Mar 182017

The Andrews is a fairly typical travelling or possibly officer’s pistol of the turn of the 18th century.  Judging by pictures on the internet there were basically two common patterns of Andrews pistols of this type – the earlier with a rounded back to the lock and a semi rainproof pan and serpentine cock in the English style, and the later with a square back to the lock and a full rainproof pan and french style cock with a cutout.   This one is probably the earlier type based on the shape of the lock and so would not have had a full rainproof pan and french cock.

Stripping the pistol;-

The first rule is DON’T do any damage – if you can’t get it off without damaging something, do  you really need it apart?

The secret of not doing damage is fairly simple;-

  1. Use only well fitting turnscrews in slots that have been cleaned out with a suitable tool ( e.g. pointed bit of  hacksaw blade)
  2. Hold the gun very securely in a vice with lots of padding and a block under, so that you can use maximum force on   the turnscrew without the gun shifting – you are much more likely to damage things through parts moving than from over zealous clamping.   If the screw doesn’t undo try doing it up few degrees first.  Sometimes a drop of oil/acetone mix will help break the grip, or maybe a very hot copper rod applied to the screw, or a very fine flame if you can use it without damaging anything.  Check if the screw is a woodscrew or a ‘nail’ screwed through into another piece of the furniture –  guns differ in this respect, and although there are fairly common arrangements  in later guns and pistols, early guns and pistols may be quite different.   The nail in the tang of the false breech is usually tapped into the trigger plate, and the front trigger guard or finial nail often goes through into the bottom of the false breech.  Sometimes the threaded end of a nail has got spread, and grinding it off a bit with a fine tool on a Dremel type drill clears the tread.
  3. Older guns and pistols were held together by fine steel pins through the woodwork and through a tab on the furniture  – As with most relevant parts, English ( & Scottish etc.) guns inserted pins and bolts from the LEFT side, French guns, I believe, from the right.  If you look at a number of antique guns you will sooner or later see where a pin has been knocked out and taken a chunk of the wood with it as it was rusted in.   To remove pins you need a long and fine pin punch and a light tack hammer and a bit of sheet lead – fold the lead up so that you have a pad at least 6 mm thick and hammer it flat.  Place the pad on a flat heavy surface and put the left side of the gun on the pad so that the wood surrounding the pin is in close contact with the lead pad  and gently tap out the pin.  With luck the pin will make a neat hole in the lead and leave the wood intact You need to be careful, particularly with pins that you knock out from within the lock pocket that the pin punch stays on the end of the pin and doesn’t slide down beside it.
  4. If the gun is very rusty be extremely careful removing the furniture as it may break the edges of the wood.
  5. Barrel bolts always get abused and the escutcheons around them, in later percussion guns, get badly dented from attempts to prize the bolts out with a turnscrew.  it is better to use either a sharpened bit of polycarbonate, or a turnscrew end, to tap the bolt out from the right side until you can get hold of it to pull it.  The bolts are held in by a small pin that can usually be lifted out with the corner of a chisel.
  6. To remove the cock you can try prizing it off, but that risks damage if it is tight.  My preferred method is to take out the cock screw and place the gun across my knees so it is on a resilient surface, and sharply tap the end of the tumbler with the largest punch that will fit inside the square – this will usually pop it off – its not really obvious why!  Failing that, strip the lock completely until you are left with the lockplate, tumbler and cock and  place the lockplate across the jaws of the vice and tap the tumbler out.

The end of the trigger guard screw was a bit battered so I ground it off slightly

Knocking out the trigger pivot pin onto folded lead sheet

The barrel has been ‘struck off’ first with a 6 inch smooth hand file, then with a 6 inch No 6 cut file, tehn with a fine stone, 600 grade strip,and ultimately with 2000 grit paper and then polished with 2500 paper. After that it was washed in warm water and detergent and coated in chalk slurry which was dried and brushed off.  It is now in teh process of being browned….  The nipple drum came unscrewed easily and has a good thread.

I decided that I couldn’t bring myself to cut up teh original lock  plate to fit a pan, so I am making a completely new lockplate – it will take me a lot longer but I will feel happier, and anyway I like making locks.   So here are some photos;-

I only had  6m mm plate and it should ideally have been 1/4 inch (6.4 m m) but I can probably live with it.

It was about 4 – 5 hours work to get the plate to this stage.  The gap in front of the top of the lock will go as that whole section will be replaced.

I cut the outline with an angle grinder with 1 mm disk and then used a 50mm linisher and then filed to get the blank – I have now put the step on teh tail of the lock – Now I need to check where the touch hole comes and check that my pan will fit and everything will align, then if its all OK  I will have the  tricky job of transferring all the holes accurately from the original lock plate onto the new one – I will use all the original internal lock parts as they can be swapped back to percussion if needed.  Then I have to file a bevel round the lock plate to match the old one and do the engraving.  When teh engraving has been done I will cut the lock plate for the pan section and weld it in – I will leave that until the engraving has been done as the pan gets in the way and its easiest to weld in the pan last – I might cut the slot for it before engraving so that I can see how much space I have to fill.

Lockplate drilled and milled for the safety and engraved to match the original

The pan section has been welded in

Glue the frizzen to the pan with Araldite to hold it while drilling the pivot hole.

The pan section and frizzen have had a lot of work with fine files to get the shape right.  The pan now works

Dec 122016

I thought it was time to pull together the bits and pieces that are in various posts into a coherent story!  This post is intended as an introduction to the other posts on barrel re-engraving of specific guns and pistols.


Before we get into the details, it would be a good idea to discuss the rights and wrongs of recutting engraving!   I have no problem with recutting on guns that have almost unreadable engraving and are not unusual or of high value – if something is rare and particularly if its old – say before 1770, then I would think very carefully about the need and justification for recutting – in fact I’d almost certainly not do it.  You will sometimes see guns in (proper) auctions that mention that the engraving has been ‘refreshed’ – that’s obviously not to make the gun sound MORE attractive, so it must be intended as a warning – in other words some collectors would avoid it  – so be warned!   I have recut engraving on barrels of good guns where it is worn much more than the rest of the engraving, but it requires great care to avoid it looking like faking.  Mostly I recut things that are being built as ‘bitzers’ to shoot, or not very special guns that have almost illegible engraving, where recutting definitely enhances the gun.

Just to get you in the mood, here is an example of very bad recutting, or possibly just faking on a barrel that doesn’t belong to the gun – with engraving this bad on a Purdey who knows what happened?  It’s difficult to see how this lettering could be put on top of ‘proper’ Purdey lettering, so I’m puzzled – barrel lettering is usually fairly widely spaced so that minor variations in spacing don’t show and it looks more even because the letters aren’t so visually close to each other and period Purdey lettering usually has extremely fine serifs.  ( Update – I have since seen  several Purdey  guns with similar engraving, and come to the conclusion that in fact its just surprisingly rubbish Purdey engraving!)

Faults include ;-  uneven vertical stroke angles, very poor spacing, ‘O’s too small and, stylistically, serifs not Purdey style, spacing too close, letters poorly formed, curved cuts not deep enough or ‘fingernail shaped’  – a complete dog’s breakfast of a job – glad I didn’t do it!

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 Posted by at 10:44 pm
Sep 082016

Here is another job that I have taken on – this cased double pistol is immaculate – it looks untouched by human hand – except the barrel engraving that looks as if the barrels have been refinished with a little too much vigour.  So I have to work some magic on them….



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Sep 072016

Here are a few examples of freehand borders copied from antique locks – I was playing about at the time and don’t have any note of which guns they came from, although I can remember a few.  I did these  years ago when I was learning and didn’t have a proper microscope,   I hope I’m better now – obviously I couldn’t even rule a straight line, but I have no shame and thought there was some value in showing them – I will try to do better examples when I have time!  Having said that, if you put these as borders on a gun probably no-one would notice how bad they are (except No2!).

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Sep 062016

Here are some of the myriad of possible designs for screw heads – almost all come from historical examples, although often  with a bit of poetic licence!  Most of these examples are test pieces engraved on the heads of ordinary old fashioned countersunk woodscrews ( bought from ebay) as its a quick way of getting something to engrave.  Of course the slots are much wider than one would have in a gun screw, so they don’t look quite right

View 15 photos »

Aug 312016

I’ve been asked to recut the engraving on the barrels of a very fine pair of Westley Richards target pistols that have lost legibility on the barrel engraving.

Looking at the lettering under a microscope it is clear that the lettering is not showing clearly for two main reasons, and I’m not sure which is the most important;-

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May 312016

My equipment and examples of engraving are pretty well covered on the posts  on ‘my setup’, ‘graver sharpening’ and ‘engraving-technical’ and are an essential background, but I thougth it was all a bit intimidating and implied that you needed to spend a lot of money before you could do anything, so I have set out here to offer a minimalist approach!

There are several essentials to deal with before you can begin begin,  seeing, holding, and sharpening, plus you need something to engrave and an idea of what you want to put on it!   All take a bit of thinking about, so here is my a starting point ;- engraving screw heads:-

screws 3-16

more follows….. Continue reading »

May 232016

Being able to sharpen your gravers is key to engraving  because it is next to impossible to engrave on steel unless your tools are both the correct shape and sharp.  You need to sharpen gravers frequently because they wear quite quickly when cutting steel, and its very easy to break off the point, especially when you are beginning.  So learning to sharpen your tools is a necessary first step to engraving, even if you buy a ready sharpened tool.  An experienced engraver will probably be able to sharpen his gravers freehand, but that comes with years of experience, even so, many chose to use a jig.  Beginners and journeymen certainly need to use a jig in order to ensure consistency and minimise the amount taken off the tool surface with each sharpening.  For convenience I have a carousel of gravers, mostly sharpened the same, so that I can change gravers quickly to continue working, and then have a sharpening session when I’ve exhausted my supply.

to read more click….

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Apr 012016

Here is a new project;-  I need a very low profile engraving vice for my portable kit, and it would probably make life more comfortable in the workshop – the height of my engraver’s block/ball, plus the working distance of the microscope plus the height from objective to eyepiece is uncomfortably close to the distance between my lap and my eye when sitting.  So I have a project to build a thin vice using only 8mm x 50 mm bright steel bar, an angle grinder, a pedestal drill  and some M6 screws and an M6 tap plus an M10 tap and an old M10 bolt for the fundamentals, plus a very small amount of TIG welding on the jaws (could be screwed).  I have cheated in that I put the half finished vice platform in the lathe to get it shaped – cosmetic only – I could have done it with the angle grinder given more time and patience than I had – plus I ran out of cutting disks for the grinder!


To read more click here…… Continue reading »

Feb 032016

A bit of casual research into the common 18th and early 19th century image often used as a motif for engraving on guns, mostly on pistols as long guns tended to have sporting images, but it was used on butt tangs, Trigger bows and lock tails of ‘bullet guns’ and sporting guns occasionally – it comes in various guises, including ‘Stand of Music’ with the weapons missing and sheet music featuring prominently.  The origin appears to be Hogarth’s engraving of around 1746, although whether he used an already common theme I don’t know.  This is the start of a collection of related gun engravings, that I’ll add to as more examples cross my path.


 Here is the original engraving from Hogarth, reproduced from Wikimedia Commons

Click to see more………………..

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Jan 282016

Robin asked me to rescue this lock that had been converted to percussion and also savagely worked on at some later point – it isn’t clear what the objective was, but its a bit of a mess and I don’t feel that I’m violating my principles of not destroying historical material by recutting it – I’ll make sure I leave my initials on the inside of the lock….

robins lock orig1

Robin’s Lock in a sorry state – the engraving on the nose obviously dates from the conversion at least 30 years after the lock was made.

The tail has a ‘stand of music’?  engraving somewhat similar to the  ‘?stand of arms’ I just recut on Fred’s butt tang – I can’t identify most of the elements on this one either, but it must be a standard design of the period  (update – see separate post ‘ Stand of Arms’ for history of this pattern) .  

To read more …. Continue reading »

Jan 062016


I’ve now done four guns for Fred, one single barreled gun, two based on sets of McKnight casings from Kevin Blackley and one conversion of a double percussion gun by Clough of Bath.  I have put pictures from all four jobs here ;-


Fred’s single barreled gun – the first I engraved for him;-


to read more, click on the message;-

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Sep 272015

I did a practice Scottish Lock pattern  earlier this year (see Celtic Engraving below) and now Archie Owens has acquired the gun and made a new lock and has asked me to engrave it.  His grandfather fought with the Cameronian Highlanders in the First World War, and he wants to celebrate his Scottish ancestry by tying the gun to the memory of his grandfather.  He has the Glengarry (cap) and cap badge belonging to his Grandfather and would like elements of the badge incorporated into the lock design.  It is not too far from what I did before, so I now have to do some sketches and get them approved by Archie.  I will keep this blog updated as I go along…..   Now completed and delivered, but stupidly I forgot to get a pull of it!

blank lock


The Cameronian Highlander’s glengarry badge


The completed lock – click on the picture – you’ll get a better resolution!   (browser back to exit)

Here is the final work, click below to see the steps along the way……..

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 Posted by at 12:18 am
Jul 202015

Out pigeon shooting, Derek propped his Ardesa 20 bore o/u against the hedge and turned his Land Rover to park it out of the way- you can guess the rest – a stock at 30 degrees to the barrel!  An amazing repair later by Chris Hobbs – the fibres of the wood had stretched 3mm & it was only possible to repair it because it was cheap wood – someone thought it would be a good idea to mark the event by engraving the escutcheon and it came to me for a little creative work before it got back to Derek………..



Not a very good photo, but you get the idea!

 Posted by at 9:27 am
Jul 192015

Dick had a pretty little Martini action rifle that had had 4 holes drilled and tapped in the top rib to take a sight, that his client wanted obliterated, so Dick made screwed inserts and peened them in, and filed them down and I re-engraved parts of the name, and the pattern on the rib.  An alternative would have been to weld the holes up, but this way was less invasive – and it was only intended to be a quick and straighforward job.  You can still see the marks, but only if you look for them.


falling block rifle


 Posted by at 9:30 pm
May 132015

Allan Owens mentioned at the last Anglian Muzzle Loaders’ shoot that he had a gun he wanted to rebuild as a Scottish gun as he has links to Scotland, so I thought that I’d have a look at what sources I could find, and as I was looking for a theme for a bit of practice, I decided to devote my beautifully polished bit of steel to a Celtic theme – nothing to do with the success of the SNP in the general election, although there might be a market there!

CCIceltic test 2

This is the finished test lock – not too bad, but need to flow the leaves a bit better in one or two places, and maybe it should have had a small thistle at the toe of the ‘lock’?  The thistle heads on the lock are not quite as good as the right hand one above.

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May 022015


For more photo examples see Engraved Screw Heads – Gallery post on this site.

For a list of dimensions of  most modern thread sizes click here;- Useful thread Data



Gun screws are one of the most common things that get lost, broken or mangled on old guns and so are often remade.  On an old gun a replaced screw that hasn’t been engraved stands out a mile, yet they are one of the easiest things to engrave, as we shall see…

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Feb 242015

I thought it was time to start putting up some details of the tools and equipment I am using for gun engraving, and later I’ll put up some simple hints and tips when I’ve got a bit more confidence in what I’m doing!

The starting point for engraving is the tools, for me that’s mostly push gravers, and mostly square gravers.   Since engraving steel wears the tools very quickly, and the biggest cause of slips and errors is blunt tools or broken tips, you won’t get anywhere until you have got the equipment and skill to sharpen your gravers – there is no short cut to this.  Experienced engravers can (mostly) sharpen their tools by hand without jigs or guides but for ordinary mortals it is not possible. Disbelieve me at your peril!



Part of my setup – the tools are mostly squares sharpened the same way so I only have to stop and sharpen tools when I have blunted a number.  There are a few other tools – knife and ongulet and some lozenge.

There is more here…………………………….. Continue reading »

Feb 102015

Here are a number of my practice plates – they represent most of the practice I have done – there are probably at most half a dozen very early ones that are too bad to contemplate!

testplate - lancaster3

Click below to see more practice plates……

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 Posted by at 8:00 am
Oct 052014

My latest project is engraving a gun that a friend Allan Owens has just finished.  Allan has built a number of punt guns before, including the restoration/rebuild of  the famous ‘Big Tom’, and this is his 15th gun, and I believe his first non punt gun.  I was a bit reluctant to cut my engraving teeth on his beautiful new gun, but he insisted, so I’ve got to do it!   Yesterday a parcel of the smaller parts arrived  – we had already discussed what style of decoration was appropriate, and agreed that it would be a very plain gun – I’ve got the lock design sorted, and am working on the rest, but while it is still waiting the first touch with the graver, here are some pictures of the gun.

So far I’ve fixed the parts onto blocks so that I can hold them in the engraver’s vice without marking them – no need to glue them down as there are enough screw holes.

Allan's gun in the white

Allan’s gun in the white

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 Posted by at 12:49 pm