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;-

 

 

  1. The woodwork is in need of a little attention, the repair is a bit of a dog’s breakfast…….

First job is to run all the metal through the de-rusting electrolysis, followed by the very fine wire brush

That all looks good, no need for any more work on those bits!

And so to the serious business of restoration……

I started by rasping and filing the chunk of wood to the correct profile and in doing so managed to find out how much of it was filler and how much wood – it turned out to be good enough to leave in place, it would have been tedious to put on a new piece as the ramrod pipes had been glued in and it would have needed a fair bit of destruction to free them.  The rest of the woodwork was coated in a thick dark varnish and had a lot of dents, so I used paint stripper to get back to the bare wood, and then oxalic acid to get rid of dark stains and slightly lighten the wood, after which I steamed it all to reduce the dents, and very lightly sanded it ( so as not to round off anything) with 400 grit and medium steel wool.  Having got a reasonable finish I played around with various spirit based stains to get an even colour, then a light coat of ‘shellac varnish, brushed on and wiped off, followed by 0000 grade steel wool and wax polish, with local touching in of stains and a marker pen to deal with the joins etc.  I use a very hard release wax plus brown and black hard wax to finish the wood and blend in faults.  The finish looks a lot better now!   Interspersed with the woodwork I stripped the lock and welded additions to the sear and tumbler and filed them up – I have a bit more to do on that tomorrow, and I’ll need to harden them too.

There is a small corner of old filler above the front pipe –  it will be pretty unobtrusive in that position so it will stay!

The old glue joints are not as fine as I would like, but they will suffice.

You need to be careful at this stage NOT to sand everything into a rounded shape – keep things as distinct as possible!

I need to sort out the white balance on the camera!

I decided it wasn’t necessary to take out the trigger or guard  – leaving them in helps preserve the fit, protects the edges  and also retains some of the worn look.

Here is the externally finished Heavy Dragoon…….

The tumbler and sear were badly worn and needed welding – half cock didn’t hold against the trigger and the full cock didn’t hold at all!  So a bit of TIG welding with piano wire built up the surfaces a bit.  Of course the reshaping changed the geometry, and as so often happens the sear caught in the half cock notch when fired, so there is a bit of fiddling to do before the parts can be re-hardened before final assembly…….

As the sear cooled quickly after welding it was dead hard and had to be annealed before shaping.

Filed, tested, filed… , hardened,  and tempered in the top oven of the AGA – very safe half cock bent…

Finished the Heavy Dragoon (which I mistakenly called Cavalry, although I’m not sure of the difference) this morning – I was happy with the action after a bit of gentle filing so I hardened and tempered the tumbler and sear – a file would hardly  touch them – so that is back together.  I decided the cock screw was wrong so I checked the thread -the old screw was about UNF 6 ( 40 t.P.i ) but the thread in the tumbler was more like 28 t.p.i. – since I didn’t have a 3.5 mm x 28 t.p.i die (excuse the usual mix on units!) I settled for 6 UNC (32 t.p.i.) as being the nearest I had, and it seems to hold at least as well as the one in there before, which was clearly not original.    I dulled down the colour with heat and Blackley’s case hardening compound and did a bit of reverse electrolysis to dull the surface – it looks reasonable and is a much better shape.  A bit of peening on the back of the cock to tighten it up, and its all ready to go – it sparks quite well, although if I were going to fight a war with it, I’d probably fit a stronger mainspring…… I’ll leave it, as snapping it off (only with a flint and the pan closed, please) is less violent that way.

New cock screw – slightly the wrong thread but it holds (like the previous one only the right shape) !

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

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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