some photos of the bits soon, when I stop playing with the CNC.

March 1st  – Quite Arctic round here and a bit of snow, coming home last night my 4×4 was skating all over the road if it got half a chance.  I spent the morning taping up draughts in the workshop as I couldn’t get the temperature up above about 16 C even with the woodburner and a 3KW fire going.  Its now well above 20 C so OK.   I bought a book from Amazon, well more of a leaflet, called ‘Firearms Lock Design’ by Steve Culver.  Its actually restricted to the design of the sear and tumbler (or cock) and the proper geometry to ensure a safe trigger pull, but you can’t get everything in 26 pages.  Its a commendable effort, obviously home produced although printed by Amazon – but with very clear diagrams.  I am not sure I have come across many original guns that have the nose of the sear 0.9 mm across as he suggests, but the principles he lays down are sound and should help anyone who tackles the ticklish job of refurbishing a worn sear-tumbler engagement.  I had hoped for some suggestions and advice on the cock-frizzen geometry in flint guns, but that isn’t as clear cut as the geometry of the sear-tumbler and anyway was more of a matter of opinion and development.   Steve’s basic geometry requires the tumbler pivot centre  and the sear pivot centre to make a right angle at the point of contact of the sear and tumbler – that way when the sear moves its end moves along a radius from the tumbler pivot.  If that isn’t clear, best get the book from Amazon!   I managed to get most of my ‘bandolier’ shot flask done and added the strap and buckle and temporarily put in the Irish dispenser so I could try it out – it seems to work fine, the leather is much softer than a traditional one, so its more comfortable to wear, and it holds a good load of shot – I haven’t checked how much.  I’ve just got to add stitching to the straps.  I have a number of old flasks that have started leaking and would be very difficult to repair neatly (rather than Bev’s technique that involves rolls  of duct tape)  so I might use their dispensers to make a few more flasks – I rather fancy a suede flask.  My next project is getting my Chinese toy cnc machine ( a 3040) working with a new controller board – at the moment I’m trying to sort out the wiring of the new ‘Smoothieboard’.  I can’t work out if it is capable of driving the stepping motors of the 3040 or if it is meant to rely on external drivers – the documentation is a little haphazard…….  Also on the agenda are a couple of ebony ramrods – I ripped up a couple of square blanks from my nice stock piece, so now have to round them, but its much too cold to venture into the unheated outside workshop to do them…………………

Feb 25th Celebratory meal and a bottle of champagne at the flat to celebrate (almost) completion.  It really is a super flat, the basic design is good and Giles’s interior design is brilliant, and my 4 month’s work is well justified!  Result.  Since it was the first nice weekend I’ve had free I ventured out into the garden  _ I can see I’ll have to get tough with the rats that eat the chicken’s food – I did stand around with a .22 air rifle but it has telescopic sights so is almost impossible to use without baiting them  – I need a No. 3 garden gun!   Anyway poison will suffice after I’ve been to Horse Requisites tomorrow. I continue to get a good number of visitors to this site, about 350 a day -although about half(?) are bots trying to bust the site.  I do get about 30 visitors from Google and other search engines including Baido, the Chinese search engine.  I must justify all this support by putting some more gun stuff up!

Feb 23rd.  Busy organising and then running a class on computer programming at ‘my’ primary school with my friend Dave.  We have both done a lot of programming professionally and have a fairly dim view of the way its taught so we had a chance to try our way.  I wrote my first program in 1966 on punched cards to run an an IBM mainframe, and we used old punched cards of that era to write down commands of our ‘people computer’ programs in class.  For some reason the cards were never numbered, and a fairly simple program generated quite a stack of cards – so if you dropped the stack………..

I’m experimenting with leather to make an Irish pattern bandolier flask – making progress.   I am revisiting Cruddington’s book on modern shotguns, Vol 3 to refresh my mind about single trigger mechanisms.  The problem is that between 1889 and 1910 there were 91 patents from UK gunmakers for single trigger mechanisms as they scrabbled to find another innovation to keep the market bubbling after the hammerless ejector and self opener were established.  The problem was (and is) that best guns last too long to sustain a trade without continuous new and wonderful inventions!  There are basically two ways of making a single trigger fire two barrels without double discharging on the involuntary second pull that almost always follows when a gun is fired – the first invented and original English mechanism used a fairly involved linkage between trigger and sears to ‘loose’ the involutary pull – like for example the Boss rotating turret that moved with each pull and only allowed the gun to fire on the first and third pull. The other class of mechanism involves inertial weights that are driven by the gun’s recoil and change the linkage between trigger and sear – most modern production shotguns (Beretta , Browning and clones) use the inertia system.  You can tell which your gun has by firing off snap caps – if mechanical changeover you will probably need to make a dummy pull between firing pulls as you won’t make the involuntary pull on a ‘dead’ gun.  If you have an inertial changeover you won’t fire the second barrel without bumping the butt on the ground to mimic recoil  between the pulls.  I find it very difficult to work out exactly how the various patents work from the drawings in Cruddington, so I usually doze of while trying!

Feb 21st Still suffering from the effects of solder fumes – I thought I’d do a web search for solder with less bad flux, i.e. colophony free, but then I found I was already using that, so maybe I’ll go back to the normal, bad, colophony flux.   I was trying to buy some faux ivory from the US as it claims to be used by various museums, and I thought I’d make a few brushes and a couple of pots for caps, but the minimum order is $50 and the carriage would be $60, so a bit pricey for something to play with! Maybe I’ll stick with the Axminster stuff. Or I could use ebony or horn or box.

I dug out a nice single percussion barrel that I bought with a junk stock and took out the breech block – the bore is quite good – I am sure it would hone to a perfect bore and still be a safe wall thickness.  It has a percussion breech, although it might have originally been a flintlock.  I was thinking that I might see if I could get/make a new breechblock so that I could make it up as a flintlock.  The barrel has Birmingham proofmarks but the pitch of the thread is exactly 1.5mm – not an whole imperial size.  The O.D. is 20.5 mm.   I do have a not very nice stock that I have fitted the barrel to  – the easy thing would be to make a percussion gun, but I don’t need another one!  It might be a good barrel to try lapping………..

Feb 20th – I had to do some electronic assembly of printed circuit boards for a client today.  I have a real problem with the fumes from modern solder flux which give me every kind of respiratory irritation and really crock me up, so I bought a new extractor/filter fan and replaced the activated charcoal filter in my old one, but somehow the fumes managed to escape the suction and got me – I’ll have to think of a better way – perhaps put the whole outfit in a large box with elasticated arm holes as for shot blasting or  solvent cleaning. ……… I went to see Dick today and took the Walklate bits I had engraved, which he was well pleased with.  Earlier he had mislaid the locks of the Blair and Sutherlands that I had left with him to get Jason to weld and Dick to reshape the frizzens and he was in quite a state – I was a little concerned as the gun is worthless without them, but I was sure he would find them, which he eventually did, in a pretty box exactly where he had put them for safekeeping!   When I loose things I’m reluctant to move anything in the search, because I always assume it will turn out to be within plain sight. I think as you get older your sight might be OK but some of the higher processing gets a bit worse so you miss spotting things you once would have picked up on.  ‘The flintlock lads’ are going to CGC on Thursday and I might join them, but I might have to do some preparation for my Mindstorms school stuff as I will have to be ready on Friday to keep 25 children occupied/entertained/learning – the really nice thing about not being a teacher is NO PAPERWORK.

Feb 18th – I’ve finally taken most of my tools back from Gile’s flat and given him back my visitor’s parking badge so I can no longer run away  to  Cambridge and buy the only decent bread in the county from Maison Clement on Hill’s Road! But I plan to get Giles to go in early and buy some of the ‘mother’ that they use to make the sourdough bread so I can make my own sourdough!  Now I have to concentrate on helping with computing lessons in school using the Lego Mindstorms.  The computing syllabus in primary schools is quite comprehensive and involves teaching the kids what ‘algorithms’ are – I know one when I see one, but defining what one is is another thing altogether!  Anyway Wikipedia says that ‘defining ‘algorithm’ is quite challenging’, so I feel vindicated.  I was trying to think of an example and came up with a handy one – find the difference between two given numbers,  If I give you two numbers you can give me the answer easily, that is solving a specific problem, but if I ask you to write down the full sequence of  basic operations by which you could find the answer for any two numbers, say a and b, then that is an algorithm, or generalised method ( clue -you don’t know which is bigger).  Another little little chore awaiting me is to buy a replacement Land Cruiser as mine is getting a bit long in the tooth.  I’ll have to get one about 10 years old and it won’t be much different from my present one (17 years old) , just, I hope, not so rusty.  I’ve been watching the ads on the web for a few weeks and those on offer seem to be having price reductions so I haven’t been in too much of a hurry and haven’t really had time to drive round the country looking at them.  Now I’ll have to concentrate…………………….

Feb 16th Another day of playing – where will it end?  I cleared out my indoor workshop in the morning, and then my piece of faux ivory arrived so I thought I ought to use it.  First I went through all the books I could find to look for photos of gun cases with brushes.  There are a number in Keith Neil’s  book on cases, although most don’t have a visible brush.  He lists them as being accessories in cases but doesn’t illustrate them with his other accessories.  I guess that they are the first accessory to get lost, and anyway will certainly wear out before any of the rest of the outfit so one shouldn’t be surprised that they are a rarity.  Although they are usually thought of as a flintlock accessory they were, it would appear, included with some percussion pistols and ? guns as well as percussion revolvers.  I found one design that seemed to appear in John Manton cased pistols and guns, including a pair of  cased percussion pistols from the Paul Murray collection in the November 2017 sale and a very similar brush in a cased flintlock fowler in the same catalogue.  As they were both from the Paul Murray collection one can’t be certain that they were originally with those guns – it would appear that a lot of ‘restoration’ went on, although having said that, there is a similar brush in a cased pair of John Manton pistols in Keith Neil’s  ‘The Mantons’.   I’ll start a separate post for these photos etc.  Anyway I decided t make a rough copy of the John Manton pattern brush so I did a bit of scaling from the photos and concluded that the brushes were pretty small – the body barely 2 inches long.  I tried turning the faux ivory, which is just a polyester rod on my wood turning lathe but I don’t have a short toolrest  and can’t get the long one near the work if I’m using a live centre, as I was.  The result is that it was impossible to turn the rod freehand as the tool just chiped the faux ivory (polyester rod)  and eventually shattered the end off.  It did cut in my metalwork lathe but of course I can’t do very nice curves using the handwheels.  Still I got a fair approximation to what I wanted.  I’ll have to find a way of sticking the bristles in without the glue running so far up the hairs – maybe epoxy instead of cryoacrelate..   I tried my new flask, and found that it doesn’t shut off very securely, so out came the spring for a bit of adjustment – anneal, bend, harden and temper – it now seems to be much more secure.



Feb 15th.  Valentines’s Day went without my noticing it – shame on me!   My first day of playing for the week.  Every time I’ve used my flintlock I have felt the need for one of those little brushes that you occasionally see in cased flintlocks,   I know you can buy them from Kranks etc, but that goes against the grain somewhat!  I remembered that when I did lime plastering I use Chinese pig hair as a reinforcement for the first plaster coat on the lathes and it comes in neat rounds all standing on end, and I still have a couple of unopened bundles which look like a giant brush 3 inches in diameter and 1 1/2 inch bristles.  I needed to use my wood turning lathe to make a former for the end of my flask, so while I was at it I turned up a little brush handle from a scrap as a proof of concept (more later on that) – a bit tricky to get a suitable bundle of bristles and then feed them into the hole in the handle but with the aid of masking tape it was done and a few drops of very low viscosity isocyanate put round the edge sealed it all in and stiffened the brush just enough – perfect.  Looking at the photos in Keith Niels book on cases I see that most of the brushes seem to be handled with ivory – elephants not being available on ebay I settled for faux ivory and have ordered a piece of 1 inch rod to try out.   Using the former  I turned, I completed the end of my leather covered  plastic bottle flask by clamping and gluing the leather and  adding an eyelet – now completed, I checked and it throws 1.1 oz of shot ( or about 30 grams) which is fine.  The full flask is a bit heavy but for clays I need that much shot and I can usually put it down on a table.   I visited Dick to take the frizzen and screws I’d engraved and pickup another little job – a lock by Walklate needing a border and a couple of sunbursts and a border round the cock and frizzen – lock now done….    On the subject of ‘proof of concept’  I learnt during 40 years building specialist equipment for geophysical research and as a small company that if possible you should always try out a minimal solution before embarking on anything fancy – that way you either discover that the fancy wasn’t necessary, or that the whole thing doesn’t work anyway, or if you end up making the fancy version you save so much time and trouble because you know what you are doing/want that it saves time overall.  A  number of the jobs that clients bought to me were an unnecessarily fancy solution to a problem that hadn’t been thought through properly and I almost never managed to put them off, with the result that by the time I had done the design and  was ready to make the kit they had backed out – I charged them 90% and delivered nothing – which was frustrating but profitable!  I get the feeling that the government ought to try the proof of concept approach with all its horrendous IT projects that flounder.

‘proof of concept’ brush  – should be ivory or possibly ebony or box

Border recut and sunburst on tail and in front of cock.

Feb 13th.  A bit low on gun related activities – Mondays is my day for the work on the Bullard Archive of Geophysical Instrumentation when I’m not doing other things, and today I was fixing up Giles’s wardrobe at the flat.  I must admit that I am reluctant to go into my workshop at the moment because its freezing and my little woodburning stove takes at least a couple of hours to heat it up because there is so much metal in there – for that reason its not really viable to do much work in the evenings.  I did manage over the weekend to sew a leather cover for the plastic bottle that is the body of my shot flask – the bottle is a nice 250 ml bottle from a hand soap  pump.   I wondered how much shot you could get in 250 ml so a quick calculation…  Lead has a density of about 11.  So if full of lead the flash would hold 11 x 250 gms = 2.75 Kg, but of course its full of lead spheres so you need to take into account the packing coefficient which will be about 0.6  (perfect packing would be a bit more, perhaps 0.64 or so), so that reduces the weight in the flask to 1.65 Kg.  A typical charge is 1 oz, which is 28 grams, so my flask will hold almost 60 shots.  The dispenser, however, is supposed to throw 1 1/4 or  1 1/2 oz so unless I modify it by sticking a bit of packing in the tube, I’ll get about 47 shots of 1 1/4 oz , which is fine for a 40 bird competition and a few spares…..  I need to work out how to finish the end of the flask, I’ll probably use an eyelet somewhere so I can hang it, but I’m waiting for some leather glue before I tackle that job.

The leather was sewn on a sewing machine and put on soaking wet.  The external seams stop it rolling, which is handy.

Feb 10th.  I have a project to make another shot flask as a couple of mine have splits in them.  I did get a leather bandolier from Pete and made an Irish shot dispenser that fitted, but the bandolier ( which is a Kranks pattern) is a bit too stiff to be comfortable, and in sorting out stuff I had picked up as part of a job lot at auction I came across a steel Hawksley English pattern dispenser, and found a plastic bottle of suitable size that the dispenser screwed into.  The Steel dispenser more or less worked, but didn’t close the first shutter ( nearest the bag) fully so No 7 1/2 or smaller shot could still escape.  I figured this was because the spring fouled on the shutter, but when I looked at one of my working flasks I realised that the spring was in the wrong way up, and that it was the wrong size to fit properly – so I set about making a new spring from a piece of old spring of the appropriate thickness – making springs is one of my favourite jobs!  The angle grinder and 1 mm cutting disk let me rough shape the spring  in a couple of minutes, then I annealed it and filed it to the right blank shape and heated it to red heat and bent it where I reckoned it should be bent and hammered the bend flat. It was a simple job to fit the spring and get the right degree of opening, and I then heated it up to bright red to quench it in water – unfortunately my gas/oxy torch was a bit hot and I melted a bit of the edge – first time I knew that the little torch ( I bought it for lead welding) could get hot enough to melt steel! Still, it was usable so after quenching I polished it and annnealed it to blue on the hotplate of the AGA.  The rest of the dispenser looked a bit patchy so I popped that on the AGA too, and it came out a uniform purple colour – I wasn’t trying to make it look authentic so the result is good – now I’ve got no excuse for not finishing the flask

The dispenser as found but after a dip in the derusting tank – the rust seen is loose and will brush off.  Notice the spring orientation. 

This is the old spring shown in the correct orientation – it is too long to fit properly, which is presumably why it was put in upside down.


This is a working flask – the spring is the other way up.

New spring made, hardened and annealed to blue.

Quick flash on top of the AGA to give it a uniform colour.  The right hand shutter should be the other way round to clear the slot fully but I can’t get the screw out!  It does work, just occasionally it isn’t as smooth as it might be.  I know its not an authentic colour, but neither is fixing it to a plastic bottle – albeit leather covered!


Feb 9th.  Finished off the bit of engraving for Dick’s funny pistol, which is coming along nicely.  By coincidence the hammer (frizzen) needed a wiggle engraving similar to that on the trigger guard on the Alex Henry.  The pistol is a bit of a joke and so Dick hadn’t spent too long on the parts and the hammer is a pretty raw casting from Kevin Blackley that Dick had in store from ages ago – I cleaned out the lines and did the border – it looks the part. The screws match those already fitted.  Nothing very demanding there!   I have now sold the Perrins youth’s fowler and am advertising my mint Mortimer reproduction single barreled 12 bore – it has hardly been fired and worked well for me, but I have an old single that I slightly prefer, plus my pride and joy Manton double meets most of my flintlock needs!

Here is the fantasy pistol restoration of a wreck found buried in a garden at an early stage – now nearly finished..

(This photo dates from before I got rid of the warm white tubes in the workshop!)

Feb 8th.  Thinking idly about double charging a gun and flame travelling from the first charge to the second, I wondered about what was originally used as packing between the powder and the shot.  My ‘unthought’ was that tow was originally used as wadding – tow is unspun broken fibres of flax, jute or hemp originally.  From the late 18th century  when best guns were often cased ( cost was probably around 2 to 5% of the gun price) a wad punch of the correct size was  included – presumably that would be used for overshot cards too.     There is an advertisment reprinted in The Manton Supplement’ for John Manton  that is for ‘wadding’ and says that if you send the number of your (Manton) gun they will send you the wadding of the correct size – which clearly refers to precut wads similar to what we might use  now.    I seem to remember that accidents during loading were attributed to fibres of tow remaining in the barrel and still glowing.  Presumably if loose tow was used it emerged from the barrel as a flaming  mess – I have occasionally used a paper tissue as a wad, and can verify that it burns and smokes on the ground afterwards.  Any information would be welcome.  One reason why we are always careful to see where the wads land when shooting over dry grass in summer.  I picked up a couple of pieces of engraving from Dick for a ‘funny’ gun he is restoring.  It was dug up in a garden so there was only a bit of the stock remaining, so he has made a fine saw handled pistol and is restoring the remnants of very fine chequering – I don’t know how he does it, it requires much more patience than I can muster.  I am to try to engrave a border on the hammer/frizzen.  I’m always unsure which word to use for it, the traditional usage is that in flintlocks the cock is the cock and the frizzen is called the hammer, but in percussion guns the cock is often called the hammer – I’m not sure if it was ever still called the cock?    I had to go to Giles’s flat to ‘snag’ a problem – in order to insulate the 25 mm gap between the plasterboard and the underlying brickwork in one (cold) wall I drilled a series of holes  & injected aerosol expanding foam only to have it coming  out round one of a row of power sockets. When it had ‘set’ I unscrewed the fronts of the three sockets but they were stuck fast.  I didn’t think it was a good idea to have power sockets set in possibly inflammable foam, so today I prepared for a major job, probably involving taking out the sockets, boxes and all.  Unusually it turned out to be much easier than I had feared because for some reason the foam didn’t adhere to the plastic of the sockets at all, although it stuck firmly to everything else including the wires and the screws in the sockets.  Anyway I was able to pries (prise?) the sockets out and clear out the foam around the wires and eleswhere and put it all back in pristine condition in about 3 hours – that job done……. My next project, before I start on any more of my pile of guns to restore, is to get my little Chinese CNC milling machine ( 3040)  working – Giles and I ran into a brick wall with it last time we tried as its control board runs from the parallel port of a P.C. and modern ones don’t have parallel printer ports and it you use an add-on port it doesn’t work fast enough, so I’m going to have to get a different control board from the web.   CNC milling requires a number of processes, all of which are dependent on pieces of software, and if you don’t want to pay out for them – they can cost a lot more than the machine – you have to scrabble around to find free programs.  The process consists of software for designing the shape,  then software for working out the toolpath necessary to cut it, then software to turn that into G code instructions for the X,Y and Z axes in terms of distance, and then software to turn the G code into pulses to drive the X,Y and Z motors – getting it all to work without a commercial package to sort it for you is somewhat tedious…..

Feb 8th.  I had an enquiry about the T Perrins I have for sale, so I got it out – it was one of the first guns I restored, and when I look at it now I think I did a decent job of it.  I was fairly sure that it wasn’t a shooter when I restored it, but looking at it now I think it would stand a proof charge pretty well. There are pits on the outside of the left barrel but the 6 inches or so of the breech area is good.  A lot of my friends shoot worse!   Provided that there is no air gap in the load most old guns will stand double shot load perfectly well – I heard an account of  a terrible accident when a beginner double loaded one barrel and it split at the breech with dire consequences.  This raised my curiosity because double loading with two normal loads would be unlikely to ignite the second lot of powder because the wad, shot and card would be in the way.  If it were just the normal first charge that ignited then you just have the equivalent of maybe 2 1/2 times the normal shot load which doesn’t add up to even a moderate proof charge and is something that any gun in use should stand or it shouldn’t be in use.  So what went wrong?  If the second charge ignited when the load was some way down the barrel it would have burnt quite slowly, but if that happened  some way down the barrel where the walls are quite thin it could have split there.  A much more likely explanation is that the second  wad and shot load was never pushed down into contact with the first load – its a known problem that if there is a gap very high pressures will be experienced,  as when a barrel is plugged with mud or snow, or a bullet is incorrectly seated.  The maximum pressure occurs at the blockage as the pressure wave from the explosion is reflected by the block and effectively doubles the local pressure for a short distance – hence the ring bulge that forms in rifle barrels if the bullet is not fully seated, or gets jogged along the barrel.  I suppose it is also possible that the second powder charge has such low density and so much air within that it acts as a gap.  I have inadvertently fired a double loaded gun without harmful effects – even the recoil was  quite reasonable – I am much more careful now – I use a marked loading rod so I can see immediately how much is down each barrel.

Feb 7th.  Looking at the Alex. Henry again, I came to the conclusion that maybe the barrel engraving would benefit from a bit of TLC.  My client had suggested it and I had thought it wasn’t necessary, but looking at the gun with all the rest of the engraving crisp, I could see that the barrel had the usual  problem that the engraving had got filled up almost flush with the surface with a hard layer of rust and maybe oil so that it couldn’t easily be seen.  So biting the bullet I carefully picked out the rust using a variety of engraving tools.  The aim is to take out the rust, but inevitably you cut into the metal slightly, so you need to use the tools you would for engraving the letters.  Basically in this case I used a flat that was the same width as the wide strokes,  a slightly rounded onlette  for the fine strokes and a ‘square’ ground to about 70 degrees for the angled bits of the serifs and the round letters.  The engraving was interesting because the name and address engraved on the breech side of the rear sight is subtly different from the patent and gauge engraving on the  muzzle side of the sight in script and also how it’s cut.  Anyway I’m quite pleased with the improvement – worth 3 hours of very careful work!  I also replaced the pin that holds the bolt into the stock – the bolt(s) that holds the barrel on should be captive, held in the gun by a small pin driven through the stock and running in the slot in the bolt.  The pins are usually removed when necessary by sticking the edge of a blade into the pin near the top and pulling it out – for this reason it is better to make replacement pins out of fairly soft steel so the blade can get a grip – don’t be temped to break a bit off  an ordinary domestic hard steel pin. Incidentally, I’m fairly convinced that the rifle was beautifully re-stocked  some time ago and not used since.  I cleaned out the nipple nipple and its hole – the nipple is an original and has a platinum plug with very small hole at the exit – probably around  0.7 mm – the thread is fine – safe to shoot.  The nipple hole was pretty rusty so I can’t guarantee that the cross passage between the nipple and the chamber is clear – I ought to put a small brush down the barrel to clean out the powder chamber anyway.  If I was about to shoot it I would probably clean the barrel with boiling water and pump it through a few times to get rid of any loose muck, but the bore looks good.  The breech block has a platinum plug on the outside of the cross chamber to plug the hole where it was drilled – I would not want to remove it.  Some double guns have a screw  on inner face of the breech plug for access which can (sometimes) be undone to get access for clearing out.


I found it difficult to photograph the engraving because the rust pitting tends to catch the light – click on the photos for a better view.


Feb 7th. –  I realised that the ‘wear’ on the Alex Henry trigger guard tang was the result of filing out the worst of the rust.   The notes on speed of ignition of gunpowder from the Health and Safety report on powder storage (see below) are interesting ;-

The argument about the SD (standard deviation – a measure of the variation seen in a number of experiments – applies equally to the difference between Swiss No 2 and TS2 – but its clear that in general the numbers support our experience of these powders – I wonder where  Czech powder comes on the scale?

Feb 6th.  STEM club at school this afternoon – more peaceful than sometimes!  I think we outfaced the children with Lego Mindstorms so we’ll do something a bit simpler next half term.   I have been chasing round as I had forgotten that I had an outstanding order for some electronic boards that I supply so I had to spend this morning soldering in components – I need some connector strips that  are due tomorrow, then I can finish enough to satisfy the customer for a while!  I did get round to visiting Dick to pick up the Alexander Henry rifle he has been cleaning and titivating, and  fit the trigger guard that I had re- engraved – he has done a super job of cleaning up the furniture and getting dings out of the stock etc.  The rifle is in mixed condition that makes one wonder how it got like that.  The stock is very crisp and new looking- the chequering is like new and all the stock edges are sharp and unworn and the inletting is very close fitting.  The engraving on the lock is very high quality and  sharp and the furniture matches in quality.  There is a fair bit of wear on the tang of the trigger guard where the hand would grip and a bit on the bow of the guard.  The breech end of the barrel is in clean condition but 6 inches further towards the muzzle it is quite uniformly pitted with rust – quite deep along the junction with the under-rib in places.  There are also small rust  pits on the patch box lid. The bore is pretty good but has a slight patch of rough near the muzzle (I haven’t tried to clean it out).   Antique rifles don’t usually show as much use as shotguns (unless used extensively in e.g. Africa) but I  wonder if this one has been restocked at some point, like my Purdy rook and rabbit rifle?  I suspect that the rust was the result of a small number of wettings, possible just one that wasn’t dried off and oiled… the owner must have been gutted, as this wasn’t a bargain basement rifle! Its what I love about antique guns – there are always multiple layers of mystery to be unraveled after almost 200 years!  Oh, and it needs a good ramrod!  I have a piece of ebony I bought at great expense that would make half a dozen rods – I must pluck up courage to cut it up now that I have a new blade in my radial arm saw……….

There is a terrific sense of movement in the scroll engraving – very clever work – wish I could do it!

Feb 4th  – I decided that I needed another storage box for black powder and while driving was discussing with Giles how the regulation design of boxes worked in the event of fire.  With his usual inquisitiveness and love of the internet he came up with a report on the latest (2013) tests done by the HSE on setting fire to the boxes.  What is interesting, apart from what actually happens when you put a regulation box containing plastic bottles of black powder in a bonfire, is that the research concludes that there isn’t any significant difference between 500 gm and 1 Kg containers of BP, and that 25 x 1Kg containers in one box was no more dangerous that 9 x 500 gm containers.  They also concluded that the ignition speed of the powder didn’t make any difference to the overall conflagration. Its a shame that the HSE hasn’t updated the design of black powder boxes to take account of this research, especially since black powder continues to be sold in 1 Kg plastic bottles, which means it all has to be decanted into smaller bottles that are in all probablility not black carbon loaded antistatic plastic like the original ones.  I notice that my new explosives licence has no limit on the amount of explosive I can keep – I thought it was 10 Kg, which is enough for me, but not excessive – it amounts to 20 x 500 gm  bottles assuming they are all full – quite a big box.  Incidentally, if you do have a fire your powder box should survive for 8 to 12 minutes before going up, and bottles will mostly go up separately.  Here is the HSE  report on the 2013 testing…. rr991- storeage of black powder, test data

Remember, this is the website for wacky facts – and don’t forget to email your comments on Air Guns to   firearmsconsultations@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk   today or tomorrow!

Feb 3rd  – Having nearly finished the flat (nothing in our household is ever completely finished  – we would feel a loss of purpose if it was) I can play a bit.  I recut the borders and motif on the trigger guard of the Alex Henry rifle.  Its a tricky part to engrave because of the rounding of the edge where the border lies, and the obstruction caused by the trigger bow and curvature of the guard.  The original engraving was done by a right handed apprentice and was not particularly good – you can usually tell which hand they engraved with because the little ‘comma’ motif can be cut easily in the normal i.e. writing, way but is more difficult if it curves in the reverse direction – it has to be cut from the narrow end and its easy to turn towards your body, not away.  Anyway that came out an improvement and I coloured it a little with a gas torch to match the rest.  In our discussions about how far to take a restoration job Dick and I try to avoid anything that looks too perfect, referring to that kind of over restoration as an XXXX job, where XXXX is the name of a well known restorer! We had that discussion over the Alex Henry barrel.  I also finished the butt pad for the Manton – as I wasn’t sure how it would turn out I did a fairly quick and dirty job, but it fits well and is secure and the gun comes up much better.  It was good to get back to a bit of engraving………………

I had just started to recut the top border here….

The wiggle border is quite tricky on the rounded edge of the trigger guard as its easy to skid.


More of a trial than a quality product!

2nd Feb – I sent some time this morning struggling with my computer, which had decided that my email program Thunderbird hadn’t updated fully and I needed to reboot – after a couple of reboots and no change I went online and found some ‘remedies’, none of which worked and I couldn’t download another copy on top of it – in the end I deleted a few likely looking files from the program directory and managed to re-install a new version without loosing all my emails.  In the meantime the computer decided that I couldn’t log  into my bank account, although by this evening it had relented!  Dick finished the repair of my ‘Egg’ percussion that fell and broke the fore-end into 5 pieces – I don’t know how he manages to get things back together again so well, but its difficult to see any signs of repair unless you look very carefully.  He has almost finished the Alex Henry – its coming up beautifully, everthing is pretty well mint except the trigger guard ( which I’m going to do a bit of refreshing of the engraving on) and the barrel which is a bit pitted on the outside .  We have had several discussions about what work its appropriate to do on the barrel and have come to the conclusion that its an all or nothing job, there is no halfway option, and we both think that the rest of the gun is so good that to do a full striking up of the barrel and refinishing it will spoil the authenticity of the rest.  Plus it would be pretty expensive!  We’ll see what the client thinks.    I have done a bit more work on the butt pad for the Manton – then I stood it against my Samuel Nock percussion the stock is almost an inch shorter so the butt pad is needed.   I’ve just got to finish it off and lace it to the stock.

This was in 5 pieces with the bolt broken out – superb repair by Dick

Its really a prototype/ proof of method, but I may never get round to making the real thing!

1 Feb – another month gone…   I heard yesterday that our muzzle loaders/MLAGB  and not going to the British Shooting Show in a fortnight – I was looking forward to manning the stand and meeting a load of interesting people – shame.   I had an email from someone who tried to list an old lock for a flintlock on Ebay and got it kicked off as being part of a firearm – Sites like Ebay and Amazon are paranoid, as are many carriers, so be warned.  I guess we all know that we are in the sights of lots of organisations – a couple of examples come to mind – Everyone with a shotgun license or a firearms licence is on a government list of potential terrorists – i.e. people having access to firearms.  Some of my friends have been asked out of the blue at ports if they are carrying firearms.  I did hear a report that if a firearms holder rings 999 for a burglary in progress the police will wait for an armed response unit before attending – I can’t verify that.   Another important issue all those interested in shooting should be aware of – the government is running a consultation on sir gun law and amongst the possible outcomes is to bring our laws in line with Scotland – i.e. licenses for all air weapons – you can imagine the chaos in firearms licensing departments from the extra load of this pointless exercise in nanny statism.  The consultation ends on FEB 6TH so not long to do it – you can see details at here  and send your email response to firearmsconsultations@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

BASC makes the following points about the issues raised – if you haven’t got time to compose an email just cut and paste this, it will be better than nothing!   ;-

We have highlighted the following points:

  • Current legislation already addresses the issue of storage and under-18 access
  • Airgun fatalities are extremely rare. The Home Office has been able to identify only four involving minors since 2005. A national licensing system would lack proportionality
  • Airgun manufacturers already supply products that are safe, fit for purpose and fully comply with firearm and consumer laws. If an airgun is modified without proper authority, then the person making the modifications is responsible, not the manufacturer
  • The police already struggle to properly service existing certificate holders and simply do not have the resources to deal with millions of additional certificates
  • Airgun restrictions would have unintended consequences including a collapse in sales for the trade and a loss of opportunity for young people to learn marksmanship and proper firearms handling. Restrictions could also undermine conservation efforts as airguns are used to control grey squirrel populations.

29th Jan.  I put in an alteration to my shotgun certificate recently to take off a couple of antiques that were not shootable any longer, and put on two others to replace them – the old guns going back to my (section 58) collection, and the ‘new’ ones coming from my  collection.  Each time I do this I get an email asking me who I transferred the guns to and where I acquired the  ‘new’ ones from, although I indicated clearly that its my collection in both cases – I guess the clerks don’t get to deal with shooters of antiques very often, but I’ve had to give impromptu lessons on the firearms act several times.  I might offer to go in and take a load of antiques!   The certificate forms have had the number of spaces for changes drastically reduced to 6, so I’ve already used 2/3 the available spaces withing the first three weeks of the certificate’s life!    I was in the flat today to hang another door, which called my attention to my new ‘tool’ discovery – often when I do a job I discover some device, tool or gadget that is so useful that I regret not having come across it years ago for the time it saves – this jobs gadget is a big bag of colour coded plastic spacers from Screwfix that stack together and come in a range of thicknesses so that you can make up any thickness of spacer from about 1 mm to 20 mm to within a mm or less  or  more when perched on a block of wood). Perfect for fitting  and levelling doors, windows, cabinets, cupboards, worktops etc, –  anywhere there is a gap to be controlled.

28th Jan  Giles has now more or less moved to his flat and I only have a few jobs to finish – like fit the 3 remaining doors and make a desk and stop the washing machine from destroying itself when it spins on account of the decking is too springy for it!  Anyway I am now able to have weekends at home to catch up with domestic and gun fettling.  I did the shopping for the first time in months – I’d almost forgotten how, and Giles and I finished the wood (offcuts from the American Walnut work tops at the flat) for his coffee table, and I welded and painted  a base out of some old bits of scrap  1″ square section steel tube I had lying about – I bought a cheap chop saw for metal and wood recently – the way it chews through metal is impressive, although it does spray bits of red hot steel all over the place – you need a helmet as bits fall on your head, as well as full face protection.  I fitted a new blade on my radial arm saw as the old one was getting a bit tired – luckily the 30 mm to 16 mm bore adapter from the old blade fitted the new one exactly.  I even found time to fix up a sling style Irish shot flask from an old nozzle I had and a leather that Pete kindly gave me.  When I shot the Manton I realised that the stock was a bit short for me – I couldn’t find my leather pad so I bought a nasty rubber one at CGC so I’ve started to make a leather one that fits the gun properly – I have made a pad from the Judo mat foam I had, and ordered thread and leatherwork bits, so I’ll put up photos when I do some more on it.  To top off the weekend I managed to make 28 lbs of marmalade to see us through the next year!  Now exhausted – makes me realise that spending all weekend working on the flat was a doddle!


25th Jan.  A very pleasant day at Cambridge Gun Club, apart from having to cross a lorry route 4 inches deep in sloppy mud in my shoes!  Anyway Bev and Pete both gave the seal of approval to the Manton as being a good fast shooter, and I did hit a few with it, plus I’d cured the stalled cock problem.  I used my Samuel Nock percussion after lunch and had some luck, and one or two nice clays that I wasn’t expecting to hit.  My conclusion was that I might as well shoot flintlock as the results are not much different and its more fun!

24th Jan  –  My next job at the flat is hanging new doors – I bought 4 oak doors on offer – they seem to be part solid part veneered with a ‘manufactured’ core and look the part – my problem, if indeed it is a problem, is that they weigh 34 Kg each and need 3 hinges, not two.  I don’t fancy cutting all the rebates for the hinges in the oak edging strips by hand with a chisel, so I thought I’d see if I could buy a jig for a router.  Unfortunately the jig costs about twice what a router costs so its plan ‘B’ – make a jig!   I had fun this afternoon as Dave and I have been helping Cherry Hinton Church run a STEM club for children aged 7 to 11.  This week they had to build something to transport a 1Kg weight across an 80 cm ‘river’ so we stretched a string on some frames and made a carriage to carry the weight across.  Its great to see the children tackling problems but doing it all in less than an hour is challenging.   I’m off for a quick shoot with my flintlock friends tomorrow – the weather promises to be fine although there will be a bit of breeze.  I’m hoping to pick up 2Kg of Swiss No 2 as I’m completely out.  I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that I am not good at judging how fast a flintlock is going off ( unless its painfully slow!), except I can roughly tell by the recoil how fast the main charge is burning (at least I can tell that Czech powder is very ‘soft’ and TS2 less so).  The experts seem to be able to hear from the sound of the firing just how fast ignition is, and to tune flintlocks up by using slightly different loading techniques for the fastest ignition.  They are quite sure that Swiss No 2 and Swiss OB priming powder are the right things to use. I’m not sure I can tell the difference between Swiss No2 and TS2 but I’m told the latter is significantly slower.  Lots more for me to learn here – still, from the photos  my Manton is producing loads of sparks in the pan!….. we shall see..  I might take my camera to see if I can get a video that can be used to time the whole discharge process.

23rd Jan  – Busy weekend entertaining grand daughter (7) who was fascinated by engraving and the microscope.   I’m having a day off from the flat to get the Manton sorted so that I can try it out on Thursday at CGC.  If you’ve been looking at my previous entries you may remember that the frizzen of the left lock doesn’t fully open of firing – I took a video of it sparking, and you can see that it produces plenty of sparks in the pan before it stalls – see frame below.  The left frizzen opened a bit further than the right before it reached the ‘flip-over’ point so I took the left frizzen out and worked on the cam that runs on the frizzen spring roller on my 1200 hone and a fine diamond slip, I took it very gently as I didn’t want to overdo it, and after half a dozen attempts got it to open fully on sparking.  I use a small ‘mole grip’ to hold the frizzen spring off the frizzen while taking it on and off.  A quick polish on the fibre wheel finished the job, so I hope it will now function as it should, although as you can see from the clip before I worked on it, there was no shortage of sparks falling into the pan, even though from the geometry it looked as if they might not make it into the pan.  I would put the video on the web, but being a cheapskate I’m using a free version of Videopad and it wants me to buy a copy before it will let me export videos – I’m sure there is a workaround but I haven’t time to sort it at the moment.  Looking at the photos, it occurs to me that by the time the flint has travelled to the bottom of the frizzen the flint really isn’t moving at an angle to put much opening force on the frizzzen and by then the frizzen should be flying open under the influence of the frizzen spring. Obviously the flint has to scrape down a lot of the face of the frizzen to generate a good supply of sparks – I guess that the inertia of the frizzen actually carries it over the ‘flip-over’ point after a certain point.  I have read that flintlocks should fire without any significant strength in the frizzen spring, just on the inertia, although I haven’t tried it – in the flintlock days, the balance between the mainspring and the frizzen spring was regarded as a key factor in ignition speed. I must go through the video and work out how fast things happen! Answer – really too fast for my 50 frames per second camera- its mostly over in 40 mSec but the glow lasts for about 3/4 of a second – when I put powder in the pan everthing is obscured by smoke after about 40mSec.   – the persistence of the heat shows why you have to wait in the event of a hang fire.


Nothing wrong with the sparking here, but the frizzen stops there!  Its surprising how long the glow from the heat lasts on the flint.


The clamp is one I usually use for resoldering ribs on double guns.


After repair – you can just see the ghost of the frizzen in the open position. This is the first frame (50 f.p.s) of action, the next frame is blanked out by smoke from the powder.  My camera is not a proper video camera and makes a bit of a mess of very fast moving objects.  The image is mangled – you shouldn’t be able to see both the frizzen and the rib underneath it in the same frame, but the editing software might have somehow scrambled it! 

18th Jan. Back at the flat today after I had picked up a couple of 12 bores from a recently widowed friend and took them to an RFD for a safe ekeeping.  I have a couple of little jobs to do including fixing an IKEA cupboard door – I bought a set of hinges from Screwfix as it is a waste of time struggling to buy anything small from IKEA, only to discover that they sabotage that possibility by drilling out the normal fixing screw holes ( which they don’t use) so that they are too big for any standard hinges! ( typical IKEA) – I managed a good fix using plastic bushes made from wall plugs, so I got away with it, I think.  I will attack the problem of the Manton frizzen soon!  The left frizzen won’t fly open on firing  – I tried inverting the flint, or using a different flint but they strike the frizzen in about the right place (around 1/3 the way down), and seem about the right length, they match the one in the right cock which works fine.  In the literature they talk about balancing the strength of the main and frizzen springs for fast ignition, and it is possible that the frizzen spring is a bit strong on the left frizzen – I have seen it said that guns will work with almost no frizzen spring, but I’m not sure they would be very fast in that state.  Looking at the equilibrium position of the frizzens (the point at which they are balanced between springing shut and springing open) I see that the left frizzen has to be more open before it is accelerated by the spring compared to the right frizzen by about 10 degrees or so.  This is a function of the exact shape of the lobe on the back of the frizzen that is in contact with the roller on the frizzen spring in relation to the roller position.  The amounts of metal that need to be removed to change the equilibrium position are quite small, so I might first have a go at gently reshaping the tail of the frizzen so that the left and right are the same.  The next step would probably be to weaken the frizzen spring very slightly.  It is quite interesting when I spark off the left lock and the frizzen doesn’t open – the edge of the flint that is shaving off the sparks & steel slivers momentarily glows red hot and cools over maybe half a second.  I guess the hardness of the frizzen face has an effect on the friction/heat/work generated as the flint gouges down the frizzen face, so maybe hardening the face would be another solution?    I’ll take some photos tomorrow, and try to get a video of the red hot glow.

16th Jan.  A very pleasant day’s shoot at Woodhall Estate – sunny, not too cold but with quite a breeze.  I started out with the flintlock using TS2 but I wasn’t confident that it was going off fast enough and I wasn’t having much success so I decided it had better wait til I could try it at clays with some expert guidance in tuning it up.  Annoyingly for the last shots the left hand frizzen wasn’t opening fully, although it did fire (another thing to sort out & put on the blog!).  Anyway out came my  Samuel Nock double percussion, and I did begin to connect. I found crossing birds difficult in the wind but I improved as the day progressed and had a cracking last drive with  birds going like rockets directly over me (my favourite shot), so I accounted for a significant fraction of the bag on that drive. We always get a modest bag on muzzle loading shoots, which is why I like them – mine is usually particularly modest!  Anyway since I broke my Egg double, the Nock will become my percussion gun of choice.

14th jan.  Time to tackle the problem with the double discharge of the Manton.   Sometimes the full cock position is not secure as it should be, so that the gun will release the cock of the second barrel when the first is fired.  This may be due to one of two causes, either the bent ( the notch in the tumbler that catches the sear ) is worn or not properly formed so that the sear can slip out too easily, possibly in combination with a worn, rounded nose on the sear, or the sear/bent are perfectly OK but the sear is not able to move far enough to engage the bent fully. The sear arm is lifted by the trigger blade, and should fall far enough to let the sear engage. There are two things that might prevent the sear from falling, the trigger blade may be too high or the wood of the stock may be getting in the way.  The arm of the sear that contacts the trigger blade is often bent as a result of previous ‘repairs’ so you need to check carefully to ascertain the cause before attempting to fix things.  Fiddling with the bent and the sear nose is very tricky, and not something to be embarked on lightly.  In the case of the Manton  it was clear that both bent/sear combinations were pretty near perfect and the problem was that the left sear arm could not fall enough to engage the sear nose fully in the bent.  As a simple test, when the gun is at full cock you should be able to feel a little play in the triggers before they engage with the sear – in my case there was no play.  Looking into the hole in the stock where the sear arm goes I could see that the wood was not getting in the way, although there wasn’t a lot of clearance.  At this point  I remade the little roller on the left  sear arm as the one on there was bigger than that on the right (The Manton is unusual in having a roller on the sear arm).  This of course provided a bit of clearance, in fact more or less cured the problem, but I wanted a little more clearance, and the right trigger also had no clearance, although the sear did just manage to engage its bent.   Apart from bending the sear arms (not really possible with the rollers) the clearance can be made in one of two ways – you can directly file or gently grind a little off the top of the trigger blade which will mean that the triggers move further back to fire the gun, or you can file/grind a little off the front of the triggers where they are stopped by the end of their slots in the trigger plate, which will mean that the triggers have a little more forward movement.  I opted for the second method, having first polished the tops of the trigger blades on my fibre wheel to give a good bearing surface, I ground a little off the fronts of the triggers on my 260 grit diamond lap.  I now have about the right amount of play ( 1 mm or so) on the left trigger, and a bit less on the right, but enough clearance for it to function correctly.  One of the interesting speculations when fixing things  is how they came to be like that – is it just the result of wear, and if so where/how, or does it indicate something has been changed/repaired – maybe different locks put in or a reconversion attempt?  In this case I don’t have an answer!  Clearly the gun nearly worked and it might have been a very minor thing that tipped it into not working but I can’t see what that was.

New smaller roller 

Possible places to relieve the trigger blade height.

I ground here on a 260 grit lap

13th Jan.  I’ve just come back from Somerset where I was very kindly invited to a shoot on Friday.  We had a very pleasant day on a small, informal shoot in some lovely country and the weather was kind.  Birds were a bit scarce, but that didn’t detract from the day, especially for the three of us who were in period costume and shooting muzzle loaders – 2 flintlock and one percussion.  I took my new double 16 bore flintlock John Manton, which I had never shot before, and my faithful ‘Egg’ – inverted commas a because its one of those guns that obviously came out of Birmingham and had a name put on it that would appeal to punters – whether it had anything to do with any Eggs at any time is immaterial!  My Egg fell over in its slip at home and when I got there it had snapped off the stock in front of the locks into several pieces, so the Manton it had to be!   I started with Swiss No 2 powder and 1 1/4 oz of No 6 shot (stolen from 12 bore cartridges as I had run out). The first shot resulted in both barrels firing as the sear was jogging out of the bent on the left lock when the right barrel fired.  I didn’t really have time to investigate, although the full cock on the left barrel seemed to hold, so I just took to firing the left barrel first – it was a bit trickier to take a second shot by moving to the front trigger than the normal sequence, but it enabled me to carry on. Anyway my second shot connected so that was good.   I ran out of Swiss No 2 (black powder) towards the end and swapped to Nobel TS2 that I had – it seemed to burn quicker than the Swiss and gave quite a recoil with 2 1/2 drams of powder and 1 1/4 oz of shot.  My host was shooting an 18 bore flintlock using Czech powder and had told me that it had virually no recoil so I put 2 1/2 oz of my TS2 in his gun and he was surprised at how much recoil there was.  I will have to see if I can find a source of TS2 as it was very clean and burned fast.  I had two misfires where the pan flashed but the barrel didn’t fire – I put that down to not pricking out the touch hole between shots.  The Anglian Muzzle loaders ritual requires that the touch hole is blocked by a pin during reloading to keep powder out of the pan and make  sure the hole is clear.  I can’t do that with the Manton on account of the ‘lips’ on the hammers (frizzens) – see photos below.   It was quite clear from Friday that the lip on the left barrel, which is as intended by Joseph Manton,  was there to allow air but not powder to pass – it very effectively stopped self priming, which did happen a bit with the right barrel.  ( I will do a bit of welding to reproduce the lip properly on the right hammer)   I had a look at the sears tonight – both seem to be touching their respective trigger plates when on full cock, the left is definitely preventing the sear from engaging fully in the bent, the right more or less OK but I’d like a little bit of clearance to take up when the triggers are pulled.  The roller on the left sear is a replacement and slightly larger than that on the right and may be the problem – I’ll remake the roller tomorrow and see where we are.  One thing is certain, when free to move the sears are very securely located in the full cock bents – in fact possibly too well seated, which may have something to do with the current problem.   I have to go to Dick’s to take him a brace of pheasants so I’ll discuss it with him.  While in Somerset I was taken to meet a man with a fine collection of flintlock guns who turned out to know many of the people I know – its a small world!  Now that I’m shooting flintlocks I really need a new version of the de-capper that will be useful for both flint and percussion – I’m making a prototype with a turnscrew blade for the cock screw for flint changing and a bigger pin for poking touch holes.

8th Jan.  I took the Manton barrel to Dick’s this afternoon to be proof tested so that I can be confident to shoot it when the opportunity arises.  My main concern was/is with flintlocks that they may be a conversion or a bodged job and the touch holes may blow out as a missile – I have similar concerns about the nipples in percussion guns, but they are easy to check/repair if they look dodgy, whereas you can’t investigate the touch hole.  I strapped the barrel (wrapped in a towel) into the stock of my large rampart gun, with a pad of judo mat behind the breech plug, and clamped the stock into a flattened workmate and tied it in.  Each barrel was loaded with 4 drams of Swiss No 2 and 2 1/2 oz of shot.  We laid a short trail of powder to one touch hole and lighted it with a gas lighter which produced a double discharge as there was some powder scattered about.  Anyway the arrangement worked well, the breech punched a neat hole half way into the judo mat but stayed in the stock in the workmate and still on the ground – a lot better than last time we proved a barrel when it took off into the mud.  I should point out that Dick is an RFD and knows what he is doing, having made innumerable guns himself.  At least I can now be confident that the Manton won’t explode when used with normal loads ( 2 1/2 drams and 1 or 1 1/4 oz).   I collected the fore-end Dick had sorted for Bev – to be honest I didn’t recognise it as the same fore-end I’d given him, it looked like one from a new gun – I don’t know how he does such good chequering on such unpromising material.  He has also sorted the touch hole in the Theop. Richards flintlock – it looks perfect, and I am assured that nothing will shift it short of blowing up the barrel!    I had a good look at the Blair and Sutherlands – it is a re-conversion and the frizzens are wrong so we’ll see what can be done, photo included here……

The frizzen doesn’t fit the pan


Blair and Sutherlands – The frizzen doesn’t fit the pan and there is a crack in the support – red arrow points  to it. Its a fairly poor re-conversion.

6th Jan.  Back in the flat for a bit of sorting out, then a bit of work on the Manton.   I decided that I needed to do a more thorough job of sorting the false breech as just padding the face of the stock with epoxy  wasn’t going to do much for the appearance!  I did a little filing with a diamond file on the breech plug and false breech to get a better fit, they are better, but I couldn’t get them into tight alignment – I’ll live with that for now and tackle it later when I decide if I’m going to take out the breech plugs and lap the barrel.  Anyway I  did a bit of building up of the top edges of the stock with epoxy and rottenstone and adjusted the fit of the false breech to get rid of the gaps, and and does look better now.  The photo was taken when I had applied a few coats of dark shellac to the work area to ‘bring it all together’ but before I’d rubbed it down.  I need to work on the oil finish of the stock too.  I’ll  also have to get rid of the ginger browning on the barrel soon as it mightily offends my sense of historical accuracy!  Some of this can wait until I see if I can hit anything with it!  I got out the Blair and Sutherland double flint I bought some time ago as its on certificate and can now be replaced with the Manton.  The B & S needs the frizzens attended to and the frizzen brackets on both are cracked and will need welding – then it might have to go!

I still need to rub down the shellac and fill the couple of nicks in the inletting, but it is much better.

Much better fit of the false breech in the stock, but I still need to get the breech plugs tight against the false breech, but as both are hardened it is difficult to work on them – I haven’t really found where the problem lies, despite smoking the parts  – maybe I’ll take it to Dick and ask him, he is better than me at spotting these things.  He has now finished replacing the touch hole of the Theopolis Richards single – it was a re-conversion and had a screwed plug, which he replaced with one with a better fit with a German silver facing.  He had planned to soft solder the facing, but in view of the fact that it will eventually be shot, I got him to hard solder it instead.  The barrel appeared to be loaded with wad and shot but no powder.   He has also cleaned up the Alexander Henry rifle, and I look forward to seeing that.

5th Jan – In the case with the Manton was a three piece cleaning rod and jag, a spring clamp and an Irish pattern belt shot flask by Sykes that had lost its scoop.  I like Irish pattern shot flasks and use a small one hung round my neck by a loop on the bottom of the flask for game shooting.   I had the top parts of a similar flask I had bought at auction in a box, so I appropriated the scoop.  First problem was that it was too long, so I trimmed it to fit the belt flask and checked that it held 1 oz of shot, which is probably my normal load.  It is important that the scoop catch works well or you loose the scoop in the field, and if you are unlucky, all the shot at the same time.  The catch on the replacement scoop was a bit weak, and had been made for a thicker rim so it was a bit loose in the belt flask.  I decided to remove the spring catch from the scoop – it was held by a small, almost invisible brass rivet that I drilled out.  When I got the catch out it was broken and quite rusted, so I decided to make another one out of a piece of 3mm x 10 mm spring steel (the stuff I use for de-cappers)   Making one allowed me to make the catch a bit stronger and more positive in action, and to make a slightly bigger thumb lever, and chequer it with an engraving tool for better grip.  The new spring fitted well, and could be bent so that it held its tension and stayed in place reasonably well, so I hardened and tempered it and put it in with a touch of epoxy glue, which seems to work. I will put a small rivet in when I can find a suitable material to make one from, probably copper wire.  See photos. I’ll need to get a leatherworker to make new leather bits as the existing leather is cracked and leaking. My attempts to pack a new bed for the false breech  of the Manton failed miserably – the epoxy stuck perfectly to the clingfilm and peeled off the wood which I hadn’t degreased adequately. Anyway I cleaned it all off and have built it up with a paste of epoxy and rottenstone, which appears to be a better colour than epoxy and wood dust, plus it seems to harden better. So I will now reshape the epoxy to fit tightly on the false breech. – actually as usual when I came to fit things it needed a little more epoxy in one or two places………………..

Irish belt flask, replacement scoop, broken catch and donor top.  Bent nail holds the belt flask together!

Flask with new scoop in place, with bigger thumb piece (chequered) and stronger spring and better catch. It now needs the leather replaced!

4th jan – Bev did come back to me re the lip on the hammer of the Manton, so I had another look at ‘The Mantons – Gunmakers’ to see what I had missed.  The illustration that went with Patent 2722 was so bad that its difficult to make out how it is meant to be, but I read it as similar to my gun but with the hole in the lip on the line of the surface of the hammer pan lid, with the hole carried across the surface as a half round depression to exit on the outside of the pan. On my John Manton, the hole in the lip is such that it just misses the surface of the hammer.   Some of the confusion comes about because there were two court cases concerning the lip, 6th July 1814 Joseph Manton v Parker, and 20th June 1815 Joseph Manton v John Manton, both are described in detail in the Manton book.   In the first case the argument was that the lip and hole had been used as a self priming device, so that powder could flow through the hole into the pan to prime it, and then when the hammer was thrown back on firing, it cleared the powder from around the hole, avoiding ‘fusing’ and giving faster ignition.  In the second case the argument revolved round the use of the hole to allow air to escape from the barrel without letting powder out.  Joseph’s patent only mentions the second function of the lip and hole – he lost both actions on the basis of prior art, in the first case the argument seems to have been that even if the perceived function is different, it was the same thing.

The obvious thing was to see what happens when you try and put a typical powder through the hole in the lip, so I filled the pan with our normal shotgun powder and shut the hammer down –  however hard I tapped the lock with the lip downwards, all I got out was a few grains of dust, certainly not enough to prime anything!   That confirmed my suspicion that to self prime the hole would need to be comparable with the touch hole, and it is much smaller.  It would only reliably self prime if you used very fine and well graded powder, which they didn’t.  case closed……….

I did a bit more ‘fettling’ of the gun – one of its several problems is that the false breech doesn’t fit snugly against the stock, which is not good if I want to shoot it as that is where all the force of the recoil is transmitted.   I am not yet sure if my ‘fudge’ will work, but I carefully wrapped the false breech in clingfilm and put epoxy glue mixed with walnut dust onto the wood and replaced the false breech in position – it still needs time to harden so I don’t know if it will work, but it looks promising. ( Its not intended to glue the false breech in, the cling film is the release agent).  I steamed out a couple of dings, and have started to grainfill the stock a bit with rottenstone mixed into red oil with driers.  Red oil is linseed oil that Alkanet root has been soaking in for months  – a lovely deep red colour.


Not a very snug fit – not sure what is going to take the recoil!

3rd January  – A bit more pondering the Manton, sorry if I bore you!  The left hand lock (probably the least repaired) has a lip on the frizzen (hammer in the language of the time) that covers the touch-hole when the frizzen is closed but has a small hole through it  aligned with the touch-hole.  The right lock has a crude attempt to fake it.  There is some confusion about the purpose of this lip and hole so I went back to the Manton book and found it in an 1803 patent of No 2722 of Joseph Manton, younger brother of John, and a subsequent legal case for breach of patent in 1813 between the brothers which is fully written up.  It was known that you should not pile up the priming powder around the touch hole, but have it out of direct contact – the reason being that flame propagated more slowly through the powder than if the flash jumped a gap.  Piling the powder and getting slow ignition was known as ‘fusing’. It would appear that the principle was well known and that some guns were made with the frizzen obscuring the touch hole when closed so that the primer was not able to pile up at the hole.  Joseph Manton’s 1803 patent was for a lip that covered the touch hole but with a small hole in its centre to allow the air to escape when the wad was pushed down the barrel, without spilling the main charge into the pan, where, being coarser, it would have ignited more slowly. Joseph’s patent had a channel from the hole in the lip through the pan to the outside to allow easy escape of the air.

Lip and hole as per Joseph Manton’s patent 2722 of 1803

Manton’s patent shows a channel cut in the frizzen under face to allow the air to escape

Joseph’s claim in 1813 against John for infringing patent 2722 on two issues was thrown out because prior art was produced on both issues – on the lip and hole one witness claimed to have been making guns with this feature 27 years earlier for a period of three years.  Since no guns could be produced with this feature dating before the patent it can be presumed that the lip and hole were not really a sucessful, revolutionary idea, as indeed Col. Hawker said at the time!  Anyway my John Manton of 1808 has the feature on one frizzen almost exactly as illustrated in the patent specification in a drawing with such bad perspective that I’m not bothering to show it!  So my gun made in 1808 was one of the supposed infringements, but lacks the channel through the pan to allow the air to escape, although its difficult to see how the pan was that well sealed to need it!   Anyway having read all that, I will make sure I’m not guilty of ‘fusing’, or at least that I experiment to see if it really does slow things down.  I’m sure Bev will tell me if I’m barking up the wrong tree.

I am continuing to sort out a few things on the Manton – the trigger guard tang didn’t lie flush so I took all that out and cleaned out the bases of the inletting – if the parts have rusted at some time in the past they get a hard layer on the wood that stops the part seating – this can be very carefully scraped off, avoiding touching the sides of the inletting or you will spoil the fit – if the parts bed properly don’t touch the inletting!   I ran the trigger guard and trigger plate etc under the very fine wire brush and they do look better now.  The nails and screws all fit very well and are (probably) original.  I got most of the muck and varnish out of the chequering with methylated spirit – the chequering is somewhat uneven flat topped engraving and probably original.  The stock is very open grained so I might do a bit of grain filling as I refinish the stock – an oil finish as it is would leave too much grain visible.   Apart from the barrel, which needs rebrowning a proper colour, I’m offended by the escutcheons round the fore-end bolt (that holds the barrel in place) as they are just too big and bold.  Dick suggested that, as I don’t really see an easy way of replacing them with smaller ones, I engrave matching leaf borders round them – its something that I think wasn’t done till later in the percussion era, although I’m not sure.  Anyway it may be better than leaving them?

Rust and muck can be CAREFULLY removed, keeping away from the sides! 

The edges are a bit rubbed but there is nothing to clean off here!

This escutcheon is too fat and looks wrong!  The bolt head is a bit too big too.

2nd January 2018 – better get used to writing the new year date!  I went to Dick’s today for the first time in months to show him a couple of jobs that need attention, and get his opinion on the Manton – however hard we tried, we couldn’t find any evidence of modern re-conversion or lockwork – the only repair that is modern is the splicing on of the new fore-end and that is done so well that if you hadn’t been told, you would be unlikely to see it in any normal inspection.  So I’m happy to accept that it was a  good buy!  I noticed before I bought it that it had a significant ‘cast on’  i.e. the stock doesn’t line up with the barrel in the vertical plane but the butt is to the right of the barrel centre line by about 1/4 of an inch (about 1/8 of an inch would probably be more normal)  At the time I thought I might need to have the stock slightly straightened, but then I forgot all about it.  Now when I try the gun it ‘comes up’ beautifully and I think will suit me well.  Bev had a look at it but when he mounted the gun his eye was well over on the right barrel – too much cast!   I’ll be interested to see how I get on with it – I have a feeling that I’m too adaptable in my gun mounting so that I usually feel most guns fit me, but whether they actually do when I’m shooting them is another matter!  As an experiment I’ve taken an unknown gun and never put it to my shoulder until I’ve called for the clay, and hit it.  We shall see.  One poor bit of my Manton is the chequering, which is well filled up with ‘gunge’ and almost disappeared in places – its usually very difficult to clean it out – if you try to recut it without removing the hard stuff, the tool will wander because the wood is softer than the infilling dirt etc.  sometimes Methylated spirit ( wood alcohol) will shift it but more usually I need to resort to paint stripper of the dichlormethane variety.  I’ll give it a try and take some photos.  I’ve left Dick with a very nice Alexander Henry percussion rifle that needs the metalwork cleaned, and a Theophilus Richards single barreled flintlock fowler that has blown out its touch hole and needs to be safe to shoot – it has had the cock replaced as have so many guns – it looks as if it should have a French cock because of the shape of the fence – but that has signs of welding so I’m not sure what was going on – also the barrel  looks a bit early for a French cock- Dick will have a proper look when he takes the lock out.   He has a small flintlock lock for me to recut but hasn’t finished all the work on it yet.

31st December – Busy with getting the house sorted for another onslaught!   I had a look in the Manton book to check my assertion that the chequering on my Manton was too modern – from his photos most of his guns were chequered around that date, and the chequering was fairly plain and similar to fairly coarse modern chequering.  The most obvious difference is that chequered John Manton guns from those few years (around 1808)  had chequering that just ran out at the edges like a fringe of about 2 to 3 chequer pitches length.  The run outs appeared to be very even and there were no deeper/wider or other distinct lines around the chequered area.  My Manton does have the chequering outlined with border lines as in modern stock, I don’t think it will be feasible to return it to the original borderless pattern.   I had a few hours on Friday to make another small batch of de-cappers and engrave them – when I haven’t engraved for a while, trying to do it on spring steel snaps the points off my gravers – the harder ( & more expensive) the  graver steel the larger the bit that breaks off.  So I ended up having to grind about 20 gravers, some of them by as much as 3/4 of a mm.  By the third  de-capper I was more or less back in the groove and managed to wear down the points on several gravers before I broke the tips off!

29th December – I had a further look at the Manton and took a few more photos.  I’m convinced that the locks are original and came from a John Manton gun , I believe both were from No 5028  ( the illegible number on the edge of the rt hand lock would be consistent with 5028), althought interestingly there are subtle differences in the engraving on the two locks that only an engraver would register, so perhaps the two locks were engraved by different people or the engraver didn’t have a consistent style.  The main differences are in the border – the left lock tends to have 4 nicks in each side of each ‘leaf’, whereas the right lock has mostly three nicks on each side of each ‘leaf’.  The same pattern is followed for the borders on the two cocks, although the right cock shows  burrs thrown up by the engraving tool which suggests that it has been engraved since the rest of the locks received their current level of wear (so possibly a replacement).   There are also differences in the engraving of the two dogs on the tail of the locks, although these might be due to the different handedness of the engraving.  Its probably worth noting that most gun engraving in London was done by specialist companies that did engraving for a large number of gunmakers, and for ‘ordinary’ engraving as on the Manton  several people might work on different bits of the gun.   What questions remain, and how might they be resolved?   Let’s accept that the lockplates are original and from a John Manton gun No 5028 of 1808 or thereabouts.  I also think that the left hand cock is contemporary.  The right hand cock is a little bigger than the left but matches it closely – the engraving is a little less refined and hasn’t worn much – it could be a replacement from way back or a fake.  The frizzens are similar except that the left one has a proper small shutter with a small hole to mask the touchhole and stop loss of powder during loading, the right has a bit punched up to replicate it, with no hole. ( The Manton book shows this feature on Joseph’s guns not John’s))  The engraving on the frizzens is closely matched and looks original or a good fake).  The barrels have 5028 stamped on each, with London V and C/P marks in ovals, and one had the barrelmaker’s initials (?) T V or T Y stamped on it (p.s. its clearly T Y).  The breech plugs are both numbered 5028 – they do not quite mate flush with the false breech, which suggests that the false breech is not the right one – it isn’t particularly well let into the stock either, or possibly the fit is not perfect because the breech plugs have been out and not returned exactly in the correct alignment. The tang of the trigger guard has 5028 engraved on it (not stamped as I originally thought, which would be wrong!) , and the trigger guard is engraved with the dog scene that appears on the tail of the locks – so I guess the trigger and mechanism is original.  The butt plate has engraving en-suite with the rest and fits well (now I have knocked the peg in a bit).    I can’t find a number stamped on the stock anywhere but I’m not sure it would have been in 1808.  Looking at the locks etc under x 20 magnification it doesn’t look like a re-conversion, although I could be taken in – I haven’t examined a lot of top quality reconversions in great detail,  I know there are one or two engravers around in the UK who can do good imitiations of 18th & 19th century gun engraving, but I’m not usually taken in, so I have to think that it may well be more original than I anticipated.  Given that the gun came with a contemporary case, a Dixon powder  flask  ( although with too small a throw for a shotgun, 1 1/2 dr max – more like a rifle load – it will probably do for my Nock rifle) and a 3 piece cleaning rod I think the price (£ 1700 hammer price) was fair, although not a bargain.

I had a look at the bore – as I saw before I bought it, there is a bit of pitting but it looks OK to shoot.  The barrel has had the ribs resoldered – not a perfect job as you can see the solder through the browning.  The barrel measures 29 inches – in all probability it started life as 30 or possibly 32 inches – they were common lengths for Manton at that date, so it has probably been shortened, which would explain the healthy amount of metal around the muzzle.  I ran some 600 grit paper up and down the barrel, plus a steel Turk’s Head mop – I might try lapping it if it shoots well.


Number on the edge of the lock, and replacement (?)  roller on the sear ( I have never seen one before)

Could be 5028 on the edge in the same place?  The roller on the sear is as it should be. 


Mostly 4 nicks in each side of each leaf of the border.

Mostly 3 nicks in each side of each leaf


28th December  – Family party passed off without injury  Tom and I put on a demonstration of shooting out a candle flame at great risk to his person – he is alive and recovering well.   I had a look through the Manton book to see how my new gun matches the photos –  it is certainly right for the serial number in most details, and there is even some evidence that John Manton locks had the name engraved in rather asymmetrical places.  Looking at the photos I took you can see a few minor differences between the two locks.  Two features mentioned specifically in the Manton book for guns with serial numbers close to this one (5028) were the serial number engraved on the edge of the lock plates, and a roller on the sear to reduce friction between sear and trigger plate, thus making the action smoother.  The left hand lock has the correct number engraved on its edge behind the cock, and the right lock has some corrosion there that makes it difficult to be sure – I’ll need to look under my microscope some time.  Both locks do indeed have the roller on the sear, although one looks like a replacement.   The cocks are French pattern, which is also right for the serial number, as are the gold poinsons and the London proof marks in an oval.   An interesting feature I hadn’t noticed before is that the frizzen springs ( and mainsprings) have a tab to locate them in the lock plate instead of the more common peg – you can see it in the photo of the underside as one frizzen spring is standing off the lockplate.  I am inclined to believe that the locks are original, but the jury is out on whether they are re-converted from a percussion conversion (pending time under the microscope) – it is also just possible but unlikely that the locks come from different guns.  Of course the locks could just be clever reconstructions using the information in the book but it wouldn’t make any kind of economic sense given the state of the stock and if so it has me fooled for the moment!   On balance I’m happy that it is basically original and should make a good shooter –  better than I thought it might be when I bid for it.


The engraving is classic William Palmer for around 1808, the year Manton used the 5028 serial number.

The last ‘N’ of Manton gets close to the cock, but there are photos in the Manton book of similar ‘mistakes’.

I have a strong dislike of ginger rebrowning as I think it was never like that originally, but I’ll live with it for the time being!

You can see the tab on the frizzen spring on the top lock.



27th December.   I hope you are all had a good Christmas – we are still in the thick of it as we always have a large family party a few days after Christmas and another at New Year.  So I haven’t done much with guns, although I did get out my new ‘Manton’ that I bought at Bonhams last auction.  I bought it to shoot, and at a price that clearly wouldn’t buy a pukka cased double flintlock by John Manton  so its interesting to see how much of a dog it is!  It came form the Murray collection that had a lot of guns that had been through the hands of ‘restorers’, most of them reasonably competent at e.g. reconversions.   This one was obviously in a poor state as the fore-end has been largely rebuilt and the checkering very worn ( and probably a bit modern too).  The barrel has the appropriate Manton London poinson in gold and a single gold line, and has a nice twist (it has been rebrowned) and has the number 5028 and London view and proof marks.  Its fit to the false breech is not perfect – there is a small gap that I need to look at, but the barrel isn’t obviously suspicious. The touch holes look like platinum.   The locks could be reconstructions – the cocks are possibly slightly different, although not obviously castings – the lockplates are ‘right’ but the name is in the ‘wrong’  place on one and is slightly obscured.  The works look OK.  One top jaw is slightly  bigger than the other.  The touch holes on the two sides are in very  slightly different alighnment with the pans, which always suggests re-conversion as its an easy error to make ( been there, done that!)!   The tangs and butt plate don’t lie well in the woodwork and the number on the triggerguard tang is stamped not engraved.  The case is about the right date although the label, possibly genuine, is later than the gun or box(?), the case has probably been refitted a bit, the layout is now correct for a Manton flintlock, with the locks dismounted from the gun for storage – incidentally on many of the double flintlocks with  recessed breeches you cannot (should not) remove the barrels without first removing the locks as there isn’t enough clearance in the frizzens to miss the stepped out barrel as you lift it – you risk doing damage if  you try.  Anyway, it ‘comes up’ nicely and I’m looking forward to shooting it shortly. I put in a couple of new flints ( yes Bev, I do have a few)   If it does shoot nicely I might be tempted to re-stock it, I have a nice piece of wood!  I’ll put up some photos in the next couple of days when I get a moment – currently the workshop where my camera is set up is so cold it is painful to spend any time there!

24th December  (just!)  It’s too late to get all the prezzies you forgot, so just relax and enjoy the day – they’ll probably be cheaper in the sales anyway!

23rd December. Very magnificent rib of beef  (chosen in preference to the T bone) now in the fridge!  I’ve just sold the last de-capper that I had in stock so I’ll have to make another batch – I get rid of one or two every time I go on a shoot- they are not much in demand for clay shooting, although I use mine fairly often for both.  Making them is a good excuse to do a bit of engraving practice – I’ll see if I can do some over Christmas when being in the midst of one’s loving family becomes a little overpowering!   I took the Andrews pistol lock off to photograph the safety catch mechanism from the inside and  now find that the side screw is missing – I have a nasty feeling that it fell on the floor and got hoovered up!  Since it was made by me anyway its not too serious.  The workshop is a complete mess as I haven’t done anything in there for three months except clean a couple of guns – another little chore for Christmas.

22nd December.  Back from a quick visit to family in Wales, I can now sort out urgent things like securing a large T bone joint of beef for Christmas day!   I popped into the flat to take a couple of photos before I went, see below, its looking good, and will be super when tidied up and finished – about a couple of fairly gentle weeks work.   I rang the firearms department to see if I was going to get my renewal by 2nd Jan when it expires, mindful of the intervening holidays and was given the mobile number of  my F E O who basically sorted it all out over the phone including calling me back with a couple of queries – their records differed from mine – that we sorted out very quickly while I was parked in my car.  Fantastic service and the F E O was happily aware of the difference between ‘certificatable’ firearms – those that must be on a FAC or Shotgun certificate, and Section 58 guns that may or may not be on a certificate – it makes discussions much simpler!  Anyway I should get my certificates in time to avoid shipping  my guns out to Dick’s store.  I see that I got into the latest issue of Black Powder – I seem to have achieved notoriety because I had been shooting my single barreled  Twigg flintlock with the same flint since I got it ( a few ‘have  a go’ sessions and a couple of practice sessions) and almost got through the 30 shot flintlock competition, but had to change it for the final few shots – I have to admit that when I removed it from the gun it didn’t resemble any gun flint I’d ever seen but until its end it hadn’t misfired once!  Bev said it looked more like a pebble than anything else, and I wouldn’t argue with that, wish I had a photo of it.

19th December.  I have now knocked off from the flat for Christmas!   A chap came and fitted the gas hob today – he asked me if I’d thought of doing it myself, looking at the rest of the renovation – the answer is that the lease requires gas work to be done by a gas safe engineer,  and I don’t fancy being in the dock if we start a fire in the block!  Otherwise I would have done it!   Anyway the kitchen is now fully operational ( Giles is cooking dinner with a friend there  tonight) and most of the rest is working – the few remaining bits can wait while I belatedly think about Christmas….  I might even get out my Manton purchase from Bonhams and have another look at it.  My Certificates run out on 2nd Jan and I haven’t heard anything from the Firearms team, so I think a check up is in order.  I don’t want to have to take them all to Dicks if it runs out!

18th December,  Gas fitter turned up today to fit the gas hob but didn’t have the required gas tap, so that didn’t happen!  maybe tomorrow, although I’m beginning to think that the hob will never be installed.  There doesn’t seem to be clarity in the regulations, which makes things difficult.  The regs originally said that the hobs must be installed with fixed piping, not the flexible pipes used with gas cookers, but then this was ‘clarified’ to allow fitting using convoluted stainless ‘flexible’ pipes.  I’m not sure that most fitters realise this, althought you can buy the pipe from good old Screwfix, so it must be OK!……..

17th December, Still at it!  Today we shifted a completely  full Land Cruiser’s worth of old doors and windows and old PVC trunking & junk to the dump, so things feel a bit better.  The walls are done, most of the lights are fitted and working and the clean-up has begun.  The office, which was more or less finished, is now the dumping ground for flat pack furniture and a sofa  – Giles says he wants to have a dinner for his friends on Tuesday, so no peace for me in the interim – he has been working very hard on it himself, he was painting at 7 a.m. this morning – so I feel I have to do my bit!  Still got the ring, skirting and 9 sockets to fit in the living room, and the heater.

15th December.  Sorry, I haven’t posted on the website for  whole week due to flat panic – Giles wants to  move in, or at least be able to stay there by the beginning of next week and I want the bulk of it out of the way by 20th December.  Lots of it is almost finished, but very little is completely done! The bedroom and office have been carpeted and their skirting boards and electrics are installed, so they are pretty much OK – the bedroom even has a bed now.  The bathroom is waiting ceiling paint before it can be finished, but I did get the underfloor heating working today and most of the stuff is in except the shower screen and a mirror and mirror light.  The kitchen is waiting for a gas fitter to fit connect the hob, and some cupboard work.  The living room is the last to get attention – it needs the final coat of paint on the walls and the skirting and electrics fitted and the storage heater installed with 150 Kg. of bricks!  Plus a major effort clearing all the rubbish out- the plasterers left several bags with lumps of set plaster and all the old skirting and other debris needs to go down 4 flights of stairs……………!  Anyway today saw the installation of a new consumer unit with proper RCD protection, so I can get the lights working at last!  I’ve been using some nice looking slate effect  ‘screwless’ electrical fittings – sockets and switches – from Screwfix, but they are a pain to install as they are a very tight fit in the boxes and don’t allow the normal angle adjustment – they hardly fit in 25 mm deep boxes – next time ( if there ever is a next time) I’ll stick to good quality fittings!   I apologise for the absence of gun related stuff – I will try to do better over Christmas – I expect I’ll be bored stiff once the flat is put on one side!

8th December.  Bought the Christmas tree today, so it must be getting near!   I got the ‘office’ at the flat into a fit state for the carpet to be fitted – the trunking skirting boards are in and all the wiring is installed ready for the sockets to be fitted – once the carpet is in (on Tuesday) it will be ready for furniture.  We now have to get the bedroom to a similar state by Tuesday to receive its carpet.  I’ve started to re-install the wiring – great masses hanging down everywhere – its lucky I spent a lot of my life with electronics in the days when everything was connected by massive wiring harnesses, so dozens of identical wires don’t phase me!   I think Giles wants to be able to move in at the end of next week – so I’d better make sure there is some lighting, at the moment its a couple of portable photographic lights on tripods.  I tried again to drill into the concrete ceiling but the masonry drill didn’t make any impression so I used a cheap 8 mm diamond coring drill – I got about an inch into the concrete then swapped over to the masonry drill to break out the core left by the diamond drill and it almost immediately broke through into a void – presumably the concrete beams are hollow or have hollow cores.  Anyway good enough to fix a ceiling light fitting.

6th December.  I cracked a problem I had been struggling with at the flat today – the ceiling is made up of large slabs of precast concrete with chamfered edges butted together, the whole skimmed in weak gritty plaster about 6 mm thick.  The joints have moved a little so we dug them out and as there is not enough skim to bury a wire to the ceiling lights we thought to run a 1 mm T&E in the crack and then fill it flush. I spent an hour with a sticky Fix All  grab adhesive trying to stick the wire in the crack yesterday without success – the gluey wire kept falling out onto me.  Today I tried with No More Nails grab adhesive and fixed the ends first, and used hardened tacks to hold it up while the glue dried – it stayed up!  when set I covered it with tile adhesive, which is strong and flexible and bonds well, and scraped it flush – now I just have to smooth it with filler or decorater’s caulk  not sure which at the moment.  I tried drilling into the concrete slabs, but after 5 minutes I’d gone a couple of mm at the most, so I decided there must be easier ways of fixing the ceiling light – use a Rawlplug and screw into the crack – seems to work!

5th December.  I did have a look at the Holts auction Catalogue for next week, but I could only see one possible flintlock double that might interest me  (the Burnie), and I wasn’t too excited by that, so I’ll keep my hand in my pocket and carry on fixing the flat.  I went in this morning, and the study that Giles had painted last night felt like being inside a cardboard box on account of the colour not being that different, and causing the walls to come in at you.  So maybe a bit of a rethink.    Carpets in the office and bedroom are due to go in on Tuesday so a bit of a rush on to get the messy jobs out of the way and the skirting fixed – all the wiring runs in 100 x 25  PVC skirting as as there is nowhere else to secrete it – it then goes up bits of plastic trunking embedded in the walls to the recessed sockets and will look much better than the single sockets mounted on top of the old skirting.   Unfortunately the further through a restoration you go, the more little jobs there are and the longer everything takes…………………

3rd December  Dick reminded me that there is a Holts sale coming up soon, and his catalogue is 50% bigger than usual – so there are probably lots of goodies on offer – I’ll have to have a look.  Holts got kicked out of their Hammersmith venue – I’ve heard two stories, one that the young Duke of Westminster wants it for a flat, and the other that the regiment that used it has amalgamated with several others and needs it full time.  Anyway the next sale is at Blackheath,  to the South East of London more or less on the M25, so it might be quicker to reach by car for me – but I will have to remember to prepay the Dartford crossing fee!   I went in to Screwfix Manor today for a bit and ripped out most of the wiring that is redundant or will be replaced – the pile in the photo is about 2/3 of it!   I’ll have to start putting it back next week when a bit more painting has been done – Giles is busy with that every spare moment.  I found a horrific piece of electrical stupidity today – There was a cord pull switch in the bathroom (as there should be) but obviously at some time the switch had broken, as they do fairly often, so someone had carefully wired a torpedo switch on the end of a cable across the original contacts, so you now had to grip a small switch hanging down with live wires inside while in the bathroom.  The appalling thing about it was that the workmanship looked professional!

2nd December  Another month gone, and still labouring on the flat, which should now be renamed ‘Screwfix Manor’ on account of the amount spent at Screwfix on an almost daily basis!  Anyway I did have a couple of days off last week for the Bonhams auction.  I bought a John Manton double flint gun that was listed as a reconversion, as it looks as if it will make a fine shooter.  I had had a good look at it and decided that there were more questions that answers concerning its various bits, but the barrels had a lot of meat, and the locks were strong, so it would do – it has a case that is more or less right and a trade label for John Manton that is a few years later than the gun.  Looking at it carefully I see that the cocks are very slightly different, and the lock plates were engraved by different people, so I can’t be sure the locks were not remade, probably using original tumbler, sear etc.  We shall see how it shoots when I get a chance to try it.  Whoever remade it did a rather good job – not just on this gun but on many of the guns from the Paul Murray collection in Thursday’s auction.  I had a muzzle loading shoot on Friday near Sudbury with 7 other guns which was most enjoyable, the weather holding off and not getting really cold until the last drive.  I realised that my success rate at partridges (French)  is substantially better than at pheasants – I’m not sure why, but it may be that generally pheasants  announce their arrival and give you lots of time to shoot, whereas partridges seem to be on you in a flash, and the less time I have to think about it the better I shoot.  There was one strange problem on the shoot – one percussion gun failed to fire its caps – the nipples were rather large and the caps didn’t fit very far on, but the cocks didn’t seem to push them down fully.  The mystery was that this gun had been regularly used in its present form on many shoots without a moment’s problems.  We tried several makes of caps but it didn’t make any difference – we didn’t have time to make any detailed diagnosis before the second drive, but fortunately I had a couple of ‘normal’ 1/4 BSF nipples and a nipple key in my bag, and that solved the problem – but I’d love to know why the problem arose!   Next week is a big push at ‘Screwfix Manor’ as Giles wants to be able to move in, at least partially, by the middle of December, and I am under notice that I have to be available for more mundane ‘get ready for Christmas’ duties at home ( although to be honest I think a couple of days should be enough for that, but I daren’t say so!).  At the moment all the wiring in the flat is hanging down as the lights and trunking are removed – of course technically it will all be the original wiring replaced, with just a few extensions to the ring circuits as permitted under the regs!    Onwards and upwards, no peace for the wicked…………..

28th November  The flat is beginning to come together now – we have a loo and most of the rest of the bathroom done – just the grouting and the shower and shower screen to install, and the light and mirror to sort out.  At least the plasterers have finished, leaving a thin wash of plaster over all the floors – plaster is wondrous stuff – you can mop down the floors many times, and they still look ‘cloudy’.   It was STEM club this afternoon, and the children started building bits of the mechanisms for sorting red and yellow ‘apples’  – its amazing to see their concentration, and mostly they are getting on well in groups – only one ‘sulk’ today, which is pretty good.  We had a visitor who is planning to start a STEM club in Cherry Hinton – I think he was impressed with the atmosphere, I certainly was!     I’m still pondering the guns in Bonhams sale – there is one puzzle gun by Joe Manton with the ‘wrong’ barrel inscription – I had several discussions concerning its pedigree,  Bonham’s think its OK, but the bore looks like it was made yesterday, and my instinct says if it looks like it was made yesterday then it probably was!  Two uncertainties is enough to convince me that there is a 80% chance that its a modern replacement – plus there are enough clearly messed about guns in the Paul Murray collection for it to be possible, given the work that was put into restoring and re-converting others.  We’ll see what the market thinks!   anyway, here is the promised photo of the Theopilis Richards with the damaged touch hole.  Its a bit of a mess, and will have to be done carefully as it is intended as a shooter.


It looks a little as if the area round the touch hole has been welded ?  Without probing the area further, it looks as if there is a threaded hole with a plug originally capped with ? gold, with just the gold drilled for the small tough hole, which is presumably why it blew out due to pressure on the back face. I need to look at it  carefully to see if its by any chance a re-conversion.  Probably best to take the plug out  and make a new one with a thinner gold facing and the small hove beginning in the solid metal of the plug . I’ll take it to Dicks when I get a chance, although it has to be said that I haven’t been over there for weeks due to the flat work!

27th November  Yesterday I went up to look at the guns in Bonham’s Auction, the imminent auction is over two days, the first day (this Wednesday) is mostly swords and miscellaneous firearms and armour, and the second  (Thursday) is the entire Paul Murray collection from the US, so everything on teh second day has an additional 5% VAT as its imported.  There are a lot of interesting guns, and some in the Paul Murray collection that have been  extensively restored and are reconversions from percussion -some are  fairly well done but not in the same league pricewise as the originals.  There were a couple of nice percussion singles in the first day’s sale (lots  214  and 215) that had reasonable barrels and if they go for the estimates ( 450 & 500 up)  would be good value as a shooter – I also liked the Rigby 18 bore double (lot 224) estimate £600 – 800  – remember that is the hammer price, with the buyer’s premium plus VAT on top – another 30%.    It’s getting difficult to find a decent shootable percussion single shotgun for under  £800 , and more for a double.  The Paul Murray collection has lots of bits and pieces – if I thought I would get round to it, I’d buy a wheellock lock ( there are several locks on their own)  and make a replica to fit it.   The Paul Murray sale has a few flintlocks that are probably out of my range, and a number of very messed about re-conversions. There is a Joe Manton tubelock that I’m tempted to bid for – but I am expecting it to go for well above the estimate so I wont stay with it for long…. Its difficult to guess what the lots will make in relation to the estimates – in the past Holts was pretty realistic and  nice guns were usually knocked down a few bids either side of the top estimate, but Bonhams I think uses the estimates to draw people in, plus you can’t telephone bid on  estimates of £500 or below.    One other little treasure that David Williams of Bonhams pointed out to me was actually two – a pair of bronze turnoff pistols in fantastic condition (lot 642) estimate £3000 to 4000  ( that is 4050 to 5400 to pay, with the 5% import VAT included)  As the song goes ‘if I were a rich man…..’ I’d buy those – so pretty!  I’ll probably go up on Thursday for the excitement of watching other people spend money and something might slip through the net and end up in my collection – the last time I was at a Bonhams I went to pay for whatever manky rubbish I had bought, and there was a chap wrapping up a nice double flintlock fowler, and saying ‘ I can’t believe I just bought this for £300’.  I don’t know how I missed that one, but I did – a hint – Bonhams do sometimes sell below the lowest estimate, but Holts generally take the lowest estimate as the reserve and won’t sell below.



23rd November  Just back from a splendid day’s shooting at Woodhall Grange estate in Hertfordshire.  Ten guns all shooting percussion muzzle loaders and some really challenging birds due to the estate having lots of tall trees and the wind, which was pretty strong at times.  It took a while to get a grip on the lead required as the birds were motoring on some stands and some guns ( me included) took a while to get to grips with it, but a lovely sunny day and not really cold considering the wind.  Overall we got a shot to bag ratio of 2.7 which would be decent for a breech loader in those conditions.  I came back with two antique section 58 guns to fix, a single flintlock 16 bore by Thos. Richards that has lost its touch hole and needs it put back in, and a nice old Alex. Henry percussion .461 cal rifle that is a bit tired and needs a thorough clean and gently brushing to see what it looks like, before deciding if it needs the engraving recutting – I’d only do it on the barrel anyway as most of the rest is hardened and it is good enough that it would be a sin to anneal it just to do a little titivating of the engraving…… I’ll post some photos of both guns when I have a moment.  I have another shoot next week and I was trying to scrounge some No 6 shot, but Martin said he always shoots everything with No 7, clays and game and he is one of the more successful shots.  Bev, who is a demon with percussion or flint, makes his own shot which comes out in a range of sizes and is mostly quite round!  He tells me that the lead runs through very small holes ( I think .3mm diameter) and drops in to a fluid  – I think he said that fabric softener was ideal.  Maybe I’ll get him to take some photos for this website?  How about it Bev?  More on that later, as they say…

20th  November  While lying on the floor of the bathroom at the flat, pondering the slope on the bath waste pipe, which looks barely adequate but can’t really be modified as it goes directly in to the communal stack, I got to thinking about apple sorting machines for the STEM club children.  There are lots of videos of modern machines on You tube – mostly annoyingly without much technical information and with tedious music, but I came across a video of a museum exhibit of a old apple sorter somewhere in the US that is hilarious – the link is  https://youtu.be/y9MLs0mS_Hs.  I’m learning the jargon of apple sorting – one new word was ‘singulation’ which refers to the point in the process where the apples cease to be treated in bulk and begin to be checked individually.  In the museum video the singulation  puts the apples past a human operator to pick out bad ones, then onto an Archimedes screw to transport each one to the size sorter – the size sorter is the fun bit, it consists of a spring loaded arm that throws each apple along a row of cloth bags, so that they are sorted into bags according to how far they are thrown  by the arm, which presumably distributes them into the bags according to weight, which is a fair proxy for size!   I’m not sure we want to copy the principle for our machine, but I’ll take the video and show it for fun.   Anyway the plasterer arrived and started the ‘greening’, which is applying a green acrylic based grit wash to the walls as a bond for the skim coat.  By the weekend he should have finished the skimming and we can start to put back the wiring in new trunking/skirting.  Maybe I will have finished the bathroom by then – I look forward to having a loo again!

18th November   I’m sorry that I have been too exhausted to post most nights lately, and I’m afraid that the number of visitors has dropped off in consequence!   Work on the flat continues, the panic is due to the imminent arrival of the plasterer – by which time I need to have stripped off all the old plastic skirting boards containing the wiring and sockets, and all the rest of the electrical trunking, which means taking out most of the wiring, and cutting new boxes for sockets in the walls at the regulation height of 450mm.   Plus sorting out the window sills so that the window surrounds can be plasterboarded, which will give a much better look than the prominent beaded wooden surrounds to the old windows… most of that is now in hand, and a lot of the debris from the flat has been removed today by Giles and a friend – its now in the back of the Land Cruiser waiting for a trip to the dump- probably on Sunday, which is a rotten day to go as all the world and their dog is incompetently maneuvering their cars  and generally clogging up the place. Its rather like going to Screwfix on a Sunday – I am a fan of Screwfix, they have almost everything you could need in stock although how they fit it into the stores I cannot imagine, and every attempt I make to get things cheaper elsewhere ends in failure, plus they are so pleasant and helpful, which is presumably why on Sundays the world and their dog, having dumped their rubbish at the tip makes a bee line for Screwfix and clog that up too while trying to fathom out what they want, which usually ties up the assistants for hours.  ( moan over…. )….and the extra little door for trade customers  and speedy service ( I am for some reason one) isn’t open on a Sunday…    On Thursday evening I noticed that our storage heaters were all stone cold – a quick check showed that the night rate was running and the clock OK and the rest of the power was OK but no live output to the night store consumer unit.  A quick check on the web confirmed my suspicions that the contacter in the clock had failed.  A phone call to E-on at 8 the next morning took 20 minutes to get through to the right department via several operators, but got a promise to come and fix it within 3 hours, a man  duly arrived around 11 and changed the meter and clock for a new digital meter with some re-arranging of the wiring and was on his way by 12 – well done E-on!   I’ve been idly thinking about the project for my STEM club – I have a load of 50mm diameter pool balls in red and yellow and I’ve bought 20 50mm wooden balls that are much lighter that I can paint.  The idea we are forming is for the children to make one, or possibly two ‘apple’ sorting machines using Lego Mindstorms – it has colour sensors so can differentiate between ‘ripe’ and ‘unripe’ apples and also spot ‘bad’ (black) ones, and I’m sure the children can think of ways of sorting out smaller ‘apples’ and even possibly sorting light and heavy ones.  The challenge is going to be to get 15 children of 7 to 11 and varying experience of  Mindstorms to design and build it in one hour a week for 10 weeks – well I like a challenge, as does my colleague Dave…..   I’ll try to get some more photos of the flat tomorrow….

15th November.   Six hours of tiling heavy tiles (around 4 Kg each) and four or five trips up and down four flights of stairs carrying things has left me a bit exhausted!  The main tiling in the bathroom is now done, although there is a little bit to finish when the bath is in place. I had a bit of a problem cutting the tiles longways for the top strip as you can’t snap them so I scored the front and cut them on the back with a diamond blade in the angle grinder and they chipped badly on the edge where the saw went through as you can see from the photo – but when grouted I doubt it will show at all ( I hope!).  I now have to fit window boards and pull off the skirting board trunking and attached sockets and wiring so that the plasterer can skim the walls next Monday.   Unfortunately there is a lot of ‘stuff’ up against many of the walls, so a major clear out and re-arrangement is in order!   I’m looking forward to another muzzle loading shoot next week in Hertfordshire – all the shoots begin quite early and are at least an hours drive away so it will be an early start.  I must get some more No 6 shot!

14th November.  I wrote more yesterday than I published – I just forgot to press the button – its there now…   Not much work on the flat today as it was STEM club time again!  I had 8 children signed in for the first session and another half dozen jostling for places, so we signed up 14 in total, spread over year groups 3 to 6, that’s around age 7 to 11 so its quite a challenge to keep them all happy in a highly technical environment – this year we are doing sorting – the idea being to make machines that sort  e.g ripe apples or tomatoes from unripe ones, represented by red and yellow pool balls using the Lego Mindstorms computers and sensors and motors and lots of cardboard and sticky tape. I’ve been watching videos on You Tube of commercial machines doing it – the scale of food production always staggers me.  Just in case anyone is interested I’ll keep you posted on Tuesdays!   Tomorrow I’m back at the flat attempting to finish off the tiling in the bathroom, then making the window boards on Thursday morning.  I went to buy timber for the boards and found that premium softwood was about £9.50 per meter and I could get Red Grandia for about £11. since the softwood had loads of knots to be sealed and filled and the red was completely knot free  it was a no-brainer…….

13th November.  A RED LETTER DAY !   cablesfarm.co.uk has had 1 million hits (clicks) since it switched to its present form in May 2015, from a total of 140000 separate visits – which means that on average each visitor looks at around half a dozen items.  The number of visitors and visits and search engine referrals per day has been rising steadily over the years, it now averages around 240 visitors per day, although that does include the site being scanned by the search engines, which they do frequently because the content changes often and they keep updating the information they need to respond to searches.  This site comes fairly high up search engine listings, and has a very strong presence on Google images for anything related to antique firearms.       The Police have started another firearms amnesty, which is of course a ‘good thing’ BUT I always worry that concerned people will feel the need to hand in perfectly legal antiques, and some valuable guns will be destroyed as I doubt anyone involved knows or cares about antiques.  If you know of anyone who might hand in antiques, please tell them to check with a  someone who might know.  In fact there is nothing special about the amnesty arrangements except publicity – Home Office guidance is that the police should always accept surrendered firearms and only  make inquiries if they suspect the weapon has been used in a crime ( same as for the surrender).


12th November.  Day off while I sorted out mt tax and office work!  Giles went to the flat to remove the wooden facings round the window openings (on teh insides) so that we can get them plastered next week, and found a disturbing void behind one – he didn’t think it was structural – we shall see!  All points to a less than perfect standard of workmanship in the original build!

11th November.  Back at the flat to try the bathroom bits in place and plan the plumbing etc and waterproof the walls to be tiled..  Managed to get the bath in but it involved hacking out a bit of wall.  I’m going to have to leave out a couple of tiles when I put on the 10 mm thick tiles so that there is room to maneuver the bath in – they will have to go in afterwards.   I had better take tomorrow off to do my tax and sort  out my certificate renewals since you now need to get land authorisation and club signatures to renew – new from last time! And I need a photo……


10th November.  I got the underfloor heating down – it was a loose cable that had to be taped to the floor – since the cable is a fixed length and runs had to be a set distance apart it was a bit of a gamble as to how much of the floor got covered, but in the end I got all the bits that you could walk on covered.  Putting the tiles on top was a bit of a challenge – the tiles are big 900 x 225 – and its difficult to judge the thickness of tile cement as you have to be careful not to comb down to the wires – anyway I got by – a couple of tiles are not quite flush with their neighbors but they are out of the way !  They were still moving around a couple of hours after fixing – I think for the wall tiles I’ll try for a faster setting adhesive.  Tiling the walls is going to be exciting, there are about 50 tiles of 800 x 200 to fix, with a total weight of 200Kg – I just hope the walls stand it!  I think I had better do the tiling in several stages – 50 tiles falling off the wall at once would make mincemeat of me!     A couple of gun related happening – a friend has bought a nice over and under flint pistol by Staudenmeyer that might come through the workshop, and a TV producer from Wales is looking for nutters who like restoring antique things and thinks I might be one such!  Me, a nutter ?   Anyway an early night as the w/e is scheduled for carrying on the bathroom, plus my accountant wants my tax return by Monday as she is away for the rest of the year – as she only does my tax as a favour (  after about 40 years, I think) I am grateful, and it will be good to get it out of the way.  My old  consultancy and instrumentation business is just about staggering on – every so often I decide it has died under me, only for it to pop up with something interesting that I feel inspired to do…. I’ll probably regret chucking in my VAT registration!   I kept the old website going unchanged since about 1997, and was able recently to refer to it as a historic reference in a patent case !

8th November.  I made some progress on the bathroom and got the cement board up on the stripped wall – I now need to take out the loo and skim one of the walls – then put in the board on the floor to receive the underfloor heating, then stick that down and put the tiles down.  Fortunately the heating cable tail will end up in the cupboard with the consumer unit, so minimal wiring to do.  I unpacked the bath and the cabinets and I think I can see how it all goes together – we seem to have sets of taps we didn’t order – they would not be our choice, so will be replaced.

7th November.  I did my VAT return yesterday – its such a pain that I’m de-registering and ending many years of getting paid by HMRC as most of my outputs went abroad…..  The flat is hotting up as I’m trying to get the bathroom in before I have to divert my energy into getting ready for the plasterer.  I got the call to re-start my STEM club at school next week – I had thought that it was in abeyance until January but my co-STEMer Dave and I have come up with a project for the children that requires a bit of automation using the LEGO mindstorms computers – more on that later, as they say…………  So back to safety catches on muzzle loaders…  Safety catches were often fitted to percussion rifles – my Lancaster double rifle has safety catches – but they differ from those common on overcoat pistols such as the Andrews described below – In many rifles the catch is fitted in front of the cock and has fewer parts and a simpler construction.  These catches work  on the inside face of the cock, which has a radial groove with a notch in it.  The slider combines all the functions of the knob, bolt and spring, and apart from the groove and slot in the lockplate and the groove in the cock, the only other part is a small screw with a flat head that screws into the slider from the inside of the lock.  The slider has a raised lump on the rear end of the spring tail that engages the groove in the cock, and the forward end of the slider is formed as a spring with a slight protrusion on the underside that engages with one of two depressions in the face of the lockplate to hold the slider in the safe or open position.  A further groove on the inside of the lockplate takes the head of the screw so that its top is level with the inside face of  the lockplate.  So there are only two additional parts to this safety, the slider and the screw.

The lump that engages in the cock hasn’t been shaped to fit yet.

 Posted by at 3:09 pm
Apr 122018

Extracted from my 2018 diary, so it is to be viewed in reverse order, start at the end and work back!


30th march –   I put all the furniture back on the 8 bore, where I know the fit is bad I put a bit of hard black wax on the edge using my tiny hot air gun (1/4 inch nozzle) to take up the gap, and melt more into any remaining gaps.  The butt plate needed the bottom edge trimmed slightly – they often stick out a bit and catch, anyway it all went together reasonably well, and I got the screw heads aligned perfectly.  So its beginning to come together – at the moment its all covered with sticky slacum ( boiled linseed, beeswax and terbene driers) waiting for it to go jelly like so I can wipe/rub it all off again.  This process will be repeated until the finish is good enough, although it is always possible after a few coats to change to wax furniture polish and cheat!  I was checking Brownell’s website for honing stones – I might just buy a few bits to make up a hone – the regular ones go up to 10 bore but I’m sure I can fudge things – the extension rod to make the hones long enough to go down the barrel are much more expensive than the rest of the kit and definitely won’t work with 8 bore barrels, so again I’ll resort to making something.  I wish I had access to a Delapina lap, but never mind!  I am not sure I have the perfect recipe for Slacum – I did a series of trials and came up with a maximum of 5% beeswax and around 1% terbene driers – but it didn’t seem that critical, apart from keeping the beeswax content at 5% or less.  On the last lot I made the terbene went into short strings when I added it to the oil – not sure what happened there………..  My hard wax is made up of beeswax and carbon black, but it is possible to buy very hard coloured wax for repairing scratches in furniture that would be better – trouble is it costs £100 for a kit and has mostly colours we wouldn’t use. 

The steel cup is a bit thick (limited by size of available end mill!) and I didn’t get rid of all the defects around it, but its meant as a functional restoration.  Steaming has taken most of the dings out – minimal sanding was done – it is very effective.



The finial is quite badly rusted round the edges, which makes the fit rather poor, but improved!  It no linger looks like a tired old gun that has been neglected and I hope one day it will see use again when the barrel is done.


29th March – More 8 bore…   I forgot to mention when discussing removing screws that one of the problems with fitted screws in old guns is that the heads are contoured to fit the furniture and as you unscrew them you need to keep the screwdriver aligned with the slot, which often means tilting it as you turn it, otherwise you partially come out of the slot.  Anyway having stripped and cleaned all the furniture I escalated the job to include gently refinishing the stock as it had plenty of dings etc.  I inlet a small piece of wood where a bit had come out round the finial of the trigger plate and cut the surface flush and refitted the finial temporarily, then set about steaming out the dings in the spout of a kettle on the AGA – difficult to do if you are using an electric kettle, but a wallpaper steamer would work.  That got out or reduced a lot of the dings and destroyed some of the finish so I removed  most of the rest on the butt with 320 grit sandpaper and methylated spirits (wood alcohol) as it was varnished with shellac.  I cleaned  the chequering using an old toothbrush and meths, enough to show the chequering reasonably clearly.  Several goes over the stock with medium grade steel wool and meths got it to a reasonable finish – I didn’t want a complete strip to bare wood, just a somewhat better finish.  There were a number of black stains – probably iron stains, so I very carefully applied oxalic acid with an artist’s paint brush to soften the stains – you need to be very careful or it will bleach the unstained wood very pale – if that happens you will need to colour it down with Van Dyke crystals in water or a spirit stain, applied carefully.  When you apply oxalic acid or stain using an artist’s brush, apply it streakily along the grain of the wood – that way you hide any edges amongst the grain markings.   Having got the wood to a fair finish and acceptable colour I wipe over it all with a piece of kitchen roll dipped in shellac dissolved in meths – button polish is one name for it –  this seals the grain.  Applying a second coat messes up the finish because it leaves smear  marks, so at that point I’ll go to using ‘slacum’ to give an English oil finish, which will require several dozen coats, but before that I’ll remount all the furniture.  At the moment I’m waiting for the butt plate screws and the sling mount to derust….. I also need to fit the steel cup for the side nail.   The next big job will be to sort the barrel, but that may have to wait a while as I need to make/buy a tool for lapping the barrel before I rebrown it.

28th March – Continued with the 8 Bore restoration today with a visit to Dick to use his vice and torch to shift the breechblock, which we did successfully –  its a strange fact that breech plugs almost always come out with  perfect threads without a trace of rust.  Any rust is usually confined to a tiny bit around the joint at the barrel and on the edge facing into the powder chamber.  I don’t know what they used to lubricate the thread, but it certainly lasted 200 years or so! This one was no different, once heated almost to wood charring temperature and held very very securely in the vice it yielded to a 2 ft lever and came out easily thereafter.  The passage from nipple to main chamber contained a lot of hard blackish powder, but as it was slightly damped with cleaner or whatever I couldn’t get it to flare like black powder although I think it may have had some in it – by the way, I DID carefully probe the barrel with a screw rod to check it wasn’t loaded before heating it!  Anyway a trip to the electrolytic bath and a bit more picking out the passages with bits of bent wire and I’m sure its clear now.   Now the breech plug is out I can see that the barrel is pretty reasonable, certainly shootable.  I may have a go at lapping it if I can make a suitable tool.   The side screw hole was a mess so I dropped a 16mm cutter into it and made a plug and glued it in, but I then made a steel cup for the head of the side nail so I might put that in instead.  I initially thought that I would leave the butt plate as they are usually horrible to get out, but the rest of the furniture looked so much better than it did, so I took it off.  The two screws holding the butt plate are almost guaranteed to be rusted around the heads and stuck fast.  The threads are often rusty and stuck in the wood too, often pulling most of the threaded wood out with them.  The technique to get them out is to very carefully pick out the slot in the head of the screws down to the metal, and put some release ‘oil’ on the joint – I put a small drop of gun oil and then take a brush of Acetone and brush it around the edge of the screws – it penetrates better than proprietary penetrating oils.  You need to hold the butt very securely and have a screwdriver that is a perfect fit and try carefully.  The top one is usually the worst – if it doesn’t budge fairly easily play a fine torch flame onto the screw head ( it does need to be a very fine flame) and try again.  The 8 bore butt plate screws came out fairly easily, the top one with heat, and once started the screws themselves were as clean as a whistle.  There was quite a bit of flake rust on the inside of the buttplate and on the wood and it took about 3 hours at 2.8Amps to derust the buttplate fully.  Having derusted the furniture and thoroughly wire wheel brushed them ( .03mm wire brush)  I generally coat the hidden surfaces with ‘Metalguard’ which leaves a thin anti-corrosion film over the surface of the metal as its in a fairly active state after derusting and will rust easily.  I’m generally happy to put the furniture back with just the Metalguard as protection, sometimes putting on another coat if the part has been handled much since first coating. Most oils and greases soak into the wood so be sparing if you use any behind the fittings.


You know how it is?  Having got so far with the restoration (actually more of a tidy-up)  I can see that the woodwork could be a bit better, so for completeness I might just steam out the dings, and possibly refinish it – in for a penny, in for a pound……

Yes, I know its not quite centered!

The buttplate is held on by two screws and the tab along the top.  After removing the screws the whole buttplate must be moved backwards by 6 mm to disengage the tab.  As you can see, there was quite a lot of rust under the plate- its surprising that the two screws were in perfect condition in the wood.

27th March     I stripped the furniture from the 8 bore and put it through the electrolytic derusting.  It was quite pitted and the engraving is quite worn and pitted so it won’t restore to anything like original state, and as most of the bits are hardened, I can’t easily recut them.  I did try on the finial of the trigger plate by annealing it, but its too far pitted to make any difference so I’ll leave it.  The wood around the furniture is badly stained black, and on one side of the finial is missing – I think the staining is a combination of rust and too much oil on the wood – my father, who owned the 8 bore before me, used to slosh oil about on guns and several of ‘his’ guns suffered from staining, although in this case there is also quite a lot of rust under the furniture  that I have now scraped away carefully.  I’ll go down to Dicks tomorrow and we’ll remove the 8 bore breech plug (with luck) – I ran out of gas for my Butane torch today, and my vice is not really man enough.



Furniture as was – click on pictures to see in detail.


After an hour each in the electrolytic derusting bath and a fine wire wheel.



 Posted by at 2:31 pm
Apr 112018


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

  from  Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..

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

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

Welcome to my site – you’ll find this post is a sort of diary where I put things I’m doing that are (almost) relevant to the subject – they ‘fall off the bottom’ after a few weeks – bits from the diary may get put into existing or new posts when they fall off.  Please feel free to contact me via the comments box in each post or by my email as per the CONTACT tab at the top.  If I can I will  respond – email will usually get a quicker response.

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tumbler blank on a scrap plate – the glue failed!

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

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

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

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

Corer for removing headless screw.

A bit of pitting but not too bad!

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

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


Pistol has very nice brass furniture

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

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

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

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

The Adams patent is a very simple self cocking mechanism.

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

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

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


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

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

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

part filed link and blank for a spare.

1st July again…  A small problem – Tom was looking at my Adams 38 bore revolver and was testing the action when the mainspring stopped functioning – I don’t think he did anything wrong as its difficult to see what that could have been, but it seems the link broke and the mainspring then broke as it ‘dry fired’.  So that has to be fixed!  We have drawn up the link and one possibility is to turn up a blank from which to cut the link  – the plan is to turn up a disk with one pin at the centre and a rim that will yield the other pin, then part it off and glue it onto a boss and repeat on the other side. Its rather a longwinded method but I have done it before.  An alternative would be to mill the shape with square pins – but turning it over to mill the back and ensure register would be a little difficult, although I guess it too could