Dec 172019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tumbler blank on a scrap plate – the glue failed!

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

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

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

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

Corer for removing headless screw.

A bit of pitting but not too bad!

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

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

Pistol has very nice brass furniture

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

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

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

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

The Adams patent is a very simple self cocking mechanism.

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

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

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

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

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

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

part filed link and blank for a spare.

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

The break is just visible at the arrow tip.

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

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


 Posted by at 4:50 pm
Jul 112019


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

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

Quite limited gap for 3 fingers!

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

Blunderbuss by Barbar – classic early engraving

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

This all looks like bona fide push engraving!

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

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

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

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

Bottom of die recessed on grindwheel.

Serial number appropriate for about 1843

Address occupied by WR from 1917….

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Just about actual size – 50 x 120 mm

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Me, single barrel M/L comp.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Today’s jobs in progress!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

New and old stacked – not a bad fit!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Well, its a start!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is how it started out! It really is that bent.

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

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

Done -about 1/4 inch of cast off now – perfect for me.

19th March – watched bits of Holts sale on the web – I was right about the percussion guns being overpriced – lots didn’t sell and some just crept in over the line.  I didn’t buy – I was hoping the Fenton repro flint rifle (410) would go for near the bottom estimate as I wanted it to shoot but had reservations about the lockwork, which didn’t quite match up to the standard of the rest of the rifle – any way it just crept above my limit so I didn’t bid – I usually wait until everyone has had a shout before I come in – I always bid at Holts by phone as I feel it gives more control.    I picked out two other lots to watch, the Samuel Nock single gun (526) which had a perfect barrel, although I’m sure it was a Birmingham gun and I wouldn’t attach much weight to the Nock name on the barrel – there was no name on the lock – it made £800 – I might  have been vaguely interested at £700 but by the time you add the 30% buyer’s premium (Inc VAT) things get expensive.  My thoughts that the Pape boxlock was nice (1700)  were shared by a couple of other people, so it went above top estimate.  Pistols did a bit better than percussion long guns but the auctioneers were having to work hard to shift stuff.  The Unsold Lots sale will be bulging!   I filled in the time around the auction finishing off the false breech of Fred’s gun – I am reasonably happy with how it looks – I put a flower and foliage on the tip of the tang and then realised that traditionally the tang engraving has a cutout background so I dug it out.  My struggle with the metal of the false breech was real – the right side was soft, and the left side was a pig to engrave, so I resorted to the GRS gravermax for all of it.  If you look carefully you might see the difference between the engraving of the flower and foliage near the breech that I did by hand and the ‘assisted’ engraving of the rest.  It is almost impossible to reproduce the effect of hand engraving using an ‘assisted’ graver – but you would need to be quite used to looking in detail at old style engraving to know the difference.  But it explains why any traditional ‘English’ engraving done using a GRS on Lindsay graver or a hammer looks completely wrong to me – and unfortunately that is most of the ’19 century English’ stuff turned out in the States.

18th March – Don’t know what happened, I put up a post on my viewing at Holts but it didn’t get published, I must have forgotten to press the button. Anyway a few things of interest – lots of expensive percussion double shotguns – all the rage and some are definately overpriced, particularly if you want them for shooting.  The best bargain I saw was a single barreled percussion with a bore to die for  – I’d buy it but I have a couple already and am trying to slim down my collection.  I was tempted by a Pape boxlock ejector which was very sound and pretty but I’ve already got a gun lined up for my friend so don’t need another shotgun.  I do have one bid in, but you’ll have to wait til tomorrow to find out what it is/was.  I have been getting on with Fred’s engraving – I had another go at the false breech of the double 1795 gun – in the end I used my 1803 John Manton as a pattern.  The metal was very variable – one side of the breech end was like butter and the other side was very tricky – I ended up doing some of it with my GRS gravemax pneumatic graver – I am reluctant to use it because the engraving you do with it isn’t really right for the 19th century, but its fine for straight border lines.  I have to finish the tang off but overall I’m happy with it although at the moment I seem to be doing rather fine and delicate engraving – I’m not sure what has changed, or indeed if anything has!  I put my first cablesfarm YouTube video up today – graver sharpening, its not wonderful, but they will get better.  I am building up my equipment for making videos – I managed to get a nearly new £140 tripod head for £12 from ebay – it is quite time consuming making the videos but it will get easier…  I got caught at school today while running my club – could I come in for the next three Friday afternoons to work with one lad?  Welll yes…..    And another school puzzle that Dave and I are struggling with  – if you light a candle in a plate of water and invert a glass over it, the water will rise in the glass – why?  We reckon that the volume of gas produced  by combusion (CO2) is the equal to the oxygen (O2)  burned by Avogadro’s law, and the heat produced would have the opposite effect and lower the water level  – we don’t like any of the conventional explanations we have seen so far, including that from Harvard University.  We don’t buy into the heat argument as it doesn’t work the right way  and the burning oxygen doesn’t work because the CO2 is equal in volume ( where else could the Oxygen go?).  There are two factors that are not usually taken into account – since the burning process breaks down hydrocarbons water is produced as steam which should increase the pressure inside the glass.  The other factor to check out is that the carbon dioxide produced dissolves in water to a greater extent than oxygen, but not enough, we think. to produce the observed effect.  We plan to try with an oil film on the water to eliminate that possibility. Suggestions on a postcard…. as they used to say before email!

I didn’t get the lighting right!

15th March – Off to Holts to look at a few guns tomorrow – there is not much of great interest, and some seems a bit expensive.  Shootable flint and percussion sporting guns are now desirable as more and more people get into game shooting the slow way and the better quality percussion guns are rising in price somewhat, even without a ‘famous’ name.  I have been making a trial video of graver sharpening – not as bad as I thought it might be!  I have plans for a series for YouTube to drive traffic for this website – it will be interesting to see if more people find them than arrive at this website.  The first one is at

14th March – Some of the lads were shooting at Eriswell today (OAP  cheap day!) but when I saw the rain and wind I suddenly remembered all the other things I needed to do!  The Venables barrel turned out very nicely after its copper sulphate dip and five brownings with Blackley’s slow brown and one overnight browning with nothing, plus a good steaming at the end.  All the ‘rustings’ were stopped before it looked anything like rust – in fact the only way I could really tell anything had happened was when I came to rub off the surface with 0000 steel wool and there was some very slight roughness in the surface finish that went when rubbed lightly.  The photo below was taken hand-held – something I never normally do, hence the slight shake.   I went to see Dick as a colleague was bringing a 12 bore boxlock ejector for me to have a look at – I am trying to find a nnice one for a friend.  This one will, I think, do very nicely – its an Atkins Birmingham gun, nicely finished and with immaculate barrels.  My only slight reservation is that its chambered  2 1/2 inch and I  did want a 2 3/4 gun, but the this one will do fine as the recipient doesn’t shoot big loads.  You get such good stuff for almost no money in those side by side guns if you steer clear of a few overpriced makers.   I’ve done the first bit of Fred’s engraving for a gun he is making – a sideplate – I put on a simple border and copied (with a fair amount of licence) a ‘stand of arms’ from a pull he sent me of an original.  Mine is quite lightly engraved – I was using a little GRS C-MAX square graver in carbide instead of my normal 1/8 inch squares, and I think that made me a bit more delicate.  It was actually quite nice to work with, I might use it for a bit now, and maybe buy another one or two ( at £22 each!)  I have been sorting out stuff to begin making videos, and have added a new Canon M50 camera to my collection to keep by the microscope.

Poor photo but you can see the true damascus stands out well.

Side plate for a new flintlock in the style of about 1770 ish.

12th March – the day for tackling the Venables Barrel.  I cleaned out my derusting barrel tank (a half section of rectangular plastic ventilation duct) and put in enough saturated copper sulphate solution to cover a barrel (guessed).  I was unsure how long the barrel should be in the solution – I seemed to remember 2 minutes being given, but Angier in Firearms Blueing and Browning gives 45 minutes.  Anyway I put the barrel in and it was more or less instantly covered with a coating of copper all over.  As the copper is deposited because it is swapped with iron in the solution, quite a lot of iron was being lost by the barrel.  Seeing the rate copper was forming, I decided that the 2 minute option was the safest choice, and when the copper was brushed off and the barrel washed, the damascus was discreetly enhanced.  I’ve done two ‘rustings’ since, rubbing off the barrel well before thick brown rust is formed – in fact I’m rubbing off with 0000 steel wool quite early in the rusting when the barrel has just begun to look  changed – it seems to be working as I can see a decent pattern emerging.  I went climbing this evening and bumped into a couple of people I know – its a ver sociable sport – I should sleep well tonight!

11th March – Did my Stem club today – one lad ahd an experiment he wanted to do for his science project that he had got off You Tube, which looked dodgy to me – turns out that some criminal idiot is putting spoof science videos for children on You Tube – I’ll have to go in tomorrow and put the lad right or he will be in for a big disappointment – I’d like to get my hands on said criminal idiot………!  I did manage to help another child write a rather neat progam for teh microbit computer so not all gloom and doom!  I’m continuing to experiment in preparation for making videos – I got my expensive 60mm Canon macro lens back from the lab – its just the thing for filming engraving so I built a handy stand and had a tryout on autofocus – I’ve now got to maser the video editing and I should be away!  I need a quick way to show the tool tips at high magnification with good illumination – its quite difficult to see, even at x25 magnification in my microscope as the heels are only about 1/4 mm long.

Camera stand from a bit of tube and a 2.5 Kg gym weight

not sure why the turntable looks so bright – its really quite dull!

10th March – The Venables barrel is becoming a bit of a saga!  I’ve now taken all the browning off again, and am toying with the idea of giving it a dip in copper sulphate solution to give the damascus a bit of a boost – it slightly etches the steel and iron differently.  I’ll try to get it all finished and wrapped up this week!  I have been experimenting with making videos of engraving – I can’t use my microscope cameras as  neither are really good enough and the better of the two takes up one eyepiece of the microscope so I have to engrave one-eyed which I don’t like.  I find that I can fix my normal Canon EOS 760D with its 55 -135mm lens so it takes a reasonable video of engraving at a decent magnification, so I’m trying that – I just need to make a stand for it and learn to use a free video editor – VDSC.  I  want to make a few You Tube videos to complement this website – they seem to get loads of views so it would probably help get a few more visitors to the blog.  I am planning one on making gravers, one on sharpening and a few on looking at historic gun engraving and doing a few examples of classic bits of design.  It will help keep me off the streets, – I can’t give up climbing  thought as I’ve just bought a pair of climbing shoes and it will take me 23 sessions to recoup the investment compared to hiring the shoes each time!

8th – I continued to brown the Venables barrel and it was going quite slowly but I could see the true damascus pattern coming out, then, on the fourth browning it went a dark opaque chestnut colour and showed almost no pattern whatsoever – I’m not sure what happened, maybe I left it a bit too long before rubbing off the rust.  I tried rubbing it down with 5000 grit paper and 000 grade wire wool but it didn’t seem to do much.  The I tried the 000 wool lubricated with gun lube and before I had realised it, I’d rubbed almost through a patch of browning – I don’t quite understand why the gun lube suddenly made the wire wool bite, but it did.  Anyway I will take the browning back to a uniform level and have another go – what a  bore.  It has happened before to Dick with my Bales of Ipswich barrels, so I shouldn’t be surprised although I have never had any problems in 10 or more jobs I have done so far.   I was idly looking at a you tube on graver sharpening and came across the alternative sharpening technique of putting ‘parallel heels’ on  gravers.  The claimed advantage is that the graver isn’t so liable to throw up spurious  marks round the outside of tight curves as a triangular heel does.  In the parallel heel sharpening, the heels are  continuous surfaces of constant width ( 1/4 to 1/2 mm) parallel to the bottom edges of the main face, rather than small triangular faces.  The problem with parallel heels is jigging them to the right angle for sharpening as the graver needs to be held at a compound angle and its tricky to set up without a proper GRS setting jig that is very expensive and slow to use.  I have tried  and failed in the past to make a suitable jig – I’ll have to think about it some more.  It would be quite handy as it would be easier to control the heel cut as more metal would need to be removed.  Anyway something to think about…..   Here is a photo of the cast off on the Venables stock – it must be getting on for 3/4 inch and needs to be reduced to 1/4 or 5/16ths.  I have had to take off the furniture as the trigger plate runs into the bend in the stock and is currently inlet slightly off centre, so it will have to be adjusted after straigtening the stock.  I’ll have to make an adjustable jig and heat up the ‘hand’ to make it flexible – it can be heated with a hot air gun, a steamer or wrapping in cloth and pouring hot oil over it.  The first way runs the risk of overheating the finish on the wood and possibly charring it.  I’m not sure of the pros and cons of 2 & 3.  I can see that both could do some harm to the finish, I’ll probably wrap a hot oily rag round the stock to protect it and then use the hot air gun on the rag, being careful to avoid a fire!  I did watch Dave Becker do one for me (with a hot air gun) so I know it takes a long time to heat up and even longer to cool down – we shot at quite a lot of clays while waiting!  On the subject of the Venables, I ran some 6oo grit paper through the barrels with a plastic jag using an electric drill – I have a long fibreglass rod with an end to take brushes, jags etc and a 6mm hex on the other end – the fibreglass rod has a loose plastic tube slipped over it so it doesn’t rub the barrel and so you can hold it to guide it.  Anyway a few passes, the last with oil, put a half decent finish on the bores – not perfect but very good by the standards of  an almost 200 year old gun!

Yes, it really is that bent!

7th later – the number of visitors to the site has just fallen quite noticably – I wonder if its anything to do with the fact that I blocked a number of nuisance visitors a couple of days ago?  p.s – I don’t think that is the reason, I think it may be that the software has stopped counting some of the spurious attempts to interfere with the site as if they were proper visitors.

7th March – I’ve started rebrowning the Venables barrels – first washed in detergent and warm water, then chalk brushed on and left to dry, then rubbed off (wearing latex gloves) and then into the browning  – I have started with Blakley’s Slow Brown which gives a good colour, rubbing the rust off with 0000 wire wool, wrapping the wire wool round a bit of brass sheet to get into the angles along the rib etc.  So far I have done 2 rustings with the barrel hanging inside a 6 inch plastic tube on the back of the Aga with the base of the tube standing in a little warm water to speed things up.  Overnight I’ll leave it in the cool cellar to rust as it mustn”t go too far before its rubbed off.   After this rusting I’ll probably do one with my old printed circuit solution to give it a bit of a blacker colour –  I think a greyish browning  looks less like an obvious rebrowning job.  The darker colour can be enhanced by steaming the barrel between rustings – I’ll see how it goes before trying that.

6th March – A tiny bit of engraving today – a practice ‘stand of music’ for a butt tang base.  I also did a bit more cleaning up on the Venables barrel which will, I hope, be ready for browning before the end of the week – I will be glad to put that job to bed, then just removing some of the 5/8 inches of  cast off from the stock – unless of course anyone looking at this blog needs a nice percussion gun with that much cast off – its not quite a cross stock and I can’t think what shape one would need to be to fit it, but someone must have had it made like that – its fortunately  avoided the problem of having to have the locks made on a curve!

This is magnified about 4 times real size.

5th March – I did the ‘Extreme Earth’ presentation to the year 5 and 6 children at ‘my’ primary- I did volcanos, which partly involved the kids putting a little water and a fizzy tablet in old film canisters and putting the lid on quickly, then retreating to a safe distance!  Great fun was had by all.  It is lovely being involved with the school  – if I have lunch in school there are always children who come and sit with me and chat.  I think I get the best deal, all the fun and none of the hard work the teachers have to do!  I did manage to make a graver for someone who had found this website while looking for engraving bits – it is always surprising how many people come to the site for interests other than guns – like sailing or welders or Land Cruiser steering!

4th March – Busy at the lab writing up early marine heat flow instrumentation, and then at my school STEM club – tomorrow I am going in with a researcher from Cambridge to do a presentation on Earthquakes and Volcanos to year 5 & 6, which should be fun.  I had a few emails about using the electric cooker elements to solder barrels, so a bit more information might be useful.  The element I’m currently using is from the grill of an old cooker we chucked out.  The elements are made of an outer metal tube filled with a powdered oxide insulator with a solid wire heater in the middle.  They are all made straight and cold bent to shape afterwards, so can be straightened too, you just need to be very careful not to kink them or bend them too sharply – they will come out a bit wavy but with a bit of careful and gently straightening in the vice will just fit down a 16 bore barrel.  The need connecting via ‘ 1/4 inch Faston terminals using heat proof wire ( also salvaged from a cooker.  The elements run on mains voltage and will probably be 1 or 1.5 KW power – i.e they will draw 4.3 or 6.5 amps at 240 volts approx (use a 6 A fuse).  It is possible that the act of straigtening them may damage the internal insulation and give rise to leakage from the element to the casing, in which case DONT use the element – If you wire up the system according to my recommendations the electricity supply will trip out if there is significant leakage.   Please DONT try to use this barrel heating system if you are not confident with mains electricity – if you do try, make sure that the barrel and any metalwork around is bonded very firmly to earth on the electricity supply and the supply is via an Residual Current trip that trips at no more than 30 mAmps. Unplug before working on any part of the barrel etc.  Don’t follow my example if you are at all unsure – I have a (too) long experience of dealing with mains electricity – my first experiment was connecting a 3 Volt torch bulb to an unshuttered power socket at the age of 9 – my mother never found out what blew all the fuses (no Residual Current trips then!) and I sadly never found my bulb, but surprisingly I survived unscathed.  As a teenager I ‘invented’ the radio alarm using a large mains powered valve radio and a clockwork alarm clock with a pull switch with exposed contacts actuated by the alarm winder starting to turn – it worked a treat and woke me up extremely rapidly as I always reached out to stop the alarm ringing and put my hand on the mains (still no Residual Current trips – just as well or it would have tripped out the radio and defeated the whole purpose).  I don’t know if there was such a thing as a commercial alarm radio in the mid 1950’s but anyway I had one and it worked!   So if you are not very confident and experienced  with mains electricity stick to a gas torch for barrel soldering……  ( A Residual Current trip is a device that compares the current flowing in the live and neutral wires and trips the supply out if they differ by more than 30 mA due to leakage – they are, in theory, sensitive enough to trip and protect you if you become the circuit that the ‘missing’ 30 mA flows through – all modern domestic installations should have them fitted.)

3rd March – Barometer dropping like a stone and wind getting up =- glad I’m not at sea.    I have been doing a bit of practice engraving on and off for the last few days – actually its more a matter of graver destroying as when I get back to it I begin by breaking the points of my gravers with almost every cut because I don’t finish the cuts correctly with a flick out push, but lift them and leave the point behind – always gets me to begin with, so tonight I had 14 gravers to regrind.  I have a few bits of a gun for Fred to engrave – a butt plate tang and a breech block.  I’ve started on the butt plate trial design  – I wanted to do a classic scroll at the heel, with lots of empty space and then a ‘wheat ear’ pattern at the tip.  The challenge of the scrolls is getting them to look uniform in ‘texture’ and balanced in the space available  – I’m using a pretty tough steel for my test piece  (EN8) which contributes to the brakages but its good practice.  The pattern round the ‘screw hole’ is not really right, I won’t use it on the real thing, and I might change the scrolls for a ‘stand of music’.  I managed to more or less finish the little post office pistol by J Harding – I got the safety catch working and made a triangular ‘cover spring to go in the sear spring but I cheated and it relies on friction rather than a sprung detent as I couldn’t work out how I was going to make that on such a small scale – anyway it works fine.  I will have to make the mainspring a bit stronger as it won’t open the pan fully when you fire it off but otherwise it all seems to work and look good – the barrel is a bit pitted and I didn’t want to strike it down, so I have left most of the pistol more or less ‘as was’. I was going to finsih the Venables barrel bits, but went climbing instead and an now a bit knackered……….

1 March  – Time rolls on….   Dick came over to assist in soldering the Venables barrels together, which we did satisfactorily, although there are a couple of bits of the bottom rib that will need very localised heating to bed them down ( beware the effects of expansion when you heat the rib!).  The top rib was a bit of a mess as someone had had a go at refixing it and had filed some of the edges down in a wavy fashion – its a very light rib made out of  thin bent sheet twist patterned steel  –  so I tried to file the edges to a more or less uniforn taper before tinning them. I more or less succeeded, but the rib is now a bit low to line up with the breech block.  The rib is not perfect – it has a few left over dents  for instance.   The breech and muzzle are OK and the breech blocks fit OK so I think it will do – now it just needs the bore cleaned up and the outside cleaned up and the multiple oxide layers rubbed off with wet and dry paper.  Its a boring and dirty job, made slower by having run out of 320 grit paper.  Anyway I spent a couple of hours working up to 600 grit and its looking OK.  Its a horribly dirty job rubbing down, and I was trying to rise and bake bread  in parallel – I put some dark rye flour in the mix to disguise any dirt that may have transferrerd from my hands – its only iron, after all is said and done.  Anyway tastes OK!

Wired with soft iron wire and cut nails started.  You can just see the loop of the heating element ( old grill element straightened). The nails and wire needs adjusting as the whole assembly heats up, so as to keep the rib in contact with the barrel throughout.

Bit of extra solder fed into the breech.

I had to quickly clamp the muzzles together as they were opening up – the Vice grip is only very lightly tightened so as not to dent the barrels.  The element is only just long enough – the muzzle needed a bit of localised heating to melt the solder here.  The mains terminals are a bit exposed, but the whole assembly is properly earthed and on a sensitive earth leakage trip and is unplugged when working on it.



 Posted by at 9:30 am
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
Jan 242019

Here is the diary:

30th December – Nothing much to add – cleaned up the workshop a bit which took all the time I had – I did find a little book  from 1941 – a handy guide to Enemy Weapons with brief instructions so that they could be pressed into service by the British if needed…….

Its complete – someone has ticked off most of the weapons so presumably they had absorbed the information, or maybe actually handled the weapon.

I’ll probably be arrested for putting it on the web!  I might just compound my sin by scanning it and putting the whole thing on the web sometime. I like the instruction that it shouldn’t fall into enemy hands – did they think the enemy didn’t already know about the weapons they used?

29th December – One party done – 23 members of the family for a sit down lunch – lovely to see them all every year.  Now back to normal for 24 hours, then another prep for the next party!  Managed to get a visit to the climbing wall for another bouldering session where I met an old college friend who, like me, is a climbing geriatric – he has been climbing for many years, I’ve done it three times and am told that my technique is rubbish, but I did manage to do a grade 4 and 5 climb today in spite of that.  I found time to start on the mainspring for the little Harding pistol  – I had a strip of 2 mm thick spring steel and cut out a profile with an angle grinder and annealed it in the furnace  then put in the hairpin bend in about the right place – note the tab which will eventually make the pin that goes in the hole in the lockplate – best not to make it too small at this stage as you don’t know how the bend will turn out.  Heat to red heat and bend at 90 degrees then hammer a bit flatter and eventually almost close up the joint ( keep heating it up between stages). it’s then shaped a bit more and the thickness and width tapered and  then you can file down the pin so that the ‘elbow’ just clears the protrusion on the nose of the lock that holds it in place.  I had to heat and bend the pin very slightly to get the spring to lie flat.  I then opened up the spring a little and heated the the end that rests on the tumbler ( there is no link on this pistol) and bent it to shape.  Having got the shape of the end more or less right, I annealed to by making a hollow in a pile of wood ash and heating the spring with a butane torch, then pushing the ash over the spring to slow down the cooling.   After polishing it I was able to offer it up in place – it looks reasonable, but may need a little more adjusting before it is finally opened up a bit and hardened and tempered, of which more later….  I think it will be OK, if I’d had a slightly thicker spring steel I might have preferred to make it 2.25 mm thick, but I think it will do – I do have to put a dab of weld on the top arm so I can file up a little wedge to go into the small indent on the underside of the lock ledge.  I can then finish the sear nose and get on to the cock.

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

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

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

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

De-rusted and ready for restoration.

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

Cock stamped 1969 – with plug to block the square.

22nd December – I had another session of ‘Bouldering’ with Giles this afternoon (see diary 17 Dec.).  I managed a few of the third grade climbs but found that after a few climbs  I didn’t have the strength in my arms to do overhanging  climbs – I’ll have to ask Father Christmas for some weights!   I was reading a copy of ‘Muzzle Blasts’, the American magazine from 1968 and was amazed to see that the US Senate was considering legislation to require a State licence in order to transport any firearm in an automobile through that state!  In some states it was apparently already an offense to have a firearm anywhere in a public place or in a vehicle except in the local hunting season.  Given that level of proposed restriction its not difficult to see why the NRA so vigorously defends the freedoms it eventually won from excessively restrictive laws.  The UK may well find itself in the same boat in the next few years if there is a change of government, and in the event of a ‘no deal brexit’ transporting guns through Europe may well require permits from every country transited!  There are currently government proposals to prohibit the instruction of under 18s in the handling of air weapons on private land or ranges, which would be loose one of the main opportunities to train youngsters in the safe handling of guns of all types – I guess you and I know that few people with any land will take any notice, meaning that those without are being penalised again!  There is also pressure to get some kind of regulation of antiques, at least of obsolete calibre breech loaders.  See the latest copy of Black Powder’ for the battles being fought on our behalf by the BASC, MLAGB, Sir Geoffery Clifton-Brown and others. If you are not a member of either organisation, please join as they are doing a fine job defending all aspects of out hobby……….  Oh well, moan over, and by the way, have a Happy Christmas, that is, if the drones don’t get you…. and I’ll try to find something more interesting to blog about in for 2019!

21st December – Looking over my stock of unfinished projects to see what I can do to escape from Christmas!  I have a set of parts for a pair of Mortimer dueling pistols that were machined up by an ex. Purdy gunmaker – its not a complete set, it needs pipes and cocks and one false breech, and the cast trigger guards that I have with it are too narrow to do the job properly.  I think I’ll have to prioritse finishing them sometime but I won’t start till I have all the bits ready.  In the meantime I ought to finish putting the ribs on the Venables barrels – the only trouble with that job is that it probably ought to be done in the rough workshop which has no heating to speak of – still its not that cold at the moment…

20th December – I found my Hutchinson Dueler that I’d ‘lost’.  when I went away in the summer I found it lying around after I’d put the other guns I had in the house into secure storage – so I thought I’d better hide it, which I did rather successfully, because I have been unable to find it since!  Anyway today I was clearing out a part of my workshop and found it behind a large box.  It was about the third gun I bought in the early days and I had some of the work on it done by Dick and the barrel struck up and the name freshened by a professional engraver.  It was in fairly good condition except that the cock had been broken and repaired very badly by brazing so that it was not really possible to re-weld it – I had a copy of a cock from my very similar Edwards duellers, both Dublin, both the same era and very similar in engraving. That was before I regularly posted stuff on this blog so there is no post – I will put up some photos, mostly of the finished job. See new POST

18th December – One more screw to make today – a side nail for the duelling pistol – one was worn but OK and the other was a bit too far gone around the turnscrew slot.  I was going to make a complete new screw but I couldn’t find a thread that would work  – neither 2 BA or 10 UNC would cut the mustard.  Fortunately the thread on the existing nail was OK, so that gives two possibilities – weld up the head slot and file and recut it, or graft a new head onto the old stem.  Welding up the head slot is dodgy if you are an indifferent TIG welder like me, but I know I can make a reasonable fist of welding the stems of side nails and similar size screws.   I turned up a new head with 10mm of shaft and cut the appropriate length from the top of the existing screw.  A slightly precarious jigging of the parts and a dab of weld fixed it and I could then weld round it.  Of course the old metal had a fair bit of carbon, but I managed to do a strong weld using piano wire filler rod.

The head was then shaped a bit using a drill and file and the slot cut with a slightly ground 12 inch hacksaw blade,  brushed on a fibre wheel, given a quick reverse electrolysis and engraved to match the other nail and re-brushed. Then  case hardening with Blackley’s colour case hardening powder followed by quenching, then a wire brush and a short rusting with slow brown.  Overall effect is satisfactory!


Re-heading a nail by welding on a new head.


The nail on the left is the new one.

17th December – bit tired today as I went ‘bouldering’ with Giles yesterday in Cambridge.  I had seen it before when I went with the children from school for their activity week, but hadn’t really tried it.  Its basically free climbing on a wall  4.5m high with hand and footholds without a rope – if you fall you have about 500mm deep of soft flooring to absorb the shock.  The holds are coloured and each colour defines a climb, graded according to difficulty- I managed the first two of the 8 grades – above that the handholds are less positive and my grip isn’t up to it yet. There are lots of climbs at each grade, including overhangs, so lots of things to try and scare yourself with!  I only found one of the second grade that I couldn’t do, and I think I must have spent well over an hour without repeating any climbs – great fun… see photo (not the Cambridge wall).   I did a bit of work at the Bullard Archive this morning, photographing old equipment, since I seem to be the photographer in view of the number of photos I take for this blog!  I had a little session of lathe work this afternoon, having measured and planned the screws I need to make to restore the duelling pistol I’m working on.  I keep a supply of old screws to try in holes if I have to make new screws, and also thread gauges if I need to check a thread. The table of thread sizes I compiled is invaluable for finding a match – its on this blog on the USEFUL DATA page in downloadable form. I have most small taps and dies, except not a very good selection of  Metric sizes like M3.5 and M4.5 . Most threads of British or Irish guns turn out to be replaceable with either UNF or UNC threads ( or 1/4 BSF for nipples – not the same as 1/4 UNF! ) so those are my ‘go-to’ threads.  I needed a screw of about 4.5 mm diameter for the tang screw at 32 t.p.i  – I took a chance on No 10 UNF which should be 4.82 mm diameter but tightening the screws on the die holder cut a perfect 4.51 diameter thread. I did the checking and sketch the screws needed while in my warm workshop and then migrated to the freezing shed where my lathe is, taking cards with sketches on.  I managed three screws in a short afternoon including simple engraving and aging, and also finished off a replacement blank for the link I have to remake.




15th December – I finished the link today, only to find that its really still a bit short for the mainspring I want to use – I think I may have mis-measured somewhere along the line – not to worry, its the first one I’ve made and I now know I can make them pretty quickly – I left the pins on that one a bit big too, so I’ll make a better job next time – I didn’t bother to finish it once it more or less fitted as I could see it wasn’t going to work….   I think the technique will work for links with two pins as the tumbler end pin can be silver soldered in if necessary.  I’m also going over the ribs of the Venables to make sure they are properly tinned, and I’ll do the barrel some time but the main heating element is set up in the shed and its freezing in there!  Anyway here are some more photos of the link…


Complete disk 1/16th inch thick as a blank for the link


Hacksawed, ground and filed to shape – its not quite long enough!

14th December – I started work on sorting a lock for a client – it had a home-made mainspring and a short bodged link between the claw on the mainspring and the tumbler.  My first job is to make a new link – this lock has a screwed pin as the pivot in the tumbler, so there is only one end of the link that needs a permanent pin fixed through it.  This opens up a neat way of making a replacement.  First I hacked out a rough disk of steel from a sheet of 8 mm EN8 steel with an angle grinder and Araldited it onto the face of a piece of 1 1/2 inch bar that I’d faced off in the lathe.  A couple of hours on the AGA top hardened the adhesive, and I was able to turn the blank to about 35 mm diameter and then turn off the face 3 mm deep leaving a 2.0 mm peg sticking up in the centre.  putting the whole caboosh on the AGA hotplate didn’t quite destroy the glue bond but a few minutes with a kitchen blow torch finished the job.  I now have to re-chuck the bar and skim it flat and put a 2.1 mm hole in the centre, and glue the disk on, then face it down so the disk is 1.55 mm thick and also leave a 2.00 peg in the centre – then I just have to cut out and file the link to shape and drill the hole for the tumbler pin.  I’ll have to be careful to make sure I get the disk thickness right.


The link is too short – a poor replacement at some time…



One side of the disk faced off.

13th December – That work on the AGA didn’t achieve a solution! it went out overnight due to overheating and cutting out, and I had another couple of hours trying to get it right.  Its a delicate system, quite simple in principle but dependent on the burner and the reservoir being exactly at the right relative levels relative to each other. I’m not sure that even now I’ve got it right – the trouble is that it takes around 6 hours to cool down enough to work on and 6 hours at least to get back to working temperature.  Anyway I did get to post the gravers and make a graver sharpener for a client, and I also found a decapper for another client – I have to say that the retail sales figures for have taken a big upturn – that is, from about 1 every 3 months to 3 in a fortnight! maybe its people stocking up on Christmas presents or as a precaution against a hard brexit!   I did get to go to the school for their Christmas lunch and I even dressed up a bit – went into the little ones classroom as the were being fitted with paper hats, and they all wanted to try on my top hat.  I now have a pile of gun stuff to do and its getting near to Christmas panic time in cablesfarm – I can feel the pitch rising, so I’ll have to make myself useful to avoid a meltdown!  A correspondent pointed out that the photo of the funeral reminded him of a sketch from Monty Python – it reminds me of a sketch that they could have made,  but not the famous (totally tasteless) one they actually made.  I’m sure I’ve seen a scene of a group of pallbearers struggling across rough ground somewhere though……….

13th December – I realised why I hadn’t got much done yesterday – I spent 2 hours struggling with the AGA which had gone out while we were in Wales. There is a major problem with AGAs with the the old style wick burners using modern oil with biofuel added as they clog up with sticky soot – this time it lasted only 6 weeks or so since I scoured it out thoroughly.  ( Actually looking back over this blog I see that I cleaned it on 12th Sept, so actually 3 months, not so bad, but still not ideal!).   Anyway its now playing up and tripping the overheating sensor and turning itself off, so another session this a.m. trying to fix it – while I have a heap of other jobs waiting!  I thought you might like this photo from mother in law’s funeral while you wait for more gun stuff!


12th More –  Managed to get two gravers made – doesn’t seem much for a day, but I did have a visit from a collector/dealer who bought a revolver case from me and left a couple of pistols that need a bit of work.  One percussion pocket pistol just needs a cock – I only have long gun cocks in my spares box but I’m hoping that Dick can come up with something, otherwise its a bit of a hacksaw and weld job – amazing what you can do with a bit of brute force and ignorance!   The other one is a flintlock – it needs the usual clean up and the woodwork patching and sorting and probably a couple of screws made – as regulars will know that is one of my favourite jobs – it is also due a barrel re-browning.   To give you some idea of costs, the flintlock will probably cost around £300 to £350 to sort  – and it should add about £500 to the value – obviously we don’t often do work that costs more than the added value, although occasionally people want antiques restored for sentimental value.  I reckon making a simple screw if I have a die for it is around £20 to £30 with the head engraved and coloured down.

12th December – back from the Welsh funeral – wonderful way to go – the sight of the coffin being carried up a steep muddy track and across a bumpy field to be buried in her field was very moving – bit of a struggle for the guys carrying it though.  Anyway back now and a list of jobs to get out of the way before Christmas – make a couple of gravers, revisit my designs for sharpeners and make one for a client, fix the two locks – make or find a tumbler link and last but not least finish the barrels – they are beginning to haunt me!

8th December – Had a good clay shoot today – something must have changed in the way I’m shooting, although I can’t think what, but I did much better than usual with my usual Sam Nock percussion double – long may it last… Unusually for me I had a ‘misfire’ and some trouble unloading the barrel, but I think I made a mistake when I probed the barrel with the loading rod and in fact it wasn’t loaded at all! – we all make silly mistakes at times but its much safer to assume a gun is loaded when its not, than the other way round. After unloading the other barrel and tipping out the powder I fired off a cap – this showed that even after unloading and inverting and tapping the gun, quite a lot of powder remains adhering to the inside of the barrel – judging from the muzzle flash.  I  did know this from a previous occasion when I had loaded directly after tipping out the powder and suffering a very hefty wallop on firing……….  We had our Anglian Muzzle Loader’s Christmas Dinner (at 4 p.m., normal time for a cup of tea and a crumpet!) and raffle – I put in a de-capper and a worm for a loading rod – I was planning to offer to tap the recipient’s loading rod to take the worm, but I’d chosen to put a 9/32 x 26 thread on it as that seemed to be the most common thread on older cleaning rods, and it was picked up by someone who was looking for a worm for a cleaning rod that fitted it.  The decapper went to a good home too – there can’t be many percussion shooters in the area who don’t have one of my decappers, I’ve made so many!


Sandra, our very efficient AML scorer and button pusher!

7th December – signed on today to find the WordPress software that powers this site was due for an update, which included a new editor, so now I’m not sure quite what I’m doing – so far it doesn’t look that different so maybe I’ll be able to manage!   If you are thinking of setting up a website and want a DIY job, go for WordPress with Wordfence to guard it from rogues!  Without them I wouldn’t be running this blog.  I’m off to Cambridge Gun Club for our monthly shoot and Christmas Dinner tomorrow – muzzle loading shooting involves a comprehensive list of equipment, most of which has to be carried round from stand to stand.  I have a leather ‘bum bag’ with a waist strap that sits in front, it has wads and cards and spare caps and the unloading worm  end for my loading rod.  My capper is on  a chain and holds about 20 caps – its one of the Ted Cash ones from Kranks and works well.  I have a large shot flask on a strap hanging at my waist that will just about do 40 shots at 1 1/4 oz.  My powder flask can sit in a coat pocket or on a table if there is one. My loading rod is leaned against something handy for clays, or fitted into a tube that is stuck in the ground for driven game shooting.  Remembering all this paraphernalia is challenging, and its not uncommon for someone to get to the first stand and realise that they haven’t brought their loading rod from their car, or worse still, at all.

6th December – I did one of those daft jobs today that takes longer than its really worth, but sometimes one has to in order to get a project finished- the pair of cased pocket pistols I bought as a blog project needed new screws for the backstrap/tang, and the steel inserts they went into had got damaged when I had to drill out the screw.  So I made a couple of screws, and matching brass inserts to Araldite into 5 mm holes where I had drilled out the inserts – it turned out that 7 B.A. was a good thread size that I had a tap and die for – I have a more or less full set of B.A. and UNC & UNF but am a bit short on Metric threads in the smaller sizes.  By the time that job was done the morning had gone…. Anyway the little pistols are now together and working fine, so I’ll put them on the ‘for sale’ page.  I also cleaned up and tinned the top and under rib of the Venables (again!) and made a new heating element by straightening out an old grill element and bending it into a ‘hairpin’.  Unfortunately it turns out to be a bit short – I think it will work with the Venables barrels which are only 26 1/2 inches long, but only just!  I have got a couple of storeage heater elements that are 650 W each so I will straighten them and use one for each barrel – I’ll need some ceramic connector blocks to join them, the grill elements come with ‘faston’ tabs.

Used grill element – it does work but its a bit short.

5th December – I took the pair of London locks over to Dicks and we tried to find a pair of springs to replace the rather poor ones that someone had made for them – I hoped Dick would take on the job but unfortunately he is already overloaded, so I’ll have to have a look at it – we found a couple of springs that might fit, but we will probably have to find or make new tumbler links – luckily the links are fitted with a screw onto the tumbler so don’t need a through pin both ends, which reduces the work a bit.  The locks need a bit of welding as one cock is very loose on its square – someone had put in a couple of bits of metal as packing to stop it wobbling around!  Also the step in the cock that should act as a stop by hitting the top edge of the lock is not making contact – the cock is being stopped by the tumbler colliding with the bridle, which is not right!  I’ll post some pictures. I’ve derusted the little pocket pistol ( called C51 in my list for some reason)  and it doesn’t look quite as bad as I expected!  I am now tidying up the butt and re-sinking the escutcheon that had ended up standing well proud of the surface.    The little cased pair of pocket pistols is having the butts oil finished – it needs a couple of small screws made – I think 7 B.A. is about right and I have the taps and dies for that…….

(C51) Definitely worth the effort derusting it !  Its a good example of a very cheap pocket pistol of around 1850ish.  The engraving on the boxlock is what I regard as the most rudimentary engraving possible and is a strong signal to me that it was cheap, although the butt is better than most cheap pistols.  Note that the pistol is shown at half cock, in which state it could possibly be carried with a cap on the nipple without the cap falling off – maybe if one felt in imminent danger?  You certainly couldn’t put a cap on the nipple at half cock.

4th December – Busy today buying a Christmas tree and other chores – household duties piling up as the season approaches and we have a family funeral on Monday (not mine, you will be relieved to hear).   A new viewer of this blog expressed some surprise that it had a quarter of a million visitors over time, until I explained that I couldn’t distinguish between 250,000 different people visiting, and one person visiting 250,000 times, given the information my computer logs – I probably could do it if I downloaded each day’s visitor’s IP addresses and  correlated them but I’ll just assume that it has about a hundred regulars at most and lots of casual hits!  What I do know is that on average visitors click on around 3 or 4 posts each time they visit

3rd December – Sorry about the gap – don’t know what happened to the time!   I got set up for soldering the ribs on the Venables on Saturday – carefully tinned all the surfaces and put the heating element in and started to warm the barrel and I thought I had the bottom rib settled in place  and the solder melting when all the lights went out leaving me in total darkness at the back of a very cluttered shed!  Turned out that an electrical leakage in the heating element was tripping the electricity, so that was the end of that for the time being!  Sunday in daylight I had the idea of making sure the barrels which I had previously carefully earthed were not grounded, and letting them float at whatever voltage the leakage generated – all I had to do was the switch off the power at a double pole switch before touching the barrel!   That worked – I had a voltmeter on the barrel and it wasn’t above about 50 volts so no problem……  Anyway  I thought I’d got the ribs soldered on BUT no such luck – there wasn’t enough solder and most of it was dry joints so off it has come again, and I’ll try again with more solder on the joints – I had tinned them all but I’d wiped the tinned surfaces with a tissue and not left enough solder on them.    I had a couple of late London locks to work on because they don’t spark up as the mainsprings were too weak.  Actually they will take a bit more sorting out!  I’m still trying to work out the recent history of the locks – both springs appear to be much narrower than any I’ve seen before, one is certainly home made, and one link is wrong.  They are from the period when main and frizzen springs were made very strong to speed up ignition, so its a bit of a mystery…    I tried to get the little pair of pocket pistols done – I made a new screw for the butt under tang – No 8 UNC – and aged the head by reverse electrolysing and then browning tit – looks fairly convincing.   I’ll get them together shortly – I have to sort out screws for the top tangs, they are tapped into metal inserts in the wood of the butt, which appears to be ebony – class pistols!   I have started to de-rust another little percussion pocket pistol from my bits and pieces box – not sure this one is going to amount to much, but we shall see……………

Very rusty and basic pocket pistol (C51)- lets see what we can make of it!

29th November – Back from a marathon session of auction watching at Bonhams!  What is to report?  I guess that the general view was that prices were ‘soft’ when compared with a few years ago.  Not much surprised me – there were as usual one or two things that went well above estimate but nothing that got applause from the room, and a lot of the small pistols that went within estimate or just one bid above.  A pair of silver mounted pistols from 1650 (estimate £6000-9000)  made £13000 (Hammer price)- I think that old stuff –  i.e. up to mid 18th century –  is undervalued compared to the mass of late 18th through early 19th century firearms, just on the basis of the quantity that is out there.  A pair of nice Scottish pistols of good quality by John Murdoch of 1760 also made over the estimate,  again no doubt due to the scarcity of  such good early stuff.   Most small tap action pistols didn’t shine – some were unsold, but a pair by D Egg made £5500 (Hammer price) on an estimate of £2 -£3K.  The hammer price has a 25% buyer’s premium plus VAT on the premium meaning you pay 30% more than you bid – I’m used to it and plan carefully, but it used to get me in the very early days – I’d think I’d got a bargain, only to find when I went to pay that it didn’t look so great, even though I did know about it, its just psychologically difficult to include it while bidding, which is of course what all auctions trade on!  By the time a dealer has added on a reasonable margin, minimum 25%, probably up to 100% or more (no names, no pack drill, but you might know who I’m referring to!), things are getting expensive.   One thing that is interesting is that mid and lower  priced cased pairs of pistols often don’t fetch as much as you would have expected them to fetch if sold either uncased or as single pistols, especially if you add on the value of the case, flask and accessories.  One dealer who bought one cased pair said he would split it up to get more for it.  I was annoyed at myself for not bidding higher on a box of flasks, but you can never know how far the other bidder would have taken you unless you try!  I had intended to bid on some pistols for restoration on the blog but they just crept out of my top prices.

If you are wondering if  I actually bought anything or just spent my time writing down the prices things made, I did – I bought a nice cased Pryce and Cashmore Daw patent pistol, and , on the spur of the moment, I bought a ‘small’ double barreled flintlock pistol of 18 bore by Fishenden of Tunbridge in rather good condition – except for 3 small dings on the barrel that must have been made after it was re-browned as they could easily have been reduced in appearance by a little filing of the raised bits thrown up by the dents – I might have to do it!  Anyway it is otherwise in nice condition.  I think I’m going to try to make up  cases for all my pistols as near as possible in the style of originals – not by way of faking but just because they look so nice in a case!  Oak pistol cases should be easy as the top and bottom are screwed on with small brass screws.   A couple of pistols like ones I have got made cheering amounts – a Remington o/u Derringer in poor condition made £450 hammer price – mine retains most of its original finish……

Fishenden of Tunbridge 18 bore Pistol

26th November – I had a school visit this morning and my STEM club in the afternoon, so didn’t do much to the barrel except clean up the surfaces that the ribs will attach to. I checked that the breech blocks still fitted perfectly together, so I must have got the barrels joined in exactly the right orientation – that is a relief!  Here are a couple of photos of the setup – the red arrow points to the K type thermocouple that monitors temperature and can control the heater – it is covered with a bit of glass wool in use so that it picks up the barrel temperature – I also have an IR thermometer that gives spot temperatures so it is possible to control the heat and thus hopefully get the soldering right.  I’ll buy some lead free solder paste for the ribs.  I’m off tomorrow to view Bonham’s Wednesday and Thursday auctions.  There are very few percussion or flint sporting guns in the sale – a few large bores but very little of interest to the low budget shooter!  I will look at a few percussion and flint pistols to see if anything is worth fettling, and I’m tempted to look at percussion revolvers although the piggy bank is pretty empty!   Even if I am not seriously buying, I’m always interested to watch the auctions as it gives a good idea of the market and who is buying.  I have a feeling that Bonhams is normally the hunting ground of dealers, whereas Holts has more collectors – I know that the saying in the trade is ‘ buy at Bonhams, sell at Holts’  and I suspect that there may be some truth in it – one difference is that Bonhams will often sell below the bottom estimate if there is little interest in a lot, whereas Holts almost never does – in all their auctions I’ve only seen it happen a couple of times – Holts do have their on-line unsold lots sale as a backstop.  Anyway I’ll report back………..

Without additional heat from a torch, the element only gets the barrel up to just above 280 C – the melting point of tin.

Make sure you earth everything including the barrel!

Dick bought a straight element, but you can straighten curved ones if you can’t get a similar one.

the weird colour is due to the lighting in the shed – in this case an LED bulb – I’ve toned it down from deep yellow!

25th November – Started putting the Venables barrel back together today.  I set up Dick’s 2 KW ‘hairpin element on the controller for my furnace, so that I could control the barrel temperature using a probe, so that it didn’t overheat.  I wanted to start by silver soldering the barrels together at the breech and muzzle, and decided it needed one small packing piece between the barrels in the middle as they were quite easy to bend  and I was worried that when I came to put the ribs on they would force the barrels apart – the packing piece was about 1.5 mm thick since the barrels are a bit flared – properly referred to as ‘swamped’ for some reason.  I needed to get the temperature of the bits to be joined up to 680 C – the melting point of ‘Easy’ silver solder – which is actually about dull red heat – the element only raised the temperature to about 300 C (so no need for the controller at this stage!), which will be enough for the tin solder that I’ll use for fixing the ribs themselves, but I had to use a small gas-oxygen torch as well to get the areas to be silver soldered up to the extra required heat.  Anyway it all seemed to work out OK and I now have the barrels firmly joined in a way that will allow me to get them hot enough to re-fix the ribs without the barrels coming apart.  I now have to clean them up and re-tin the margins where the ribs will touch.  I’ll need to wire on both top and bottom ribs and solder both together.  The standard method is to tie soft iron wire round the barrels with the ends twisted together with pliers, and drive cut nails as wedges to hold the ribs- they can then be tightened up as the wire expands on heating – I also have half a dozen small ‘vice grips’ modified to clamp ribs in place.  The ramrod tube with the hole for the bolt needs to go on at the same time, and it probably a good idea to fix the other pipes at the same time.  Refixing barrels is about the worst job there is on guns, particularly on old guns where the metal surfaces that the ribs touch may be pitted and hard to clean – I wish I had a minature sand blaster, then I could mask the strips off and clean them thoroughly.   I’ll be interested to see how well this one goes – it would be good to have a reliable method!  I’m already thinking about lapping the barrels – again, it would be really good to have a setup that would let me lap barrels easily.  I guess that the soldering of the ribs will have to wait a week as I’m in London most of the week at Bonham’s sales – if I can manage to find time and internet access I’ll post reports!

24th  November –  I realised I needed cufflinks for a black tie dinner shortly, and I had lost one of mine so I thought I’d buy a cheap pair and construct my own with the bits and some nice Quorn Hunt buttons I have.  In the end I found a cheap pair in the keycutting/engraving shop for £11.99 – the assistant asked if I wanted them engraved (machine), and I said I did hand engraving myself – she asked if I did commissions as they occasionally got asked for hand engraved things… anyway it made me think it would be fun to engrave the plain ones I’d just bought in the style of an early 19th century gun lock.  The link blanks were a treat to engrave, being thinly plated copper – I might even be tempted to do their engraving after all!  I’ll get another pair when I go past again as I’m not particularly happy with the second one (not shown here!).  Maybe I should take commissions  for Christmas presents! I wonder if the gold plating would take – the decapper I plated wore/rusted through very quickly but I’d only put a gold wash on it.


Here are 5 motifs from the end of the 18th, beginning of the 19th century gun locks – bird, flower, fence, plant and sunburst – they are about 1/4 of the size they would be on a gunlock – about 1 cm square.  They are in typical William Palmer style .

23rd – We did pass 250000 visitors!  I did a little prep on the Venables barrels but decided that I needed an infra red thermometer as mine had disappeared to Gile’s flat!  As usual I got escalated into buying the most expensive one that Screwfix had – it does infra red up to 1000C and also had a K type thermocouple for contact measurement, so I should be able to get the silver solder temperature right without overheating the barrels etc.  The cheaper infra red thermometers only go to 300 – 500 C.  I did some more work on the small pair of pistols – I had to drill out the screw in the tang and in doing so I enlarged the hole somewhat – it was pretty rusted up and the screw fitted into a steel insert in the butt that was completely rusted to the screw.  I tried to weld up the screw hole, which should have been an easy job, but my foot pedal control on the welder had got out of adjustment and was on full power all the time, so that more or less destroyed the tang before I had a chance to take my foot off the gas!   Anyway I fixed the pedal and welded a new tail on the tang, filed it up and engraved it, then matted it down by ‘reverse derusting’ it which pitts the surface slightly.  Now have to sort out the insert in the butt, make a new screw and adjust the hole  in the tang…. a stupid amount of work for a couple of errors!

23rd – November – some time today this blog should reach a quarter of a million visitors since it started!  Amazing for such a minority interest site….

22rd November – Great game shoot in Hertfordshire – 4 cracking drives with lots of very well presented pheasants in nice varied country.  When we arrived at the first drive it was raining, but it stopped by the time we had got to the pegs and was cloudy and a bit chilly but not uncomfortably so.  As usual our overall shots to birds ratio was excellent at about 2.3:1, which is much better than the average breech loading shoot  – discussing it over lunch I reckon its because the keen Anglian Muzzle Loading game shooters shoot clays and game with equal enthusiasm, and thus shoot all year round, whereas breech loaders tend to shoot either clays or game, so the game shooters in general don’t shoot as much as we do.  Anyway I was pretty pleased with my shooting for a change – I don’t think I quite made it to 2.3 :1 but I think I was better than 3:1 and I got 11 pheasants. I’ve cleaned up the Venables, its now a question of tinning the barrels for the ribs and silver soldering the breech and muzzle together.  I discovered today that the Venables was put into Holts by a friend of mine, so I could have bought it off him and avoided the buyer’s premium if only I’d known!  Next week will be busy as I’m planning to go the Bonham’s sales on 28th and 29th – not that I can buy much but its a good way of keeping an eye on the market.

20th November – I cleaned up the little pair of pocket pistols – stripping off the butts  so the rest could go in the deruster was tricky as the screws were stuck fast.  Going round the heads with a modelling knife point broke the outer rust layer and lets the release oil soak into the joint, but I still had to use heat on one top one, and one top one just wouldn’t budge as the head was too far gone so I had to drill it out – slightly enlarging the hole in the top tang in the process, so that will have to be welded, filed and coloured up.   I put the rest of the pistols in the derusting bath without taking anything apart – they have cleaned up well on the outside and although I can’t get at the inside to brush the loose rust off, I’ll probably leave it as it all looks fine and works well – a touch of oil is all it needs.  I managed to unscrew one barrel with my hand, the other I can’t shift at the moment – not sure whether I’ll bother.  I had to go out so I left one of the derusted pistols without wire brushing or oiling it – you can see that it looks rusty, but all that brushes off.   I took the Venables barrels over to Dick’s to use his U shaped heating element to take the barrels apart.  I’m glad I took them apart as they are a mess with rust and poor soldering – the bottom rib was not well attached and there were a lot of shims between the barrels that were not properly fixed – it looked like a botched job.  The barrels were joined at the breech by what looked like brazing but it came off and didn’t look as it had made a proper joint.  Anyway now to run the through the de-ruster again and then clean them up and tin them along the rib edges.  I saw a lovely job of barrel assembly and blacking at the shoot on Sunday, but it had cost £500 and  that is just too much for the value of the gun, so I’ll do it myself with Dick’s help.  He says that soldering barrels together is the worst job he had to do – actually he hasn’t done any since I last did one with him last year.

You need to break the rust seal round the screw head and dig out the slot, then add penetrating oil and use a well fitting turnscrew.

I left this to dry after derusting as I had to go out – it looks worse than before but it will all brush off….

Here it is after a brush on the fine wheel – the nipple looks a bit short!

18th.  I had a game shoot on Friday – I didn’t hit much – some days you draw the short straw, but its all part of life’s rich pattern!  Clay shoot today in our black powder hammer gun competition – I was shooting my William Powell  gun made to Westley Richard’s 1874 patent with the ‘crab knuckle’ joint and bar in wood lock – it always gets admiring comments whenever I take it out – it has been rather over restored with blackened hammers (wrong!) but it still looks stunning if you are not a pedant!  I finished off in the afternoon re-shooting some of the same clays with my little side by side 20 bore Beretta hammer gun of 1955 vintage – I did slightly better, approaching 50%!   Next week I need to tackle the barrels of the Venables with Dick – I saw a beautiful job of refixing barrels today, but at a cost of £500 – that would make the gun too expensive, so I’ll have to do it!  I’ve been poring over the Bonham’s catalogues for 28/29 of this month – such a lot of things one could buy if one had money to spare!

15th November – More Land Cruiser expenses – the calipers were seized on the inside cylinders of both front wheels – anyway the front end is all done now – it had a fairly low mileage for its age so I guess these are symptoms of it standing around rather than working hard.  Definitely put paid to buying anything at Bonhams, although the catalogue for the sale on 29th arrived today –  they are selling the collection of a Canadian ‘Wild West’ fanatic – he had around 130 assorted Winchester underlever rifles and repros thereof – Winchester kept making special editions for various event and anniversaries etc., and he obviously felt obliged to buy one of each. I can’t imagine a more tedious collection!   I fixed the lock of the coachman’s pistol today – it turned out when I had got the cock close to the lock that there was a bit of play around the tumbler/cock joint, so I had to apply a little weld to build the tumbler up, which of course messed up the threaded hole for the cock screw – but I was able to tap it out again to a decent state.  I turned up a new cock screw with UNF No 4 thread ( .112 OD & 48 t.p.i.) – I turn up the thread diameter and thread it, then turn the shank to the OD of the head and part off enough for the head – I have a number of 25 mm cylinders tapped for different thread sizes, so I can then screw the thread into a cylinder and turn the head.  I then cut a slot with a section of 12 inch hacksaw blade that has had its sides ground down.  After polishing on the fibre wheel ( still in the cylinder) it is removed and heated to red heat and dipped in colour case hardening powder a couple of times, then dropped it in water – colour is then restored by heating to a grey blue colour which also tempers it.   Unfortunately the first one I made had the thread too long and it pinged off somewhere while I was trying to shorten it and I couldn’t find it – so had to make another.  I reckon it takes  30 ish minutes to make & finish a screw, 10 minutes more if it is engraved, less if I’m making a batch……

14th November – My Land Cruiser went in for MOT today – the front tyres  failed as they had perished – never heard of that on a normal vehicle – it usually happens on trailers that don’t get much use, they were not even particularly worn either – plus it needs new disks and pads – oops, bang goes the chances of buying anything at the Bonhams auction on 28th – just when I had arranged to go and spend a couple of days in London staying with my daughter so that I could ‘do’ the auction properly!  I just hope its back by Friday as I have a shoot (again). I had a go at soldering the fillet into the Venables barrel and tinning the rib.  It is difficult to get the tin – used as solder as its stronger than lead-tin -to stick to steel, even with flux.  One problem with tin is that it has no transition state between solid and liquid, and the liquid is low viscosity so it won’t bridge gaps – just runs through, whereas tin lead has a bit more of a semi liquid stage.   Its a bit like welding aluminium, which also goes straight from solid to low viscosity liquid so you can end up with a great hole where you thought you had a weld if you put in too much heat.  I did manage to get the edges of the rib all tinned so I just have to do the same to the barrel and join them.   I’ve put a few pictures of the pocket pistol on the GUNS FOR SALE page – its in nice condition, almost worth finding a box for it.  I got the lock of the Little pistol I had cleaned up back as I’d sent it out before I’d finished fitting the cock back on properly!  I have to make a new cock screw too as the ‘original’ has almost split in two at the slot – I had a look in the books for a pattern for it and found a photo in ‘Great British Gunmakers 1740 – 1790 by Keith-Neil and Back.  Its a good reference for photos of guns and pistols from that period and has the perfect matching photo – a coachman’s pistol by TWIGG of 1760 (see below fig 100).  I hadn’t really registered ‘coachman’s pistol’ as a type, but it makes logical sense for those dangerous times.  The choices for a cock screw  of that period on plain pistols appear to be a domed plain screw or a flat headed screw with slightly tapered sides – a bit later and fancier and it would have been a shallow dome with a very thin rim, still probably plain, but soon being engraved… or at least so it would seem. Of course you always have to be wary as its always possible (likely?) that cock screws have been replaced with the ‘wrong’ pattern. The existing cock screw appears to have been an approximation to UNF 4,-  O.D. .112 inches, and 48 t.p.i. so it will be easy to make one – I think probably the flat shape would be most suitable.

Most things are similar – the ramrod pipe is a bit more elaborate on the illustration and the fore-end is a slightly different shape, but not much else – both are by TWIGG and have his first signature, (c 1760)  so it will do as a model for the screw!.

13th November – I took the Venables barrel over to Dick for his opinion on whether it needed to be taken to pieces – his view was that the bottom rib was OK and it would be a bit of a fuss to put it all together.  I remain to be convinced, but I will probably put the top rib on, which I should be able to do without disrupting the joining of the barrels, and then see if I can get the bottom rib off and back on without them coming apart.  The barrels had an 8 inch long fillet in the top joint near the breech that wasn’t properly soldered in and was stopping the rib fitting down on the barrel – Neither Dick nor I had come across such a thing before, and I suspect that it was part of a botched repair when the rib came loose (see photo a few back).  I might put a bit of it back as it will help to keep the barrels together at the breech if I do take off the  bottom rib.  I ‘borrowed’ some pure tin solder from Dick as ribs etc were always fixed with tin, not tin lead solder.  I bought a small pocket pistol from Dick that he had cleaned up –  it is quite a tidy little pistol, and unusual in that it has an attached stirrup ramrod  – very handy.  Anyway it will go on the GUNS FOR SALE page as soon as I can find a few moments to do it and to take a few more photos – let me know if you are interested.  I also have the cased pair of pistols below to clean up – they will probably go for sale too – little pistols are really popular now – long guns take up too much room for most people.

12th November – I de-rusted the barrel of the Venables to remove the rust that was lurking under the now removed rib.  The process left the barrel looking really good – you can still see the rather nice damascus pattern, but it now looks as if it is just an old finish and hasn’t been rebrowned.  If I wasn’t going to have to make a bit of a mess cleaning up the barrel to refit the rib etc. I’d probably be happy to leave it.  I noticed that a bit of the under rib is lifting, so I don’t think I can leave it, which means a complete strip down of the barrels to their individual parts ( 2 barrels, top rib, bottom rib in 2 sections, 2 pipes, muzzle fillets,  pipe for bolt.)  Dick says it is not difficult to refix the barrels together – I have done it once ( on the Perrins restoration) but it was a bit tricky.  He did say that it wasn’t overly expensive to get it done by Ladbrooks, so I might explore that option as they could be lapped at the same time.    I had a visit from a friend/collector yesterday and got a small pair of inlaid pistols to fix, plus I bought a pair of pocket pistols in a case that I wanted so that I could do a ‘typical’ restoration for this blog.  They are nothing very special, but they are a pair which is not common, and ‘as found’ and fairly rusted and the case is quite pretty so it will be a useful job for the Blog when I’ve finished the Venables.

If you click on this you’ll see that there is quite a decent pattern visible after de-rusting. There is a bit of corrosion under the rib but not enough to cause concern in terms of strength.

Pair of pocket pistols for restoration  – it will be interesting to see how they turn out!  Someone must have had fun doing the box.

11th November – I knew it would happen soon – that I’d get the urge to do something to one of the guns that is sitting round the place waiting patiently for attention!  In the end it was the Venables double 15 bore percussion that I’d bought at Holts with a sprung rib at the breech end but otherwise a nice gun.  I kept walking past it until this afternoon when I picked it up and decided that I would do the job properly, take out the breech plugs and remove the top rib completely to see what else needed doing.  Getting the breech plugs out of a double is always a bit fraught as you have to hold the tubes tightly in a lead lined vice while you put a pretty massive force on a 2 ft long wrench. You then risk breaking the barrels apart, although in this case I may end up taking them apart anyway  With a double gun you don’t have much room around the hook of the first plug out as the hook of the second barrel gets in the way so as soon as it moves you have to change tools ( in this case to a big ‘vise grip’).  Fortune was smiling – my breech plug spanner fitted perfectly with a little filing, and the first plug came out easily – I suspect it had been removed recently.  The second was still in tight and needed quite a bit of heat to shift it ( I did check the barrel wasn’t loaded!), but in the end it came out OK – at least you can use the long wrench for all of that one.  I then ran the butane torch down the top rib and detached the 2/3 that was still attached.  The rib was hiding a fair amount of rust, and wasn’t particularly well stuck on  anywhere.   Now that I can see up the barrels properly, I can see that the bores are pretty good, so I will probably send them to Ladbrooks to be lapped when I’ve put them together (or perhaps have a go myself?).  I now have to decide whether to take the bottom rib out to get rid of any rust there, or to leave it so that the alignment and regulation of the barrels is retained.  I’ll probably derust them as they are now so I can see how much the rust has eaten into the barrel before deciding whether to strip the barrels down to the individual tubes.  I think someone had started to do the rib before, but hadn’t managed to get the second plug out, so had given up and put it in the auction.  I’m more than ever convinced that it will be a fine gun when finished – it will be quite handy as the barrel is short for a percussion gun (27 inches) – I suspect it has been shortened, although given the very clean state of the bore, not for the usual reason of getting rid of a thin muzzle.  Anyway gun work is on again!  P.S bits are currently being derusted at 2.6 amps so I’ll leave them for an hour or so – it will, of course, destroy the browning, but cleaning and re-soldering the rib would have done that anyway.

Barrel with RH hand plug removed and LH plug started – it was held vertically in the vice to get this far. The long wrench is shown – larger cutouts fit single barrelled breech plugs – the barrels are still joined although it looks as if they are apart. (sorry about the photo, hand held, poor light and in a hurry)

Barrel and rib – the rib is very thin and it and the barrel are quite rusted on the inside surfaces.  I’ll derust both and see if the bottom rib needs to come off.

The Venables of Oxford before I started messing about with it – beautiful stock…

9th November – My STEM club children did their presentation to an assembly today which was great fun – they presented their ‘cookie alarms’ – amazingly all 8 alarms worked!  Now we have to think of projects for them for the rest of the term!  I was looking through a blog that had an argument about how much one should restore antique guns.  One school of thought says that one should try to return them to the state they were when new – by if necessary doing a complete refinish.  They compare antique guns to old cars and watches, which they claim are always restored fully, including repainting and re-upholstering, and add to their argument by conflating ‘patina’ with  ‘rust’.   Their argument fails on several counts, firstly because the purpose of restoring old cars and watches is to be able to use them for their original purpose, even if only occasionally, whereas very few old guns are ever shot, even once for a test.  The same argument applies to watches.  The main argument against trying to recreate the original finish on guns is that it is not usually possible to do so without destroying something else.  With cars the paint is a superficial layer that can be removed and replaced without any damage to the underlying structure, whereas removing the ‘patina’ to generate a surface smooth enough to refinish back to the original standard will inevitably degrade the engraving, and it is virtually impossible to recut a whole gun decoration without loosing part of its essential character.  At that point it is really easier to start from scratch and make a new ‘antique’!  Some parts will inevitably be worn in such a way that they can’t be returned to original condition, so there will be a mismatch at the end of the process.  The other fallacy is the claim that fully restored cars and watches are more valuable than ones in good original condition – they are not by a long way!   Guns, cars, watches – a full refinishing may hide anything  and if the purpose is to have something to display rather than use, that should be a warning to would be purchasers that all may not be as it seems.  My approach is that with guns of poor quality or in poor condition there is very little to loose by doing whatever restoration is necessary to make something worth keeping for posterity.  For mid range value and condition I would try to restore functionality by doing any necessary mechanical work and  cleaning off all surface rust – either by gently mechanical means or electrolytically if there is enough rust to warrant it, which process leaves its own quite acceptable finish that requires no further treatment beside oiling.  Repairs to the wood depend on the extent of any damage – structural cracks and missing wood need to be attended to,  extensive denting may with advantage be steamed out after which some refinishing will be necessary.   High class guns have a higher threshold before interventions are acceptable, and will probably be restricted to restoring mechanical function and repairing major defects.  The most common refinishing is re-browning of barrels, which seems to be something done for/by collectors almost as a matter of course.  The metal from which barrels are made is soft and liable to corrosion and marking and scratching whereas most of the rest of the metalwork is hardened and more protected, so barrels are almost always in the worst condition of any part of the gun and can really drag down the appearance, so its understandable that they get re-browned.  I suspect that it may not have been uncommon for the barrels of guns to be re-browned occasionally while they were in service for the same reason – evidence for in service re-browning comes from the wear often seen in the lettering on barrels.   It’s certainly a common re-finishing operation and if done carefully probably doesn’t detract from the value, although a gun with a good original finish will always fetch more.     Descriptions are something else that is fought over.  I guess ‘original’ is the key work – if it is unqualified it should mean that all the parts are original, and the appearance of the gun hasn’t been changed – i.e. reconverted to flint.  Where the finish is original throughout this would be noted as ‘original finish’ or something similar.  Where barrels have been re-browned this should usually be indicated, but isn’t always obvious.  My take on re-browning barrels is that you shouldn’t aim to get them back to ‘shop’ condition because they will then show up the rest of the gun – just just to create a compatible and discrete finish without to much shine.

8th November – I just got the  Bonham’s catalogues for the next sale on 28th November – what a treasure trove of stuff, there are two large  quality collections up for sale.  It strikes me that many of the serious collectors in the business are of a ‘certain’ age, and that there may not be so many younger collectors waiting in the wings to pick up the spoils – my guess is that a lot of the good stuff will go overseas, probably to the US where there is more general interest in these things and the currency is favourable. I know of one or two good collections that are bound to be on the market within the next few years.  Anyway in the meantime the really desirable guns are the rare pieces and fine, preferably cased, pistols in really good condition, and I expect the run of the mill stuff to go for reasonable prices!  I don’t know if that will turn out to be the case – we shall see, but the estimates don’t look excessive!  Given the impending legislation on ivory it will be interesting to see if the pair of ivory handled pocket pistols sell.

6th November – Dick has been relining a gun case for a  Joseph Manton percussion gun,  I gave him some green biase that was a bit bright (from Bernie the Bolt) – I had faded it down using dilute bleach when I used it, but he used too much bleach and it went a bit grey .  He then tried a hot wash in the washing machine on the remainder of the cloth, which gave a decent result, but by that time he had not got enough left to finish the job, which means raiding my stock again!   I’m still fixing up my internet wiring under the floor etc – I got a new crimper but the cost was nearer £50 – still it works and I can remove the patch cables that were running round the house in an untidy and conspicuous way…..   I will get back to some gun work shortly but its so cold in the workshop if I’m not moving that its only worth starting when I have time to get the woodburner up to temperature and let it warm up the room.

5th November – Here are some photos of the 4 barreled pistol I did some work on for Dick for a client – I engraved the barrel tang as it had been welded – I forgot to take photos of the finished job but here are some of the pistol – Dick had stripped the lock down to repair so I didn’t have those bits on hand to photograph.  It has an indistinct name on the lock that could be HUNT  – its not very clear overall  but the N and T are fairly clear and most other possible names don’t fit – the initial letter definitely had a straight vertical line in it!.  Hunt appears several times in the list of Birmingham and Provincial makers – the most likely being Joseph Hunt, gun and pistol maker of Bull St Birmingham 1766 – 1774, or Robert Hunt listed in Rotherham in 1783.   I would date the gun from around 1780 on stylistic grounds and based on photographs of broadly similar 4 barreled pistols that are dated to around that time by Keith Neal.   Probably they ought to be called Volley guns as they were incapable of firing individual barrels.  The 4 barreled assembly unscrewed as one and left a small single powder chamber in the middle that was linked to the barrels by 4 groves in a rim round the mouth of the powder chamber – I’m not sure how closely the breech fitted to the barrel – maybe there was a gap for the expanding gap – there wouldn’t have been any powder on the barrel side of the connection. I would guess that the pistol used a very small charge, as the barrels don’t look as if they would stand much pressure.  I’m not sure what the pistol was loaded with or how – the normal single barreled turn-off pistol has a powder chamber and the breech end of the barrel is slightly larger diameter than the bore, so the balls are held captive and also serve to retain the powder  until fired – handy for a pistol likely to be carried around far more than actually used.  The volley pistol has no such bore enlargement at the breech, so nothing to stop the load coming out of the muzzle – perhaps it had wads down the barrel to hold the load in place? (answers on a postcard please!)

4th November – Fantastic shoot yesterday at Sotterley near Beccles – we have been very lucky with the weather this year, and apart from the need to add a layer from time to time as winter approaches its been gloriously sunny most times.  The bag was around 120 birds for a hit ratio  of 1 for every three shots on average, which is excellent – few breech loading shoots manage to better that.  We were double pegging ( 2 guns per peg to give reloading time) and 14 guns in all.  I shot my Nock double – I’m used to it and it is reliable – misfires are very few and almost always ‘finger trouble’ rather than a failure of the equipment.  Anyway a really good day, although it has to be said that on the last drive of 7  I saw more foxes (1) than game birds (0)!  I had a question from a fellow muzzle loading shooter concerning a John Manton single barreled percussion gun – the lock had to be removed before the barrel could be disengaged from the false breech because the side nail (screw that holds the lock on) passed through the breech block.  It was normal for the locks of quality flintlocks to be removed when cleaning the gun as priming powder residue is very corrosive and could penetrate into the inside of the lock or at least get into the edges. Both John and Joseph Manton cased their flintlocks with a place for the locks to be stored out of the stock.  This was done for guns where it was physically possible to get the barrel off without removing the locks, although it should be noted that on some flintlocks, including some Mantons, the frizzen fouls on the barrel, particularly where the breech is recessed in late flintlocks, and it is advisable or even necessary to remove the locks before removing the barrel.     The Mantons continued to case percussion guns with detached locks, quite possibly because the early caps of fulminate or chlorate were very corrosive and the same precautions were necessary as with flintlocks.  I am not sure how common the through breech plug side nail was, but I’ve seen it before.  It was probably more common in pistols without a false breech- I seem to think military pistols, but they are not really my thing!.  The gun described to me fits with an illustration in the Manton Book facing page 41, which illustrates a single barreled gun serial no 9689 of 1828 – i.e. an early percussion gun and specifies that the side nail passes through the breech plug.    For my sins I’ve been trying to wire up some network cables in the house, but the connnectors (RJ45) have proved difficult to crimp onto the end of the cable – my first problem was that the connectors obviously didn’t match the cable – in fact I’ve no idea what they did fit, and my second problem , after getting the right connectors,  – more difficult to spot – was that the crimp tool I’d bought on ebay wasn’t crimping properly as it had a slightly faulty casting for driving the contacts into the wires – thus wasting at least 3 hours more of my time!  Ah well I’ll have to shell out £35 for a decent tool – I should have learnt by now never to buy cheap tools – although my experience of buying cheap Ebauer power tools from Screwfix has been uniformly good – not that they get much work.

31st October – I bought back a little 4 barreled pistol to do some engraving on for Dick.  I have been having a discussion about the Warner Civil War Carbine of 1864 with someone who also has one sans breech block – I realised that although there are a couple of photos of the Warner on this site, there is no proper post, so I’ll have to do one.  The Warner is one of dozens of designs for a breech loading Carbine for the Union side in the American Civil War.  When the war started the army of the North was quite small was armed almost entirely with muzzle loading percussion guns, there was no one obvious choice of arm, and the manufacturing facilities didn’t exist to produce a single design in large quantities.  The union thus gave our orders to a number of would be manufacturers of various designs  to produce samples for inspection, so be followed up with orders for a modest quantity with the promise that if the Carbine was satisfactory the Union Armouries would take as many guns as the manufacturer could turn out.   The result was a proliferation of new designs, of with around a dozen made it to the production stage, of which the Warner was one.  After a bit of a fuss it did get a patent, although not for the features that had originally been claimed!  In the end the only features patented were the semicircular bottom to the chamber and the use of a firing pin without a return spring that used a chamfer on the breech to move the firing pin out of the fired position, a feature that partly led to the eventual downfall of the design.  The main reason the gun failed in service wasn’t really the fault of the Warner gun, but was due to the tendency of the rimfire cartridges to burst at the rim due to faulty metal cases – this produced a number of problems – in the beginning it invariably blew the (Snieder tyrpe) breechblock away – that was mostly cured by drilling a hole in the bottom of the chamsber to relieve the pressure, but finally it was binding of the firing pin when a burst occurred that jammed the gun – all because Warner wanted to use a ramp on the breech to retract the firing pin instead of a spring like everyone else.  I guess if you think about it, a Snieder like sideways hinged breech block can never produce and sustain as tight fit on the head of the cartridge as a cammed bolt, so will always be more prone to rim bursting in a rimfire cartridge than bolt guns.  Photos and a new post will follow…….

e28th October – Yesterday at Homerton College Festival for 250th  anniversary doing engraving demonstration – mostly screwheads.  I’d forgotten that the Cambridge liberal academic community on the whole didn’t really like guns, and had taken a few to display, but they hardly got a glance, while my engraved screwheads attracted a lot of attention.  I gave them out as ‘rewards’ to those children who showed real interest, of which there were a fair number.  I’d made some little oak blocks to mount them in, and gave some to the really really keen kids!   I decided to use the Amscope microscope I bought some time ago  – I bougth it in the mistaken belief that it would allow me to have a digital camera displayed while I engraved – it turned out that to use the camera you have to divert the image from one eyepiece, so not a lot of use to me.  Anyway my little pen sized camera stuck on the side of the microscope sufficed.     The Amscope actually worked perfectly well, and at about £450 is a good buy for an engraving microscope – just make sure you get a useful stand with it.  See blog post on engraving setup for more…..

I finished off the Twigg pistol – it all went together OK – I didn’t dare to bend the trigger guard to be a perfect fit as it had an incipient crack and would probably have broken if any strain was put on it.  The tumbler welding worked well, and is perfectly aligned and is strong enough for the intended purpose – if you look down this blog you’ll see that the square had broken off, and a new square had been tapped into the tumbler but was free to turn relative to the tumbler.  I put a few dabs of weld around the joint – it was clear that the tapped hole had not left much of a wall thickness in the bearing part of the tumbler but the pistol isn’t going to be shot so great strength is not an issue and it all filed up and fitted OK with the cock in the right alignment.  If it had been a gun that was likely to be used for shooting I would have used a different approach, and annealed the tumbler, drilled a hole right through it and made a new  tumbler axle with the square on it and silver soldered or welded it in place and then re-hardening and annealing it – a lot more work that wasn’t justified in an old pistol.

Lug soft soldered onto the trigger guard – it widens at the base to give strength, I didn’t want to silver solder it.  The guard is riveted to  the finial and I didn’t want to solder over the rivet so the tab is displaced a bit.

Finished pistol – minimal repairs to preserve as much of the original appearance and patina as possible – the cock screw needs colouring down as I reshaped it a bit – it now looked too like a machine screw! 

25th October – I made a brass tab to solder onto the trigger guard of the flintlock pistol I have to fettle – it all soldered together well and is now ready for the final installation in the pistol- I left a flared end on the tab so it has a decent surface area to soft solder as I didn’t want to heat the trigger guard up enough for silver solder.  Photo tomorrow if I remember before I fix it in place!

24th October –   If you are in Cambridge this Saturday come along to the College in Hills Road – I’ll be in the Senior Combination Room with the other local crafts – and introduce yourself.

Busy today – remove the breasts from yesterday’s bag for the freezer – we have a good supply of game for the winter and will no doubt add to that from future shoots – nice warming game casseroles on the menu!  Some venison would be a good addition, I do fancy a bit of deer stalking!  I am also beginning to think a wild boar shoot in Poland would be quite fun.   I  finished the little addition to the escutcheon and a couple of screwheads for a gun Dick is repairing ( see photo).  I offered to do an engraving demo at the Homerton College 250th anniversary on Saturday, and said I’d bring along a few antique guns that were (a bit) relevant to the 250 yr history of the college.  I hadn’t realised that this would involve the college in telling the police and receiving a list of frankly over the top conditions, including that my flintlocks should be ‘deactivated’ by removing the flints!  This is not a legal requirement since none of the guns require a license, but who would argue?  Fortunately most of the public events I do don’t attract such ad hoc rules.  Anyway I will mostly be doing an engraving demo, which requires I ship in a whole lot of equipment, tables, turntable, microscope, stool etc.  I usually just engrave screw-heads as not requiring too much concentration so leaving me free to talk – I have 20 nice big 1/2 inch old Nettlefold steel screws from ebay that I have polished up. This time I have made some wooden blocks to mount them in, which I’ll try to sell to raise a bit of cash for buying bits for my STEM club at school – the kids seem to eat batteries, buzzers and reed switches and sticky tape at the moment.  I also have a project to engrave the Homerton Coat of Arms on a piece of brass sheet I have cleaned up – fortunately it appears to be quite tractable so I’m optimistic that I can engrave it more easily than the dog-disks I usually buy.  Probably not a good project for a public session though.

I got given tweed shooting suit – circa 1958 – today, and it fits me almost perfectly so now I’ll be able to hold my own with the toffs on the shoots for the rest of the season  – I fully expect my shooting to improve with the new addition, although obviously an over and under would be totally inappropriate – I think our next club shoot is hammer guns so I might take my William Powell – reasonably in keeping, although probably it should be an Army and Navy or some such. Come to think of it, a shooting suit is probably a bit over the top for a club shoot, and I wouldn’t want to be a laughing stock…………

I didn’t do the Griffin, just the B.  The Griffin is also big in the Homerton Coat of Arms.

23rd October – Fantastic day’s shoot at Glemham Hall kindly organised by Bev (thank you!) – lots of walking – we all got to walk up a drive behind the beaters, and several standing drives, over pasture and rough ground so a nice change from standing in a long line in the middle of a crop field.  A decent breeze  aided things, and I had some good drives – in the end I got five birds, which was a fair score for me – the average bag per person was about 7.  I treated my son Tom to the shoot too, as he was down from St Andrews – he too enjoyed it.  We had a team of pointers doing the flushing – beautifully trained, they were all either field champions or on the way, and much of the pleasure of the shoot, especially for the walking guns, was seeing the dogs work – sort of makes me wish we had a dog, but I don’t think it would fit in with the family life we currently lead – in fact it would need a pretty dramatic change – one day perhaps….   We’ve now cleaned the guns and packed things away so I can slump til bedtime, having used up all my spare energy.

18th October – I’m off tomorrow to Norfolk to visit a very keen collector of flintlocks – might take a couple of guns to see if he is interested – part of my ‘divestment program’ – I have a few strange things that could find a more appreciative home!   I have a game shoot next Tuesday , muzzle loading of course  – they seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment – I feel a bit bad about the extravagance!  I was trying to work out why I can shoot the two types of clay that I can hit and not all the bulk of them – the common feature of the ones I find relatively easy is that they are going vertically, either up or down so I don’t need to separate how far above or below the clay I shoot from how far in front – it all gets subsumed into the same guess!  I did find yesterday that I could shoot crossers from the high platform when I was looking down on them, so maybe my problem is just shooting above or below, and if you mostly miss that way, you never home in on the right lead to give?  Maybe I ought to have some coaching!

17th October – Really good morning shooting clays at Eriswell with Clare and Jan, a friend over from Holland, despite the fact that it started off with light drizzle – not exactly ideal for muzzle loaders.  Clare wanted to concentrate on the ‘Driven’ stand – clays coming towards you off a tower that simulate driven game birds but we had to fill in time before it became free, so I did my usual erratic shooting at ‘crossers’.  Things looked up when we got on the driven stand as they are one of the two types of clays I can get a reasonable hit rate on ( the other is clays dropping out of the sky!).  So unusually for me, I was able to hold my own….  It’s a relief that I can shoot these simulated game clays as it means I’m reasonably OK on real game!  Towards the end of our morning’s shoot a breech loading shooter came over to see if he could use the driven range after us , so Clare gave him a go with her single percussion, (hit) and I gave him a go with my double (2 hits) so Clare tried to seduce him over to the dark side (as in blackpowder muzzle loaders) – it may even work, he was pretty interested.  I took the Venables of Oxford for Clare to have a look at, but the rib is now hanging off so I can’t put that job off any more – not my favourite job, and it will entail rebrowning the barrels after resoldering the rib – resoldering the rib will involve taking out the breech plugs,  which itself can be a pain…  Ah well, it was something of a bargain so I shouldn’t complain.

13th October – I should be at the AML Big Bore shoot tomorrow, but something unexpected came up so I probably won’t be able to get out my 6 1/2 bore Gasquoine and Dyson live pigeon gun – I will try to pop over at the end of the shoot to deliver a few bits.

I’m busy painting and re-glazing a sash window that my friendly carpenter/joiner built to replace a partly rotten one – He replaced one 23 years ago but didn’t get round to doing the other one that needed replacing, although he machined up all the timber for it – despite having built and fitted French doors and re-roofed almost half the house in the interim, he somehow hadn’t got round to making the window in spite of periodic reminders until last week, when he had a spare day or two between jobs. So its been in the job queue for 23 years – He bought his son to help – he now works with his father but hadn’t been born when the job was put on the queue!  The sashes are large and have old  Victorian wobbly glass  – 2 panes to a sash – they are at the very limit of the size you can buy in Polish handmade glass and thus difficult to source, and are pretty expensive so there is a high premium on not breaking them in removing them from the old frames and fitting them into the new ones. They are now out and cleaned up and the frames primed and undercoated so its time to putty the glass in – care needed!

11th October – very enjoyable shoot yesterday in brilliant sunny weather with very light breeze – perhaps not the ideal Partridge weather as they tended to fly very low so that it often wasn’t safe to shoot.  Still we all had fun and a reasonable bag.  Its very early in the season and most of the pheasants were too immature. Anyway, I collected a very early Joseph Manton double 22 bore shotgun converted from flint to percussion with drum and nipple in a reasonably competent manner – but certainly not to Joseph’s standards, so presumably by a second tier gunsmith, and probably after it had passed out of its original ownership.  The serial number is 331, which puts it at 1791 and is the first double flintlock listed in Keith Neil’s book, although I think several early ones have since come out of the woodwork. It belongs to the period when the front trigger was a lot smaller than the rear one.  The gun looks ‘of a piece’, although the trigger guard shape and the sling fixing behind the trigger guard ( without a matching fixing on a ramrod pipe) don’t quite fit in as they look a bit rifle-like.   The locks are of high quality inside and the engraving good – the screw holding the false breech has asymmetric  engraving matching the engraving on the tang, which is unusual.  The bores are pretty good, but the barrels are quite thin at the muzzle.   The escutcheon has initials with a crest above, but I can’t read them.   Many old guns one sees have a ‘mystery feature’ that you can’t explain and which leaves a question mark hanging in the air – its part of the charm of collecting – in this case its the missing muzzle end sling eye – I can’t see any trace of where it was, although I’m quite prepared to accept that a shotgun in 1791 did have a sling fitted.  It has been suggested to me that this gun would be a perfect candidate for a re-conversion to flintlock –  but I would resist the temptation – its an early Joseph Manton in reasonably original shape, and as such is fairly rare – re-converting it would turn it into a lie, and my view is that it would be ethically wrong.  It will clean up quite nicely as what it is, and could possibly make a  shooter.  I think it is for sale, so drop me an email if you are interested.  I’ll put more photos in the post ‘Joseph Manton 331’.  I brought it back to photograph and show to a Manton specialist, but I don’t think I’ll buy it as I have enough doubles!

8th October – My little STEM club this afternoon – real buzz, bordering on chaos!  All the cookie jar alarms mean that the room is full of little 9 Volt buzzers going off all the time – why do I do it?  answers on a postcard please ( but not sent to me!).  I decided to strip the Twigg pistol and have a look at it in detail – I’d already got the tumbler out, so here is a picture of the neat repair to replace the sheared off square.   Getting the trigger guard off pistols of that age is always tricky because they are held in by pins through the wood that are usually rusty, and if you knock them out carelessly they will take out a chunk of wood with the pin and leave a messy hole.   The pins are invariably put in from the left side of the gun/pistol  so you need to knock them out from the right side.  To do this you need a small pin punch and a tack hammer – its fairly easy to take out pins that emerge from a flat surface – you just need to fold up and hammer flat a piece of lead sheet to 5 mm thick  and put that under the pin so it supports the wood, then tap the pin out – the pin will make a hole through the lead, which will support the wood – in this case it worked just fine as you can see for the front trigger finial pin – in this pistol the pin didn’t do anything as  the tab had broken off the back of the finial.  The pin holding the back of the trigger guard was a bigger problem as the grip is curved so its difficult to support the wood around the pin as you knock it out – in this case it was complicated because there appeared to be two pin ends on the right side of the butt.  I shaped up a lead pad and found the right pin, and that one came out OK and released the trigger guard – previous disassembly had damaged the wood a bit, but I managed not to make it worse!  Both wood and the back of the finial were coated in epoxy glue but seemingly without any contact between them – I need to clean out the slot for the tab I’ll put on the finial as its filled with epoxy. Not sure whether I can get away with soft solder for the tab, or whether I need to silver solder it – Silver soldering might alter the patina – I’ll think about it…………………………………. ( just had to break off to take my bread out of the oven!)

The pin is coming out very cleanly, thanks to a lead pad.  The potential for damage is considerable!

This pin also came out fairly cleanly but had been rather crudely knocked out before when the front finial  was glued in.

The trigger guard is backwards – just to confuse you!

7th October – We have now agreed the work to be done on the Twigg pistol, so that can start.  I spent an hour today clearing out the drain from the kitchen sink and water softener – I mention this because it was interesting – the drain where it goes into the gully was bunged up by soft white ‘rock’ that looks to be calcium (carbonate?) based – the water softener works by ion exchange,  it exchanges the calcium ions in the incoming water for sodium ions and traps the calcium ions in the resin, then when it back flushes to recharge the ion exchange resin it must flush all the calcium ions from the resin and replace them with sodium ions – so the small volume of flushing water must contain all the calcium from the much larger volume of water softened.  What the chemistry of the formation of the deposits in the drain is, I don’t know  but it accounts for the amount of calcium …  Next week is busy, I have a shoot on Wednesday, so a very early start to get there by 8:30.  I think I have everything I need – I have No 6 shot, although I hear that most of my shooting friends have now changed to No 6 1/2 shot, which corresponds to a metric size (not sure what) – presumably when we leave the EC we will not be allowed to use metric measurements any more………

5th October – Sorry, bit of a gap while I attended to school matters and did some work on a couple of windows.  I got a nice little pistol in the post today to be fixed – not that it has much wrong with it – its an early flintlock pistol by TWIGG, first signature and first finial design, but very plain, although none the worse for that, and well made.  Probably made between 1760 and 1770 but I am uncertain what to call it.  The barrel length is 7 1/4 inches, a bit small for a normal holster pistol (typically 9 -10 inches) or an officer’s pistol ( not sure if that description works as early as this anyway).  Maybe a small coach pistol, or one to have about the house in case personal protection was needed?   Anyway its a pretty thing and has had very little wear over the years – it looks ‘of a piece’ and pretty genuine – if it were percussion it would be in the age of sticking spurious names on guns and one might suspect it was a ‘fake’ but 1770 is a bit early for that sort of thing.  At some point the square broke off the tumbler and the cock fell off – someone carefully tapped a hole into the tumbler and screwed in a piece of metal and filed up a square on it – the only problem is that they didn’t provide any way to stop the thread unscrewing, so now the cock moves independently of the tumbler – it will need brazing or welding…  Also the tab on teh back of the trigger guard by the finial has snapped off, letting the trigger guard hang loose – I’ll have to drive out the pins securing the trigger guard and bit of the tang, and silver solder the tang back on. There is a little bit of surface rust around the top jaw etc, and behind the frizzen spring that needs cleaning off, but other wise it is best left pretty well untouched.  I really like this sort of utilitarian pistol – nicely made but not for show.


1 Oct – Another month…. Getting to do some gun work would be a great luxury as I seem ridiculously busy on other things – today I was working on the Geophysics Archive followed by my Stem Club – we have 11 very enthusiastic kids all making alarms to fit on to cookie jars etc…   Tomorrow is again busy with meetings but on Wednesday I will reward myself with a couple of hours clay shooting in the morning to get my eye in for driven game – update – ( post script…no I won’t, I think no-one else is going!) – my next shoot is on 10th. After that I have a school meeting at 1300 hrs of all the inconvenient times! I’m shortly due to get a pistol to refurbish – details will follow…..

30th September – Had a very nice email from the owner of the Martini Henry (see below) saying how pleased he was, and that he never expected the chequering to turn out so well!  All credit to Dick.  I had a recent email from the US asking about calibers  of percussion rifles – a quick look at Donald Dallas’s 2003 book  ‘ The British Sporting Gun and Rifle’ has interesting details.  In the early days of percussion, sporting rifles fired mostly cloth (or occasionally fine leather) patched round balls.  Since the grip on the rifling was minimal, basically limited to the patch thickness, it didn’t take much to cause the ball to strip from the rifling and fail to spin properly – so it was not possible to accelerate the ball sharply or to achieve high velocities if you wanted to benefit from the increased accuracy that the rifling should in theory provide.  Thus you were limited to effective ranges of 50 to 100 yards at the most.  Much of this difficulty was caused because the rate of twist of the rifling was carried over from flintlock rifles, where the acceleration was much more gentle due to the slower burn of the powder resulting from flint ignition.  Had a slower twist been used, it might have been possible to use higher velocities.  In fact experiments with smooth bore muskets showed that there was little to be gained by rifling below 50 yards.   Once shaped bullets were introduced the ratio of mass to drag improved, so the bullets held their velocity for longer, and the longer contact of the bullet walls with the rifling meant that higher initial velocities were possible using bigger charges.  A further improvement was the principle of the Minie bullet with a conical hollow in the base and a wooden or clay plug in the hollow that expanded the skirt of the bullet on firing, and got a better grip on the rifling – later found to work quite well without the plug. The main benefit of this was in the military because it allowed bullets with more windage, that could be more easily loaded when the barrels began to get fouled.    Simple conical bullets allowed ranges of 100 to 300 yards.  The next big jump in velocity came from using keyed bullets with deep grooves that had a large resistance to stripping – examples being the Jacob’s patent arms made by Daw, and the Express rifles of Purdey using belted ball bullets.    A couple of rifling ‘inventions’ along the way were significant improvements – in large measure because they tackled the problem of rifling fouling – they were Lancaster’s oval bore rifling, which is what it says it is, and Whitworth’s hexagonal rifling.  All the improvements made it possible to shoot at ranges up to 1000 yards, allbeit with cleaning of the barrel between shots.   An interesting instruction with a Purdey 50 bore rifle No 3852 of 1844 from Dallas’s book gives the charge for a round ball of .453 cal as half a dram of No 2 powder with a stout linen patch, and of a conical bullet  for the same rifle as 2 drams of No 6 powder with a thin cambric patch and the hollow in the tail of the bullet filled with grease – quite a difference.  The same sights were marked  50 & 100 yds for the ball and  100 & 150 yds for the bullet – illustrating the much greater drop on the ball.

26th September – The Martini Henry stock and fore end are now finished and dispatched, see below.  I haven’t had a moment to do any more gun stuff as school things have been pressing  – I have a new group of young children ( 6 -9) in our STEM club and Dave and I are having to reset our complexity index many steps lower.  The trolley is now complete and I’m getting some of the BBC microbit computers sorted out as they seem just the job for the kids.  Plus a a couple of school meetings this week, and two next week – being a school governor is a fairly big commitment but pretty satisfying.

I can’t claim any credit for this chequering – Dick is the expert!

23rd September –  Spent today building my ‘cupboard on wheels’ for the STEM club – its amazing how much 3 sheets of 12 mm ply weigh – it will be a struggle to get it out of the workshop but will tidy up all our stuff at school.   I had a look through the visitors to the website yesterday, and there were dozens of visits from different cities in China that didn’t seem to do anything, just make 2 quick visits  – they seemed coordinated too as they all did  the same thing over a short period  – something suspicious no doubt!  Anyway today they are not doing it.  I get between 250 and 300 ‘proper’ visitors a day, who on average click on about 6 things, which for a small unpublicised specialty website I reckon is pretty good.  It certainly generates a few inquiries and the occasional restoration – If you do want to know about a gun or pistol email me (see CONTACT) and attach a few photos from different angles, including one of the whole thing and one of the lock etc.   I can often give you general information on non specialist stuff and have a fair idea of auction prices for common types of gun and pistol (not military though!)

22nd September – I finished repairing the surface of the Egg stock  which looked very poor as the fairly thick varnish had come off in patches allowing oil stains to form.   I steamed the wood and got rid of some of the varnish and some of the dings, then wiped over with shelac and put on several coats of ‘slacum’ ( linseed oil, driers and a little beeswax).  I didn’t want it to look too re-finished, just not quite so pock marked, and it seems to have worked.  I can now put that job away as I’ve done the case and the stock, although I did notice that the loading rod in the case is not quite long enough for the barrel – but I don’t suppose anyone will notice.   Dick has now finished the Martini Henry stock so I will collect it and take some photos before returning it.

21st September – a day of relative quiet!  My STEM club at the junior school starts next Monday and I’ve been politely told by the teaching assistant in the classroom I use that I can’t leave our bits and half finished projects around the classroom all week. As she seems quite adamant I think I had better take notice, so I designed a trolley to hold it all that  can be wheeled into a store room, assuming there is any room there.  Anyway I worked out the I could make it from 3 sheets of 12 mm ply and have given Ridgeons a cutting list, so tomorow I’ll see how many of the 20 specified cuts are in the right places!  I went to Dicks to see how he is getting on and he sold me a nice overcoat pistol that will eventually appear on the website – it will be cleaned and repaired so nothing to show here!   He has been doing some re-chequering on the stock and forend of a Martini Henry, which has taken him an age and is very well done – looks fantastic – I  will have to pack it up and return it to it’s owner.  I don’t understand how Dick did it for what he is charging – I keep telling him to count his hours on jobs and charge a fair rate, but he won’t learn! ( he doesn’t look at this website, or any other!)  I took over some baise for lining a Joseph Manton percussion double case as Dick thought his was too bright – I have a few meters of various colours – some lovely thin burgundy stuff that I long to make a  case with.

19th September – I’m afraid that the last couple of days talking to groups of schoolchildren as part of Cambridge University’s  Physics at Work event has left me with little energy for going into the workshop and doing anything to guns in what is left of the evenings!   So far I’ve talked to 24 groups (20 minutes each) and I have another 12 tomorrow – my voice is just about hanging in there… Gun stuff will appear in time.

17th September – Back from a cracking day out  ( now where does that come from ?) at Bawdsey with a super group of people on my first shoot of the season after Partridge.  Nice breeze meant fast birds and great fun was had by all – 73 birds for about 240 shots by 8 guns – a fair ratio by any account.  I managed to stretch my supply of tubes for most of the day but had to borrow a few just in case.  Tubes for the tubelock guns are precious as each is handmade by us and it’s quite a lot slower than reloading black powder cartridges – I can make about half a dozen tubes an hour if I concentrate.  My gun has now been cleaned  – the composition in the tubes is highly corrosive and the lock(s) need to be taken out and washed and scrubbed to remove all residue.   We had a reporter from the Shooting Times and a photographer, so expect a feature on muzzle loading game shooting in the mag in a month or two.  Everyone who is involved with the shoot in any way is always impressed by how good humoured and relaxed we are about our sport – unlike a number of groups shooting breech loaders!  We always enjoy our shoots whatever the bag, and always have a modest impact on the estate.  I can see muzzle loading game shoots being on the increase – we just need to find a good way to initiate others into the skills needed to transition.

16th September – I’m of to my first shoot of the season at Bawdsey tomorrow.  I gather we will have the press there, so best bib and tucker ( whatever that is)…  Two of my friends are shooting tubelocks, and I thought that out of solidarity with them I should do the same.  I only have a single barreled gun so no ‘left and rights’ but at least it takes away the indecision about whether to reload after firing one barrel of a double or to wait for the next bird.   I will take my Nock double percussion in case I can’t hit anything with the tubelock – I haven fired ti for a while and its a bit high in the comb so I’ve had to add a butt pad which makes it a bit long but at least brings the gun up in a reasonable direction.   I’ve made a batch of decappers to take as I usually  give a few away at shoots…..  news of the shoot later!

12th September – I got the information on the Irish Registration act from an old copy of Classic Arms which was a magazine devoted to antique firearms, around 1990 – I ‘inherited’ a pile of old magazines from my father, which I rediscovered recently and an slowly working my way through.  As well as the Classic Arms, which was an impressive UK publication full of adverts from dealers and detailed articles by many of the authors of ‘standard’tbooks on particular subjects, I have a pile of copies of ‘ The American  Rifleman’ of various dates, the earliest from 1945, and then some from the 1960s.  All these old magazines have  excellent articles on old firearms – the American Rifleman  is of course mostly current guns and is interesting because the earliest copies cover the period after the war in Europe was over but before the Japanese had surrendered. I was interested to note that the supply of guns and ammunition had halted during the war and was only just coming back in 1946 – there was strict price control on guns and ammunition – basically limiting the price to that before the war. Manufacturers were allowed to charge 9% more but the extra had to be absorbed by the dealer and not passed on to the end customer – if anything was available anyway – supplies of copper and lead were restricted – one doesn’t think of America having that sort of restrictions!.  There were loads of advertisments for ex military arms of every nationality, and dire warnings about using Japanese rifles with  American high velocity ammunition.  There was an official way that troops could bring back a ‘souvenir’ weapon with official blessing, but nothing with a barrel less than 18 inches long.   You could pick up a working Webley Mk 4 revolver back in the States for $14, which was probably less than a fiver!  The 1990’s UK mags covered the banning of handguns and were full of anguished debate and hand wringing – I fear we may have a repeat coming soon…….    I didn’t do much gun work today as I had to service and clean the AGA (cooker) – its that time of year, but I engraved a few decappers this evening.  Out of interest I cut through  the box section of the other trailing arm of the suspension unit from my boat trailer – this was the one that didn’t fail on my trip, but you can see that it wasn’t far off.  Of course it look OK from the outside!

11 September – I was wrong about the Irish Firearms registration act being 18th century – it came in in 1843 and was repealed in 1846  – it is thought that about a quarter of a million guns may have been registered – the registration ID consisted of 2 letters for the county and a (usually) 4 figure number stamped on the barrel or occasionally on expensive guns, in a more discreet place.

11 September – I ordered a new capper from Kranks as I’d lost my old Pedesoli straight capper in a field somewhere last season – the guy at Kranks said the Ted Cash inline capper was better so I ordered one.  It’s different in that the spring is short and you push the caps down with the knob – it has a crafty loop that holds the knob back while you feed in caps – it claims to be patented but I can’t see what or why – I’ll have a look later as all US patents are now on the web.   Anyway the problem with both the Pedesoli and the Ted Cash cappers is that they don’t hold enough caps and are too fiddly to reload with cold hands in the middle of a shoot.  I modified my last one with a bit of brass to form a slide to feed the caps down and it worked very well, so I thought I’d do the same for the new one – its just a small brass bit soldered on by the loading hole with a groove shaped to fit a cap – seems to work well.  I find you need a small 1.6 mm pin on a chain as some caps fall over in the groove and need to be prised upright – don’t put force on the compound or they will go off!  I thought that it would be better to hang the capper off a ring on my new block as the loop on the end needs to be free to hold back the knob.   I always carry a decapper and a small pricker made of 0.7mm steel wire to clean out blocked nipples.

Ted Cash capper from Henry Kranks with Cablesfarm modification.

Cablesfarm decapper – customised version in gold – don’t ask,  you can’t afford one!

I carried on cleaning the Turner – it all went in the deruster and then had a good brush down on the fine rotary brush.  I coat all the surfaces with ‘Metalguard’ which forms a very thin anti-corrosion layer over the metal – especially useful on the inside metal surfaces as there was a fair amount of internal rust – a lot adhering to the wood that had to be carefully scraped off so the furniture bedded properly.  Anyway  I stripped off the lock workings and cleaned each part – derusting actually gets to all the surfaces so its just a matter of cleaning them – on the wheel if they are big enough to hold safely ( I have spend enough of my life looking for little bits that have pinged off when I’ve been brushing them !),  The ‘fly’ or ‘detent on the tumbler designed to block the sear from entering the half cock bent as the cock falls is a particularly fiddly little part that is only too easy to loose.  Once re-assembled the pistol doesn’t look much different, but is in a much better state to weather the next 100 years.

Its been derusted and the  rust will now just brush off but you can see how much there was.   Arrow points to the ‘fly’.

Stripped and cleaned externally and internally.  There was a lot of rust under the furniture and the furniture now fits better  – click on the photos and you can see that the finial is a better fit than in the unrestored photo.

10th September – Quite busy on the gun front!  I had a commission for  five individually named decappers, and after a bit of hunting around I found some spring steel strip that was suitable although it needed annealing.  So that is now done – I gold plated one for a friend for fun- the process is SO easy (see post Gold Plating).  I must make another combination field tool consisting of a brass ‘hammer’ for chipping flints and a short wide turnscrew for the top jaw screw to complement my percussion decappers.   I collected the ‘central fire lock to engrave a new cock screw- it is certainly a weird thing – like nothing I have ever seen before! (see below).   Dick received  a sawhandled flintlock pistol ( duelling/officers) with a .57 bore and heavy barrel to be restored and passed it to me to derust and clean.  Locks signed Turner, and a very faint DU1049 on the barrel – that was a mark introduced in the 18th century (?) in Ireland to control guns – they had to be registered under pain of a considerable penalty.  From the DU mark I assume that the maker was G Turner of Dublin.  Given the Irish enthusiasm for duelling pistols, I assume that is what it was intended for.  The pistol is in reasonable but worn condition and is a good example of many such.   The issue here is how far to go in stripping it and cleaning it.  If the fit of wood and furniture is good, there is a danger that it will not be as tight after work.  On the other hand there is the possibility that there is significant rust behind the iron furniture that is pushing it out of the wood.  In this case I could see that the edges of the trigger guard were rusting and the finial was raised.  It is usually necessary to remove the cock from flintlocks to get surface rust from behind it and give a uniform finish, and the same goes for the frizzen spring.   In this case I took all the furniture off ( very carefully, but fortunately the screws all came out easily and no damage was done.  I haven’t stripped the ‘works’ off the back of the lock, or taken off the frizzen yet, but that may follow after derusting, which works just fine on assemblies.  I have removed the mainspring as I am a bit careful after a couple of springs fell apart in the derusting bath!  It will all go in the derusting bath except the mainspring.

Weird or what?  Bentley’s Patent percussion axial fire lock, full cock…… 

Turner of Dublin   (DU 1049) before restoration

Back of trigger guard – you could say this is more conservation than restoration!

Stripped – it turned out to be easy to remove all the furniture without damaging any screws.

8th Septemeber – I did the ‘Have a Go’ at CGC yesterday, with my Nock double percussion.  I took my Jackson Central Fire patent double intending to use that, but the geometry of the cocks in relation to the nipples is constrained by the fact that the nipples exit into the centre of the chamber, hence central fire.  This leaves very little room to put the caps on the nipples.  I realised as I was getting ready for the clients to arrive and capping off the guns that I would have a difficulty capping while someone else was holding the gun, and quickly swapped to my usual double, the Samuel Nock.  I saw a very interesting Central Fire percussion double a couple of days ago – the nipples didn’t just exit into the middle of the chamber, but were also aligned along the axis of the barrel so it was a true central fire – this led to a really neat cocks that were scultped into the action, and when cocked did not protrude above the action body – I’ll try to get a photo shortly, I had never seen anything like it! I can’t remember the maker, but need to find out!

6th September – I fiddled around this morning filling a couple of gaps in the Egg pistol’s woodwork around the lockpocket – I haven’t managed to get rid of one visible rise where a knot goes through the wood, maybe a bit more work.  As I lay in the dentist’s chair for an hour this afternoon I kept thinking how nice it would be to have all her tools in my workshop- when I said ( in an odd moment when I could speak) that I’d love to have them at home, she said she wished she had them at home too – not sure what she would do with them – by then I couldn’t ask and relaxed back into contemplation – very restful….  Tomorrow I’m doing another ‘have a go’ shoot at Cambridge Gun Club – almost out of shot and wads but I think I can wing it – not sure how many others are helping out, but I probably won’t do more than 30 shots so I’ll probably manage.  I’m tempted to take my 20 bore breech loader for a bit of fun afterwards, but perhaps I should stick to the one muzzle loading gun for the shooting season.  I still can’t be sure which gun fits me best – cetrtainly NOT  the Venables, and today I had a bit of a problem when try mounting guns because I couldn’t stop my left eye being very dominant – I’m sure I’m usually right eye dominant or neutral !

4th September – I very reluctantly decided today that I wasn’t going to go to the Sandringham Game Fair next weekend to do my engraving demonstration as I have too many other calls on my time at the moment – I spent 4 hours this morning being ‘trained’ on safeguarding as a school governor – I have to say that it was very poorly presented and about the most inefficient knowledge transfer I have witnessed in years!  How a school can’t manage to work out how to communicate knowledge defies belief but there it is.   I took the Joseph Manton and case to Dick’s to get his view on relining the case, and met a good friend and very knowledgeable dealer of good guns who recommended selling the gun and case ‘as is’  separately to get the best return on the basis that the most likely purchaser of the gun would want it to shoot and would therefore have little use for the case.  I must say I find it annoying to have to keep a gun in the locked cabinet and the empty case elsewhere, so I can see his point.

3rd September -I finished the middle compartment for the Egg box today – its a bit of a tight fit but I think it will be OK .  The mystery of the breech block I couldn’t engrave is solved – although the person who made it hadn’t hardened it, the material he used had been ‘pre treated’ – which means heat treated and tempered/annealed, so no wonder I couldn’t engrave it.   I need to make some more de-cappers, for which I need 1/2 x 1/8 spring steel strip in an annealed state, but I can’t find any on the web.  I’m sure when I last made some I found it easily, but I am not sure now where I got it from.  In the end I ordered some nearly the right size from Kevin Blackley, but I’d prefer to find a supplier of  bigger quantities than 12 inch lengths.

2nd September – Went to a historic re-constructors event at Quy – lots of tents selling everything medieval and groups of reenactors camped around – I always love those events as everyone is so committed to their particular period or activity, and always enthusiastic to talk about it – thank goodness for enthusiastic people who actually do things!   I bought a few ash dowels (intended for arrows) that will make simple ramrods when I can’t justify the work of a full ebony rod.  I was pleased to see ‘Bernie the Bolt’ had his stand – he sells all kinds of fabric for historical costume that he has made up and dyed to period colours.  He’s a good source of baize for lining gun cases as he sells a woolen cloth woven and dyed in Yorkshire in good colours for gun cases.  I have used it and it is a reasonable substitute – its actually slightly too thick but will do – it is woven at about 450 gm/sq m whereas the guy on the stall said it should really be about 250 – 300 gm/sq m. for gun cases.  He said that the mill would make the lighter material but wanted £13 per m ( 1 m wide) by the bolt and they couldn’t see any profit in it, since he sells the heavier stuff at £15 per meter (Dyson sells both thick and thin but no weights given, at £16 per foot).   For gun cases £15 per m is nothing, bearing in mind how much work goes into using  1 meter of cloth on a relining.  The case I have to reline came with the cloth from a billiards table, but looking at it it is much too thick and won’t bend over the top of the partitions, so I bought 1 m of a very dark green that I think will do much better.  I started to make up a quick and dirty ramrod for one of my old shooting guns out of a new arrow blank  as it looks a bit bare without one – I’ve given it a dummy brass end and will fix it up with a horn tip.  When I have worked out the technique for rounding and tapering the ebony squares I have, I’ll make a better one!

1 September – another month gone!   Had a mixed day at Cambridge Gun Club – in the morning I couldn’t hit anything – the couple of clays I did hit were when I fired and was pretty sure I wasn’t on target.  I was trying my Venables, but I’d forgotten that it had a lot of cast on the stock – almost 3/4 of an inch.  I realised that I’d been making a mistake every time I tried a gun to see if it ‘came up’ well for me – I’d done it with my eyes open and that  forces me to put my head in the best position so I think the gun fits perfectly as long as the comb is not too high – I realised the proper way to try a gun for fit is to hold it in the normal position just before mounting, and close your eyes as you mount, then open them to see if its right – doing that with the Venables showed me that I’m probably shooting 20 or 30 inches to the right of where I think I am, enough to put a target outside the shot pattern.  In the afternoon I reverted to the good old Samuel Nock and was back to my normal hit one miss one routine, except for ‘crows’ and I wait for those to get falling properly and can normally pick them off.  Anyway it was a very useful shoot as it saves me from the mistake of taking the Venables on a game shoot.   I came back with a couple of jobs, a new breech block for a double percussion gun to engrave, and a case to remodel inside and reline.  I am not sure if I can engrave the breech block as it seems to have been hardened and tempered, or to be made of a high strength steel on a hard state – I will try with the Gravermax on the underside, but I’m not hopeful…..  Anglia Muzzle Loaders goes from strength to strength, its almost embarrassing – every month or two a new face appears – existing members are just not dying off fast enough to keep the population stable ( as one of the older members perhaps I should take note!)   Bev had a problem with a new lot of OB priming powder that didn’t work – the company makes Swiss O.B. in two grades with the same name and only a difference in how the label is put on – one works and is the proper one, the other clumps up and is useless.  Heaven knows why its made or sold – anyway there is more on the MLAGB blog.

31st August  –  I had to tackle the big Yew bushes in the front garden today – they are about 20 ft high and needed trimming all over so I ended up at the top of a 16 ft ladder using a hedge cutter with both hands – I didn’t fall off…..   Looking at the case for the Egg duelling pistols I realised that it couldn’t have been a flintlock case as there was no-where for the frizzens to go, so as its a very close fit I came to the conclusion that it is original to the pistols – don’t know why I didn’t realise that before, but I think when I was a greenhorn someone told me it was the ‘wrong’ case….  I am not sure why the middle compartment is missing, the lining shows where it was, and looks as if it got ripped when the compartment walls were removed – the pistols should just fit with the compartment in place.  Or maybe the compartment fell to pieces – several of the bits of the dividers are coming adrift.  I decided that I will replace the central compartment and fix in place the rest of the dividers so that it is tidy. It would not be sensible to reline the whole case as it would then be difficult to be sure it was originally for the pistols.  I checked through my supplies of biase for lining the new dividers, and found a good green that is probably a fair match for the original lining colour but is slightly too dark for the current state of it.  I thought as an exercise I’d try to make it match in colour and texture (it is a bit thick and has a bit much pile).  A sample came down in colour nicely after an hour or so in domestic bleach, and shaving the surface with a razor and rubbing with coarse sandpaper followed by a quick flash over with a flame got rid of the excess pile, so now I just have to hope that the process works on a piece big enough to do the job!

The ‘aged’ biase is on top – the top streak was undiluted bleach!  Click to view.

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the woodwork on the unrepaired pistol is too marked and will need to be refinished – no doubt it is a shellac based varnish and with luck I will get away with just a very light steaming to raise the marks – the important thing is NOT to round off any sharp corners by rubbing things down too vigorously.  Here is the problem, the other side is visible in a previous photo.

Most of the damage is to the varnish!

I’m shooting at Cambridge Gun Club tomorrow – and I’ll take  my ‘spare’ percussion doubles to see if I can sell any!

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!

 Posted by at 9:49 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
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 & 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
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 ( 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-’ 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 bee