Apr 122018
 

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

 

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

Yes, I know its not quite centered!

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

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

 

 

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

 

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

 

 

 Posted by at 2:31 pm
Jul 172017
 

I made a small furnace for heat treating steel, although it should also be hot enough to cast aluminium and brass.  The basic design is from a YouTube video by a schoolboy, and is the neatest small design I have seen on the web, although the basic principle could easily be modified to give different configurations – in particular it would be easy to make a front access furnace, or one that would take a longer part using the more of same bricks and elements etc. with a different configuration and a modified steel cage round it.   Having used the furnaces a few times I think I skimped by only having half thickness bricks on the base as it gets pretty hot underneath – although as its standing on  legs above a piece of stone it doesn’t really matter.    The basic parts of the furnaces were sourced from Ebay and I spent around £80 or 90 making it, but I did have quite a bit of old junk lying about that got incorporated, including the metal for making the framework,  the wiring bits for the circuit and the old plastic box and aluminium panels.

 

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May 112017
 

Dragoons were essentially cavalry of medium or heavy weight, as distinct from light cavalry.  The army had both Dragoon and Cavalry regiments in the 18/19th centuries.

This is a pretty standard Heavy Dragoon pistol of 1795 pattern with rounded lock and iron ramrod.  All parts are original – all the ironwork bits are marked with the assembly mark   X\III  – even the screws.  Proof marks are missing from the barrel, although there is a ghost mark in teh right place.  The marks that would have been impressed on the wood  are missing, although there are pits where they might have been.

This is a pretty straight pistol, all original with a poorly repaired muzzle end to the stock, and  the bents on the tumbler and the end of the sear all worn so that it can be fired on half cock but won’t hold on full cock.  There are numerous small dents in the woodwork from a hard life, and the frizzen has been refaced, also suggesting a hard life.  The barrel has been struck off at some point and lost all but a trace of its marks, but isn’t rusted on the outside and will clean up perfectly.  Here are a couple of views before starting work;-

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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;-

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Feb 192017
 

I have Gold plated the pans of flintlocks using the brush plating system sold by SPA Plating  (www.goldn.co.uk) with great success.   Steel makes a perfectly good substrate on which to plate gold directly without a barrier layer, the only caveat is that rust must be avoided by keeping surfaces very lightly protected by oil or a coating like Metalguard.   Spa plating used to have a very good handbook on plating but I couldn’t find it on the latest website, and the new instructions are less clear so I will put the .pdf at the end of this blog.  I have told them that the new website isn’t as informative!

Here are my hints for plating gold onto steel parts using the SPA plating brush method;-

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Dec 072016
 

When it comes to finishing stocks for antique guns I like to use the traditional materials – partly for authenticity and because they are pleasant to work with, although undoubtedly not as durable as a thick coat of polyurethane varnish!   Guns were finished using one of two methods, oil finishes or spirit varnishes.  Oil finishes basically use mixtures of oils (usually boiled linseed oil) and waxes ( beeswax and other hard natural waxes) and harden by the oxidation of the oils by oxygen in the air, which takes place fairly slowly – driers, typically based on manganese compounds, are used in low concentrations to speed up the oxidation. The alternative traditional finish was spirit varnish, using a solvent – typically alcohol, in which a naturally occurring material that is transparent and hard is dissolved – typically shellac (secreted by an insect) or occasionally copal varnish (from the resin of a tree), or other resinous material – alcohol and Shellac are the ingredients of traditional French Polish and were very widely used before modern synthetic materials displaced them.   Spirit varnish hardens by evaporation of the spirit  to leave a thin coating of the varnish – the alcohol evaporates rapidly so the varnish hardens quite quickly and far fewer coats are needed compared to oil finishes, but its more difficult to get an even finish. Shellac varnish itself has a brown tint, and so does darken the wood slightly – the better the quality of the shellac the lighter the colour.    It is also possible to use both materials on the same job.

 

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Nov 092016
 

I bought a Samuel Nock Heavy Rifle of about 16 bore for restoration, I think it was made as a big game rifle, although it has been used recently as a target rifle.  12 lbs is a not unusual weight for a dangerous game rifle and the bore is appropriate, but larger than was popular as a target rifle.

sam-nock-rifle1

Here are its specifications;-

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Oct 272016
 

Since I was playing with my new setup for photographing long guns I thought I’d post some pictures of  my favourite gun ( my Westley Richards 12 1871 patent breechloader excepted!) , and one of my earlier restoration before I started this blog.  It was a German (?) Jeager rifle I purchased from Holts for not much money(  if I remember correctly- it now seems unlikely!)  as a drum percussion conversion minus its trigger guard, sideplate and butt plate and in a rather sad state, but I was attracted by the inlaid  brass figures and date on the stock.   I kept the percussion lock intact and made a completely new lock with a casting for the detachable pan and a flintcock, frizzen and frizzen spring  casting.    The trigger guard was fabricated from strip metal and old bits, and the butt plate was modeled in lead and a silicone mould made and then cast in brass – all the casing done by Kevin Blackley.  The side plate was filed from brass sheet, and new screws made.  I’m very fond of the finished gun – its very simple and utilitarian, except for the delightfully naive inlay work.  I’d like to imagine that this gun was one of  the forerunners of the American Longrifle!    ;-

jeager-1

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Sep 182016
 

I made contact at the Fenland Country Fair with the lucky owner of this Mortimer brass barrelled blunderbuss who wanted it put to rights.  He brought it  to Sandringham Game Fair, and its a beauty!   Well worth doing – the cost of repairs will very easily be covered by the increase in value, although that isn’t the client’s priority – I’m always careful to discuss this aspect with clients because its important that  we understand the context of the repair.  By any standards this is going to be a real beauty when done!

cc-blunderbuss-3

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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….

c-moore-before1

 

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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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Jul 282016
 

I found this old pocket pistol in my collection of miscellaneous  bits and pieces, and somehow found myself starting to spruce it up, without having ever thought it was a job worth doing – but I’ve started so I’ll (probably) finish , at least some time…. Continue reading »

 Posted by at 11:40 pm
Jul 152016
 

I thought it was time to discuss the issues around restoration and repair, and perhaps offer some simple advice to beginners who find themselves in possession of an antique gun, or more subtle questions posed by collectors who want to enhance their guns, or put right old damage or botched repairs.  It is very presumptive of me to offer this advice, but I get a steady stream of questions from people who visit this site –  occasionally after they have already made ‘unfortunate’  decisions and done potentially devastating damage to their guns….

I suppose one way to approach the subject is to offer some ‘rules of thumb’ about particular issues – so here goes…. Continue reading »

May 102016
 

The PARR pistol from Holts Sealed Bid sale was labelled as a 25 bore duelling pistol – used in the broad sense I guess it might have been but I think the description is overworked!  Anyway, the hammer price was £320 so by the time I had paid the dreaded buyer’s premium (30%!) and  postage it was around £440, which doesn’t leave much of a margin for work, but its a useful exercise and I wanted a start-to-finish job to document as most jobs get some way along before I remember to photograph them.  Here is the original set of photos with some annotations ( I apologise for the photo quality – I didn’t use my decent camera) ;-

PARR-ORIG-OA1 - annotated

to continue click ……. Continue reading »

Feb 272016
 

The lock lock I’m making up here is a from a set of castings from Jim Kibler in the US, I think he charged $125 for the kit which has all the cast parts but no screws – good value for a nice kit.  I built up the lock without any particular destination in mind, but later I made a pistol in the style of a sea service pistol and fitted the  lock to that – see INERT PISTOL post .

dolep lock cleaned up

Here is the kit – I have cleaned up most parts and turned the tumbler down – only the top jaw is untouched.

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Aug 172015
 

I have been playing with this for a while, but posting it has had to wait until I got back from sailing in the Hebrides, so here it is;-

128-full-view

I bought this from Holts way back as I thought it would be a bit different – I thought that it was probably a conversion from flint, but it is possible that it was made like that originally – it had had some later work done anyway – I’m not that familiar with French guns that I can be certain.   On examination the ‘barrel’ holding the left nipple didn’t match the one holding the right nipple, and was not fit to be fired – you can see above that I  have made and  fitted a replacement – fortunately a 3/8th Whitworth thread fitted the existing hole.   Also the left lock didn’t work as the bents on the tumbler  were badly rounded and didn’t hold the sear, and the cock was not correctly aligned with them so that it tried to cock and half cock in the wrong positions – plus the hexagonal hole in the left cock was pretty loose on the tumbler.   Maybe a replacement tumbler?

Here is what I did…   Continue reading »

 Posted by at 6:44 pm
May 172015
 

Today was the monthly shoot at Cambridge Gun Club – Martin Crix had been over the day before to set things up and had done a fantastic job in selecting targets – although the wind was different on the day and CGC had changed a couple of the traps.  It was the most enjoyable shoot I’ve had there for a while, and not just because I hit a few more clays than usual!  Competition was very close and scores were mostly within a fairly narrow range – a credit to Martin’s planning.    I’ve been using a number of different guns lately, which I decided was a bad idea, so I went back to my 16 bore Samuel Nock percussion double – I bought this gun some time ago at Holts and did some cosmetic work on it, and had to sort out the cocks – I replaced them with a pair of John Manton cocks that fitted perfectly.

114-side

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May 062015
 

I’ve just engraved the brass sideplate of a hefty early blunderbuss with rather nice stripy wood that my friend Dick was restoring for a client.  The barrel has a classic ‘strawberry leaf’ motif on the breech, and the new sideplate needed to have a bit of life put into it.  The original would probably been cast and quite 3D but the replacement is rather thin so I tried to get some 3D effect with the simple engraving – it remined me that I hate engraving brass more than anything else – I resorted to my Gravemaster in the end.  The Gravemaster relies on resonance to work, so it depends on tuning the pressure and frequency (see below) so I can’t always get it to cut consistently, sometimes its too fierce and sometimes it hardly cuts at all  – it is a frustrating tool, but it does have its uses and presumably I’ll get used to its foibles and learn to control it one day.  (Added later…. I have sorted the Gravemaster now I hope, but uncovered a mystery – the pressure regulator on the compressor was blowing off above the set pressure and loosing air, so the compressor tended to run continuously which it wasn’t rated to do.  I concluded that there was some kind of leak in the regulator and bought a new one.  The new one worked as I thought it should and now acts as a pre-regulator that stabilises the Gravemaster and it seems to be fine.  When I stripped the old regulator it seemed that it was meant to blow off and not regulate – more of a safety valve than a regulator –  a mystery….

 

sideplate

I didn’t do a particularly good job of getting rid of the Brasso!

 

blunderbuss breech

 Good quality mid to late 17th century engraving

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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Mar 222015
 

I’ve been a bit lax in keeping my Blog up to date recently, so here is an update:

 

side

Turn-off Pocket Pistol by Abbey of Long Sutton

I bought a pair of percussion turnoff pistols at the Birmingham Arms Fair because they looked pretty and in need of a bit of TLC, I also got a box that fitted them as pairs were sometimes boxed.  When I got home I found I had a barrel key that fitted, but couldn’t unscrew the barrels easily so sprayed Plus-Gas around and left it for a day or so. Still couldn’t get them off so thought I’d better apply some heat, but in an uncharacteristically sensible moment I thought to check that they were not loaded.  One was – I could see the lead ball.  The Plus Gas prevented the powder from going off, so I drilled out the ball and poured out the damp powder which fizzed when lit – so the gun had been loaded since it was last used – probably in the mid 1800s – some  160 years ago!

See the finished boxed set…….

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Nov 282014
 

Cased pistol in good condition with flask, bullet mould, turnscrew and barrel key.  Pistol, flask and bullet mould and key ( slightly the too small) are contemporary, the rest are recent.

The pistol has a new butt fitted (original retained) and the under tang of the frame has been repaired. It has  Birmingham proof marks probably from  the official proof house that opened in 1813.  Henry Nock died in 1804, but his name probably helped sell these utilitarian pistols – they were made in large numbers in the late 18th and early 19th century, and were a cheap and effective personal protection weapon against footpads etc.  They were normally sold in a bag with the necessary key for unscrewing the barrel, and a small leather wallet containing a turnscrew for the cock screw and a couple of spare flints, plus the necessary bullet mould.

cased-flint

 

People think that because these pistols have the name of a famous maker on them, they were made by that maker – its probable that he never even took them out of the bag they came in, or possibly he got the youngest apprentice to unpack the boxes of a dozen when they came in from Birmingham and put them in bags.

 Posted by at 9:35 pm
May 272014
 

An interesting gun,  signed T Perrins on the locks, and faintly but clearly T Perrins Worcester on the barrel rib, it has 27 1/4 inch plain twist barrels with London proof marks and stamped LG (?)  underneath.  The engraving is fairly simple and a little unusual in that it has  matching scrolls on all the furniture.  It has a 13 1/2 inch pull, and is clearly intended as a ladies or youth’s gun.  I would rate this as a fairly basic, but sound class of gun, I’m not sure where it was made, the proof marks suggest it was not Birmingham made, but I haven’t any lead on the barrel maker.   As is known to Perrins followers, T.Perrins is normally associated with Windsor, Thomas was not previously known to have traded in Worcester as far as I know.

perrins-together

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May 262014
 

I bought this Henry Nock single barrel half stocked 16 bore gun  from Holts to restore to shootable condition. The barrel is by Nock and is stamped H N Patent for his patent breeching. The gun was made as a flintlock, fairly late in the flintlock era, and converted to percussion using a threaded barrel and nipple in place of the touch-hole.  Because the nipple barrel was threaded into  the barrel, it will be possible to replace it with a plug for a touch-hole, and make a new flint-lock, thus making a gun that can be swopped between flint and percussion as the mood takes, and not destroying anything of the original!   First I’ll restore it as it is, so that I can see how I like shooting it – I find some of the early guns are too high in the comb for me to shoot happily, and often I don’t find out until I try them at clays.

 

action view original1

 

As purchased – the lock outside was good, and the barrel had been rebrowned, but the furniture was poor.

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May 222014
 

Charles Lancaster patented the oval bore rifling, although he wasn’t actually the inventor.  I purchased a cased Lancaster double rifle in excellent condition (serial No. 3076 for 185X) and then acquired a complete wreck of a very similar gun.  The stock had been burnt, the locks very crudely replaced with rebounding Stanton locks  from a breech loader extended to fit the opening, and a major crack running right through the action area.   I didn’t take photos of the ‘before’ state, but the work involved splicing a new heel on the butt – which my friend Dick did for me as my woodwork was not so hot ( its better now) and some additional woodwork that I did manage, including replacing almost all of the wood between the two locks.  I made a pair of new lockplates, fitted with the modified Stanton insides, and made  new main springs.  I engraved the lock plates as an exact copy of the locks on my ‘good’ Lancaster.  The good Lancaster had a circular patch box but there wasn’t one on the wreck, but there was a nasty burn mark on the stock where a patch box would fit, so I made one – but rectangular to cover the entire burn mark and engraved it to match the good one – keeping the circular reference of the original.  I’m not sure I engraved the lion deeply enough, but otherwise I’m pretty happy with it – it shuts with a suitable snap.   Stock is finished with dozens of coats of  ‘Slacum’ – a mixture of boiled Linseed oil, beeswax and terbine driers, put on and then rubbed off as it goes through the jelly stage.  I had a reasonably suitable case that fitted well, which I modified inside, and made a set of tools with ebony handles.  I haven’t attempted to pass this rebuild off as original – the locks and patch box are engraved with my name and the year to avoid confusing future collectors and the case carries a ‘confession’ notice!

These pictures are what I have to hand – I’ll try to take some better ones sometime!  Click on the pictures to enlarge to full screen.

cased lancaster

 

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