Aug 072020

This year we had a charter from Alba Sailing in Dunstaffnage (near Oban) as all the other charter companies North of there have closed down.  We don’t normally go that far south as it is very crowded, even this year.  Around Oban and Loch Linne and up the Sound of Mull is a bit like Piccadilly Circus was in the rush hour in days gone by – Loch Dhroma na Buihde at the top end of the sound just inside Loch Sunart had 10 yachts at anchor when we went in!  I’ve never seen more than 4 at any one time before. North of Ardnamurchan Point things thin out a bit, and a bit more North of the Kyle of Loch Alsh, but over on the Outer Hebrides it is a lot quieter.  We went into Soay Harbour for the first time – its been on my bucket list for years – its the site of Gavin Maxwell’s ill fated Basking Shark oil factory in the 50’s.  Its a bit of a squeeze getting in as there isn’t much water – Penny doesn’t like rocks and sensibly stayed below while we went in.  A quick trip across to Lochboisdale – motoring into a headwind – found the new marina fairly busy although nominally closed due to Covid-19.  It was difficult to see what the problem was, but I suppose it was just that they hadn’t opened the loos and showers – there was water and electricity on the pontoons, but no charge for using the marina.  The marina has been built between two islands and is almost all imported rock – very impressive- its about a mile from the ‘town’  –  2 hotels and one small shop and a museum and sandwich stall.  From there another motor up to Loch Maddy where the marina looked a bit sad – I rang the harbourmaster who told me where to berth – again no loos or showers and no water on the berths.  We stayed an extra day there while a 30 knot wind blew – its not the wind speed per se that gets you up there, but the waves it throws up if you have to go into it.  Then a good long sail  chasing another Alba boat, Chantilly, to  Stornoway ( they just beat us!), which we love, as another blow was forecast – we got just about the last berth in the marina, which is mainly full of local boats – it didn’t materialise so next day we headed back across the Minch to a beautiful anchorage on Rona in the Inner Sound between Skye and the mainland – Acaraid Mhor (or something like that!) . We tried going South from there the next day but ended up slamming into an uncomfortable sea and 30 knots of  wind so turned back (very carefully across the seas) to the lovely anchorage and had a bit of a roller coaster ride on the waves in the downwind direction.  From there next day we went through Kyle Rhea with the tide to Isleoronsay on Skye, a not particularly attractive harbour, and from there to Loch Dhroma na Buihde.  We has a bit of a scare about running our of fuel at that point so went across to Tobermory next morning.  The fuelling berth had one boat on it already and very little maneuvering space, but I enjoyed squeezing  13m of boat into the space – and I didn’t hit anything even though we had to end up with our bows overlapping!  Manouvering big sailing boats in confined spaces is interesting as, apart from the effects of wind and tide, the boat makes sharp turns by effectively pivoting on the keel, so the stern sweeps out a path outside of path of the centre of the boat and this can catch you out in confined spaces.  One of the joys of chartering yachts is that you  end up taking the boat into marinas etc without knowing the habits of that particular boat – part of the enjoyment for me is to make a perfect landing on the pontoon!  On Pollyanna it was very difficult to see the port (left) side when at the wheel near the engine controls ( cockpit dodger and folded tent in the way) so docking ‘port side to’ was extra fun – why is that the way we seemed always to go?.  From there back to Dunstaffnage and the end of the holiday.  In all we visited 6 islands, lost 4 days from bad weather, covered around 350 miles and used about 150 litres of diesel.  We spent 6 nights at anchor and 8 in marinas, including 3 on the Alba pontoons – total marina bill was £31.25  – a great holiday.  Almost all of our navigation was done on a Galaxy tablet running Navionics Boating software – the tablet was in a decent waterproof case that allowed the USB port to be accessed. That meant we didn’t need to take it out of its case to charge, but more importantly it meant that I could plug in my big battery to keep the tablet running all day – The Nav software is thirsty and without the battery it would only survive a full day’s sailing by turning it off when not using the display – the nav continues plotting the track etc and jumps back when you turn it on again . I’m not even sure it would do 8 hours of background tracking without the battery.

Pollyanna from Alba Sailing.

Looking towards the entrance to Loch Dhroma na Buihde.  Its usually calm at nights if there isn’t a strong wind.

Just to show it wasn’t all wind and rain –  motoring in a calm  almost sunny spell ( one of two in two weeks!)

Apr 022020

12th August  – Had an antibody test yesterday (£69 @ the local pharmacist) –  very quick and simple finger prick and a drop of blood on a plastic strip and watch for lines in window – at first nothing appeared except the control line and I was told that I hadn’t had Covid, but then the two lines appeared faintly and bamboozled the pharmacist, who said I had definitely had it but he had never seen a result like that.  So my level of immunity is probably uncertain!  I will try hard not to get it again!  I did manage 90 lengths of the bag today so I guess I am reasonably fit.

7th July – Back from our sailing holiday –  I was well up to sailing the boat, although we had 3 younger crew on board to do the grunt work like winching- well, I had to leave something to them!   I think I am  almost back to my previous fitness – I did manage 50 lengths of our 10 m swimming bag today, and I’m aiming for 100 per day by next week…..   I came across a couple of studies of people who, like me, have CLL, in relation to Covid-19 which were a bit depressing – we stand a higher chance of needing intensive care, and a greater than 37% mortality if we go into an ICU. Which makes me realise how lucky I was to come out of it alive and with no apparent long term symptoms – its surprising and worrying how many people of all ages end up with very long lasting after effects.  I just hope I don’t catch it twice! If I hadn’t already had it I’d be feeling a bit paranoid .I’m about to book an antibody test with the local pharmacist to check my antibody levels.   I still haven’t made it to 65 Kg – I’m stuck somewhere between 63 and 64 Kg which is OK as its more or less in the middle of the normal BMI (body mass index) range.   My saturated Oxygen level is usually around 97 or 98 and my blood pressure is at the level it was two years  ago –  122/65, which BUPA says is OK at my age, so I hope all is well.

28 June – a month on from my last post here.  6 weeks ago I had lost around 10 – 12 Kg and was pretty much a skeleton at 55 Kg, as I didn’t carry much spare to begin with.  I couldn’t sit on a kitchen chair without a cushion as I had no natural padding left.  I started an eating campaign – cooked breakfast every day etc and initially put on weight fast and started to exercise a bit as I got my strength back.  I have now put back a good 7 Kg ( mostly muscle) and my weight gain has slowed somewhat, but I am still trying to put on 50 to 100 grams a day and will be glad to get to 65 Kg .  I got interested in finding out how much food, particularly protein, one needs.  One has a BMR, a Basal Metabolic Requirement that depends on height and weight – mine is about 1400 Kcal per day just to keep my body going.  Then you add a percentage depending on your level of activity – in my case that bumps it up to around 1700 Kcal/day.  The proportion you should get from protein depends on age amongst other things and increases with old age.  Mine is 20%, so I need 340 Kcal of protein, which equates to about 86 grams of protein – since I am trying to build, or at least restore muscles (its not clear if you can do more than restore when you get old) I am trying to concentrate on getting enough protein.  To put on weight you need to eat in excess of these requirements – the equation seems to be that you put on a pound (440 grams) for every 3500 Kcal you eat above your  BMR+activity level over a period of a week.  That is equivalent to  2 days worth of basic food requirement, so to put on 1 lb per week I need to eat 9 days food every 7 days – if I wanted the excess to be protein I’d need to eat almost a kil0gram of protein, which corresponds to around 3 Kg of meat.   I know – sounds totally improbable, and I’ll check the figures again but I think its about right –  maybe I’d better move to Texas where 14 oz (385 gm) steaks are considered a bit mean –  8 of them would just about do for my 1 lb weight gain!  Alongside eating I’ve been quite active and am doing exercises with weights and resistance work with elastic bands ( short bursts only) and doing some exercise each day – walking a mile plus being on my feet all day, or active swimming for 1/2 hour, so I feel reasonably fit.  I’m not sure how fit I’d be if I hadn’t got a bit obsessive about eating and exercise!

29th May  I think I can now safely say I’m finished with Covid.  Its a pretty nasty new virus and it seems to have taken  few weeks/months for the doctors to get a handle on it.  In the beginning they didn’t understand the effect Covid was having on Saturated Oxygen levels, and bunged people on ventilators willy nilly, and are now suggesting that this may have been wrong in some cases.  They now give Oxygen earlier and keep the ventilators as a last resort. ( people put on Ventilators have a chance of dying that is a quarter of what it was at the beginning of the pandemic, which suggests a change in outcomes whatever other factors may be involved)  In previous uses the average time on a ventilator was 7 days, whereas with Covid it was/is 7 weeks –  7 weeks with strong sedation is itself pretty dramatic.  When I got the Oxygen generator I bought a pulse oximeter to measure my Sat. Oxygen level –  to begin with it was often below 95%, but oxygen pushed it up to around 97 or 98 % – a more healthy level.  I’m not sure the Oxygen was essential for my recovery, but it certainly made thing more acceptable and reduced my anxiety level, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have got it from the NHS  – there was (is?)  no halfway house between being ‘on your own’ and being in hospital and on the treatment conveyer belt.

2ND May.  The encouraging thing is that every couple of days you notice something that is improving in your recovery, and only then do you realise how bad it had been.  I’m sure if you had asked me a few days ago I would have said I was eating  well, but in the last day or so I realised that my appetite had been  a lot worse than I realised.  All encouraging stuff.  I now have to persuade my oncologist that I am not fading away!  I bought a posh set of bathroom scales to track my weight  but I can’t yet take any comfort from them. I’m  just puzzled at how much my weight varies from day to day, even taking into account the obvious variables!


30th April,  Well, after just over 6 weeks since I got symptoms I  am beginning to feel almost human again.  I’m not sure how much weight I lost- probably around 8 Kg. so it will take me a while to get most of that back.  Hard to remember how nasty it was at the time!  I’m up and about all day and am finding  that I am unable to avoid  domestic chores.  Oh well, no gain without pain!

15th April,   Managed to sleep last night but it left me feeling tired all day – strange!  Anyway I’m sort of getting to grips with things, or at least I hope I am!  I will have to find something to occupy my mind before I go stir crazy………   I can understand how it got Boris J – and he has s few years on me!

1th April.  The oxygen concentrator is a neat gadget.  It strips nitrogen out of the air to give around 70 to 80% oxygen at up to 5 litres a minute.  I think I am getting to grips with most of my problems – I could even taste coffee this a.m.  But I still have difficulty sleeping….  Watching all sorts of iplayer and youtube junk.  A friend had been raving about ‘The Repair Shop’ series on BBC 1, but I thought it had too little technical content and far too much emotional clutter.  Shame as it could be good  Most of the you tubes are similarly disapointing – I’ll just have to make some more f my ow,

10th  Got an Oxygen concentrator from a friend so I  can trickle Oxygen up my nose at night and, I hope, get some sleep.  Before that I used the oxygen cylinder from my lead welding outfit to give myself bursts of oxygen – going up half a flight of stairs had me lying on the bed gasping for air for 5 minutes – not nice – a quick squirt of oxygen into a plastic bag and breath that speeded recovery! I seem to have lost up to 20% or my bodyweight in the last 4 weeks, so I’m trying to eat as much as possible -talk about turkeys and Christmas!  Giles is locked down in his flat in Cambridge, and building climbing walls on all the surfaces that are strong enough -Ive challenged him to build a compete climbing wall that will fold up into a matchbox.!

Now made it to 9th – I think things are slowly improving, and then I can’t sleep for 24 hours. At least there is better information  out there and my GPs seem to know what they are dealing with, which is pretty re-assuring.   Hang on in there and EAT and BREATH.

Its 6th April and things haven’t moved on much – normal temp but absolutely wiped out if I try to do anything except lie down. any effort leaves me completely breathless.  I am just about managing to eat, but I doubt that in reality it would keep a knat alive……….  Still overall not feeling too bad………  Not sure what the problem is so will have to talk to my GP if I can….

When I first got feverish around Tuesday  17th March I started to look at the  ‘official’ NHS symptoms and was confused that I seemed to have missed out on sneezing some exact number of times a day and coughing for so many hours.   So did I have COVID-19 ?.     As a 78 year old with Leukemia (CLL) I new I was a high risk patient, although a fairly fit one with minor CLL symptoms.     How long might it go on for?   and what else  might turn up as a symptom?  My Oncologist, and the CLL community in general don’t yet know if CLL is likely to make COVID-19 worst or better – COVID-19’s target is to set off a massive immune response in the respiratory-  maybe it would offer some protection.   Anyway here is what happened to me.  The first phase took about a week,  Fever 38 to 39 C, aching lower limbs and loss of appetite, or more specifically your mouth moisture all disappears, making it difficut to eat solids. I found it difficult to get my temperature comfortable.  After that I had a couple of days of mostly near normal body temperature 37.2C etc.  I was told by the ever helpful 101 service that I might expect breathing difficulties and temperature from day 8 (ish) but the breathing difficulties didn’t occur. (CLL bonus?)  I discovered over the next 6 days that I could be comfortable lying in a more or less unheated (17 -18C) bedroom with an open shirt and pants without feeling feverish.   After a few more days my temperature has come back to normal for most of the time.  Overall I’m impressed with 101 and with my GP and Oncologist who all seem to know the pattern – just a shame our official NHS advice is is nowhere near as good. It is a great shame the NHS thinks it knows all the answers – it has massively screwed up on testing by not buying reagents in time, not really knowing what it is going to do with its testing, and by insisting only PHE could run tests (at Colonwood)- a decision now revoked under government pressure to include commercial labs.  We love our NHS, but just don’t look too closely at the moment if want to avoid disappointment!   Good luck if you get it.j

I think mine started around 17th March – no real idea where I picked it up, but I was in a classroom for an hour a few days before that.

 Posted by at 3:57 pm
Jan 082020

This little pair of pistols are marked ‘Public Office’ and ‘Bow Street’ and are signed Parker, who was the contractor to the early London constables and supplied various arms for the early London law enforcement patrols around the end of the 18th and beginning of the 19th century.  Interestingly there was some objection even then to arming the police, but the level of highway robbery on the roads leading in and out of London made it expedient to arm the patrols with pistols.  These little pistols are identical, but are not a pair – one is numbered 5 on teh trigger guard and the other is 13 (?check!).  They fire a hefty ball and would have been able to cause a nasty wound, although they are fairly light, so would not have had a very large charge of powder – in any event any gun wound was likely to prove fatal from infection in those times.  For details see ‘Those Entrusted with Arms’ by Frederick Wilkinson.

 Posted by at 10:44 pm
Nov 222019

Here are some details of the workings behind the blog in case you want to know how to set one up yourself – posted 11/2019.

( Note – Internet Hosting Service provides storage space and hosts your domains, i.e. your website addresses – you only need this if you want your own website/s.  The Internet Service Provider – ISP connects your computer to the internet and send requests to internet Hosts for the information that makes up the webpages you want and passes them to you. It also passes you email to and fro from whatever email Host you are using – i.e. Googlemail etc.  You can’t get on the web without an ISP – you pay them for your line rental etc.)

I have an Internet Hosting Service that provides me with facilities to have have a number of different websites and to have an unlimited number of email addresses and mailboxes associated with each website.  The service provides me with the storage space I need to build the websites, and allows those websites to be available to anyone on the web. (1&

I used to build my websites in HTML, the language of the (old) web, but that is slow and laborious and difficult to change, so I use a proprietory package called WordPress that lets me work on the website as if it was just a simple word processor, and then put any changes and photos onto the visible website immediately and seamlessly.

My WordPress websites are built on  my hosting service servers in my own ‘domains’ i.e. my own web addresses, but you can put your WordPress sites onto the WordPress server for free if you don’t mind the website name being or whatever.

WordPress has all the tools for making your website, and a great many ‘themes’ you can use to give it all different appearances. I use just one – ‘Suffusion’

You can add any number of ‘plug ins’ to WordPress to let you do various things – I use a number including ‘Statistics’  that lets you see how many visits and visitors the site gets each day and in total, which pages and bits are most popular, how many referrals come from which search engine and more. It provides the numbers you see on the start page – It is free.

Another vital plug in is ‘Wordfence’ – it comes in two flavours, free and paid.  I use the free one as the website isn’t earning anything.  Wordfence guards your site for you and keeps out undesirables – it also let you see who is doing what, and if you see that your site is being attacked by a particular IP address or a group of addresses you can easily block their access. It tells you the location and IP address of all visits for security purposes.  It is a very powerful tool, and I would not be without it, although tracking miscreants can become a bit addictive at times.  One of the little known features of the internet is that all ISPs (Internet Service Providers) have to have an email address for reporting abuse from IP addresses they are hosting, and they are supposed to get after anyone who abuses the service they provide – I have used this on a number of occasions and the ISP will usually stop blatant abuse like excessive calls to your site for no apparent purpose.  For instance I had one post (Hanover Pistol..) visited 26000 times by a Russian site at regular intervals – obviously programmed into a computer for the purposes of goodness knows what – but the Russian ISP has ( I hope) stopped it following an email to their abuse account.   If you do see an IP address that is causing you problems you can put it into ‘Whois’ and find their ISP and the abuse email address.  It has worked for me in the past including taking out a whole botnet that was attacking my site, although that was mostly down to a bit of detective work on my part and carelessness on the part of the botnet operator.

There are a number of other plug ins that are useful – a backup plugin stores regular ‘images’ of the website.  A login diverter hides the login from view to add another level of security – that seems to work well.  Anti spam plug ins guard you from (most) spurious comments to your posts.

For me an essential plugin is the ‘classic editor’ as I don’t like the  new default editor, but if you haven’t known the old one you may prefer the new one with blocks, whatever they are!

While on the subject of backups – a very useful feature of the internet is a website called ‘the wayback machine’ that periodically stores images of the whole of every website on the entire web – sounds improbable, then try it!  I was involved as a witness in an American legal patent case, and part of my evidence was something I put on my company website in 1999 – the wayback machine had a snapshot of my website from then, with the thing on it, and that was acceptable in a court of law in America as proof of the date it was put on the web.  There are something like 40 versions of this website stored, going back to 2011 when I started it for rebuilding this house – then as a baker, then for the present purposes.


How does it all work?  very well and not a lot of trouble but it pays to be a bit technically savvy, although once set up it is easy for anyone with basic word processing skills to use and edit!

What does it cost?   To be honest I’m not sure – I have about 10 websites and use a professional Hosting package which costs about £200 a year, then there are the renewal fees on the domains that come to around £10 per year each, and then the ISP connection fee that is around £40 a month for a professional service – so maybe £800 a year total, or £80 a website equivalent, which given the service I get is reasonable – this website alone is pretty massive as you will see as you explore it.  I pay nothing for Wordfence or WordPress or any of the plugins although I do occasionally donate to them.


Photographs;  Photos are an essential part of this website – you’ll see in various places details of the setup I use – basically at the moment a Canon M50 camera with 18 to 150 lens, and crucially, PhotoScape as a free photo editor.  There are so many  photos on the site that I am careful always to edit them down to a width of 1200 pixels, unless they need extra detail, in which case I use a width of 1600 pixels.  Computer screen get bigger all the time, but those sizes work at the moment.

To make the blog more interesting it is important to have good, detailed photographs to illustrate the work, and that means you need to be able to take technical photographs quickly and without a lot of setting up.  I don’t have space to leave everything set up permenantly, but I have a 50W white LED panel on the ceiling above the big table in the library/office and a stand with a tripod head that gives a good coverage, so I can photograph anything from a screw to half a long gun in a couple of minutes, and edit in Photoscape quickly and get it on the web in around 5 minutes.  The 18 to 150 Canon lens is perfect for the job – it doesn’t focus very close but as I’m putting photos of limited resolution on the blog ( 1200 or 1600 pixel width) I can get my ‘macro’ shots by cropping my 6000 pixel wide images, which effectively gives me x4 zoom.

 Posted by at 10:02 pm
Oct 042019


Here are some exerts from my blog relating to the gun I bought at Southams earlier in 2019:-

The gun I bought is a Westley Richards percussion double 11 bore – I had left a bid 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 – possibly dating from the rebarrelling.  The good news is that WR still exists, and their historian may be able to help with the puzzle.


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 on barrels (above) and inside lock plates

Address occupied by WR from 1917….

Locks are well made inside, engraving is bog standard minimal Birmingham standard of the period. cocks are castings – they look like Kevin’s rejects!

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

 Posted by at 3:27 pm
Aug 152019

Having made a case for a double barreled flintlock coaching pistol I thought I’d put  post on it using bits from the diary and some additional hints and tips.

This case is unusual as its rare for a single flintlock pistol to be case – almost always flintlock pistols came in pairs – at least from about 1760 to 1850, and it wasn’t until the percussion revolver era post 1851 that single percussion revolvers pistols were commonly cased in oak boxes with brass screws visible on the top.  prior to that it was usually pairs of pistols, most commonly duelling pistols in mahogany cases.  _ See Keith Neil and Back’s book on Trade labels and cases.


Oak – dark, for early cases

Mahogany – fairly fine grained , for pistols and long guns up to around 1850.

Oak – light yellow in tint – for single percussion revolvers from ?1851.


The carcass of almost all old cases used open  dovetailed joints – the joint provided the strength as there were no good glues.  These joints were cut with very fine ‘pins’ – on the outside edge of the tapered pin they were often no more than 1/16th of an inch  thick – they were, of course cut by hand and they still need to be as router cutters can’t do such narrow pins – dovetail cutters for doll’s house furniture are not long enough and regular cutters have too thick a shaft.  Cutting such narrow dovetails by hand requires a saw with a very thin ‘kerf’ (cut thickness)  – certainly no bigger than 0.5 m.m. – I use a Japanese pull blade with a kerf of 0.3 m.m. – a fine tool for the job.  The bottoms of the cuts is best done with a very fine blade in a fretsaw.   We can of course use modern glues to disguise our imperfetions – but that is really cheating!  Cutting fine dovetails by hand is very satisfying.

The bottoms of boxes were usually fixed in a rebate in the sides and were often of pine and quite thin.  The tops were usually placed on top of the sides and held by animal glue and often panel pins.  In the case of oak cases for revolvers the tops were invariably screwed in place with small brass screws.

For a pistol case the sides were usually between 10 and 12 m.m. thick, the bottom probably 5 or 6 m.m. and the top maybe 6 to 8 m.m. thick.


Gun cases almost always had a lining around the sides of the base that stuck up above the sides of the base by at least 12 m.m – I guess it sometimes/often reached the inside of the top of the lid.  The lining strips were from about 6 to 8 m.m. thick.  The outside edge was chamfered from the top of the sides and rounded on the top edge.  The chamfer ensures that the lid fits snugly without rubbing as it closes.  The lining could be fully covered with the lining material (baise or velvet etc) on the inside and over the top and down below the top of the sides – in which case the lining wood needs to takea ccount of the thickness of teh covering.  Alternatively in better class cases the cloth ends in a sloping cut on the inside of the lining and in line with the top of the sides.  The lining strips are carefully bevelled at the corners so that they fit together neatly. The lining strips are a good fit in teh carcass and can be held with animal glue.


These can either be fully covered with cloth, or they can have a  strip of wood showing at the top ( probably about 10 m.m. deep) with the cloth stopping in a sloping groove as for the lining strips. They are usually glued in wth animal glue and may also be pinned through the base.  Sometimes in better cases they are fitted into slots cut in the lining strips.

Fabric covering;-

It is normal for the inside base of the case to be  covered in one piece of fabric (baise) fixed down with animal glue before the partitions are put in place, and the lid is similarly covered inside.   Traditionally animal glue was what was available – basically collagen that melts and absorbs water  at fairly low temperatures ( 60C ) and sticks within 10 minutes of so.  It has the advantage that joints can be taken apart with steam and patience.


to be continued!

 Posted by at 11:55 pm
Jul 212019


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

  from  Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..

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

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

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


Most of the photos on this website are mine, a few are from other sources or are photographed from books. The guns photographed mostly belong to other people who are happy for them to be on the web – I always ask.   My photos are copyright – you are welcome to use them for your own purposes, but not for gain – please always attribute them to   All my photos have been reduced in resolution using photoscape (excellent & free) to save space on the website, they are normally 1200 pixels wide, occasionally 1600 for more interesting things.   The image you will normally see on your screen is at a lower resolution still, as wordpress fits it to the page and decreases the resolution very considerably to speed up loading.  Clicking on any photo will show you the full  1200 or 1600 width version if your screen resolution allows it – they are very much clearer.   All the photos were originally taken at much higher resolution – up to 6000 pixels wide –  if you want a higher resolution version of any of the photos e.g. for publication, please contact me with details and we can if necessary discuss copyright and I can forward  full resolution copies.   For serious research publications I am happy to take new photos of guns I have access to.  If you right click & ‘save image’ from the normal web page you will get an image of (for the J LANG 14 bore for example) 94 KBytes, if you left click on the image and download from the larger image that comes up on a blank screen you’ll get about 573 KBytes, which is what I uploaded to the website  –  if I send you the original cropped image it is 8.257 MBytes  with a horizontal count of 5885 pixels !

 So now you know why the photos in the normal view look a bit murky!  Just click on them for a better photo.



22nd Sept – bit of a hold-up on the kitchen – the replacement staple gun won’t be here til Friday so Matthew has a lie-in and then built a roof over part of the yard to house the working area when the weather is no longer so perfect.  I did a bit more of the first coat plastering- about 20% now done – its slow as much of it is detailed edge stuff.   Got to find another two or three day’s work to occupy Matthew until the stapler arrives!   Mystery on the Covid 19 front – Penny went to have an antibody test today ( she had not had any symptoms when I got it and she was in the house looking after me) – the pharmasist initially said she hadn’t had it, then saw a faint response and  said he had only seen that response once before ( me, but he didn’t know we were related), so we are not greatly enlightened!  My friend and fellow gun restorer is moving and giving up the game, so I’ll go and see if I can buy any goodies from him – there are a few breech loaders I have borrowed that interested me, including the Collarth and the Gibbs and __________.  I might rescue some of his stock of castings for flintlocks.   I’m still unsure whether I’ll bother to look at Bonhams tomorrow – I should be working but I might put my tablet on in the old kitchen and see if aything cathces my eye!

The  work shelter Matthew built in 2 1/2 hours.

21 Sept – Slightly chastened by a follower of this blog lamenting the absence of gun related stuff, I had a quick look through Bonhams catalogue for this Wednesday – quite a lot of interesting stuff, and if I dared to go and have a proper look I might be tempted to overspend.  There is a very nice cased Forsyth scent bottle gun with all the bits if you have a cool £8000 plus premium minimum.  Several pistols caught my eye – and mostly at almost affordable prices if you forget about the premium!   I have this idea, probably completely wrong, that cased pistols are better vale than uncased – The little cased  Egg is neat and so on……….  It is interesting to see what has happened to antique firearms prices  – the very low interest rates in general have attracted people to what are euphemistically called ‘investment grade’ pieces, particularly buyers from the US, and there is interest across the wider market, although auction prices haven’t shifted much over the years, and if you take into account the high premium charges that are now the norm, you would be very lucky to get your money back unless you are a very canny buyer, or just lucky.  Better go and have another look at the on-line catalogue – I have already registered for on-line bidding so that is a danger sign!

21st Sept – Fantastic shoot on Saturday, good strong breeze and sunny and lots of birds – perfect conditions and very well run.  My trusty little 16 bore Nock single rose to the challenge of the fast targets so I was well pleased.  I weighed my powder flask when I got home, then after I’d filled it to the top to check how many shots I’d fired in the day – worked out at 21 excluding the final unloading shot, so a hit to  shots ration of 1:3 which for me is a good result.  I quite like using a single for game – takes away the tension of whether to reload a double after the first shot or wait til the gun is empty.  Problem with reloading a single fired  barrel of a double is that you have to remember to remove the cap from the loaded barrrel or you risk loosing a hand if it fires.   A lot of experienced shooters can recall an occasion when they reloaded without removing the cap, including occasions when the gun was still at full cock. Makes the blood run cold!  I made my little decapping tool to make it simple to remove the cap, but it is still possible to forget.     We were pressing on with the kitchen and had about a quarter of the ceiling lathed up ready for plastering when the stapler we use for fixing the lathes stopped working upwards – it was still happily firing staples downwards but elevated above the horizontal it stopped firing.  I stripped it several times and did briefly get it going with a squirt of WD 40, but it soon failed again.  I tried several tricks to try to give the solenoid more umph, but none worked and we had to abandon fixing laths – a new one won’t be delivered until Friday so that is almost a week lost…  I have started to plaster the laths that are in place with 3 coat lime putty plaster – its quite tricky as the beams have only about 13 or 14 inches between them, which precudes the proper plastering technique of laying on the first coat at 45 degrees to the laths, so it is a bit of a hit and miss affair and quite slow, especially around the bosses I have put in for the spotlights.  It took me a while to get my hand in and find the right consistency for the plaster and the right amount of goat hair to add, and of course you can’t really see if the plaster that is squeezed between the laths has folded over to hold on to the laths.  One has a nghtmare that in the morning the whole lot will have detached and be lying on the floor!    ( it has to be said the the patch I’d  put in some years ago was all very firmly attached when we took that bit of ceiling down)

Old laths cleaned and fixed between joists – boss for spotlight.


17th Sept – Penny’s birthday – fortunately I did remember!  Busy on the kitchen – and for the next two months at least, I guess.  Matthew finished the tricky job of fixing up battens along the beams and joists to carry the laths for the plaster. We had intended to replace two beams as they didn’t quite match although they were old, but when we came to investigate it turned out that they extended almost all the way through the flint wall, leaving only a single layer of flint on the outside – to remove the beams would have meant a lot of rebuilding of the wall as the outside would have fallen out if disturbed, so we left them – two green oak beams will now go in stock!  We did have one short beam to replace as it was itself a replacement and not very sound – we made a beam by laminating a couple of bits of seasoned oak and put the date and our initials on it as a memento.  I rebuilt the wall around the hole for the fan – a bit of flintwork on the outside – I’ve done quite a bit of repairing and rebuilding flint walls in the local vernacular so it comes quite easily – the secret is to go back after a couple of hours with a small tool and cut back the mortar to leave the flint proud by 6 to 10 mm, and then brush it all with a stiff brush to clean off the flint and expose the sharp grit on the surface of the mortar.   I’ve put in all the wiring for the lights, so the next job is fixing the laths – I have a neat electric stapler – Tacwise – that fires staples about 6 mm wide  which are perfect for fixing the old split laths, two staples each end, so that job should be quite quick – although most of the laths will have to be individually cut to length.  There are just a couple of really dirty jobs to do – chasing in another light switch and a water pipe, plus a bit of mortaring around the top of the walls where it was previously above the ceiling  but now is below the new ceiling level.  Two pallets of floor tiles have arrived, so its  all looking very exciting – I should be able to start plastering on Monday and maybe finish the ceiling next week?  There is  a certain amount of discussion about how to finish the exposed joists and beams – painting them in with the ceiling would expose all the imperfections in them, and the broken off lath fixings would soon rust through.  Options are then to leave them as they are, wax them, oil them or stain them – all except the first are non reversible! I guess that decisiion can be left til we see how the ceiling looks……..

Matthew fixing the last of the battens on the new beam.

16th Sept.  OOps – missed a few days while I was in Wales helping to clear out Penny’s family house to put it on the market.   Managed to get over 30 dustbin bags of rubbish out!  Had a litttle scare as my car has a feature that if you unlock the car with the remote and then don’t open the driver’s door, it relocks after a minute of so – you can guess the rest – I went to a side door, put my keys on the floor and after getting what I wanted stood back and the door shut.  Penny didn’t have her keys with her.  Didn’t fancy doing any damage that would be costly to put right, but walking round found a way in that just required a 10 mm drill, and could be put right with a small replacement part, or one made in ten minutes in my workshop.  If I hadn’t had to get a lift to Screwfix to buy a drill bit it would have been a 3 minute job to recover the keys – I’m not advertising how to do it!   The kitchen continues apace – having decided  that we are going to leave the beams & joists exposed, thus raising the ceiling by about 3 inches, Matthew has been cleaning them off and attaching battens along them close to the floor boards above so we have something to fix the laths to – this turns out to be a long and involved job as most of the beams and joists are from the edges of the trees and are rounded on top.  A couple of the joists don’t look right so I collected a couple of green oak replacements 100 x 150 mm in section today.  The floor tiles arrived in the yard next door, they won’t be needed for a month or so. I have put in the wiring for the  (now 9) ceiling spotlights.  Matthew and I are getting qite excited aboutthe job! My shoot on Saturday is set to go ahead- some people are a bit unhappy that people can gather for shooting but not in the park – but it has to be said that we re mostly spaced about 40 yards apart!  Its interesting that the law specifically exempts any activity that requires a firearms or shotgun certificate from the rule of 6 – I guess that means that the arm of the law will have no excuse to bother us!.

9th Sept. Matthew arrived late this morning, his car loosing water from a broken plastic fitting that he hadn’t quite managed to repair with superglue.  It was a hose nipple screwed into the water pump carrying water to preheat the fuel/air ?  Much to his amazement I found a bit of suitable white plastic rod and turned up a replacement with an M8 stud – it fitted perfectly after I’d run an M8 second tap into the hole to clear the plastic residue.  Not often you can make a car part in 30 minutes!  The rest of Matthew’s day passed in washing down the beams while I got rid of the old wiring and planned where the new was going to go –  Turns out I reckon on 8 sets of spotlights each with 3 LED bulbs – at 5W per bulb that is a total of 120 W, which is probably what it was before, but now groups will be able to be turned off, leaving a central group of 30 W, a bit more reasonable.  I also put in another order to Screwfix- its so easy and each one costs around £30 – £50 so it is a significant part of the cost of the work.   Cost control is quite lax as I’m not paying stupid prices for the bulk of the work, and materials for the floor will be at  around 1/3 to 1/2 of the final cost.  I’m hoping that the end of next week will see the ceiling ready for plastering, so I had better visit AngliaLime to get a few more tubs of Lime Putty and a few bundles of  hair to put in the first coat to strengthen the ‘nibs that get pushed up in the gaps between the laths and stop the plaster falling down – I suspect that the ceiling we have just taken out failed because it had rather little hair in the base coat so the nibs broke off and the plaster sagged away from the laths.  There was one patch we took down that I had carefully repaired some years ago –  the plaster brought the laths down with it, the laths were tied with galvanised wire to a cross lath so the whole thing was a rigid sheet – and quite difficult to get down.

8th Sept.  Decided to take down all the laths and leave the joists exposed below the ceiling, which we did today.  Next job is to put battens around the edges of all beams and joists to take short laths for plastering.  We need to replace a couple of beams that don’t look right, so I’ve ordered a couple of lengths of 4 x5 inch sawn oak to do the job – I found a firm in North Walsham that offered to supply them for a reasonable price.  Before we can put the laths up I have to run in wires for all the lighting.  At least having got all the ceiling down the dirtiest job is finished so we can clean up a bit!   One of the joys of restoring old houses is the occasional puzzle – you know something must have been done for a purpose but can’t see what it is.  In this case there is a trimmer between two joists with a central joist in two parts supported by the trimmer.  The puzzle is that all those beams look original and have chamfers that run out at the crossings, and all had the same finish so look as if they were made like that.  Trimmers are usually associated with openings for stairs etc, but that isn’t the case here.  Matthew suggests that maybe the central joist was found to be too weak / cracked so they put in the trimmer as they didn’t have another joist.  Possible, some of the other joists are more or less branches with the bottom surface flattened off, but still originally shown below the plaster level.

The spine beam on the left is cantilevered out and supports the other beam – both probably reused timbers from an earlier house.

The thin joist is a much later addition when new floor boards were put in and firring pieces put on the beams and joists to level the floor.

7th Sept  Demolition of the kitchen began in earnest today as Matthew came to help. We stripped almost all the old plaster off the laths and Matthew cleaned off the backs of them with a reshaped washing up brush – we took out  a couple of laths every foot or so to create the space to get at the backs.  Having got a glimpse of what was above them we reckon that we can remove all the laths and leave the ceiling beams exposed, setting the plaster back a couple of inches.  The ceiling is very low, so this will generate the impression of a higher ceiling and be a return to how it was originally – you can actually see the original plaster finish on the underneath of the upstairs floorboards in one place.  It will be a bit more work but worth it.  It looks as if half the room originally had unpainted oak beams, and the other half somewhat narrower beams painted in with the ceiling.  A couple of the beams in one bit of the ceiling have been replaced with wood that doesn’t match, so I may have to take them out and replace them with new oak beams.  I’m not sure where to get sawn green oak now as my favourite source no longer exists – I did have a supply of old  5 x 5 oak posts, but that got used up for the new kitchen door frame.   I started to unpick the old wiring, a mix of twin and earth grafted on to old rubber covered wire without earths – I guess it will all have to be replaced – I plan to use wireless bulbs to simplify wiring – I think the IKEA system looks OK, we used it in Giles’s flat and it works and is cheap – the only thing that I didn’t like is that if there is a power cut all the lights come on when the power is restored regardless of the state they were in when the power was cut.  I got some amazingly neat spotlights – 3 on a bar- from IKEA, for the princely sum of £7 – less than the cost of 3 normal LED bulbs for them.

Old riven laths make an interesting surface to plaster on to – I have done it successfully by wiring in intermediate laths across the gaps.

The original plaster ( date unknown but possibly 18th ) is just visible between the laths, which would have been 19th or early 20th century.

6th Sept.  Splendid day’s shoot in beautiful weather on the Essex coast yesterday – flat as a pancake and a nice breeze and loads of birds – we had a modest shoot, just 6 of us AML bods – I felt I had done myself justice!   I’ve fished out a little double barrelled percussion gun by Probin that has had its barrels cut down to a just legal 24 1/4 inches, and weighs 5 1/4 lbs, the same as my Nock single.  I really liked having the Nock yesterday – I’ve not completely recovered my stamina as I discovered, and as there was a fair bit of walking I was glad of the light gun, so it would be handy to have a matching double.  With barrels that short I will probably opt to use Swiss No 2 powder as the faster burn rate compared to Czech I normally use should compensate a bit for the short barrel.  I am now using semolina for all shooting and find it perfectly satisfactory and much handier to load for clays and game – I have no intention to revert to wads….  I re-plumbed the main house incomer to accommodate the new water softener and get rid of some of the visible pipework- by the time it was all installed with stop cocks to allow the water softener to be removed when we do the floor it added up to around 35 compression joins in 22 and 15 mm pipework, mostly 22 mm.   When I turned the mains on (slightly) one joint blew out as I’d forgotten to tighten it at all, and another 10 weeped  (wept?) very slightly and took several iterations to get it all leak free – at least I hope its now leak free – I left tissues on the floor to see of I got drips, but if there are any leaks they are probably not much faster than the evaporation.

We look more like a bunch of bank robbers than anything else!

Not really sure why I don’t use soldered joints – or pushfit copper!

3rd September  – Yesterday was my birthday – 21 again!  Cracking on with the kitchen, although I did spend this morning up at school doing my safeguarding training.  I always find when I come back to building type work that things have moved on a bit, and there are new ‘inventions’ that I haven’t come across before.  Two very simple but clever things I picked up at Screwfix – the first was a simple sheet of black plastic that rolls up and slips inside a rubble sack to turn it into a bin that you can throw, drop or shovel rubble into – you just lift the sheet out when the bag is full, and use it in the next bag!  Its called a rubble mate – and is brilliantly simple and effective.  The second is a roll of coated fabric that you tape over a door- it has a zip panel in the middle so you can go in and out while its properly dust sealed when its zipped shut – again, simple and effective – it’s called a Dustguard Dust Barrier.  I’ve been sorting out how I’ll fit various bits – particularly an extractor fan and the water softener.  I ordered a cheap cooker hood/extractor fan (£80 would you believe) and it arrived in a very large box that rattled ominously as if full of gravel – which is what the glass hood had become!  Anyway they sent me a new one and I got to keep the damaged one for spares.  They look perfectly good – I’m prepared to bet it is identical internally to units costing 3 or 4 times as much – looking at appliances and reading reviews it seems that what used to be premium brands are now just premium prices with more or less the same old tat inside as the cheap ones – or am I just becoming an old cynic as I age?  Got my first proper shoot of the season on Saturday, so an early start – it will be the single barreled gun for me this time – I’d better put a seat back in the Land Cruiser in case I have to use it as transport given the virus issue……  I went on the firearms website and filled in the form to put the Nock back on my certificate – but haven’t had any feedback.  I notice that Cambs and Peterborough are demanding medical certificates for shotgun, firearms and explosives licenses – why can’t they make the explosives licenses coterminous to save us an extra expense and them the bother?   I sold the microscope for £360 – I’m well pleased as it cost me £420 new.

Full marks to whoever invented this!

28thAugust – A lot of time spent on the new kitchen ‘walking around the job’ !  One of the real benefits of doing it all yourself is that you can let the job evolve as you turn it over in your mind – I had a layout for the units that I’d carefully drawn up and was expecting to make, but marking things up on the floor I came up with a much better arrangement that still fitted with the unit I had already built – in fact it fits much better as the lpg gas hob will now fit centrally over the built in electric oven.  Because the walls are potentially damp, or could be without adequate ventilation, it is advisable to have a permeable floor so the moisture isn’t forced by a concrete floor  slab into the base of the walls – this is achieved by using a foamed glass ‘gravel’ that is strong enough to replace hardcore and also a good, permeable insulator, and a slab made of lime cement which is much more permeable than Ordinary Portland Cement.  All that of course adds to the expense and complications of the job – but should give a warmer floor – I’ll put electric underfloor heating under the pamments.  Here is a picture of what I hope is the worst bit of the wall.  I’ve had to remove the old window cill and the plaster above the window as they were level with the glass and it looked wrong.  I replaced all the windows in the house with leaded lights in iron casements some 20 years ago – actually in truth there is still one to do – I’ve made the frame and got the blacksmith to make the iron casement etc when I did the others but for some reason that one has escaped, I think because its only in the boot room and isn’t actually rotten (yet).  I think I still have to lead up the actual windows – its a bit of a fiddle, the worst bit is finding suitable glass – modern float glass just doesn’t look right.  I have a collection of old, mostly Victorian, glass which is about right – when I started I used to buy modern handmade window glass but it was very expensive and mostly too distorted – the distortions are called ‘ream’ and the little bubbles ‘seeds’. The cheapest, and least reamy handmade glass was made in Poland, the most expensive was French or German.   Tom (son) and I once re-leaded a whole Elizabethan manor house that had retained a fair amount of very old, probably original, glass – taking each window apart, marking where every pane of glass came from, finding matching glass ( mostly very slightly coloured) for broken panes, and putting the whole lot back together with new lead ‘cames’.  Tom got very good at it – he is more patient than I am, and spent a whole summer doing every window in the place beautifully.

I’ll have to re-plumb the pipe running across the wall before I can do more – it is the mains water feed for the whole house.

27th August – how time flies when you are having fun – in this case demolishing the old kitchen and fixing up the new temporary one.   It turns out that most of the walls of the old kitchen are in a poor state – its old lime plaster onto the chalk rubble inner face ofthe wall, and some patches are hardly adhering at all – plus some clever clogs had the brilliant idea of combatting dampness in the walls by sticking on some bitumen backed material and although most of it has been removed there are still patches of bituminous residue that require the surface of the wall to be removed in order to get rid of them.  All good fun.  I went shooting clays again this morning at Cambridge Gun Club with Pete and Bev – most enjoyable, not least because it was a nice day, and I managed to hit more clays than I thought likely!  I’ll post some kitchen pictures some time just to make you realise how much sounder your dwellings are!

20th August – I seem to be getting back into blogging!  Pete and I went to Eriswell to get ourselves in gear for an upcoming partridge day – I literally hadn’t touched a gun for 6 months and Pete had only shot a flintlock (very well!) and wanted to get back to his percussion.  I started with my normal Samuel Nock double 16 bore but it didn’t feel as if I was going to hit much, so swapped to my little Henry Nock single – this is a ridiculous gun for an adult – single barrel 16 bore with a 13 1/4 inch pull ( a full 1 inch too short for me by the book) and weighing 5 1/4 lbs and a 28 inch barrel. Suffice to say that it came good, and I just about kept up with Pete overall, so I guess I’ll use that on the shoot.  I’m happy to use a single barrel as it removes the dilemma of whether to reload when you’ve fired one of your two barrels!  All in all a good day – but I’ve just remembered that both guns are still in the wagon uncleaned  – oops, and its nearly bed time……… Done them – just time to finish with a thought – Pete and I were speculating that the standard of clay shooting must have gone up over the years, because both Eriswell and CGC include more difficult clays than we remember – some, like the incomer from about 70 yards that hit the ground about 35 or 40 yards out are almost beyond the reach of most percussion guns (they have cylinder bore, more or less)  and there were a several really sneaky fast clays that we could hardly get our eyes on, let alone get the gun onto.  Even the driven, that I used to knock down, now seem much higher – or are we just getting older……..

19th August – If you are interested in the AmScope x7 – x45 microscope for engraving its now on ebay – an auction starting at £220.  A bargain! 

18th August – Managed to get the workshop temporarily wired for the cooker, so its all ready to move into.  I got an email saying the pamments for the kitchen floor will be ready at the end of next week, so I’m running out of excuses for starting the job.  Lot of interest among the muzzle loading fraternity at the idea of doing high speed photos of a number of different guns – problem will be to keep it organised and make sure all possible variables are accounted for and documented for it to have any value.  I’ll talk to Elenor about it, and draw up a list of parameters we need to standardise and those that we can leave as variables.  We do have a number of crack shots with flintlocks, and they spend a lot of time tweaking to get fast ignition, so we can probably get a good range of speeds. 

17th August – Ah well, now wet here too!  I’m busy converting my workshop into a kitchen for a few months use – very disruptive of my gun activities.  A friend came round yeserday with a high speed camera so we took a film of a little pocket pistol priming being fired (without a projectile) – it looks rather beautiful, so I put it on you tube with the link below.  I had to move my spare microscope to make room for the kitchen so I think its time I passed it on – its a new AM_SCOPE chinese trinocular 7 to 45 zoom magnification microscope on a very good stand for engraving – more or less unused, except that I turned up a support for a headrest for it.  New they cost around £420 – I’d like to get £350 including carriage for it if anyone is interested.  Its a good engraving microscope – I do prefer my WILD  with my mods, but the AM_ACOPE does have a bigger eye relief, and a new WILD will probably set you back several thousand pounds!  email me via contacts if you are interested.

12th August –  I never thought I’d come back from Scotland and miss the cold and damp, but the heat down here saps energy like you have a puncture!  I’m busy as the heat allows turning my engraving and gun workshop into a temporary kitchen.  I did take time off for a swim  but I managed to set up a new engraving station in my main workshop – I just got it set up when a packet of bits to engrave  arrived.  I ventured out yesterday and had a haircut (first since Christmas?) and an antibody test at the pharmacy. The initial impression from the test was that I hadn’t had Covid, but then both Ig M and Ig G showed up but rather weakly.  The pharmacist said I’d definitely had it but he had never seen a result like it!  Oh well, let’s hope I never find out if I can catch it again.  Why is nothing to do with Covid clear cut?

8th August – No sooner back to work than the restoration work starts to come in – a gun barrel to recut, and a bunch of parts to engrave/re-engrave – I’ll put pics up when I receive the parts. Plus emails with questions about guns that need identifying or my opinion on what they are or what to do to them – all good and interesting stuff.  It does present a bit of a problem as I have to vacate my gun workshop to turn it into a temporary kitchen and I’m not quite sure where to relocate my engraving to – probably best to avoid rooms with carpets as engraving generates lots of little bits of sharp metal as you might expect. Probably have to be my general workshop, although it will be pretty cold in there soon, and engraving doesn’t involve enough movement to keep warm!  Also that will block any more furniture building for the time being…..

7th August – Sorry for the silence – apart from some hectic work here we have been up in Scotland sailing around the Hebrides in a 13m yacht in pretty varied conditions – but usually pretty cold, wet and windy compared to home territory.  Once you get out to the Outer Hebrides its pretty much still shut down – we did visit a couple of marinas that were nominally closed, but that just seemed to be no loos or showers, and no charge – not a problem as the boat had a super shower and we could still get water.  We visited 6 islands in total and only had to miss three or four days due to strong wind forecasts from the wrong direction.  Really nice boat from Alba Sailing – the only charter company left on the North West.  So back to work – getting ready to move the kitchen temporarily while I demolish the old one!  I also have to pick up a gun and get some practice as I have several shoots at the beginning of the season. More details of the sailing on separate post.

Tucked up in Loch Maddy while the wind blew 30 knots ( not while I took the photo!)  The cockpit tent came in for a lot of use.

Loch Dhroma na Buidhe, at top of the sound of Mull.

19th July – the month rushes on and I am up to my neck in other work……  I spent a couple of days mucking out the workshop – I’m afraid that is literally true as the rats had been active some time ago – I hope no longer around.  Son Tom is back in Cambridge and he and Giles brewed up a plot to build a woodfired pottery kiln in our back garden since neither has the room.  Not only does this involve taking over a chunk of the garden but also using up my store of several hundred  frostproof bricks – the up side of that is that I gain some more space in my woodwork shop – or at least I would have if Giles hadn’t turned up with an electric potter’s wheel he had bought – a bargain he tells me!  The clay shooting is well underway, but sad to say I haven’t taken part yet.  Saturday was the Helice shoot at Rugby Clay club, one of my favourite events, although I have never come far from bottom – but work kept me here, so I didn’t make it this year for the first time in ages.   ‘My’ school has broken up for the holidays, and I wasn’t able to go into school and say goodbye in person – no visitors allowed – so I made a video to say goodbye.  I guess I will have to spend the next couple of weeks preparing to move the kitchen into the gun workshop, so we can destroy the existing kitchen.  Not sure where I’m going to put all the junk!  May be a week or so before I get back to this computer!

12 July – Better weather today – if only the last week’s low temperatures hadn’t taken all the heat out of the pool, I’d have had a swim!  I just finished the small table for the new kitchen that will have a marble top.  I seem to be busy all the time and can only steal moments to go into the gun workshop.  There will be a problem in the Autumn when as it will have to be turned into a temporary kitchen while the main one is destroyed and rebuilt!  Not sure how I will manage – I may take my gun activities out to my shed where my metalworking machinery resides, but that has no heating so will not be very comfortable for sitting still for hours.  Another problem to tackle!  I’m tempted to put in a woodburner but that means making a hole in the roof and quite a lot of fuss( and expense) for a temporary arrangement…… 

6th July – blustery weather continues and the swimming pool is feeling neglected….  I’ve moved on to  making a small table with a marble top to go in the new kitchen as  part of the work surface.  Trying to cut mortices with my cheap 1/4 inch router drove me mad – it keeps momentarily dropping out and then continuing with a shower of sparks from the comutator.  I think I have now learnt to buy middle range power tools – I used to swear that it was better to buy cheap ones and throw them away, but it is tedious when you come to do a job and the tool isn’t up to it – I had to replace my 1/2 inch router recently as it burnt out the motor!  The cheap ones come with less facilities, and soft start on a router is almost essential in my books.  Anyway thanks to Amazon a new 1/4 inch router and 10 mm cutter should arrive tomorrow.   I got round to doing some engraving this evening – I’ve been going into the workshop and ‘playing’ on and off – mostly breaking the tips off gravers but I have a job to do so forced myself to concentrate!  Here are a couple of early test pieces for a simple flintlock engraving;-

Both lock tails are based on classic designs – the bird got rather a long beak ( a slip!) so not sure what species it is – wookcock?

28 June – Lovely weather last week – bit blustery today.  I have now done all I can to the kitchen unit, so it will sit there til the rest of the work is completed in September, and I’ll get on with some more kitchen furniture.  I  am trying to swim every day (in our plastic bag of water) if the weather is at all decent as my daily exercise – my attempts to build up weight have slowed somewhat – I’ve been trying to work out how much one needs to eat to gain weight, although I do realise that most people have the opposite problem ( see My Covid post for more on that).  Here isa photo of the cabinet – its made of oak with elm panels in the door and handles made of bog oak;-

Sorry about the perspective, there isn’t room in the workshop to stand back!

21st June – just about got as far as I can with the first kitchen unit – just got to fit the drawer slides and door hinges.  I’m now making the handles out of bog oak – part carbonised oak that has spent hundreds (or thousands (?) of years submerged in a fen bog.  It is black but still shows the grain, and cuts and polishes well.  I’ll put up a photo later.  I made a couple of new sharpening jigs for a  client, I’ll put the revised design on the sales web page.  Here are a couple of photos ;-

45 degree sharpening jig – from 3/4 inch stainless hex bar

15 degree sharpening jig – from 1/2 inch stainless hex bar

16th June -The gun world is catching up on me – a client reminded me that I had a lock of his to engrave from early March.  He had seen on the website that I had Corvid-19 and very kindly didn’t pester me until yesterday.  I also got a request for gravers and sharpeners so I had better get myself in gear.  Yesterday I made a panelled cabinet door for the kitchen units – lots of messing about with the home made router table – height of cutter is set by an old car jack!  Anyway I put an Osma Polyx finish on at lunchtime so had to vacate that workshop to avoid dust.  So I retreated to the gun workshop  for the first time in 3 months, and made some more gravers.  It takes a good half hour to grind and handle one, so I managed 4 and still had time for a swim!  Now I have to get myself back into engraving – there is quite a lot of muscle memory involved, ad it has to be refreshed if I don’t do any for a week of two,  after 3 months I am bound to be pretty rusty – the main problem being the frequency with which I break off the points of gravers – I soon end up with a pile to sharpen, and there is a lot of metal to grind off after a bad break.

12th June –  I haven’t been idle these last few days!  My carpenter/joiner friend who made the new back door was making a pergola for a client and asked me to turn up a finial for the top of the rather fancy roof. I hadn’t done any serious turning for years, so had to do a practise run on a gash bit of pine, but he was pleased with the final iroko version.  Ive been putting up some trellis in the back garden – why is all the stuff you can buy a horrible ginger colour?  I couldn’t find anything to take the colour down, I suppose time will do that, and a good covering of plants.  I have now finished a set of drawers for the kitchen unit, and am starting on the framed cupboard door – as I’m not a bona fide joiner there is a lot of slow learning involved – it tend to be a case of making it up as I go along, sometimes it corresponds to conventional practice!  I’m still eating for England to get back my weight baack after Covid-19  – tonight I had some very fine Maldon oysters –  must do that more often!  I’m currently averaging about a Kg a week, I hope its mostly muscle!


8th June – Now have a pile of 4 drawers ready to have their finish applied – I am using OSMA penetrating oil, followed by OSMA Polyx microcrystaline wax as it seems to give a pretty durable finish – I probably ought to go for a simple polyurethane varnish, but hey, let’s be different!   I actually had a bit of a break from the units and installed 4 lengths of trellis on top of the garden wall sawing up the 4 x 4 posts was good exercise for the arms.  I am working hard to make up for the ravages of Covid-19  – I think I lost more than 10 Kg. including most of my muscles!   Normally I don’t take any notice of my diet or exercise on the principle that they must be OK for me to stay fit, but I am having to make a bit of an effort to get back what I have lost!  So far I have got back 5 Kg in 6 weeks and am getting my muscles in trim slowly – I’m active and on my feet most of the day, and fit in a walk of at least a mile each evening, plus I bought a set of resistance bands to strengthen my upper body muscles – most unlike me!  I am told that I no longer look like a walking skeleton!

6th June –  Now got the shed a bit sorted, and started on the kitchen units – I decided to start with the drawers – as I have all the material for them.  I struggled a bit to get my head round the dovetail router jig – its fine when you are used to it, but I made a few mistakes when I started and had to remake a few bits.  The fronts are Oak, but the rest is made from Cherry from old library shelves from a Cambridge College – I got a load when a big library was gutted and did our library shelves  and paneling, but I still have 40 or 50 shelves left – perfect for internal joinery and about  30 years old so very stable! 

2nd June – The year rushes on – almost half gone and still the news is all about Corvid 19.  We are desparately hoping that our yacht charter in Scotland can go ahead in mid July – probably touch and go, in the lap of the gods, or Nicola Sturgeon at any rate.  I am busy clearing out my shed so I can gt on with my kitchen units – so far I have come across the mumified remains os 2 rats and assorted other evidence of their existence!  Anyway a skip is called for to dispose of the rubbish that is accumulating in the yard.  The weather makes me glad we got the swimming pool up before they ration water!  My daily swims show up just how unfit Covid 19 left me – I get breathless after a couple of lengths, I think last year I could do 10 straight off and 60 in a session.  It is getting better every day so there is hope.

Here is the new back door! 

29th May  This lovely weather keeps me busy outside, so I have nothing gunwise to report.  It looks like we are able to shoot clays again – with the proviso that we book  slot – I guess we still only get one companion to button for us!  I might think it worth the hastle, or again, I might not – summer is not my favourite season for clays, I’d rather be out roost shooting pigeons…..  I have been busy lately – more or less back to full activity.  Richard and I installed the beautiful solid oak back door and frame – I swear in a hundred years the door frame will be holding the house up!    Today I made combined finger plate and escutcheon etc from some 1/8 inch thick brass sheet I had.  It is amazing how much stuff one keeps just in case!  Giles and I put our 10m long swimming pool up last Monday and it is now filled with 30 tonnes of water.  It is just a very big plastic bag, and is now 12 or 13 years old – each year we erect it with trepidation in case it has sprung an invisible leak.  This year it lost 1 inch in level overnight, but it turned out to be a leak underneath the pump due to a perished rubber elbow.  No chance of getting a replacement, so a bit of attention with rubber adhesive and self amalgamating tape might just work – will fit it tomorrow and see. Part of the leak anguish is that you can no longer buy such a long bag pool, and 10m is only just long enough to swim to and fro in.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a first swim, although the water will still be cold.

20th May  I apologise for my absence from this blog, but my habits have changed and by the end of the evening when I used to add to the blog I’m pretty much wiped out as I am trying to get back to my usual activity levels during the day. Apart from trying to keep the garden under control I have restarted the Kitchen renovation project –  The main phase of taking down the ceiling and digging up the floor is scheduled for later in the year, but I am currently designing the custom units and making up some trial bits to check my construction techniques. So far I have made one drawer with dovetail joints- and run off a few trial frame sections.  Before Covid 19  (hereinafter referred to as BC) I ordered up a load of oak and my joiner friend Richard started to make a new back door to my deisgn.  He has now finished it so I’m making ready to help him fit it.  I had a few years ago lowered the outside ground level by about 6 inches so  the threshold will also be lowered in the new door.  I had slightly arbitrarily decided by how much to lower the cill, very fortunately when I took out the old cill and the wall below it, I found that the very solid flint foundation were about 2cm below the bottom of the new cill.  Not sure what I would have done if the foundations had been any higher, as I dont expect Richard would have relished shortening the door frame and door at this stage.  Anyway it goes in on Tuesday next.  I found a splendid company in Norfolk who make hand made pamments (unglazed clay tiles) -at least the daughter seems to make the pammets (either spelling is OK) and the mother runs the office – a nice family business and they are made in Norfolk, not Spain or Eastern Europe.  As you might guess they are not free!  Fortunately its not a very big Kitchen – about 14 ft square – they should be made by early September.  The Coronavirus rumbles on – we seem to lag behind most of Europe in getting ourselves sorted out  – while the WHO and every other country recognised a suite of symptoms we stuck to 2, then rather grudgingly and only after being shown up by an academic on the radio,  added  two more – still well behind the rest of the developed world – well done Boris!! I do think we haven’t had our eye on the ball with this whole affair, although the NHS staff on the shop floor have done a brilliant job in circumstances that were more difficult than the needed to be.

9th May.  Giles and I discussed back and forth how to do the camera zoom, and I settled on a model servo linked to a short arm fixed to the camera lens, and did a few sketches. Giles 3D printed them for me and I had a go at fixing them up.  It should have worked but the torque required is really high and would probably need a high torque servo that draws a lot of current which is not really compatible with a system that is supposed to run off 4 AA cells!  Anyway I think the project is now on hold awaiting inspiration!  See photo below.  I’m certainly feeling a bit livelier and yesterday I got out the big petrol strimmer to attack stuff growing in the yard – it hadn’t run for 10 months and was bit of a job to start – I managed to bang my elbow on the recycling bin, which slowed me down a bit but I did manage to get a good bit of work done – a first since I got the virus, so a red letter day!  What a fantastic day – just like the middle of summer, it felt like a sin to go indoors, especially as the forecast for the next few days is cold and cloudy!  P.S.  I picked up a graver yesterday and doodled on a bit of steel – pleased to discover that I hadn’t completely lost the knack!  Of course I broke the tips of a couple of gravers, but that is par for the couse if I haven’t practised for a few weeks – so hopefully more or less back to normal…………..

Torque required to turn zoom is too much for my little servo, but a bigger one would consume too much power – stalemate!

6th May.  Finally getting my mojo back!  Finished the next post Covid youtube – it was something I could do without getting too flaked out!  Not sure how many more will happen.  I started a little project –  my camera for all my stuff is a Canon M50 and I thought it would be good if I could zoom it without touching it.  All it needs is a small, geared electric motor coupled to the zoom barrel.  I have got a suitable geared micro motor but the drive is the challenge. I tried with an O ring on a small pulley on the motor rubbing on the barrel, and with a longer O ring round the barrel of the camera and the motor pulley but the friction in the zoom is greater than the drive friction.  I am now thinking about a 3D printed gear round the barrel and a pinion on the motor –  I think Giles has resurrected Tom’s old printer so I have emailed him!  He has an M50 too so should be able to see the problem.  I guess as soon as I have the motor working I’ll want it wireless!!!

3rd May.  Uploaded my Post Office Pistol video – I got a couple of dates out by 100 years, I’ll have to sort it out some time but it can survive for a while as it is!  Still thinking about the next one –  quite a lot of work to find all the examples I need!

2 May.  Had a few messages from regular viewers of this blog wishing me well. It’s  really good to see how far round the world my little blog extends!   I did a couple of takes for the next one on my Post Office pistols – just need to check them out and do the edits and add some stills and it will be ready to upload.   I’m using  the free version of VSDC to edit them – it  is a bit overkill for what I need and driving it is complex, but it does the job nicely.  I am now trying to sort out in my mind what to do for the third Covid-19 video- possible the history of the devopment of the flintlock in England 1750 to 1825 or something like that – cover all the little tweaks that made the English gun makers the best in the World.  We shall see – I’ll have to go through aĺl of my collection to sort out examples.  I am a bit weak on the early stuff but I do have a wheellock  without the gun.   Still making progress- nice walk today and my appetite is getting better.  Just read that it takes 12 to 28 days to build immunity to a second infection – I hope that is from when you get it, not from the end of it!

       Anyway, a big thank you to everyone who  has sent me good wishes  –  It does make a difference.

1 May.  My first post Covid-19 video is now complete – I sound a bit breathless, which is, I guess, a leftover from the virus –  it seems to come and go a bit.  Anyway its in Videos on this site and on you tube. I took my car out to the local shop for a bottle of milk this morning ( first time in 7 weeks) and boy did I feel daring!  I kept expecting to be stopped by the Police and interrogated, but it didn’t happen.

 30th April.  Did two sections of my pistol video – just got to sort out a bit of editing and it will be done. Then I’ll do the little Post  Office pistols  I restored as they have a nice bit of associated  history.   Feeling a lot better and went for walk – not in the garden.  Might see if the car will go tomorrow.  Daring stuff!!

26th April.  Must be feeling better to post two days running!  Still sorting the pistol video – I am still a bit breathless so tried a draft. Probably  Ok.  They are lovely little pistols and get me wondering about their early history. There must be more information on them somewhere – as far I can tell there are not many around – at a guess somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen, unless there is a hoard in the National Firearms Archive or some other similar collection.

25th April.  And still here,  Getting to feel like  doing things at last, which is a big change – still not up to speed yet as I lost a lot of weight, but definite progress.  I thought I would make a couple of youtube videos as we are all living our lives through the internet now. My first targets are  the two Public Office pistols from Bow Street.   They fit somewhere in the story in Wilkinson’s book Those Entrusted With Arms, but I can’t really get chronology from there.  He mentioned that the Bow Street run Horse Patrol started in1805, but illustrated a pistol engraved for the Dismounted Horse Patrol and dated 1794. (One  assumes that the Mounted Horse Patrol was founded about the same time as the Dismounted?).  Anyway I hope to have a convincing story soon.   I was shocked to see how much  his book on the History of Guns was  – I got stung £90 for a second hand copy -as bad as buying the Manton book!

18th April.  l am still here!    Slowly, Slowly  making progress.  I am now spending time downstairs, rather than spend all day in bed, which makes a  nice change.   And the nice weather helps too.  It will be some weeks before I am out and about though.  Covid 19 is a lot nastier than is generally acknowledged  if you are oldish or vulnerable  or male, so redouble your efforts to avoid it.

 10th April ST=tll not ckear of the woods properly,   made an Oxygen  dispenserfrom my oxy-gas torch yesterday to give me a shot of o2 after exersions.  Today I got my hands on a REAL oxygen extender to help me sleep. Thats my biggest problem – a coupe of hours a day is all I can get…..

Thanks for all the good wishes from my regulars – didn’t know I had so many friends out there!

9th April…… Onwards and upwards!  even if it doesn’t hospitalise you it can be a real black dog…….

6th April, still battling – see My Corvid-19.

2nd April, Well, maybe you guessed that I had a nice(!) attack of Covid-19 that has pretty much laid me out for the last couple of weeks.   I don’t want to turn this blog into medical account, but I am pretty cross at the misleading and partial infomation put out by NHS and BBC news, so I thought Id open a separate sub post – MY COVID-19   for a) the very few people who might be intersted im my suffering and the very many more who might be interested in their own.


13rd March  – I have had a nasty fever for the last 6 days that has laid me low – back as soonas I can.

17th March – I suppose this beasly virus is an excuse, at least for a delay in getting on with things.  Actually it will be a bit more than a delay as I am confined to barracks as being too old & damaged to venture forth.  The nett result is that I am having to do a bit of urgent remodelling of the house – sticking a new staircase in my workshop for one thing and  turning the workshop into another kitchen — fortunately nothing major, but no serious work for a  week or so!  I have also said that I’ll  run a STEM/Computer class online when our local primary closes – as it will inevitably before the beginning of next term and possibly sooner.  I was contemplating escaping to our little cottage in Cornwall when it seemed that it might only be for three months, but the reality is that there is really no clear endpoint.  The virus stops either because around 60%  – 80% of people have had it and got immunity, at which point it becomes a manageable background endemic problem, or someone comes up with a vaccine and makes enough of it to stop the pandemic.  Either way the best guess is that we are in it for at least a year or 18 months…………….that’s an awful lot of toilet rolls to squirrel away – Penny’s college allows one per student room per week, so you had better  have around 75 to 100 each – thats a lot to store…..And the food too……or maybe just believe the supermarkets when they say it will all pan out in the end…………  Oh and we got our new head teacher – we were delighted to appoint the deputy who had been acting head for a while.  Onward & upward, and don’t weaken…..

12th March – more excuses – I have a two day interviewing session for a new head teacher for our Primary school that is currently occupying my time.  I’m also gearing up for the work on our kitchen which is taking up a fair bit of time.  I hope to get a moment to do some gun stuff but the pressures build…  Plus some of the old film cameras I put on ebay are selling.  busy busy busy….

7th March – At school all day helping the class make electric or wind powered cars, so no guns.  Sorry!

5th march.  Busy few days – I’ve been sorting out bits of the planned Kitchen renovaation and putting in time at school too.  I got involved in coding a project for the year 5/6 class using the BBC microbit computers to run a voting system based on radio links – I was quite pleased because the whole thing worked with only one iteration of minor debugging. It will be interesting to see how the kids get on with it. No-one has come up with any suggestions for the photos below – I have no ideas!

1st March – Another month gone!  I made a couple of bits for the lathe so that it kicked out the traverse if it was about to run into the end of its travel – I have had damage a couple of times when the saddle had hit the buffer, resulting in a bent gear shaft and a sheared pin – I think it will now work, although I did run a tipped tool into the chuck while setting it up – bang went the tip.  Anyway I nearly froze to death in the shed so it was a bit of a rush job.   I went to look at a pile of oak planks that a friend has – they are warped like mad but I may be able to find enough straight pieces for drawer fronts.  They have been air dried for many years, but in a barn so I’ll have to see what the moisture content is, and possibly build a drying chamber.  Looks like the kitchen is going to be an all consuming project for the summer!  I got an email today asking if an item was gun related – I couldn’t identify it, although it looks as if it might have something to do with rifle cartridges – here are the photos;–  Any ideas ?   I can’t find .293 listed as a known calibre.

28th February.  Went in search of old style flooring tiles (pamments) for the kitchen floor.  One place was a large industrial barn on what had once been a farm with one person surrounded by massive piles of drying tiles and fired tiles and kilns and clay – turned out she did the whole thing herself – nice tiles too – think I might use them – a lot cheaper than sourcing antique pamments which cost an arm and a leg, and are difficult to get in large enough batches to cover 20 square meters.  Driving to Norfolk was a nightmare in the heavy rain – worse coming back because the wind was blowing from the east and sending the spray from lorries across the fast lane.  Geoff collected the last of the Smiths that I had converted to conventional nipples – he is threatening to go on a shoot with all three guns and two loaders for an experiment in 19th century shooting – he will have to hurry before lead is banned!

27th February.  I sold the pair of Belgian percussion pistols today, which was nice, although I can see all my spare cash being channeled into the kitchen renovation!   I’ve been sketching kitchen units and looking at sink tops – all too domestic really. Still after 26 years it does need an overhaul…. I do occasionally creep off into the workshop, put the woodburning stove on, wait half an hour while the temeperature gets bearable, and do a bit of engraving – I’m practicing script signatures at the moment – its very difficult to get them right – I am not sure that I have a naturally good eye for it, so it requires a bit of concentration on my part – I can see what is wrong when I’ve done it, but not while I’m doing it!

25th February.  I went to see a possible shoot yesterday as two of our best muzzle loading game shoots have closed.  I had a very good discussion with the keeper, but it turned out that they really cater for bigger bags than we normally expect, and he didn’t think he could make it work for less than 170 to 200 bird days, with the cost working out at twice what we are used to paying for our 80 to 12o bags,  I think his costings are much more in line with the normal shoots, and we are lucky to have access to the small bag days.  In any event, I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to go on shooting muzzle loaders as a lead ban seems to be increasingly likely.  One good thing came out of my meeting with the keeper – I’m going back for a deer stalking session with him in April, something I’ve been meaning to do for some time.  I haven’t started any work on my own guns, although I do keep toying with the idea of making a pair of duelling pistols – I have most of the parts, mainly  because I am getting round to sorting out doing the kitchen up.  I got the oak for a new back door today – my joiner friend had advised I got laminated engineered oak, but to my surprise one of the uprights arrived seriously bowed so will have to be changed.  It is a major project as the old and fragile lath and plaster ceiling will have to come down and be repaired or replaced with similar, and the floor will have to be dug out to a depth of  200 m.m. and insulated and a slab laid and underfloor heating wires installed, then tiled in reclaimed pamments if I can find a source – then I have to build a whole lot of units from scratch as I don’t want chipboard units…….  I’ll try to get people in to do most of the work, but will probably end up doing a whole lot myself as, infuriatingly, I know exactly what I want!   I’d better steer clear of gun auctions for the forseeable future to fund the kitchen………. Anyone want to buy an 11 bore Westley Richards double percussion – nice….

23rd February.  I collected my Dremel cutting disks from Screwfix this morning – really useful service, I ordered them on Saturday and they were ready to pickup locally by noon Sunday.  Not sure what I’m going to do with a kit of  over 50 cutting disks of 25 m.m. diameter, but at £16 it doesn’t really matter! So this afternoon was spent getting the two nipples out of the last of the Smith’s Imperial cap guns.   The first was moderately OK – I cut a nice slot across the nipple around 2 m.m. deep and put a screwdriver in the slot, but couldn’t turn it, found a brace and screwdriver bit that was a perfect fit, but still couldn’t shift it so applied a bit of heat and eventually shifted it.  The other one I cut the slot, heated it several times, shocked it with cold water, but still couldn’t shift it – eventually broke the screwdriver bit rather spectacularly (see photo) – I tried using a punch and hammer to drive it round, but no luck.  In the end I cut the slot a bit deeper and broke off half the nipple top with the punch and hammer and whacked the rest  with the punch until it started to turn – by the time I got it out the nipple was a complete mess, but most importantly the gun was completely untouched by all the messing about.  It’s my No 1 rule with old guns – do no damage, unless you mean to, and then only the minimum.  This means ALWAYS paying attention to the holding and fixing of the part you are working on – damage usually results from careless handling or inadequate holding.  In getting the nipples out I held the hooks on the breech in my lead lined vice jaws with the barrel supported on a padded surface, with a bit of cord to stop the barrel turning and pulling the hooks out of the vice, and with a pad under the barrel near the jaws in case it dropped out.  That meant I had both hands free to work on the nipple, and could use any necessary force without risking  the barrel coming free.  There was a lot of muck in the nipple holes – one wouldn’t blow through, so I stuck my steam cleaner down each barrel and then did the water pumping thing with tight fitting polyester wadding on a jag until it cleared.  It now seems clear so I fitted the new titanium nipples and its ready to go.  I nearly got to the point of drilling out the nipple, but that is a very last resort as it is likely to damage the threads, and that would make the gun less safe to shoot.   I must check the other two guns for blocked flame passages.  (Of course I had the owner’s consent to destroy the original nipples if necessary – I got the first 4 out intact)

Slot for screwdriver cut with a Dremel disk.

Oops!  a bit hard!


At this point it had just started to turn, having broken the rust joint. Note the fracture surface – the nipple was pretty hard too.

21st February.  Geoff bought the other two Saml and C Smith guns over for me to fit the new conventional nipples and modified cock noses that I’d made and checked out on the gun I had.  Unfortunately the gun I had seems to have been made later than the other two, which were made as a pair, so we had a bit of a problem stripping out the Smth’s parts.  We eventually got the nipples out of one of them, wrecking my tool on the way, and got all 4 noses out with some difficulty using a Mole wrench and lead sheet to protect the old nose – one needed a burst of flame to get it hot then a drop of water to cool it suddenly.  But we completely failed to shift the nipples from one of the guns, even with heat.  Geoff is quite happy to destroy the nipples in the process, so I’ll get a minature cutting disk and put a screwdriver slot across it so I can get a big driver on it.  If that doesn’t work I’ll have to think again!  I’m pretty sure the thread is not rusted up, it is just the two surfaces that mate…..  For some reason my new noses that had been a snug fir in the gun I had, didn’t fit fully in the other cocks and had to be tweaked – a pain but no harm done……  Had some disappointing news today – the Valley Shoot at Royston is closing – I shot there for the first time this spring and it was one of the best shoots of the season.  My other favourite shoot in Hertfordshire is also stopping, so we’ll have to hunt around for new areas……

20th February  Had a look inside the saddle of my lathe today and found the source of the drive problem – a 5 m.m. rollpin had sheared but was still providing enough drive for most, but not all, of the revolution of the gear.  Anyway, a bit of fiddling and I was able to knock out the broken bits and put in a new one.. All working now.  I put together Nicks little double barrelled pistol – the one I had trouble browning.  I think it is now OK but we’ll see in the cold light of day!   Its now quite a pretty pistol and the cocks line up and work!  I ordered oak for a new back door – my friendly joiner (who is going to make it for me as my machines are a bit puny) recommended ‘engineered’ timber, i.e. laminated from several layers, as its much more stable.  I don’t want to paint the outside and it faces South, so it will have its work cut out to stay flat! – and that’s the prevailing wind direction too.  Then I have to tackle the new kitchen units (I’ll make them) and a new floor as the current floor is two layers of plastic flooring laid on old uneven quarry tiles skimmed with self levelling compound but no longer level, set on ash and sand – that is going to be some job! In the mean time I’m playing around practising engraving lettering………….  The other two Smiths are coming over tomorrow, so I can see if all the bits fit.  Not sure how much to charge, always difficult…….

19th February – Offers for shoots next season are starting to come in – I’m off on Monday to see a keeper nearby who wants to put on a muzzle loading shoot – lots of interest everywhere in getting away from the breech loaders!   I set up a mini production line to make the new nose pieces for Geoff’s Smiths guns to replace the noses designed for Imperial caps.  I’d ground up a tool to do the profiled bit, and the special UNES No12 x 32 die cuts the right thread, so it was straightforward.  The only problem, if problem it is, is that my knurling tool ran properly in 2 of the noses, and in the other 2 it doubled up the indentations so made an even finer knurl. I always wondered how the knurl managed to synchronise to impress evenly – now I know – it doesn’t always!  Anyway one of the trio of Smiths will have a finer knurl on its noses.  I do not intend to remake them!

They have had a dose of Blackley’s colour case hardening, a wire brush and a tempering on the AGA plate at 270C approx.

18th February  I had an appointment in Cambridge at 9:30 this morning, so anticipated having to leave early because of the disruption caused by Extinction Rebelion, but actually I got into Cambridge in about 25 minutes instead of the anticipated hour or more!  Amazing.  When  got there I found that they had changed my appointment without telling me, so it was all in vain!  Gile’s girlfriend Elenor is a keen archer and wanted the tips of her arrows to weigh 120 grains insted of 110 grains, so I had a go on Sunday at welding a piece of 4 mm rod on the end – but it has to be a good fit in the shaft and I couldn’t line the extension up well enough so I made a jig today and did a batch, which I hope will be OK – I didn’t mind making the jig as it will serve for those occasions when I want to weld a new head on a side nail.   I did a bit of practice engraving of lettering – I’ve been making a microscopic survey of the lettering on my guns to see how the cuts are done. I got frustrated with the photographs I was getting – not sure if it was vibration from manually pressing the button, or limits of the 18-135 Canon lens, so I reverted to my very expensive fixed focus Canon Macro lens and got bluetooth firing, and got much sharper pictures.   I also wanted to see how long it took to engrave lettering.  The bottom one – ‘PUBLIC OFFICE’ has the stressed strokes made with 3 cuts with a ‘square’ graver – i.e. the normal one for most work, and then gone over with a flat graver to take out the  ridges.   The whole bottom line from marking the lines and setting out the lettering to going over it and tweaking any mistakes took 15 minutes – about 12 minutes for the main cutting and tweaking.  The steel for this one was very nice to cut and I didn’t chip or blunt any gravers.  I’d expect a nineteenth century engraver to do it in half that time.  Tomorrow’s job is to make another 4 noses for the Smiths cocks ( I know that they were normally called hammers in the percussion era, but I prefer calling all of them cocks!)


Arrow head ( and Side nail) jig


Letters are 2 m.m. high, the normal size for lock engraving 1780 onwards, except for very long names.

14th February  One of the aspects of gun engraving that interests me is it’s importance  to the overall desirability of the gun to its early users.  How did the gunmaker and the client see the importance of the engraving – does it add much to the value of the gun, and what is its cost as a proportion of the gun’s selling price.  Over time these factors changed enormously, although its somewhat difficult to look back and judge early antiques.  In the early days – around the mid 17 century  the engraving was simple, and didn’t differ much between makers – it can’t have been a significant part of the cost then.  There was a period in the 18th century where the attention was in the silver mounts and there was often very little in the way of engraving – elaborate silver mounts must have been an important differentiator to mark out better quality weapons and clearly added value.   In the third quarter of the 18th century the engraving was typically common across all better guns – many good makers used William Palmer as their engraver so it didn’t serve to differentiate makers – although in the 1820s Joseph Manton started to use a better class of engraver ( probably  Leykauss and Gumbrell ) than his contemporaries.  In 1794 John Manton had a double gun engraved by Palmer for 8s 6d  but was charged 12s for a ‘silver mounted gun done well with with a border round bottom of heelplate’.   I am not sure how much he would have charged for the finished gun – probably of the order of £30 or so – so the engraving was something like 1/50 th of the cost.  For the most part engraving hadn’t become a ‘key feature’ of gun sales at that time.  It wasn’t until the side by side breech loader designs stabilised and several manulacturers were turning out equally good mechanical designs that the engraving began to be used to differentiate weapons of comaparable quality as Purdey, Boss and etc developed characteristic engraving designs.  Even then my guess is that the cost of engraving was not too far out of the traditional fraction of cost.  In Christopher Aubyn’s book he quotes several instances of the gunmaker paying 24s for engraving a best gun – rising to 28s if the customer was likely to be fussy! This was coupled with a 24 hour turnround time!  Not sure what a best gun from a less well known maker would cost around 1910 – I guess  again the proportion isn’t so far different.  Modern gun engraving can be a more significant part of the price once the customer steps away form the ‘standard’ designs.  A top engraver might work on  gun for 3 months, so the cost probably accounts for a bigger fraction of the overall cost.    I got into this when I was thinking about lettering of guns and how long it took to do – I think all those 18th and 19th century guns were engraved very rapidly without a great deal of finesse – when you look under a microscope at almost any engraving of the period, you see great economy of effort!  Lettering is usually cut with 2 or 3 strokes for stressed verticals and one cut for unstressed, and all letters are cut in one cut direction before the work is rotated to cut any other cut directions.  There is almost never any going over of cuts, or ‘messing about’  – every cut is rapid and instinctive.   I tried cutting the name ‘PARKER’ to see how long it took me – I’m slow, because I only do lettering occasionally, but I reckon it took me 4 minutes in quite hard steel, and I would be surprised if an old time engraver had taken more than 2 minutes.  Add 100% for setting out, fixing and sharpening, and a journeyman earning 30s a week for a 60 hour week  is well inside 1d ( 12d = 1s) for the name.  My Bow Steet pistols have 40 letters each, so that’s still only about 10p with overheads!  Mind you, it needs to be cheap as the pistols sold for £3.0.0 per pair. ( 1£ = 20s).  And I got time to make another nipple for the Charles and Samuel Smith gun – I didn’t break the 1 mm drill, but I did bend it – 9 to go………


13th February – Continuing my discussion on engraving, will try to put my ideas on a post soon… Hunting around in my box of caps for a cap for Dicks pistol, I came across half a dozen Smith’s Imperial patent caps so had a look at them in relation to the nipple of  the gun I am working on – picture below.. One interesting thing is that I have a fired cap, and the central pimple is blown  through – I wonder if that is designed to happen.  Now here is a puzzle for visitors to this blog – what are these caps for?  they don’t look deep enough to hold themselves onto any nipple I’ve ever seen, and don’t have an anvil so don’t look like primers.  They seem to have a healthy load of priming ?  Are they caps at all – I don’t know of any caps except the usual range, plus the Smiths, and the Jones (which I have never seen despite having a gun for them.)…. Help…..

What are these???



12th February – I had an email from a visitor to this blog concerning the Public Office (Bow Street) pistols I bought at Bonhams – his friend had been the underbidder.  He raised the issue that many of those pistols had been (rather badly) re-engraved with the Public Office and Bow Street attribution and had just been  plainParker overcoat pistols – he also thought it unlikely that a genuine one would remain unissued – both good points.   Anyway it made me get the pistols out and look very carefully at all the engraving under my microscope at x30 magnification – this convinced me that all the engraving on both pistols is completely original and all by the same hand.  The slight corrosion and rust build-up in the letters, and the slight rounding of the edges is exactly what I see on old guns where there is no question of faking. The pistols may have been issued and had very light use – there is some wear on the steel, but other than a few scratches from slips of the turnscrew and a little wear to the corners of the barrel they are  matching and only lightly used – a fine pair of rare pistols.  Even the insides of the locks are pristine.  I cannot find any figures for how many pairs Parker supplied, but he was the sole (?) supplier to the police and also supplied their other arms – truncheons and swords.  I’d be interested to know if there were a lot of these pistols around that are not marked for public office etc.  Thinking about engraving lettering and re-cutting or re-engraving on antique firearms, I came to the conclusion that every gun engraver of the day must have done the same things over and over again, and very quickly too, so that he (or she?) did it by muscle memory not conscious thought – which makes it difficult to ape their stokes.  Its still true that one develops particular hand movements and tend to produce lettering and scrolls that have a particular look.  You can adopt different styles, but it tends to require more fiddling to get it right and that shows.  Its a bit like trying to copy someone’s signature, particularly if its like mine – an indecipherable squiggle.   I did a bit of simple engraving on a few parts for Dick – touching up a brass lock, and putting scrolls down a cock, and a line round a pair of small cocks and engraving a couple of cock screws.   Here is the splendid old yacht I bought back too……

Bow Street Pistol

11th February – Its been a long time!  I went down to Wales to clear out the first installment of ‘stuff’ from my father-in-law’s house before it’s photographed for the sales brocure.  4 days that filled an 8 yd. skip to the brim (I hope they will take it!) –  Tom came with me and oversaw a massive bonfire that burned nicely for 4 days – he rather enjoyed wielding the axe on junk furniture.  Anyway I drove back through the storm on Sunday – OK because most of the traffic skulked along in the slow lane and my heavy old Land Cruiser doesn’t mind a bit of spray and water on the road.  Collapsed for 24 hrs when I got back though -bug but not the coronovirus.  Now ‘in circulation’ again.  I bought back an old sailing yacht that needa a bit of TLC – its old enough to be an interesting display piece so I’ll try to get round to fixing it.  Also a load of old cameras – Pentax- and lenses – they do have some marginal value so I suppose they will have to go on ebay.   A number of gun jobs have appeared – mostly small engraving jobs for Dick.   I couldn’t remember where I left off when I went to Wales, but the  packet of 1 mm drills in the post reminded me that I have the Smiths nipples and cock noses to finish.  I must pay attention to the undercutting of the thread at the shoulder of nipples etc as I end up having to ‘adjust’ them by hand to get them to go down fully.  I’ve been reading  ‘English Guns and Rifles’ by J N George (1942). He also wrote ‘English Pistols and Revolvers’ in 1938.  George was killed in the second World War in 1942. Its a very comprehensive book and probably the best I’ve read at explaining the general history of antique firearms and the chronology of development and invention – well worth owning if you are beginning a collection and want to be able to date guns fairly accurately.  He was quite young by the standards of most experts – he died at the age of 39 – so I suppose its not surprising that its not perfect in every detail but overall its very well worth a read and fairly cheap second hand as there was at least one reprint.  I was a bit confused to read that true damascus was first made by Rigby of Dublin – I’m sure  he is wrong there although Rigby did use it in a unique way. I’m sure Liege would contest his view! Since a copy will set you back £10 – £20 it’s a bargain………I haven’t read the pistol book of his properly yet.

2nd February – Went to see my brother today – had a look at the pair of Griffin and Tow pistols he acquired from my father’s estate – absolutely beautiful silver mounted horse pistols in fantastic condition – boy am I envious!  Not  much time for anything else, although we did pick up a sheet of 3/16th brass that he didn’t want, which will no doubt be made into something by Tom. I was talked into going into the yr 1/2 class in school (5/6 yrs old) as a character from a book, Bob the Astronaut – I did checkout the book to see what was expected of me, and I have to admit that I was a bit shocked at how unscientific it was!  Get up at 6 a.m., have breakfast (2 eggs) take off and arrive on moon to start work at 9 a.m. – gosh, you are hard pushed to get to work in Cambridge, 15 miles away by that time!  Its about 17 thousand times as far to the moon (minimum 240,000 miles) which usually takes 3 days……. And Bob was expected to return to earth at 5 p.m. each day.  Elon Musk eat your heart out!

1 Feb – the year rolls on!   Frustrating afternoon in the workshop – I decided to make a video on the Smiths nipples, and try to include some machining, so I fixed my camera up on my lathe and started to make the titanium nipples – fairly early on in the process I like to drill the 1 mm hole which is at the bottom of the threaded part – it is logical to do it early as there is a chance the drill will break off in the hole and I’ll need to start again as its impossible to get the broken bit out.  Anyway I hadn’t broken a drill in around a dozen titanium nipples so far, but I broke off 3 in a row today!  Not sure why – probably I let up in pressure on the drill and the titanium work hardened and the drill snatched when it restarted?  I did manage to make 2 in the end – you have to put just enough pressure on the drill to keep it cutting and not stop the feed, which is tricky with the tailstock. Another order to Tracy Tolls for ten 40 thou drills at £1 each.  I haven’t checked out the video yet – I’ll have to edit out the language when the drills broke!

31st January – I was looking through my library to see where there were holes in the literature that I could usefully fill in my hypothetical book on collecting and restoring – there is a lot of very good information from people who know a lot more than I do, so no point in repeating it, but I couldn’t find  much about sporting guns, particularly shotguns.  There is plenty about very early antique firearms, and fancy persentation stuff, a fair amount about pistols, loads about military stuff and a lot written about American firearms history, but the sort of guns that most antique collectors, particularly beginners in the UK might get hold of are quite poorly represented.  Most of the coverage is in books specific to makers, who by definition, are at the top end of the market and beyond the reach of many collectors.   Having said all that, maybe I am missing some good books? Let me know if so, thanks.  Looking round for the next little job, I came back to the cock of the Barton musket that has the stupid flower engraved on it – looking under the microscope the cock could be original, but not from this musket – the engraving doesn’t look right for anything but is hand cut and not the impression from a casting.  I do have a blank casting that would fit, but the existing one would be fine if it wasn’t for the engraving!  I had a look through the Wogdon book to see what Wogdon and Wogdon and Barton and Barton mostly put on their pistols (the book is short on long guns and has no muskets) and I found a few cocks with bits of engraving on them – some fairly extensive in the 1790s style of flowers in a cutout background and fully engraved locks, but most had entrirely plain cocks except for the normal border lines – this cock would look much better if it didn’t have the engraving.  Its not really thick enough to file off the engrving as its quite deep, so I might have to have the face welded over – might take it to our speciality welder as I don’t want to end up with hollows that would require the face to loose thickness. Trouble is the alien metal will show up when I colour down the cock – one of the problems with it at the moment is that it doesn’t match the finish of the lock – it needs a bit of rust!  One of the Wogdon cocks had a few scrolls around a somewhat similar flower – it would disguise the flower but I think plain might be better – can’t make up my mind….. I’ve been slowly trying to brown the little d/b pistol barrel – about 4 rustings  with both  my copper rich browning and Blackley’s it isn’t much different from last time – I am having difficulty in making any impression on the steel bits of the twist  in spite of having etched it a bit in copper sulphate.  I think they had accidentally invented stainless steel!

Just horrible – or is it?

30th January – A bit of engraving but not much other work – a contact bought me some percussion double guns with loose nipples to see if I could make them secure to shoot, but I’m afraid I didn’t think any of them were in a safe condition to be used even with the nipples fixed – a couple seemed to be ‘bittsers’ – one had repro locks and one had an old but non-twist barrel – I havent seen one of those on a percussion sporting gun for a while – they were only ever used at the very bottom end of the market.  In my view they were only fit as wallhangers so the nipples might as well be Araldited into the barrels with some glue run into the connecting chamber to stop any bright spark setting them off!  So that is one job I didn’t take on – I was quite open with my assesment!  I’ll probably end up doing a bit of timber conversion tomorrow as  Tom   is set on making a cabinet like one found in Tutenkhamun’s tomb – don’t ask me why – and I have a big slab of cedar up in the workshop which is apparently the correct wood.

29th January – Excellent days shooting near Maldon today – 5 muzzle loaders and some breech loaders walking and as back guns.  The season ends on 31st so its the last shoot over that ground and was intended to thin out the remaining cocks before the breeding season.  A small shoot and a small bag, but most enjoyable although the wind was quite fresh – my new Merino wool inner layer kept me nice and warm, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day and more or less got my share of birds.  As there is no ‘gun bus’ on the shoot I took my Land Cruiser round – It was fatal to wash it a last Sunday as its now filthy!   Viking showed me a photo of a splendid PWLV medal that was sold at auction – beautiful engraved feathers etc on the back. He also said that it was not unusual for some well heeled (junior ?)  officers to have muskets – I expect it added to the fun during practice. Information on the Volunteer Company continues to come in!  I gave Bev back his engraved cocks and etc – another satisfied customer and it paid for my shoot – thanks Bev!

27th January – more information on the volunteer musket trickles in.  There is a fine painting of the PWLV in 1803 in front of a splendid building, all in fine uniforms – it was sold at auction in 2009 in America and the photo on the web is unfortunately too faint to show the inscription properly ( wish I owned it!).  I also found that Bonhams sold documents including 10 musters for PWLV in 2014.  I found the name Mr Jones of Cecil Court associated with the PWLV in an entry for a donation to the Patriotic Fund of  £278  odd – a lot of money in 1803.  Around 1803 there was a lot of interest in Volunteer units because of the perceived invasion threat from France ( they did actually invade in 1797 – the Fishguard Invasion)  – initially the government looked as if it was going to arm Volunteers, but very quickly their enthusiasm declined ( they were always a bit sniffy about ‘troops’ not under their control) and they left it to the volunteers to arm themselves.  Most Volunteer Regiments were composed of Gentlemen officers and troopers of the ‘middling sort’, so at least the officers could afford their splendid uniforms and weapons.  Given the probably location of the PWLV  (St Martins area ) they were only a short walk  from the Haymarket premises of John Barton, gunmaker, who had taken over sole ownership of the firm of Wogdon and Barton on 14th June 1803 so that fits quite nicely.  I would  like to see the musters that Bonhams sold to see if Charles Mackintosh is named – I understand that the Grenadiers were the elite of the regiments, but if Charles carried a musket that might indicate a rank below officer level, as officers would probably only have been armed with a sword?  Well heeled commanders often purchased arms for their troops.  I saw somewhere that PWLV had a number of companies – can’t recall where.  Thank you to my respondents for all that information – keep it coming……..

26th later … I had a reply to my request for information on what PWLV might mean on my Musket – Prince of Wales’s Loyal Volunteers was suggested, which sounds reasonable.  I had got as far a Prince of Wales – hence the engraving I did below yesterday, but the only POW volunteers I could trace were the Lanacasters formed in 1958 so not them… tonight I found a reference to  PW Loyal Volunteers (St Martin’s branch) in 1803,  in documents sold at Bonhams, which is closer to the right dates – I’ll keep on following up these clues…..

26th January – I stripped the saddle of my lather this afternoon but couldn’t see anything wrong, and it seemed OK so I put it together again and it still missed some leadscrew motion.  I have now don a bit more diagnsostics and know a bit better where the problem must lie, but I guess I’ll have to strip it again – its not a very terrible job if you use a bit of brute force to separate the slide assembly from the gearbox.  Another job still to do – but I did manage to wash 2 cars today – almost unprecidented, but they were so horribly muddy that it was impossible tobrush past them without getting filthy, and if you take them to a car wash with a thick coat of dirt it just damages the paint surface.  More practice on the Barton signature – it annoys me when I can’t get it right so I have to keep at it until I get my eye in!  Actually the more I try the worse the original I’m copying looks!  original engraving usually has plenty of faults when you look closely, although there were a very few engravers who did perfect work.  I might recut the engraving on the musket barrel, but its difficult as I have to keep rotating the barrel and there isn’t room on my bench.  I’m still browning the little d/b pistol barrel but don’t see any sign of the steel rusting yet!  bother!.


Prince of Wales feathers from a gun in Sandringham.

25th January – I had a look at photos of Barton’s signature (in the Wogdon book by John O’Sullivan and de Witt Bailly)  and they are very similar to the traces of signature on my musket – I can’t decide if I will recut the engraving on the barrel and lock, but anyway I know it takes me a few iterations to get it right so I had a few practice goes – starting oversize and getting down to the correct size  not too bad in the end – I’ll try a few more, and the London too.   I’ve put the stuff about titanium nipples on a separate post ;- ‘ Making titanium Percussion Nipples’

The bottom one is the last – converging! Its about he same size as the one in the photo, I think.

24th January – At last – something for visitors to this site to get their teeth into!  I bought a musket today ( I must remember to pay for it!) that is quite interesting, so it would be good to hear from anyone who can offer any additional information.  It’s a volunteer i.e. privately purchased musket that is based on the 1777 short land pattern Brown Bess (?) with a different lock and different shaped butt.  It has a 42 inch barrel, 4 pipes (2 tapered) and a foresight doubling as a bayonet stud.  I think it is pretty genuine, in that it hasn’t recently been cobbled together out of bits.   The only markings on the gun are  the London proof marks on the barrel, the side plate with inscription  ‘ Charles Macintosh Grenadier Company  BWLV  or PWLV’, and a faint signature ‘Barton’ on the lock and an identical faint signature and London on the barrel and a stand of arms on the lock tail.  The script signatures are definitely those of John Barton, and are exactly as they appear on other firearms by him – they are genuine and completely original as far as I can judge. the stand of arms also appears on pistols by him.  The lock is somewhat rusty and the cock looks like a replacement with a rubbish engraving, but the inside of the lock is in very good condition and quality with quite a lot of original blueing.  The barrel is fixed by 4 bolts, rather than pins as in the Brown Bess style – the loops on the barrel have been properly fitted by a gunsmith but look to be more recent then other parts of the gun.  The slots in the fore-end for the bolts are cut quite roughly and not well finished off, as if someone stopped in the middle of the job.  I haven’t been able to find a likely Charles Macintosh – it isn’t Charles Rennie Macintosh, or the inventor of the raincoat.    John Barton was apprenticed to Robert Wogden, the very famous duelling pistol maker, and was a partner of his when Wogdon retired in 1803, at which point the firm’s name changed from ‘Wogdon and Barton’ to ‘Barton’.  While that would put this gun post 1803, I seem to remember reading that it is thought that some guns with just Barton on them predated the 1803 change – its possible that Wogdon didn’t want to get involved!  Or Barton might have been running a side show.  The brass butt plate, trigger guard and pipes seem right for the 1777 pattern as does the barrel length – but if the gun was made after 1803 then the current service issue would have been the India Pattern of 1796 , although after the Peninsular war when the pressure came off the trade, some short Land Patterns may have been made.  The lock has a rainproof pan, which puts it well after 1777  – probably into the Barton name period.   John Barton sold his business in 1819.   In any event, John Barton was amongst the top London makers, which, with the side plate inscription make this musket interesting.  Military stuff is a bit beyond me, although I have the books!  I’m hoping someone will identify  ‘Grenadier Company BWLV or PWLV’  for me.  I’ll see what tidying up I can do without spoiling its originality, and possibly change the cock for one that is a bit less like a sporting gun – I do have a better one in stock with bigger jaws for the flint.  The lock has a lovely feel, and I’m sure it would shoot really well…..








24th Jan  – the little barrel is possibly ‘working’ more time needed..  I found another job waiting to be done for a client – a replacement pricker for a combination tool – not sure what its from.  Anyway I fiddled around trying to match the thread and eventually settled on 2 B.A. which it obviously wasn’t, but 3/16th seemed too big.  2 B.A. is 31.35 t.p.i which is pretty much the same as UNF No. 10 32 t.p.i. over a shortish thread length but on a slightly smaller diameter. The job is anyway pretty forgiving as I’m putting a brass screw in to a steel thread.  It worked.  The pricker I made out of an old steel knitting needle I had lying around – I try to keep a collection of such things, and big needles etc to make pins for holding older guns together.  I just need to blue the spike and  then that’s crossed another job off the list!


23rd January – Not much to report as I was out of actin yesterday, I have started to rebrown the little pistol barrel – I gave it 30 seconds in copper sulphate to ‘wake it up’ and its on its first browning now.  I always have a bit of a problem with copper sulphate as there are usually one or two bits of the barrel that get resolutely copper plated, but I think we’ll be OK. Tidying up my papers after doing my tax I came across an exploded view of the saddle of my big lathe that I downloaded when it went wrong last time ( I ran it into the end and bent a gear shaft – Axminster told me it was the last spare they had) Anyway it has developed another fault – on longitudinal travers the saddle stops and waits and then restarts – I don’t think its a bent gear, probably a pin holding a gear onto its shaft has got displaced – I can still use the lathe but it tends to leave a mark where it stops, so I ought to strip it again.  I’m reminded that next Wednesday is my last shoot of the season!  I’ve had some really enjoyable days – 6 or 7 I think, of course all muzzle loading.   My offer on the musket Dick has was accepted so I’ll go and pick it up tomorrow. It is a private arm, not a tower musket, so I’ll see what I can find about it.

22nd January – I saw a You tube video of sharpening carbide tips for lathe tools the other day, so I thought I’d try – it involves making a holder so you can present them to a hone – I have an old tool grinder with a fine diamond wheel so I just tapped an M2 hole in the end of a rod to fix the tip on.  I used my x25 microscope to see what was going on and realised why you can’t make very fine cuts with a tipped tool if you are cutting titanium – the tips are sintered carbide made presumably in a press tool and have cutting edges with a noticeable radius – so below a certain cut thickness the radius just burnishes the surface – and the minimum cut thickness is significant if you are trying, for instance, to get a perfect fit of a percussion cap on a nipple.  It is possible to make finer cuts with a freshly honed HSS tool, or for very fine cuts I believe its necessary to use a carbon steel tool.  Most of my lathe work has been fairly crude, so its taken me this long to learn what others probably knew from to start!  In truth I probably don’t often take deep cuts that merit carbide tipped tools

21st January – I went to Dick’s to get the cocks of Bev’s gun chequered, so he lent me a No 1 chequering file, which did the job pretty well – amazingly efficient tool.  I then finished the spurs off with the Gravermax, putting a line round as a border and tidying up any bits where the file had missed.  I then ‘took the edge’ off the cut surfaces as they were very sharp. Job now completed.  Dick had an interesting old musket with a presentation plate – I need to check it out as it seemed like a reasonable price for what it was – I’m not very good on the Military stuff as the value/price seems to depend on precise details and rarity, and that needs specialist knowledge to judge.  Anyway I made an offer, which will be passed on to the owener in due course, so we shall see.


20th January – A most frustrating day!  I bit the bullet and finished my tax calculations, only to find that I calculated that I needed to pay within a few pence of last year’s tax – given that its made up of lots of different items it was a bit disconcerting. Anyway I tweaked it so the coincidence wasn’t so obvious in case anyone thought I just copied last year’s figures again!  Logging in was a pain – I had what I thought was the right Gateway code so I negotiated the many checks of NI number, passport, inside leg measurement etc and got logged into something that looked OK, but when I clicked on the bit to enter my tax it said that I was using a different (wrong) Gateway for that, so I let it tell me what the ‘right’ Gateway was and the same thing happened, so I went round and round in ever decreasing circles until it popped up and said “ring this telephone number” – more automated questions and then, believe it or not, a helpful chap who said , in effect, that the web system was crazy and he’d give me yet another Gateway, which he did and it worked!  It took me 2 1/2 hours to do what should have taken 25 minutes.  Zero marks to the Tax system, full marks to the chap on the end of the phone.  Anyway then off to school to play – I will get into trouble tomorrow as the children made a bit of a mess with the hot glue guns!  Some have started to play with the radio communication built into the BBC Microbits, so I had to spend the evening getting up to speed so I can stay one step ahead!

19th January – Had a break from struggling with my tax – I had an email from Bev that reminded me I was going to engrave the cock screws of the locks I had engraved the cocks for.  The screws didn’t look right – and anyway the threads were pretty much non existent – so I decided to make a couple of new screws.  Screwing a matchstick into the hole in the tumbler  gave a pretty good match to 48 t.p.i. which is the pitch of No 4 UNF, and the diameter was about right too, judging from the almost stripped threads of the old screws.  The usual pattern for cock screws of that era (around 1850 +/- 10) is a domed head with a small flange – I made the flange O.D.  9 mm. and the rest I judged by eye.  I engraved them with a few radial slashes – the domed head limits what one can do as its not really possible to engrave too far round the curved surface.  When making screws that don’t have long shanks or threads and therefore can’t be held in a 3 jaw chuck I have a set of chunks of steel bar with threaded holes tapped into the ends.  I turn a rod down the the final O.D. of the screw head, then turn the diameter for the required screw thread and cut the thread – I either put the die in a normal holder and steady it with the tailstock chuck rim, or use a tailstock die holder with the Morse taper of the chuck just disengaged so it is located but can rotate by hand to cut.  I then indent the flange and clear most of the  spare material around the head before parting it off, then screwing it into my holder and shaping the head in the lathe by eye, using a file to finish it off.  I then cut the slot while its still in the tapped holder, and engrave it.  I then heat it up to dull red, dip it in Blackley’s colour case hardening powder and reheat it and repeat and  then plunge it into water.  The screws are made of low carbon steel so I’m not bothered about them becoming too brittle, but I did give them and the cocks a bit of a blast with the calor torch, taking them a bit above blue so they end up greyish brown rather than shiny steel.  I still ought to borrow Dick’s chequering file!

17th January – After ‘walking round the job’, and attending to every possible distraction, including going into school to put up a notice board, I finally got down to sorting out my tax return.  The tax return is much more difficult now that I have de-registered from VAT as I used to have to make up my accounts every quarter, so I still mostly remembered what was what. Now I am dealing with things from 2017 and early 2018 that are well out of memory on account of my tax year being misaligned with the ‘normal’ 5th April one.  Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a break and get back to the little d/b pistol that needs browning after the my failure to get an effective finsish last time I tried.

15th Jan – Not really sure where today went, but I did manage to get an hour or so to make a new nipple key – I didn’t harden this one as silver steel is pretty durable, but I did pop it under the lid on the second AGA plate and forget about it – its now a lovely deep blue that changes colour with the light – making tools is one of the best bits of gun restoring!

14th Jan -I decided that I needed to make a well fitting nipple key for the Smiths nipples so I made one out of silver steel rod, hardened it and thought I’d tempered it at 260C on the AGA hotplate for a good while, but when I came to undo a very tight nipple from my turning and filing jig I got a classic fracture – that will teach me to be more thorough with the tempering!  260C  should be OK for screwdrivers, so I thought it would do for a nipple key, but I think I didn’t temper it for long enough, anyway I’ll have to remake the shaft, although the handle with built-in nipple pricker can be reused.  Not pleased with today’s work!  Never mind, next time I can get the detailing right on the body and maybe not bother to harden it.

14th Jan – No time today (13th)  for gun stuff unfortunately – I’m sorry if that is what you visit the site for, which it probably is – you’ll just have to settle for revisiting some of the quarter million other words on the blog!  My morning was spent at the lab archive in Cambridge and my afternoon was spent with Dave running our Stem Club at the local primary school – it was the first session of the new term and I had told the office that we would take 14 children as they had been well behaved (we usually limit it to 12) – anyway somehow we ended up with 12  children registered plus 5  from the previous term who hadn’t bothered to register – so 17 in all.  But they are so good – Dave and I were amazed – we have a range of materials including the BBC Microbit computers and everyone including the new 7 year olds settled in 5 minutes and spent the hour working away at making things with almost no involvement from us – I’d like to take some credit, but that would be unfair!    I got involved in house buying this evening – it’s turning into an impromptu auction that we intend to win – Penny gets a bit stressed by situations like that, but I view it all as an expensive game so can think strategically !   And I had a loaf to make………………….  Oh, and I started to think about chapter headings for the book on gun repair and restoration that I might one day write…………..  And I was thinking it might be time to take up Pilates – I might get a bit buff (whatever that means)………………

13th Jan – I finished the nipples and cock noses for the Smiths Imperial replacements – Although I had got basically the correct screw pitch and diameter, I still had a job to fully seat the parts, and I couldn’t work out where in the thread the problem lay.  It’s always a problem to sort out the shoulder for things that screw up against a surface as the top of the hole is rarely adequately relieved to take the runout of the thread cut with a  normal die.  I have two fudges for the problem, one is to undercut the male thread blank against the shoulder before cutting the thread – I have a parting tool ground up to do that – and the other is to grind off some of the lead-in from the face of the die, in which case it pays to have two dies, one to start the thread and the other to finish cut up to the shoulder.  On the nipples I couldn’t see where the problem was, even under the microscope I couldn’t see any signs of excessive contact.  Since it is vital to keep as much engagement in the thread of nipples as possible I don’t like taking any more than essential from the thread diameter.  I managed to get them sorted eventually by slightly shortening the thread and filing the last turn under the shoulder – I did wonder in the end if the female thread in the ‘hut’ was slightly tapered?  I also noticed that the two sides of  the gun were not identical in terms of thread fit. Anyway I got a very secure fit on both nipples in the end, and wrapped them in ptfe pipe tape as we normally do.  I had similar problems fitting the cock noses, only in this case the threads play a minor role, and provided they don’t fall out under gravity they are performing their function – having said that, the eventual fit is a good as for the nipples !

12th Jan – finished the main engraving on Bev’s percussion cocks… Have another batch of marmalade to make tonight – last night’s was only 12 jars and that is not enough to keep me going until the next Seville orange season!

11th Jan – I started on the engraving of a pair of percussion cocks for Bev.  They are castings of indifferent metal, which makes it difficult to get smooth curves as there are some hard patches, so I resorted to the Gravermax – I’ve finished one and started the next.  I’ll have to visit Dick to borrow his chequering file for the spurs – I can sometimes recut it with the Gravermax, but only if I can see enough of the original to follow – in this case there is almost none visible so I’ll do it with the proper tool – I’ll put photos up tomorrow – I was a bit short of time tonight as I had to make a batch of marmalade – Seville oranges being in season now – I have my own recipe as I haven’t ever found a commercial marmalade I like as much – perhaps I ought to put the recipe on this blog!

10th Jan  – made another nose for the Smiths cock, and another titanium nipple.  I have a problem with turning the nipples themselves in titanium as the depth of cut gets quite unpredicatable when you try to take very shallow cuts as you converge on the correct fit for the cap.  Sometimes even a sharp tool takes nothing off just pushes metal out of the way, and then another pass will take off more than you wanted – I think my lathe is pretty rigid, its a big heavy machine and will make accurate cuts in steel.  Some gun restorers do the final fit with a file, but that doesn’t work particularly well in titanium. Net result it that the nipple I made today has a very slightly loose fit for the cap – OK for the right hand barrel but it would probably jump off the left barrel when the right was fired.   I was sorting out my growing collection of taps and dies, so I revised my table of drill sizes etc and put a new pdf download on the USEFUL DATA page. No need for more photos of the nose and nipple – they look remarkably similar to the ones I put on yesterday – I ground up a profile tool for the nose.  Both noses were coloured on the second hotplate of the AGA to a sand colour – just placed on the middle of the hotplate (it’s around 300C) and covered with a scrap of aluminium foil and taken off when the right colour and cooled on a block of beeswax.  I probably need to replace the loose nipple, but I will move on to a bit of engraving for Bev.  I must do my income tax some time – at the moment I’m looking for any excuse to avoid doing it!

9thJanuary – A bit of real work – I got a tap to make a jig to hold the nipple threads for the Smiths Imperial conversion nipples and shaped the top of the titanium nipple I’d started to make before I went to Wales.  I also got a  tap to make a jig for the replacement cock nose so I could bore that out, and finished both of those parts.  They fit ( the cock noses after a bit of judicious filing of my thread) so I have a prototype made.  The nipple is about 1 mm shorter than a conventional nipple, and I could probably cut it down by another half mm, at the same time boring the nose out another half mm  – that will bring the nose down perpendicular to the nipple, which would be better – but anyway I’m reasonably happy with the look of it all, and I know I can fit to the threads pretty well.  I have ordered another 1/4 UNF x 28 die so I have a spare if I open the one I’m using too far, or it gets blunt. I seem to have had a string of orders to Tracy Tools for taps and dies recently and I’m building up a stock of odd sizes along with my sets of B.A., Metric and UN-F & UN-C, plus many old B.S.F and Whitworth (all in smaller sizes – up to 9/32 etc).  I just bought half a dozen No 60 drills for the fine holes in nipples – they are about 1 m.m. and 1/3 the price of the metric equivalent!  Drilling into the titanium nipples with such a small drill is dodgy – I have a collection of almost finished nipples with a bit of drill sheared off in the end.  Having got my prototype nipple and cock nose made, I now have to refine the design slightly and then produce two for Geoff to shoot shortly, and another 4 for the other guns in the trio.  I have a bar if 12 m.m titanium on order – an offcut from making bolts, bought on Ebay.  I find that lathe tools with carbide tips are not very good for cutting titanium, so I use HSS tools ground with a bit of top rake and kept sharp on a very fine diamond hone – the finish you get on titanium is almost always very good – its much easier to get a smooth finish than on steel.  I also got a knurling tool from  China – a holder plus 6 wheels for about £8 including postage – the holder was too big to fit my 250-210 tooling so I had to machine the top down, but otherwise it looks OK – I needed one with a fine straight knurl as that is what is used on old gun parts  and tools. I do feel slightly guilty about buying cheap tools from China, but it would cost about £50 for a ‘proper’ one, and I couldn’t justify the expense for a few small jobs.                               

The cap should probably be a bit looser on the nipple, it is not quite down.

The cock nose is almost perpendicular to the nipple –  if I loose another 1/2 mm somewhere it should be perfect.

8th January – I’ve been down in Wales helping Penny sort out moving her 90 year old father from the family home to something more suitable – we managed to sort out a suitable house for him (subject to agreeing a price) and got an agent lined up to sell the family house, plus took two loads of stuff to the dump  ( a gesture in view of the amount of junk there!) and brought back a load of books and nick-nacs to sort out for charity shops. Among the stuff in the loft were a couple of boxes of ‘O’ gauge clockwork railway ‘stuff’ – I bought it back to see if it could find a good home.  I have put it on a POST on this site – ‘Model Trains’ so I can link it  to a forum to get information – the locos are not Hornby, and I can’t identify them – if you can, please let me know.  The locos were originally  standard tinplate models ( maker unidentified) but have been ‘customised’ and have parts missing or broken.  There are a lot of goods wagons that mostly appear scratch built or from kits, and similarly a lot of coaches, some of which are clearly from kits as they have printed sheets on the sides.  Any information would be gratefully received, and if you want an additional hobby, there is great potential repairing and sorting this lot – oh, and there is an oval of Hornby track and a RH point – and a pile of bits, wheel, bogies etc…. 

2nd January 2020 –  Clearing up from our New Year’s Party yesterday – around 70 guests!  I did get a trip to the shed to make a prototype nipple for the Smith’s Imperial gun.  The thread is a bit larger diameter than 1/4 inch and the thread is 28 t.p.i , but its not as big as   9/32nd – around 6.46mm diameter over threads with quite a shallow, rounded profile.  I turned up a die holder to fit the tailstock chuck with a bigger internal diameter than normal to allow me to spread the 1/4 inch UNF die – I made a test nipple out of silver steel but the thread didn’t cut well and I made the nipple just too small to grip the cap.  I wanted to make it similar to the Imperial nipples, so I made the base 8.6 mm diameter and 4 mm thick and put a 2.6mm hole in the side.  I fixed my nipple extraction tool by replacing the 2.5 mm peg.  Playing around with the fit of the new nipple and the Imperial ones with both the original Smith’s tool and mine I found there was a problem with clearance around the base of the nipple – the flash guards are so close to the base of the nipple that you can only reliably fit the peg on either tool into the hole in the nipple if the hole is aligned with the outside of the barrel where there isn’t a fixed flash guard.  A quick check showed that the nipples are not made with the thread aligned with the hole in the nipple base – depending which original nipple I put in which side, I could end up with the hole effectively blanked by the flash guard so that the Smith’s tool couldn’t open enough to get the peg in the hole, and mine had the same problem….   I don’t know if the gun I’m dealing with had a different tool, or what the solution was. It is a problem even when the barrels are out of the gun – in fact I did most of the trials with the barrels out. The solution for my requirements is straightforward as I don’t need a flat top to the base as the cap doesn’t sit on it – I can either drill a couple of holes for a vertical tool, or better still, just file a couple of flats onto the top of the base for a normal nipple key.   As I commented a few days ago, nothing connected with old guns is ever straightforward…………………….  

Loose fit die holder – if I need to open it a bit more I’ll probably have to soften the die opposite the screw by running the welder quickly over it or grind it a bit thinner?  The grinding on the surface is to let the die cut nearer the shoulder of the nipple.

Looking for patterns to engrave the other day I came across a couple of illustrations that show the basics of a Stand of Arms and are older than the Hogarth illustration I used in the Post on Stand of Arms – I’m interested in the origins of the classic engraving – I don’t think it appeared on guns until the last quarter of the 18th century but I’m sure it goes back a long way;-

This as an illustration from about 1714

This is a memorial of about 1704

31st December – I took out the other Imperial nipple – I had to grind down the end of the tool a bit to get it to fit right down round the base of the nipple, but it shifted it without any problems, except that when I removed the tool, the peg appeared to be still in the hole in the nipple – it hadn’t come out of the tool, it had neatly sheared off.  I guess that the steel rod I’d used for the peg was actually a fairy high carbon steel, and when I cooled the tool in water after silver soldering it, I must have left the peg dead hard – certainly the tool itself wasn’t hard. It was a clean fracture straight across the undistorted rod.  Anyway the tool basically works well, and the silver solder seemed to be strong enough, so I’ll silver solder in a new peg and make sure that I temper it (to straw colour?) after any possible hardening…… I am now convinced that the tool is superior to  Smith’s original tool for removing recalcitrant nipples without damaging the gun or nipples.  I now have to make some substitute nipples for ordinary No 1075 caps on a fat .25 inch diameter and 28 t.p.i. thread.

30th December – Yesterday broke the record for the greatest number of visitors to the site – over 400.   Gave myself a treat today and just pottered around engraving for fun – I went through a few books looking for something different to copy – I’m gradually regressing to earlier and earlier stuff, so I hit on some Griffin pistols around 1760 that had the name on the lock in a fancy banner – each one was different.  Anyway a couple of hours was frittered away playing t engraving, along with tidying up the workshop a bit for our New Year’s Party – there are always some guests who want to penetrate to the core of the house!  Anyway here are a couple of the Griffin banners – I only had not very good photos to copy so I had to improvise most of the shading – I wish I could get hold of some originals  to photograph – perhaps I ought to try Holts or Bonhams archives……  I’d need to do a few more before I’d dare to put one on a lock!

A few runouts – I get lazy about changing tools when I’m just playing, so end up using tools that I should have discarded!

28th December – Family party for 17 for lunch today so not much gun play!  The browning of the d/b pistol barrel has not been a success!  Some time ago I  sent a shotgun barrel to Paul Stevens – who is reputed to be the best barrel browner in the UK  – after several months I rang him to check progress and he explained that the first attempt had not worked and he had started again.  At the time I couldn’t really understand what could go wrong except possibly the end colour.  However I couldn’t get the bright parts of the twist pattern of the pistol to ‘bite’ – even after 14 brownings, and when I used my browning solution for several goes I just about got the colour right, but at the expense of a lot of roughness on the surface which shouldn’t be the result – The last barrel I did also had the same problem of getting the bright parts of the twist to ‘bite’ even after 10 rustings, although that barrel had started out with considerable surface structure and I judged it OK to have some surface texture at the end.  I am not really sure why these barrels are being difficult – I never had those problems before – I usually got an acceptable finish in 8 to 10 rustings.  It may be that I’m finishing the barrel too well pre-browning and effectively burnishing the surface, making it difficult for the solution to attack the steel.  Or maybe rubbing the rust off with 0000 grade steel wool is a bad idea?  I’m going to have to refinish the d/b barrel with 1200 grade paper and possibly 2500, but I think I will give it a couple of minutes in copper sulphate solution to etch the surface slightly and give the browning a chance.  What a monumental bore…………………………………………  


  27th December – lest you should think I have devoted all of Christmas to eating, drinking and making merry, here is the tool for Imperial caps I made yesterday;-   The ‘original Smiths tool (see a couple of dys ago) didn’t grip the cap well enough as the side hole in the nipples was a little worn, and I didn’t want to damage the rather weak joint between the metal and wood of the tool.  I designed a ‘foolproof’ tool that I reckoned would allow me to put much more force on the recalcitrant caps and was ‘more or less’ guaranteed not to disengage in the process.  The principle is that the cup for the base of the cap is a good fit over the cap, but the shaft and end is split so that it can be opened and closed to allow a fixed peg on the inside of the cup  to slip into the hole in the cap, after which the cup is closed to grip the cap by sliding a tapered collar down the tapered shaft of  the tool.   I drilled a 2.5 mm hole through the cup and used a piece of hardened steel rod to engage the hole in the nipple – one nipple had the hole facing outward so I could leave the rod sticking out for a trial – it worked, although the thread was pretty stiff even after it had started to turn – too stiff for the original tool to work without holding the sprung loaded catch.  I have now silver soldered the peg into the cup and quenched it to harden it all up, and I’ll try the finished tool on the other nipple.  The thread on the nipple I have removed seems  to be   .253 O.D. and as near as I can judge 28 t.p.i. with a very shallow rounded thread as is common on old guns.  As far as I can see the best fit would be an oversize  1/4 inch U.N.F thread (28t.p.i.) rather than the 1/4 inch B.S.F thread (26 t.p.i.)  I was expecting.  I will cut some test threds – I have a UNF die, and if its opened up to the maximum it will probably cut a big enough thread.  If not I’ll open out a die holder and run a flame down one side of the die to soften it and open it some more………………………………………………………… nothing to do with old guns is straightforward!

I ought to have put a nipple pricker in one of the arms – …….. next time?

I cut the slot with a hacksaw, hence the wobble – I don’t have a suitable slitting saw.  It works!

There is still a bit of silver solder round the pin, it has now been removed.

 24th December – a certain amount of feverish activity in the house!  I got the Imperial cap tool in the post this morning , so immediately went and tried to remove the caps – I was keen to see what thread they had.  I tried as hard as I dared with the tool, but as its like the old nipple keys, the handle is ebony and the ‘blade’ is presumably squared and just pushed into the wooden handle so there is a limit to how much force it will stand before being damaged.  Neither nipple would budge at what I deemed to be safe force, so at the moment I’m soaking the nipples in Napier cleaner for a bit.  I will see it I can make a tool that will work with the barrels out of the gun, and if that doesn’t work I may try a bit of heat on the nipple.  The tool is, as I thought, quite complex – the turned end of the tool has a slot cut in it about 2.5mm wide, into which fits a lever with the peg to engage the hole in the nipple at the bottom, and a push button at the top, with a spring underneath.  The nipple pricker is unusual – its handle is bifurcated and sprung so it grips in the unlined hole in the wood of the handle.


23rd – still browning the d/b pistol barrel, which is going very slowly – as on the last one I did, there are areas of steel that are not touched after 10 rustings – in desperation I used my copper rich ferric chloride mix (ex pcb etching solution) and put it on wet, rather than almost wiped dry, which did seem to rust over all the surface – see below;-   We’ll see how it rubs off with 0000 grade steel wool…….. It looked ok, there was some colour on what had been bright steel pattern areas – mostly grey – I’ve  now put on a slightly more generous coat of Blackley’s than usual to see where that takes us………….  I think next time before I start the browning I’ll try putting the barrel in copper sulphate for a minute or two to etch the steel areas…..



21st December – I did the flame test on couscous today and added it to the video and got rid of some glitches, so its now uploading….


20th December – Getting more difficult to steal time from the growing domestic panic occasioned by the rapidly approaching festivities – I’m sure you are all aware of the phenomenon. I can see that the number of visitors to this site, both directly and via Google, has reached record levels, so lots of people are busy seeking dispacement activities!  All I could manage today was a few visits to the cellar for further rounds of browning of the little d/b pistol.  I got to three without much impact so I did a couple of my ex pcb solution and that got it going so I went back to Blackley’s Slow Brown and its going fine – probably three or four more and it will be ready for the boiling water treatment and a light coat of beeswax.  I got the taps and die from Tracy Tools today – life is so easy with the internet now – I guess there are still some big tool shops around – I can think of one about 20 miles away but I bet they don’t have the odd sized taps and dies I needed.  Oh and I did manage to collect together all the stuff on Imperial caps and put it in a separate post.

19th December – I finished the Couscous video and its uploaded.  It looks as if the couscous is working fine, but I do have slight misgivings about the ability of the flame to penetrate the grains.  Tomorrow I’ll try a pile of couscous with the blowtorch as I did for the semolina.  I got a straight 1mm knurling tool from Amazon today, but I really need a 0.5 mm wheel and they come from ebay/China so I’ll order one and wait patiently for it to come!  I spent today throwing out piles of old papers – I came across about  20 unopened letters that hadn’t looked very interesting at the time they arrived – sometimes I get lucky and find a cheque that is still in date………………..but not this time.

17th December – I did another video of using wheat in various forms instead of wads – this time couscous, which one of the AML shooters swears by.  Its certainly easier to handle and from the way the shot dropped into it, I guess its just as good – in fact I think you don’t need quite as much volume in order to keep the shot away from the powder – my only concern would be that the flame can find a way through the grains on firing – I’ll edit the video and upload it later.   My client has been offered an original key for unscrewing the Imperial nipples of the S & C Smiths, so that is one thing I don’t need to make- it was promising to be tricky to get the spring loaded peg to function properly.  When we get it I’ll take out the nipples and see what the best way to use modern caps is.  I am pretty sure I wouldn’t fire the gun using the original Imperial cock noses with ‘ordinary’  nipples as  I don’t like being spattered with shards of red hot percussion cap, so I intend to make new ones in the style of the originals, but bored out to accommodate the caps.  Anyway I got a special 12 UNEF x 32 die from my friends at Tracy Tools and had a go at making a new nose blank –  I finished the outside but will chuck it and bore out the bottom when I have a better idea about nipples.  It looks pretty good – I will need to grind up a tool to shape the outsides when I make a batch, and my knurling tool is a lot coarser than the original, and cuts slanting knurls, but that helps to distinguish my noses, so I’m happy with that. Anyway the 12UNEF x32 fitted perfectly ( 12 UN is 7/32th).   I now have an original multitool that has lost its pricker to find a thread for that ( 3/16 x 26?) – back to Tracy Tools ( no, I don’t get a commission!  they are just good and cheap and quick and have almost any thread in stock) – while I’m about it I will get a 12UNEF x 32 tap so I can mount the blank noses in the lathe without Araldite!  I did a bit of editing and split this post in two to get the load time down – so 2/3 is in a separate post now.

Original nose for Imperial caps.


New nose for ‘normal’ caps ( – right cock only, to be bored out when I make the nipples)

16th December – bit of trouble uploading stuff so I lost the bit I’d put in this morning!   I did a bit on the d/b pistol – silver soldered the inserts and filed up the square holes – the l/h one was  a pain as the square on the tumbler wasn’t square and the sides were rounded – and there wasn’t enough metal to file it up properly – anyway I made the best job I could – it wouldn’t do if the gun was intended to shoot, but it isn’t!  The cocks didn’t quite line up so I melted the silver solder and adjusted the l/h insert slightly – probably 3 or 4 degrees.  I welded up the nick in the l/h cock and tidied up the engraving and bent the l/h cock into line with the nipple and finally coloured up both cocks with the gas torch and case hardened the cock screws and its all together – in fact it looks so nice I decided it needed the barrel re-browning, so that is ongoing – its showing a nice twist on the first application of Blackley’s Slow Brown, so things are looking good………

Not sure what happened to the colour balance here!

14th December – Good shoot at the Valley Shoot in Heydon – very professional beating, which for muzzle loaders is a tricky job as there are gaps while we reload that need to be reflected in the progress of the beaters.  Anyway a really good shoot and lots of sporting shooting.   Chasing information about the Imperial caps I’m trying to change, I emailed a friend for photos of the tool for removing them and he has a spare he is willing to sell, so that may save a job – it is a fiddly tool to make as it has a spring loaded peg going into the side of the Imperial nipple that takes the torque of unscrewing – so it needs to be accurately made.   He says that all the ones he has changed  use standard nipples and don’t have modified noses on the cocks – but I still think I might make special ones for fun!  ( basically I enjoy the engineering!)  … now I guess its time to file up the squares on the cocks of the d/b pistol………….  

12th December – Silver soldered the inserts into the cocks of the d/b pistol and filed off the surplus so now ready to put in the squares – although it is possible to rotate the inserts later, it is much better to get it right in the first place.  Here is my technique;-  cut a square hole in a piece of thin card to fit over the square on the lock with the lock on half cock. Mark a cross on the card centered on the square aligned with the sides of the square and glue or tape it to the lock in the correct alignment.  Black the centre of the cock and position it over the square and transfer the  marks to the cock.  With luck the hole you made in the insert will be smaller than the across flats dimension of the square, but larger than the size of your smallest square needle file. Now file the square out aligned with your marks, trying it as you go – Its easiest to get one flat surface almost done and use that to align with the square.  Obviously getting the second cock to align with the first one is tricky as it needs to be quite precise – that is where the ability to rotate the insert is useful…  Good luck – I won’t be fitting it for a day or two as I’m shooting tomorrow again – last one of the season!  An alternative way to mark the square is to tin the back of the cock with solder and press the lock into it in a vice (gently) to leave a mark – I guess some thick soft varnish might do instead…   That method is easiest to implement if the hole in the cock insert will just admit a screw that will go into the tumbler to keep it all in alignment – you can then drill it out to accomodate your file……….  I’m sure there are lots of other ways too…………………………..

The insert hardly shows on the face of the cock and will be covered by the cock screw.  The lines shown are on the diagonals of the square but I realised that it would be much easier to align them with the flats instead so I’ll change it………..

12th December – Another question re the Imperial caps – is it possible. using the proper supplied tool, to remove the caps with the barrel in the gun or do the cocks and flash guard get in the way?

11 December – bit of a lull as I got a nasty bug that laid me out in the evenings, now thankfully gone.   Having got my miller working I got on with the cocks of the little pistol – if you remember they needed the square holes remade as the alignment was wrong.  I think the miller runs much better now with the good old-fashioned Variac instead of its original electronic controller!   I Araldited them onto bits of wood and ran a 6 mm end mill through and then dropped a 9 mm endmill down 2.5 mm into the back and turned up a couple of inserts with 4.2 mm holes and made to fit the milled holes – they will be silver soldered in later and the square hole then put in – if I don’t get the alignment right I can reheat to melt the solder and rotate the insert.  Pretty foolproof and better than trying to exactly match a pair of cocks by filing the squares in rewelded metal.  This method does leave an indication if you take the cocks off that things are not original, but in this case it is acceptable as both cocks are replacements.   I picked up an interesting job today – a friend has a very nice S & C Smith percussion gun with Smith’s patent Imperial caps – these differ from the normal percussion caps in that they are flatish disks of around 10 mm diameter ( I don’t have one to check!) that fit on special nipples and with special noses on the cocks so they won’t in that configuration take normal caps.  I’m not sure what the supposed advantage of the Imperial caps was but the Smiths seemed to put them on most/all their guns and pistols so they must have seen something ‘better’ in their design – or perhaps they just liked to be different – they patented the design in 1830 No 7978. One special ( awkward) feature of the nipples is that the body of them is disk shaped and about  4 mm thick with a hole into the side for a peg on a special tool.  I don’t have access to a tool so will try to make on, but the mechanism for getting the peg into the side of the disk with very little space around the nipple is a bit challenging – I have emailed another friend to send me a photo of his original disk ‘spanner’. The recess in the nose of the cock is made very shallow – about 1.5 mm, which is OK for the very flat nipples/caps but will not provide any protection from flying bits of normal caps.  Fortunately the noses of the cocks are detachable, so I just have to make new noses and new nipples and all will be well – plus the tool for getting the Imperial nipples out.   The cock noses are screwed in with 3/16 x 32 threads, and I managed to locate a Unified extra fine die of that size – at a cost of £30 – and the noses should just accommodate a somewhat deeper recess – maybe not as  deep as a conventional percussion cock, but I plan to make rather flatter nipples than the normal ones – old percussion caps were always much deeper than our current ones, so conventional nipples are unnecessarily tall.  I do realise, before any kind soul tells me, that the thread form of Unified threads is quite different from the old thread forms, the UN is much steeper and sharper at the crest and valley, but the thread doesn’t take any force, just holds the nose on. I’ll screw the thread into the hardened cock before hardening the nose to swage the thread into a better shape.  One question I would be grateful for information on;-  were the Smith guns supplied with alternative  ‘conventional’ nipples and cock noses, and if so what were they like?

Secured for milling the holes.

Milled stepped holes and disks – the holes are concentric even if it doesn’t look likeit!.

Imperial Nipple on S & C Smith gun – the nipple body is round and has a hole, just visible on the right side, where the peg fits to uncrew it – tricky to make the removal tool!

8th December – The Anglian Muzzle Loaders single barreled shoot and Christmas Lunch today.  I had a bit of a revelation last night when getting out my guns for the shoot – as I mounted my usual little Henry Nock single ( as I usually do when I get a gun out) I noticed that my dominant eye seemed to be swapping from my normal right eye to my left eye on occasions – Without shutting my left eye I couldn’t guarantee that the gun would point where I was looking.  That might hopefully explain why I was having trouble hitting birds coming straight at me on previous shoots – anyway I took the time honoured solution and stuck a piece of sellotape on the top third of the left lens of my spare glasses, which is just enough to stop the left eye seizing control as you mount!   It must have worked because I did my usual score at clays.  I still haven’t worked out how my mind or body works when shooting clays – my norm, over many shoots, if I’m using a gun I can shoot with, goes something like this:  First stand- 6 clays – miss one, second stand  -6 clays – miss 2, third stand  – 6 clays – miss 3 or 4  and erratic thereafter!  It doesn’t seem to depend on which stands we start on either!  Strange.    Pete and I had discussed him firing his flintlock upside down as an experiment, but we completely forgot when we got to the shoot.  Cambridge Gun Club,  with whom we have a close relationship, put on a splendid Christmas Lunch especially for us – we all bring prizes and they are put into a raffle for which we all get a ticket – claiming prizes from what’s left when our number comes up – Pete picked a wrapped bottle, which when he unwrapped it turned out to be a bottle of Cherry Kirch that had been opened and a glass drank!  What can one say ? – so we decided that it will become a permanent feature of the raffle – being returned,  wrapped each year – possibly minus another glass…… perpetual memory of whoever put it in….!   We now have a new supplier of Czech powder, thank goodness as it was getting tricky to get in the quantities that the club uses – 28 members were shooting today, 30 shots each, so 840 shots in total, at an average powder load of about  2.6 drams amounts to about 4Kg of powder, or if we were shooting 40 shots with  doubles, more like 5 Kg.  I don’t shoot as much as some of the members, but I probably shoot 3 or 4 Kg a year at least.  I managed to get my milling machine running yesterday using a Variac ( variable voltage transformer) and a bridge rectifier – seems to work OK, which indicates that in fact its a DC motor, no AC as on the motor label – anyway its all properly wired up with a switch and fuse etc.

6th December – Oh, I just remembered its my brother’s birthday!!   I finished off the trigger guard and butt plate by ‘colouring them down’  – it’s a sticky decision – how to finish work that you have taken down to bare metal.  The usual method is to form an oxide layer on the metal by heating it – the colour you get depends critically on the top temperature you reach so it can be difficult to get a uniform colour if you don’t have a big enough furnace/oven and the object has an uneven distribution of metal so some bits heat quicker than others –  It is possible with patience to do it with a gas torch.  An alternative is to heat to dull red and use a case hardening powder and then quench it in water – that generally gives a slightly mottled grey colour – its what I’d normally do for lock plates and screws which benefit from the case too.  Anyway for the trigger guard and butt plate  I used a calor gas torch and took them up to just about deep strew colour – around 275 C.   You need to keep the torch moving and go slowly so there isn’t a lot of metal that is above the required temperature that will leak out and over colour the smaller bits.  I  stop the heating by swabbing with an oily tissue and then dunking in water.  A brisk brushing on the very fine wire mop tones the colour down nicely and leaves an even greyish finish, ending with a light wipe with gun oil.  It is always important to realise that any heating of steel is liable to leave it the surface clean and ready for rusting to start.

Here is the toned down part – its difficult to see the colour, but its a lot more appropriate than bare steel.

5th December – I got to thinking about firing off a flintlock upside down –  but I don’t have any measurements  to check things against – I might borrow a crude high speed camera that will do 700 f.p.s. but that isn’t great and the resolution is dire.  My calculations suggest that the powder will drop around 1/2 a mm in the first 10 mSecs and 50 mm in the first 100 mSecs   – I am not sure how far the flash will spread and still fire the charge through the touch-hole, but I guess up to about 10 m.m.  which  takes  44 mSec. Since I can well imagine that the pan will open and a spark will be generated in that sort of time window – therefore one concludes that firing upside down is not so improbable – more experiments to follow.

4th December – Back from a trip to St Andrews for Tom’s second graduation – after 9 years up there he now has his PhD done and dusted and needs a job!  I now have to sort out all the jobs that are waiting for me – A set of electronic Incubator regulator boards to test and deliver, a gun to collect from Geoff, some invitations to do,  The Dolep pistol to finish – that involves doing something about the finish on the barrel, ditto the trigger guard below that needs toning down – plus I would like to uresolder the barrels of the Venables.  I now have the parts I need to check the speed control of my milling machine, which I need to finish Nick’s pistol cocks………………..  If it sounds like an impossibly long list of jobs to complete in the run-up to Christmas, I fear you might be right!  I’ve been chasing the Russian Internet Service provider that is hosting the IP addresses that keeps bombing this website – I’ve tried them 3 times but it achieves nothing except somehow the sender managed to change the indicated country from Russia to Brazil – but from the same IP addresses – I haven’t completely given up hope but it is beginning to look as if the ISP is part of the problem….

30th November – Decided to start the last job  first as I felt like a quite few hours engraving – the trigger guard and its tang were nice to cut, the butt plate and its tang a bit less so, but both are now done – the worst bit was putting a pattern round the top screw of the butt plate – the curvature is vicious so I used the GRS pneumaic graver as it lets you hold and move the work by hand since the forces are small.  I was trying to get the engraving to be clear and complete but not looking as if it was new – because the underlying material does not look new and I’d have had to refinish it drastically to get it to ‘new’ status – plus I don’t really like that approach! Anyway its now done and I’m reasonably pleased with the outcome.  I’m not sure what the client has in mind for the finish – I would probably run a torch over it to give it a bit of an oxide layer, maybe give it a coat or two of browning first to help.

29th November – I was trying to get my milling machine to run – the motor controller had  packed up last week, so I decided I ought to be able to put something together to replace the controller – the motor says quite clearly 240V A.C. 400W, and has 2 wires coming from it – but putting an AC motor controller just produced a lot of buzzing and a bit of heat.  So I tried it with a Variac – a variable transformer producing good smooth AC from 0V to 240V, but that was the same.   Unfortunately I can’t find a suitable bridge rectifier to test it on DC, but I did try it on my 30V D.C  3 Amp power supply and it ran smoothly but fairly slowly.  It is a brushed motor, which means it could well be a DC motor in spite of the label, so I’ll now get a bridge rectifier and see if I can get it to run .  I got a parcel from a client with a trigger guard and butt plate to be recut/engraved.  The trigger guard will be easy to recut exactly as its clearly visible, the butt plate is at the awkward stage – there is enough of the engraving left that you can’t ignore it, but not enough to use as a pattern.  My usual method is to recut the bits that I can still see, and then carry on in the same spirit – it usually works fine as you gradually make out more of the original pattern.  I guess the alternative is to file off the remaining engraving and start over – but that’s not an approach I usually take.

Quite a decent standard of engraving  – a bit of work in the borders on the bow – not sure who the maker was.

Need to have agood look at this under the microscope to ‘see’ the complete design.


Rather unusual cased pair of pocket pistols by Salmond of Perth in pigskin lined case.

28th November – At the Bonhams Auction yesterday – prices mostly in line with estimates – not many real bargains so I guess the market is  not as bad as I thought.  The only real surprise was an Ormolu tinderlighter and inkwell that made £15000 against an estimate of £3 – 4K.  I think only a couple of lots didn’t make the reserve.  The trio of Smith 12 bore muzzle loading sporting guns made £7500, well above the £3-4K estimate, and the silver mounted pair of Clarkson pistols lot 517 made £11000 against an estimate of £5 – 7.5K – bought by a collector from Essex who was very pleased with his purchase, as well he might be.  I got the lot I was aiming for – the pair of Public Service Overcoat pistols for the early Police force at Bow Street, at one bid over the bottom estimate, so that was OK.  I also got a pair of cased pocket pistols by Salmond of Perth in a pigskin lined case.

Not only are they very rare – possibly among the 50 pairs that were ordered from Parker in 1829 for the police – See Frederick Wilkinson’s book ‘Those Entrusted with Arms’

–  but they are also almost unused – they are numbered 3 and 16 on the brass trigger guard, but I guess they were not issued.

26th November – first an apology – the buyer’s premium on Bonhams is, unfortunately not 20% but 25 or 27 1/2  we couldn’t decide – the figure in the current catalogue is wrong!  – but don’t let that stop you buying the Egg for my Chrismas present!  Just back from another excellent shoot a Woodhall – possibly the last as its not clear they are continuing next year.  Jobs come in thick and fast and another couple of email queries today….   I used my little single barrelled Nock today – a bit frustrating not having a second barrel although not having to make the decision as to whether to reload immediately after the first shot, or wait and discharge the second barrel before reloading is a compensation.  My great ‘discovery’ of the day concerns the disposable hand warming heater pads – I bought a packet of toe warmers to see what they were, and opened them on the shoot to put in my pocket, where of course they get lovely and warm but don’t do anything useful.  Standing in the light rain my hand began to get a bit cold holding the gun at the wrist, so I got out the ‘toe warmer’ and had a look at it – it turned out to have a self adhesive back, presumably to stick to the sole of your boot – anyway I decided to stick it on the wrist of my gun so that I was holding it by the heating pad – I have to say that the pads don’t give out much heat when exposed and in contact with the gun, but it was  definitely better than holding a cold gun!

25th November – a day of disasters – just found my MOT had expired yesterday and my garage hadn’t reminded me although 6 weeks ago the said they would…. bother.  And then discovered that the last yacht charter company on the NW coast of Scotland is closing – it is the one we used last year  – the one we used this year also closed – so now nothing on the west coast North of Oban – it’s enough to drive one to drink!   Now what do we do to escape? I think we had a bit of a reputation for going to some pretty obscure anchorages – your average charterer sticks to the well beaten tracks.  I was showing a friend the Dolep pistol of about 1710 that I just finished restoring (see below)  and he wondered about firing it – the client had wanted me to ensure that it worked/flashed properly so I put a bit of fine priming in the pan and fired it off – went well. Then I remembered that a well set up flintlock was supposed to be able to fire upside down – i.e the powder ignites before falling out of reach of the touch hole.  Given that it’s an established fact that the flash travels faster than the flame front through powder, you don’t need a solid powder trail between pan and touch hole, so it should work. Anyway we flashed off the pistol upside down a couple of times and the flash seemed to originate from the immediate vicinity of the pan, so I think we would have been able to fire it.  I will try with my John Manton double flintlock some time for real!  In trying the Dolep I found that the full cock notch was only just engaging – a quick check showed there was no play in the trigger, so the sear arm is too low – a quick adjustment in the vice with a pair of pliers added maybe 1/2 or 3/4 mm clearance that was enough to put it right.    I’m shooting tomorrow – since my 14 bore Venables is out of commission I’m using the 16 bore single Henry Nock – that unfortunately means changing over my wads and overshot cards!  I still like to have wads, although I’m trying to wean myself onto a diet of semolina –  I remember semolina puddings from my childhood, without, it has to be said, any great joy, although the splodge of jam was good!  We don’t add jam when shooting.

The Dolep – a fine early pistol now working beautifully, and sparking up a treat.

24 th November – Just back from London and the viewing for the Bonhams sale on Wednesday.  There was a fair bit of interesting stuff, but it was catalogued all over the place as it was from named collections and I got confused finding stuff – plus there was a vast collection of swords and military bits and pieces that will take up half the sale day – guns don’t begin until 2 p.m. and they will have to motor on to get finished in a reasonable time!   I’m not going to splash the few things I might be after, but there were lots of things I covet that I can tell you about!   Lot 331 was a nice turnover 18 bore flintlock by Bunney from around 1775 in nice condition if you have a spare 8 – 10K kicking about.  I don’t think I’d get interested in lot 389 – a cased pair of pistols that are catalogued as ‘inscribed D.Egg ‘  Auctioneers are very careful of their language and if it doesn’t say ‘by D Egg’ then they are not sure.  This pair have had the barrels rebrowned and as the catalogue says ‘inscribed D.Egg London’  – with my eyeglass I can clearly see that the barrel inscription is recut as part of the rebrowning, and the (competent script) engraving on the lock is clearly done after most of the corrosion occurred.  None of that proves the pistols were NOT made by Egg, indeed the butts are properly chequered in his style with 4 dots within each large diamond and the rest COULD be his – its just that the restorer has removed any chance of establishing their true maker.  One pair I’d like to own were I ridiculously rich were Lot 392 – 15 bore ‘queen Anne’ style superimposed load pistols with turn off barrels – they were exceedingly clever in that the rear powder chamber had a post sticking up so that when the front charge fired, the back ball was forced onto the post, which expanded the ball to a tight fit in the bore and prevented the combustion creeping past into the first powder charge.  This effectively trumped Thouverin’s patent by 150 years!  And only 12 – 15 K – a snip….  I’m always a bit surprised at the price put on Queen Anne pistols, but I suppose they are early and not as common as the later big hefty full stocked pistols.  They did represent a major advance at the time, as it was possible to have a ball that was forced into the barrel by the charge, which had the dual advantage that it would take rifling and let the charge build up pressure before it started moving, thus effectively giving a longer burn time, so emulating a longer barrel – plus the tight fit meant that they could be carried around without fear of loosing the load through shaking – altogether a ‘good idea’ –  maybe I should get a pair – Lot 515 is a pair of double turnoff pistols in the Queen Anne style with single triggers by Barbar circa 1740 at 4 – 5K, or Lot 516 – a brass barrelled pair by Harvey est 4.5-5.5K.   There were a lot of guns and pistols by the  Smiths using their ‘imperial’  caps including 3 guns in a single case.   About the worst sin I saw was lot 332, an Adams 5 shot revolving rifle that had been horribly over refinished – I would have been interested but what a disaster – I suppose its possible to unrefinish a gun but I’d prefer not to own it in the first place – will be interesting to see just how the room copes with it – I’m usually more squeamish about these things than most people!  A beautiful & unusual  pair of 1710 Clarkson silver mounted horse pistols caught my eye – Lot 517 est. 5 – 7.5K, as did a splendid 25 bore double flintlock Covet gun by Egg, probably built for the Prince Regent (Lot 496 est 5 – 7 K..) Top lot was of course the last lot as always – just to keep people in the room – a pair of elaborately inlaid d/b pistols by John Manton for an Indian potentate – estimate a trifling 35 – 45K – well who can resist?    I checked over all the Adams revolvers and derivatives, but one or two were possible, I’d only be interested if they didn’t make the reserve.  As always if you subtract the price of all the accessories and the case, you get to the real value of the gun itself, Sometimes this turns out to be a bargain, sometimes not.  What of the stuff at the cheap end of the market?  There are a number of pistols at around 250 bottom estimate, but most I couldn’t get very excited about – I might pick up one for the blog, but I’ll have to be careful to remember which ones are passable!   I’ll regret not having made better notes in my catalogue.  If I had a fairy godmother offering me a Christmas wish and I wasn’t concerned about the value, I’d settle for the Egg covert gun – lot 517  so if you feel like buying me a Christmas present………. but don’t forget to allow for the buyer’s premium of  20% plus VAT at 20% of that.







2ch3rd November – Out to lunch and then a concert so no gun play!  Tomorrow I’m off to London for the Bonhams sale viewing – nothing really grabs me but there are a few possibilities, and I like to keep an eye on the market and what is on offer and meet a few friends.  There are several large collections around and most of the owners are getting on a bit – I don’t see the younger collectors in great numbers, and I’m not sure what will happen to the market longer term – I think America will mop up a fair bit, but our own political uncertainty casts a bit of a shadow – could be good or bad for antique firearms, who knows?  I’d probably rather have gold bars under the bed than antiques of any sort –  sad to say I don’t have much of value either way.  On Tuesday I have another shoot at Woodhall – since the barrel of my Venables is adrift I’ll use my little single barreled Henry Nock – I’ll have to put a bit more packing in the Irish shot belt scoop as it currently throws 1.1 oz which might be considered a bit much for a 16 bore weighing just 5 1/4 lbs – I’ll try to get it neared  15/16ths oz and use 2 1/2 drams of Czech powder.  I’ll use semolina again as I can’t fault it.  I found that my super card dispenser will work equally well for 13,14 and 16 bore cards so that will be in use.  My hope that the Russian abuse would stop as unfounded, so I have emailed the abuse address with a printout of the screen showing multiple attacks.  we shall see what transpires.

22nd November (2) – Shouldn’t get too excited but my Russian pest seems to have been stopped – fingers crossed – I must go after the rest!   Thought I’d nip into the workshop for a bit of recreation – in this case recreating the cock screws for the little d/b pistol – one of my favourite jobs.  I managed to get away with No 4 UNF for both the one I tapped out and the original one, which saved a  bit of time.  I haven’t coloured them down yet, but will do when I sort out the finish on the cocks etc….

I like the ‘bowler hat’ shaped screws!  this is about the most basic engraving – but right for the pistols. They have been polished off on the fibre wheel after engraving to make them look less new. 

22nd November – This website attracts a number of nutters who set up requests for a particular page that then keep repeating and clogging up the internet – I have one such attack that comes from several different IP addresses in Russia but always tries to download a particular page – after there had been about 26000 requests for that slightly obscure page I blocked the IP addresses, which means they just get back a message saying they are blocked, but attempts continued at a rate of about 200 a day – obviously automated!  It just wastes the internet and the resources that it uses – loads of electricity – plus is just a nuisance to everyone.  Anyway I have now complained to their IP service provider and they have told the user to desist – we will see if the abuse stops in the next 24 hours. Should have done it ages ago cbut it takes time to monitor what is going on behind the scenes with this blog!  For a bit while it is in my mind I’ll go after a few of the other abusers!  I’m now going to attempt to reshape the cock of the little pistol…. watch this space!………………..  Its a tense game cutting and re-welding a cock – if you do make a success of the tricky job it just looks as it should have looked all along and no-one notices, if you screw up then it is obvious!  Anyway I took a hacksaw to the nose of the cock, wedged it into position with Plasticine and tacked it with the TIG welder – then took it apart and did it again as it wasn’t right – but on the third attempt it was aligned as well as it could be, so I filed out the joint between the two bits, leaving the tack, and welded it as deeply as I could, then filed out the tack and re-welded that – not too bad.  The cock was curved inwards a bit at the top, so got the top of the main part red hot and gently bent it outwards by maybe 3 degrees.  That was better, but now the spur on the welded cock didn’t line up with the other cock, so another hot bend and its pretty good.  It doesn’t go as far down on the nipple as the other side as this cock has a shallower hollow – if my miller was working I might take a bit out, but as you’ll see from the photos it’s a decent improvement. Next job is to get the cock squares sorted, but I need the miller for that……

Cock mouth edge rests on nipple.

The cock is right down on the nipple – it just has a shallow depression.  Both cocks are in place so they obviously match reasonably!

21st November – Went to Dicks to show him the pistol I’d been working on – a nice 1760s pistol by Dolep – its almost finished and looking very nice – wish it was mine.  We had a look at the two cocks of the little double barreled pistol so see where I could cut the one that doesn’t fit so it could be welded – we discussed for a long time but I couldn’t really see the best place – nothing really works exactly without at least 2 cuts and I don’t want to end up with three bits to weld together.  I remembered a friend who is involved in robotic orthopedic surgery and thought I ought to make models of the bits and try them – well at least cut out bits of paper and shuffle them around – think I got something that might work!  We’ll see.

Current panic is that I’ve just sold a Spitfire Gun Camera on ebay and now I can’t find it! Oh bother – I know it was on my bench a few months ago as I was trying to see if the motor would still run!  Its one of those things that you know will come to you in a revelation after you’ve spent hours and hours searching in totally unlikely places!  Apart from that, nothing else, as some child put at the end of an essay.

21st   Not sure where yesterday went!  I had another go with the semolina yesterday using equal volumes of powder,shot and semolina as that is the recipe that several of my friends use.  I used the contents of the handwarmer as a substitute for powder to save having to dispose of a mix of powder and semolina – I got rid of the last lot by throwing it all in a csmall container of water, which I then left on the bench – I have never seen such a splendid crop of mould growing on the top of the liquid  – I remember asking someone how to dispose of some unwanted gunpowder and they said ‘put it on the garden, its an ideal fertiliser’, so I now believe them. Anyway I did the same experiment as in the video but with No 6 shot and got more or less exactly the same result as with 7 1/2 shot –  most of the shot buried itself in the semlina, around 1/4 was left on top, the furthest shot penetration came within about 6 mm of the powder.   I did another video, but its so similar I won’t put it on Youtube to clutter up the planet further.  I had a call from Nick the other day and we discussed his little double barreled pistol that I was going to sort out – problems were;- cock screw sheared, cocks not indexed on squares properly (obviously modern replacements straight out of the box) and left cock doesn’t register on the nipple properly.  So I thought it was time to do something about the pistol…..   I had tried to drill the  broken cock screw from the tumbler but the bit of the screw seemed to be dead hard and I couldn’t drill it – so stripped the lock and heated the tumbler to dull red and cooled it slowly to anneal it, then drilled out the screw – fortunately it drilled fairly centrally and I  put a UNF No 4 tap into the hole – the taper tap didn’t do anything, but I was able to make a good thread (all 5 turns of it) with the plug.  So just need to turn up a new cock screw – it probably needs a matching one on the left too.  I have ‘walked around’ the job of the ill fitting cock and  the misaligned squares, but now I probably ought to do something  – the nose of one cock is too long and almost missed the nipple, the other is OK.  Both need ‘re-squaring.  My preferred technique for resquaring when I’m not dealing with original  cocks is to drop an end  mill through the square to just take it out, then cut from the back of the cock with an end mill that is a bit bigger than the across flat dimension of the square leaving a 1mm skin on the outside, then turn up a disc to fit the cavity  with a hole through the middle a bit less than the AF dimension of the square as a start for the new square.  The disc is then silver soldered into the cock and the square cut as usual  The advantage of this method is that you can reheat and adjust until the cock position is perfect.  I’ll post progress on that as I do it, but it will have to wait till I manage to get a new speed controller for my little miller – I ordered one from ebay but it blew the house electrics wtith a dead short and I haven’t had any satisfaction from the seller, so I’ve ordered another different one…….   The job of reshaping the cock is more of a mess – I’ll have to take the angle grinder to cut off the nose, and either re-weld it myself or take it to Jason…………………………. Oh, and as a quiet relaxation I copied some 17th century gun engraving – not perfect as I got it out of rather poor photos in books.


Mismatched cocks!

Quick and dirty copies out of Keith Neil and Back Great British Gunmakers  Dafte is 1690.  Unsigned is from a musket.

19th November – On the shoot on Saturday Pete gave me a disposable handwarmer – a small bag of powder that you took out of a sealed plastic bag to activate, after which it heated up most effectively, so standing in a field waiting for action I tried to work out what was in the bag and how it heated for the whole day.  It had to be oxygen activated, i.e an oxidation reaction and the only one I could think of that worked that slowly and controllably was rusting of iron, so the next day I cut open the now cold bag and applied a magnet – voila it picked up bits.  I later checked on Wikipedia  to find if I was right – the ingredients turn out to be finely divided iron, something to hold water, like vermiculite, salt to start the reaction, and sometimes a platinum catalyst – so we spend our time trying to stop rust, but use rusting to warm our hands!  I must say that they were a lot more effective than the lighter fuel powered ones, and much much better than the charcoal ones that it is almost impossible to keep alight.  I have ordered up a batch – around 70p each – you can even get ones to put in your boots. A small miracle….   I had a small engraving job for Dick  – he is restoring a French pistol with silver mounts and a brass lock that was in derelict condition- interesting because apart from a lot more carving on the woodwork it was almost identical  to a Dolep pistol made in England – you could almost have swapped the locks over with very little adjuctment, and the touchholes lined up perfectly.  Anyway he had replaced the buttcap with a casting from Blackleys and wanted it engraved to match the standard English pattern, which I did.;-

It still needs the casting sprue cut off and possibly a cover plate made?

18th November – I’m still trying to emulate the small scale scrollwork on the Purdey lock – I don’t get cuts that look the same, and also there is a perception problem – I normally do scrollwork and other engraving where the cuts are the thing you focus on, and which define the pattern, but with the Purdey scrolls its the remaining metal that makes the pattern, not the cuts – it may sound like splitting hairs but it is a real difference – in its extreme form I don’t get confused – say a rose left standing  in a cutout background, but as the two styles converge its not so clear.  Looking as a spectator at the finished engraving you just see the intended pattern and are not aware  of  the mechanics – but when you try to engrave it, its difficult to force yourself to see the pattern in the metal that is left rather than the cuts you make.  Anyway, I’ll struggle on! 

17th  I was showing someone the little Post Office pistol by Harding and Son and they noticed that the lock wasnt fitting completely – a bit of investigation showed that the spring needed a bit ground off to clear the barrel.  In removing the spring I sheared off the peg that goes in the lockplate, I had had to weld on a new peg as it was originally in the wrong place due to an error in manufacture. Anyway from the fracture surface it was clear that the weld hadn’t fused onto the spring properly – in fact hardly at all.  Anyway I remembered I’d actually made a spare spring – no sure why – so was able to put it in and off we go.  One disaster down.  The big disaster came with my Venables when I came to clean it after yesterdays shoot near Beccles – a fine shoot with lots of pheasants and partridges – we were ‘double pegging’ so things go a bit quicker as there is less need to hold up the beating line to allow reloading.   I took off the barrel and did the usual wet clean with boiling water  and put it on the bench to take out the nipples etc and noticed that it was missing the block under the barrel that takes the through bolt to hold the barrel in place on the stock – I found the missing bit in the water!  Its all part of the sad saga of trying to resolder the ribs- I resoldered it all from a stripped state, but the top rib didn’t go down well – I hadn’t filed off enough metal to make it fit – someone had previously filed it a series of waves.  anyway I tried to resolder the top rib without doing the whole job again – the top rib went down perfectly, but in the process managed to partially unsolder the bottom rib, which I hadn’t wedged on securely.  So there is now no option but to strip the barrels down and redo the whole job – I WILL get the hang of resoldering barrels!  Talking to Bev about that particular job we both said that the first one we did (mine was the Perrins) was OK but thereafter we only manage to get it right in about 1 in 4 tries!   The Venables is a good quality gun and fits me well –  I got it cheap at Holts because the top rib was a mess, but I really want it to be perfect so I can make a case for it with my splendid card dispenser – someone at the shoot suggested I sell them to Purdeys to include with the new muzzle loaders they are threatening to build.  I had one hiccough with it on the shoot – when the cards are used,  the spring tension reduces and the bayonett cap is no longer as secure as it should be, since it relies on the spring to hold.  Since it holds over 100 cards I reckon it doesn’t need to be opened in the field so I’ve put in a small and inconspicuaous  grub screw to lock the top on. Anyway it dispensed cards perfectly – thin cards 2 at a time, and thicker ones singly – I might make the next one adjustable for card thickness.

16th  November – I didn’t really get going today! So no great thought to share – or even scrappy ones I’m afraid.  I did decide that the stove in the living room had to change from wood to coal so it would actually heat the house 24 hours – immediately noticeable improvement in comfort.   I was trying to imitate the Purdey engraving of yesterday but I couldn’t get the hand movements right – I think my mild steel is a little too soft for such fine work and the graver seems to plough deep – I might try on a bit of EN 8 with a bit of carbon and see if it is any better.  I tried to resharpen my fine graver to make the heels very short to reduce the ploughing round corners, and it did improve it a bit, but not enough – its annoying, because although I don’t particularly like that style of engraving I’d like to be able to reproduce it better.  Anyway I think I had better creep off to bed rather than do my usual 12:30 bed time as I have to be up at about 5 to get to the shoot breakfast tomorrow.  

15th November – I get a steady correspondence from this blog – several emails a week – often asking for information about guns people own.  One of the requests for information that comes up from time to time is about guns that the writer has inherited but they don’t know anything about guns – there is usually a photo attached, often blurred and difficult to make out.  They are usually not guns that were on certificate, they are mostly repro pistols that someone has had without a certificate, and are usually functioning firearms – and  if made after 1919 (?) should be on a Firearms Certificate as a Section 1 firearm –  that, coupled with the fact that they are worth a lot less than the optimistic new owner was expecting it makes for disappointing news I have to deliver!   What to do with them?  I can’t advise that they are kept without a certificate, or sold without passing through a Registered Firearms Dealer – it is in fact illegal to have them in your possession without a certificate – strictly an offense carrying a mandatory prison sentence for possession of an unlicensed  firearm.  They can be surrendered to the Police as a last resort, or to a Registered Firearms Dealer, and one or two auctioneers who are registered to deal in firearms may take them and put them in their auction. (e.g. Holts, or Southams who do sell repros.) What you can’t do is put them up for sale on ebay!   All of which got me thinking of what happens when a gun owner/collector dies and his descendents are left with a pile of guns that may or may not be legal inert reproductions,  antiques,  on certificates -section 1 or section 2, or worse, section 7 or strictly illegally owned repros that are functioning firearms.  Its obvious from the emails that I get that people are searching for information and not finding anything useful apart from my blog.  So I’m contemplating putting up a post with advice, and possibly a draft letter/form to be given to next of kin by gun owners that sets out what they have and what to do with everything.  We shall see if thought gives way to action on my part!   On the engraving side, here is a photo of the Purdey lock I touched up the tail of – if you click on teh photo you can just see a line of brazing across the tail where all the engraving had been filed off to level the two sides.  In the blow-up of a different part you can see how crude the basic cuts are – its all done very quickly and almost automatically!


14th November – Now finished 3 of the jobs on my client list – a couple to go, both jobs that I’m waiting for inspiration for! One is a little double pistol that has one cock that is a bit of a misfit and I can’t decide if I’ll go at it with a grinder and welder or wait for inspiration, the other is a gun that has had a plain and very pedestrian lock fitted that needs it to be engraved, but again I can’t think what is the right thing to do – fortunately both clients are prepared to wait til inspiration comes!  The yr 3/4 ( 7/8/9)  teacher  came into my STEM club on Monday and asked what she needed for the children to make those ‘games’ that require you to move a loop along a twisty wire without setting off the buzzer – she needed 12 sets for her class of 36.  It soon became obvious that it would be easier for me to get/make all the parts and set it all up, – oh and which day would it be best for me to come in and ‘help’?  So I have been buying 3.2 mm aluminium welding rod as it should make the perfect shapes – you will be surprised how long it took me to find a supply in 1m lengths – most are 330mm.  Plus all the other bits (there are lots when you work it out) so that totally unskilled small children can produce a working puzzle in less than 2 hours.   And today I got a text asking if I had a breastplate (as in armour) that I could lend for something or other!  I didn’t realise when I volunteered to be a school governor just what was involved, particularly in the ‘props’ department. Next term the yr 5/6 s are doing the book ‘The Highwayman’ so that will mean taking in a couple of flintlocks and staging a highway robbery while wearing a tricorn hat and a cloak – no horse though.  I carelessly suggested that it would be fun if the yr 3/4s did a Dragon’s Den activity around some project – I did one at another school that went down very well – so I think muggins here has talked himself into  helping/setting another one up … – plus I still end up having to do the ‘serious’ governor stuff like checking up on all the catagories of children that need special attention in class (my particular responsibility) and the science teaching and attending boring meetings………   I’ve been doing a bit of engraving practice recently – I have a pile of perfect mild steel test plates waiting to be engraved, so I think I’ll try to capture a range of 19th century patterns.  I had a lock with a bit of missing engraving in the Purdy small scroll style, and I did manage to fill in the gap but the range of patterns I can do freehand and without thinking too hard is limited, and if I’m not careful things tend to drift back to a familiar pattern, so I need to do some serious practice.  I can see why there were a relatively limited range of patterns, and why it appears that each engraver had a distinct style.  I was quite shocked recently to find a copper bangle that I engraved about 60 years ago (when copper bangels were a thing) that had scroll engraving of the basic pattern I revert to now, despite the fact that I didn’t touch a graver for 50 of the intervening years! 


 Diary 13th November – Finished the horn fore-end tip today.  I is quite a complex shape as it has to fit round the end of the ramrod pipe and also accommodate the back end of the rib, but it wasn’t as bad a job as I expected and its now finished – I discovered a couple of small defects in the horn that show up as pale marks, they were not obvious when I started, but until you polish the horn it all looks grey anyway.  I don’t think the marks will affect the strength and they only show if you look for them, so I’m happy to leave them – especially as the alternative is to start again!  I managed to fair in the horn with just a little removal of the surface finish of the wood next to the joint, but a touch of colour and some slakum and it is back to where it was.  Job done.    I got an email with another job today – re-cutting a bit of engraving.  I failed to notice that the Birmingham Arms fair is next Sunday – I would normally go but I am shooting on Saturday – leaving home at 5:45 to get there for breakfast, so I don’t fancy spending most of Sunday driving to and from Birmingham – anyway I keep telling myself that I’m trying to get rid of guns, not acquire more!  I have had a look at the Bonhams catalogue and will probably view on Sunday 27th and go up for the sale – I just like the atmosphere, and there are one or two lots I might be interested in.  There is a whole collection’s worth of cased Adams pattern 1854 revolvers and derivatives, but not the one I’m looking for – I nearly bought a ‘mint’ one at Birmingham but was put off by a perfect finish but rounded arises to the engraving – I always carry a hand lens and use it!  Of course the vendor swore it was the original finish, and maybe he was right, but its my money!  I keep looking at the field articles but its mostly a bit breech loader specific – did see one interesting article on cartridges, showing that both the wads, top cards and cases and primers affect both the velocity and the patterning even if the powder and shot loads are identical – the differences are quite marked – sometimes half as many shot in the 30 inch circle at 40 yds with the ‘worst’ combination.

I haven’t taken out the dings in the wood – its a working gun and will only get more!

12th November – Went over to see Dick and look at some guns a client wanted sold – he buys stuff unseen at auction and passes it to Dick to restore and sell, but frankly he usually gets some pretty junky stuff and I’m sure he looses money on most of it!  Which is a good opportunity to think about what is happening to the prices of antique firearms – although it is not a very encouraging situation for people sitting on a fair sized collection – it seems to me that over the last few years the market for and price of  anything that isn’t of good quality in decent condition has dropped quite dramatically – and anything in the ‘junk’ or ‘in need of restoration’catagory even more so.  One possible exception is guns fit for sporting shooting or rifle competitions.  I’d like to think that cased revolvers of the 1850s are OK but when you add in the value of cases and accessories they are probably not commanding as high a price as a few years ago unless in very fine condition.  Anyway I had a look at the guns Dick has on offer, and didn’t feel even slightly tempted at any price.  I finished my 14 bore card dispenser today – I made the top for it and put a bayonnet fitting for removing it, and then made a leather sleeve to smarten it all up.  If I was doing it again I would make the end pieces out of a larger brass rod so that it  overlapped the leather – anyway it looks smart and complements my red leather covered shampoo bottle shot flask.  Dick suggested I should sell them, but when I pointed out that I’d have to charge around £150 – 200 each he could see that this wasn’t going to make my fortune!   I’m afraid nothing today on the ‘Field’ articles…………….

11th November – In school this afternoon with my STEM club – its lovely watching a dozen children aged 7 to 10 just making things.  The consumption of glue sticks for the cool glue gun is impressive, I think they got through 12 today, and the bench tops I made to protect the classroom tables get heavy use.  I must make another saw out of a 12 inch hacksaw blade cut down with a dowel handle and a bit of big heat shrink tube.  I sorted out the electrical supplies so they can make simple circuits – 9V batteries, buzzers, LEDs and switches.  My ‘job’ seems to be to supply a steady stream of interesting materials and offer a bit of help and encouragement where needed.    A bit more work in odd moments on the horn foreend tip – all filed by hand at the moment using a couple of those old fashioned files that are tapered half round with included flat handles – if it were a bit warmer in the woodwork shed I’d go and use the disk sander for the outside shape – a bit more and I’ll have to Araldite it onto the stock as its getting too small and fragile to hold reliably.    My ‘Field’ contribution today is the proof rules from 1806 for guns of the fourth class (d/b muzzle loaders without chokes).  For a 14 bore  the provisional proof (V)  the load was 11 1/4 drams of  black powder and a ball that was an easy fit in the barrel (hence no choke!) – probably a little over 1 oz and the definitive proof (CP)  was 6 drams of powder and 1 1/2 oz of shot, with the service load defined as 3 drams and 1 1/8 oz.  There was also a supplementary proof that was optional (?) using T.S.2 powder of  4 1/8 drams and 1 1/2 oz. – each proof cost 6d. except the supplementary T.S.2 proof that was 1s. 0d.  Other gauge loads on a sliding scale – e.g. 8 bore provisional was  17 1/2 drams and the ball, definitive 9 7/8 drams and  2  5/12 oz. for a service load of  4  15/16 drams and 1  13/16 oz.   Interesting that the powder loads were quite hefty but the ball/shot loads were very little more than the service load. – they were obviously all calculated according to some formula based on the bore size and then reduced to spuriously precise fractions!  I’m not sure of the significance of the supplementary proof, unless T.S. 2 was more powerful than the ‘normal’ proof powder. – I seem to remember from my visit to the proof house in London that they now use T.S.2 for all proofs of black powder guns.

Its beginning to get a bit fragile and difficult to hold, so soon need to be worked on in situ.

10th November – Bit of gun work today as a relaxation! I bought back a friend’s  Jo Manton single barrelled sporting gun from my shoot on Thursday that had the horn fore-end cap missing – – but a broken half was salvaged.  So my first action is to place the gun in context – so; its a conversion from flint, the number under the barrel is 1589, which the Manton book gives as a double gun that may not be by Manton as the signing is odd.  That number belongs to about 1801, which looks right for the lock engraving on this gun, the engraving  probably dates from about 1795 to 1805 .  There are no numbers on the inside of the locks – that is also right for that period.  The barrel is unsigned, which is a bit unusual for Jo Manton but has it been struck off?  And there is no poincon so not a classy gun!   The stock is OK for 1801, except it has probably been chequered since then.  Anyway it looks like a genuine Manton.  When faced with a broken part – in this case the horn fore-end, the first question is why did it break off after sitting there for 218 years and a bit of shooting?  Clue, the fore-end pipe is a bit loose.  On taking off the barrel its clear that there is a split down the middle of the fore-end through the hole for the pipe lug, about 2 1/2 inches long – obviously the split was too much for the horn and it broke and as it was only held on by animal glue it flew off.   So first job is to glue the split up with runny epoxy – work the joint to get it in, then a quick binding with self amalgamating tape.  Replacing bits like the horn on old guns is tricky – more so than when it was made, as then a part finished horn would be glued on and shaped along with the finish shaping of the stock.  I’ll make the new fore end cap from water buffalo horn ( buy on ebay for dog chews!) and glue it in place with epoxy leaving a bit of finishing to do.  A tough layer of tape round the wood will give some protection while its rough shaped, then I’ll have to remove the tape and finally shape it and probably have to refinish the wood locally afterwards.   I got a bar of 1 inch brass to make my 14 Bore overshot card dispenser, and found that I could use a piece of 22 mm copper water pipe for the body.  Anyway I turned up the brass dispenser end and filed the necessary slots etc.  and it now looks as if it will work – still to come are the spring and top cap.  One of the ‘gang’ suggested it would be very cold to use on a chilly shoot, so I might make a nice leather sleeve for it!   On the ‘Field’ puzzles, looking at the tables I put up on 4th Nov, one might expect a difference in flight time to 40 yards between 5 & 6 shot to be  4.2 mSec    and between 6 and 7 to be 6.6 mSec.  – this equates to a separation of  approximately  3.6 ft and 5.5 ft respective  – the difference is due to the greater falloff in speed of the smaller shot sizes.  Both effects would be significant compared to the normal shot string length of around 7 ft.   so using mixed shot might be noticeable, particularly if shooting in front!  Is this Bev’s secret weapon?


This will work for 14 and 13 bore cards, I hope, not sure about 16 bore. ( not yet finished)

Lock border is right for very late C18 or very early C19 so OK for 1801.

This split broke the horn tip. Still it is over 200 years old!

Never be without self amalgamating / self vulcanising tape!

9th November – Very pleasant shoot today – some good drives after a few barren ones, but that is how the cookie crumbles.    My browsing of the ‘Field’ articles and discussions led me to think about the consequences of swinging the gun.  A common misconception concerns the idea that swinging while shooting is like playing a hose or firing a machine gun – i’e’ that there will be some sort of sweep of shot.  In fact this doesn’t happen as the shot all exits the barrel still in a tight column in a small fraction of a millisecond.  There is a Youtube video of a shot fired into  water while swinging madly that shows that the pattern is broadly similar to a normal stationary gun pattern.  I tried to do some calculations of how much the end of the barrel moves during the time the shot is traversing the barrel – which I take to be around 5 mSec  (based on ‘Field’ data – but I need to check that again) .   Assuming the pivot for the gun is the shooter’s shoulder and it is 4.5 ft to the muzzle and you are swinging at a bird crossing at 30 yds (90 ft) that is doing 50 mph (75 fps) as a fairly fast crosser with the wind behind it, then the muzzle is moving at (4.5/90 x 75 ) fps  = 3.5 fps., so in 5 msec. the muzzle swings just less than 1/4 of an inch.  Most of that movement will occur during the initial phase of acceleration of the shot down the barrel, but nevertheless the shot against the ‘upwind’ side of the barrel HAS to follow a curved path, and will be deflected within the barrel, the question is how this affects the shot, not just that in contact with the upwind side of barrel – The Youtube evidence is  that it all leaves the barrel as a single column going in the same  direction but I don’t know what effect this might have on distortion of the shot or patterning – I would be surprised if the gun patterned the same for a fast swing as for a static shot, in particular it might affect the tail of the shot string more than the main forward part, but I would expect the difference to be small, possibly no more than variations between normal shots?. On another tack,  Bev, who is a crack shot, makes his own shot and it is not particularly well sorted in size ( I’m being charitable here!) but it shoots perfectly and he seldom misses.  This got me to wondering, based on the tables of fall off in velocity for different shot sizes ( smaller shot sizes fall off in velocity faster than larger sizes) if using mixed shot would increase the length of the shot string at range, and if this could be useful.    I’ll try to do some calculations next time……..

8th November – Had my shoot yesterday at Woodhall – a very good day with some super drives and no rain!  I was a bit worried as my gun lost its under rib – all but a small length at the muzzle.  It’s been on the cards since I resoldered the barrels and didn’t hold the bottom rib in place well enough while I did the top rib – I relaid it, but in a less than perfect way this morning as I need to use the gun for my next shoots and I didn’t want to take the barrels apart and start over.   As a point of interest you can just about get away with resoldering the bottom rib if you have it free and start at one end – but once its fixed in two places you can’t heat the bit between them without creating a bulge in the rib as it expands on heating.    I had an email from a regular, Robin, who pointed out, re semolina,that the early Eley patent wired shot packets made to Jenour’s 1823 patent (Eley bought the patent) were packed in bone dust to avoid ‘balling’.  I was aware that it had been used in that way, and in fact I do have a wired shot packet (probably not an Eley one as there is no maker’s name on it), presumably filled with bone dust under its paper wrapper – see photo.  I do know several inveterate shooters who want their ashes disposed of’ in this way – Penny points out that cremation ashes have a higher density than bone dust (some people know some pretty obscure facts, don’t they?).  The subject of balling is interesting in itself – Some experiment reported in the Field articles suggested that it was a common phenomenon, even for more or less normal loads although its not something I’ve heard  happen nowadays – there was also much discussion of the merits of ‘soft’ or ‘chilled’ shot as a possible issue in ‘balling’ – one of the many such discussions.  An afterthought re the bonedust – I did try with a friend  making packets of shot to ease loading but it is almost impossible to force a packet of loose shot down a barrel without it locking up – maybe the bone dust actually made loading easier/possible?  On the other hand my wired shot is quite distinctly tapered and is meant to be loaded small end down, and the small end is a loose fit in a 14 Gauge barrel – it gets tight about 10mm before it’s right into the barrel……..The excitement of keeping this blog up is that whatever I say, someone will have something interesting to add or correct- Bev said yesterday that my speed for pheasants of about 30 mph was too low, and it should be up to 43 mph, citing a Youtube video as evidence.  That raises an interesting further discussion – the measurements made by the Victorians were done very carefully and with considerable precision and accuracy, particularly to indoors tunnel flights, and with a very high degree of consistency – likewise I’m sure that the modern measurements are as good and of greater accuracy.  There are two realistic possibilities – either the Victorian birds were flying in such unnatural conditions or under such stress that they flew about 10 mph slower than free ranging birds, or that selective breeding for better sport has pushed up their flying speed by 10 mph.  You pays your money and you takes your choice! Just don’t expect me to adjudicate. ………..   Oh and I’d like to excuse the birds I missed yesterday on the grounds that I was given incorrect information as to their speed………………………..

The package is tapered – the small end is labelled ‘bottom’ – presumably you use the tape to open the pack.  But do you take the paper right off?

14 Gauge wired shot package – presumably packed in bone dust – overall weight is 1.48 oz.

6th November – In school fixing a guard on a classroom door to stop children’s fingers being trapped this morning (I am now the honorary unpaid caretaker it seems), Sam from year 3 kindly helped me – give the lad a house point, especially if he’s in Churchill House.  Whenever I walk round school now I either get accused by small children of being a knight or told of something that is broken – today a leak in the classroom ceiling ( that is firmly above my paygrade)!  To return to the Field articles and the crossing bird, I realised that the angle between the sight line and the bird necessary to get a hit in maintained lead is the same for all ranges, and it brought to mind something I vaguely remember seeing somewhere – a device on the end of the barrel with a sight on either side that gave you a scale to judge lead with – in our 30 mph bird the additional sights would need to be about 1 1/2 inches either side of the central sight – I have no idea if the whole thing is a figment of my imagination or has some basis!  Combining the data on the length of  a typical shot string at 30 yds (somewhere around 7 ft according to Field  articles) with the crossing bird speed shows that the bird will  travel about  1 foot forward during the passage of the shot string.  This means that if the front part of the string just misses behind the bird hit will escape, whereas if the front part just misses in front it will likely be caught by the remainder of the shot string  – effectively the shot pattern is effectively 12 inches wider if in front of the bird – given a typical shot pattern of say 3 ft at 30 yds from a cylinder bore you get an extra 30% lateral coverage in front! –  seems illogical but that’s what the science says.   That leaves one issue to be sorted in another blog – does swinging the gun ‘ spray the shot around’ ?  Here the Victorians don’t have anything to offer so I will be on my own!  Off tomorrow on a shoot I’ve organised down in Hertfordshire – should be fun now I have established that I can still (occasionally) hit things.  It will be my first Semolina game shoot and I’ll be interested to see how it pans out if it rains, which it might.  I have a tube  for my loading rod that sticks in the ground – it has a container at the top for my powder flask and I’ve now added another for the Semolina flask.  My next project is to make a card dispenser for my main shooting gun, the 14 Bore Venables – now pretending to be a live pigeon gun due to having lost its ramrod pipes on account of my poor soldering!  Brass bar and tube are ordered……..Maybe a good subject for a video

5th November – I am continuing my reading of the Field articles from before 1900.  There is an interesting letter concerning the convergence given to barrels in a double gun or rifle. We all know that they are ‘regulated’ to hit the same spot at the selected distance by being joined converging to the muzzle – but there was a active correspondence about why parallel barrels don’t hit the same spot at all ranges.  You can’t invoke the resistance of the shooter’s shoulder because a cross stocked gun still shoots more or less on the mid line.  One ingenious suggestion in the Field correspondence was that on firing the active barrel expands in diameter, and correspondingly shortens in length, thus bending the pair in the correct direction. The correspondent claimed to have done experiments to prove his contention. I have to say I’m not convinced by that argument – especially for rifles.  I’ve always assumed it was to do with the centre of gravity of the gun itself,  the recoil being some distance off the vertical position of the  CG so creating a local turning moment that is small and is not much affected by the person holding the gun. I assume the matter has been settled beyond doubt now – so if you know the answer, let me know!    Another interesting correspondence was related to shooting flying birds – they had pigeons, partridges and pheasants flying in a tunnel and in the wild and measured their speed, which turned out to be pretty much 30 m.p.h. in still air – which corresponds to 45 ft per second   A muzzle loader probably shoots with a velocity averaging about 900 f.p.s.  over a 30 yard (90 ft) distance, so takes one tenth of a second from the shot to leave the muzzle until it reaches the bird.  A crossing bird  will therefore have traveled  4.5 ft while the shot is in the air.  The delay between deciding to pull the trigger and ignition could be another 1/10 second ( but very variable between shooters) so if you poke at a crossing bird without swinging  you probably need to be 9 ft in front in calm air. If you are swinging with the bird – maintained lead – then you need to be shooting 4 1/2 ft in front.  Of course if the bird has a fresh breeze up its tail – say 20, then your lead needs to be more like 7 1/2 ft.  If you are shooting ‘Churchill’ – coming through the bird and pulling the trigger as you pass it, I’m afraid you are on your own as far as calculations go as I don’t know your personal delay time!  Of course its not practical to do the calculations when about to pull the trigger, and my numbers are not precise, and the bird is seldom flying exactly at right angles to the shot direction……….but you get the message.


4th November – At our shoot on Sunday Bev and I were discussing shot strings and what effect swing might have – both having some familiarity with the physics it made for an interesting discussion and got me thinking.  I remembered I had two fine volumes from 1900 that consisted mostly of articles and letters from The Field magazine from around 1880 to 1890 ish covering many aspects of shooting – there was a lot of scientific interest – breech loaders were by now well established as was smokeless powder, but past percussion guns were still more or less within memory.  The two volumes, beautifully leather bound, are a delight and cover every form of measurement that was within the technology of the time – chronographs and barrel pressure gauges existed, and ingenious mechanical systems were devised to measure the length and shape of shot strings, and the penetrating power of shot.  Everything was tabulated very precisely and efforts were made to avoid errors and get meaningful results, and it all stimulated a lively correspondence that yielded more data.  Looking through the first volume I came across accounts of what it took to burst steel and damascus 12 bore barrels ( around 12 drams of powder and 12 oz of shot! ) with pictures of the results on 4 barrels.  There is a lot on shot strings and patterns, and one experiment looked at the velocities of shot for each of a number of concentric rings in the pattern  showing that the shot flies progressively slower the further from the centre of the pattern it is.   A further experiment collected shot according to its penetrating power and found that the slow shot was more deformed –  This implies that the outer part of the pattern travels slower because it is deformed, presumably through contact with the barrel – which might suggest that the the worse the barrel condition the more deformed shot giving rise to a bigger difference in shot velocity and hence a longer shot string and a wider pattern.  This leads to the idea that the shot pattern might be a cone – the nose of the cone undeformed shot and the conical tail the slower, deformed shot.  At longer ranges the slower shot will fall further under gravity, thus the cone will droop, maybe by as much as a foot.    A further interesting finding was that the guns patterned tighter with a thin card overshot card than with a thicker one – this was for cartridges so how relevant that is I don’t know.   But one possibility that it raises is that the slightly tighter patterns reported for semolina might be related to less deformation of the shot?   Another relevant finding was in the measurement of a number of flint and percussion bores – almost none of which were cylindrical for more than a short part of the barrel – most converged from the breach, had a foot or so of cylinder and then opened out by at least a few thou.

times for shot of different sizes – not sure if they are the same as modern shot sizes.


3rd November  – here at last is the semolina video – don’t know why it took 2 days to get there ;-

Shooting day with Anglian Muzzle Loaders at Cambridge Gun Club – ostensibly a hammer gun/black powder day but I had more important fish to fry so stuck to my percussion muzzle loaders.  I took the Westley Richards to see if I could shoot it, and used it for the mornings competition with very little success, although it has to be said in my defense that the birds were pretty challenging and I wasn’t (quite) the worst!  Anyway in the afternoon we had an informal shoot and a bit of freedom to choose which of the available targets on the stand we wanted to shoot – as Bev said, a good confidence building exercise…. Anyway I reverted to my  good old Venables and got a much more respectable score, which neatly solves the problem of which gun to use for my game shoots this week.  I was, of course, using fine semolina throughout ( except for the last few shots when I ran out) and was perfectly happy with the way the gun was shooting, so that settles that argument for me.  There is a lot of interest in changing to semolina – either coarse or fine, and discussion of whats and ifs. One big advantage I can see is if you need to pull a charge for any reason – all you have to do is remove the overshot card and shake out the mess.  We did realise that it would probably be wise in those circumstances to fire off a cap to clear any semolina from the flame path – particularly essential if you are unloading because you forgot to put any powder in the gun!  My card dispenser was excellent, but I now have to find a tube of the right size to hold cards for the 14 bore Venables – always something else to do, which reminds me I bought back a fine Purdy back action lock from a hammer gun that had the tail repaired and needs to be re-engraved on the last inch. Incidentally the Anglian Muzzle Loaders continues to gather members – not all of whom are geriatrics like me, to the point where it is on the verge of becoming unwieldy.  We must have made up half of the shooters today, possibly more.  I was interested to hear that the Cambridge Gun Club now has a number of muzzle loading pistol shooters and a range for them – must take my Colt Army along……

2nd  November – Had an email from Chris who has been patterning the 11 bore Wilkes I restored for him,  with the same load ( 3 dr, 1 1/4 Oz, 1 1/4 oz measure of semolina) a I was using for  patterning my Westley Richards 11 bore using semolina.  He got beautiful patterns at 30 yards – a lucky sparrow might escape through the pattern but nothing bigger.  I am shooting tomorrow at Cambridge Gun Club – its the Hammer Gun Competition but I haven’t loaded any Black Powder cartridges for my William Powell and anyway I want to do some more practice with the WR  (with semolina as I don’t have any wads for it), or maybe revert to my old  gun if I don’t hit anything – I have 3 muzzle loading game shoots in the next two weeks, so need to be on form!   I have been cleaning up a big Sykes flask for use for the semolina – its a tin body under leather, and the tin is eaten away in places but the top is in excellent condition – I may try to make a new body for it.  I took a Bartram flask top to pieces, but I can’t quite work out how the spring works – its within the top and is a curved piece of round wire, not a flat strip.  The top and bottom plates of the flask top are separated by a strip of flat spring bent round and fitted in grooves in the top and bottom with a gap where the ‘handle’ comes out.   must look out for a copy of his patent, and check Riling’s book ( it has virtually nothing on him).  The flask itself  is somewhat unusual in that it has an angled top.

1st  November – More semolina stuff – boring –  After posting last night I remembered to clean my gun – there is some discussion about whether it leaves the guns cleaner than wads or not – one might expect it to be dirtier as the sweeping action of a lubricated wad isn’t happening – but I didn’t see that – here is my experience;-

I hadn’t shot those barrels before and I’m not sure of their history – I had cleaned them a few times with a steel wire brush in a drill and got out a fair bit of red rust before oiling them.

After shooting 20 ish shots in each barrel with semolina I did get some deposit in the first wash water with bronze brush & detergent – probably charred semolina – not seen when using wads – the water was dark grey as usual – (I just fill the barrels once each to the muzzle with boiling water and a couple of drops of detergent and pump with the bronze brush)

Second scrub with nipples out using wadding as a pump and 303 cleaner didn’t get much dirt on the wad or in the  water – water is usually clean but wadding is dirtier with wads

Third scrub with kitchen roll and Napier gun cleaner that usually keeps coming out black with wads was pretty clean – but given that the barrels were probably not leaded before this shoot it may not be indicative.

Pete says that, if anything, his patterns were slightly tighter with semolina – I think he was shooting a 14 bore with 2 1/2 dr. and 1 oz and an equal volume of semolina ( he works on the principle that all volumes should be the same – keeps it simple!  He thinks his barrels were a bit dirtier, so no conclusive evidence either way!

31st October – Viking Pete and I had our semolina day at Eriswell!  It got off to a bad start when I fired the right barrel with about 4 dr.semolina (powder volume) at the pattern target and shot a great big donut shaped pattern with a hole in the middle.  At 15 m there was not a single shot in the centre 4 inches which means a pheasant sized hole at 30 m, and the bulk of the pellets  were in a ring extending out to about 24 inches – what I take to be a classic case of  too much powder although I wouldn’t have expected that using 3 dr of Czech powder and 1 1/4 oz of shot in an 11 bore.  The left barrel shot much better at around 18 – 20 inches . and an even pattern – the same load but the left barrel has around 10 thou of choke (barrel made post 1917 ish.) .   I repeated the same loads using  tight fitting wads  and the right barrel got rid of the hole in the middle and gave a more even pattern  a little tighter.  The left barrel was pretty much the same as with semolina maybe a smidgen less tight .  Pete was firing his 14 bore and there was not much difference between semolina and wad – I’ll check back with him to see if that  is true on closer inspection.  Anyway I dropped my loads to 2 3/4 dr and 1 oz and as we’d run out of pattern targets went on to shoot clays – I didn’t have any wads for the gun so it was all shot with semolina using about 4 dr. by  powder volume – I shot almost 50 shots with the gun and hit every other clay with no particular bias towards one barrel or the other – most of the ones I missed were because I was not on target so I’m happy that it was shooting reasonably well – I probably ought to get in another day’s clays before the next game shoot, but I fear there may not be time.  Anyway I  think the 11 bore will do nicely for game but I will have another go at patterning some time with the revised load.  Might go over to Dick’s and do it in his field with a sheet of polystyrene and brown paper or even newspaper.    In the back of my mind is the thought that I may have been overloading my gun at the last few shoots? What do I conclude about semolina vs wads ?  Basically not enough evidence to be sure, but it seems to work in practice.  I might wonder if semolina is a bit more susceptible to the charge blowing a hole in the middle of the pattern but apart from that, which might just be an anomaly, it might have tightened the left barrel pattern slightly – certainly didn’t open it out.  The good news is that my prototype card dispenser worked flawlessly dispensing two cards at a time – I could push down on the card and get only one if I needed to but it didn’t fail once – although it was only loaded with about 40 cards so I ran out at the end.  I don’t suppose I’ll get round to going beyond the prototype stage unless I want a different size of card. 




30th October – I did a few measurements around the observations about semolina in the video (still processing!) to see how the volumes might work out.  I reckon 1 oz of shot has internal spaces of  about 4.6 ml, which is the same volume as 4.2 drams of powder  (for this volume the semolina weighs about 2.4 drams).   So my guess would be that if you use a powder flask to dispense your semolina you need at least a 3 dram flask for 1 oz. of shot.   I guess that 1 oz in a 16 bore needs less semolina than the same shot load in a 12 bore since the depth of the semolina layer is what slows the shot.  I’d never want to go for a smaller volume  of semolina than powder, and to be on the safe side 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 times the powder volume.  I can’t see any down side to using slightly more semolina than the above calculations.  I might have reservations if my loaded gun was going to be subjected to prolonged shaking as the shot might fall through to the powder – in that case I would feel the need for a  card over the powder.  As the video shows I think the semolina is probably a good thermal buffer provided the shot doesn’t penetrate to the powder layer. I might try my video experiments with coarse semolina some time.

30th October –  I am going to the clay ground tomorrow to try out semolina and see if I can actually hit anything –  I need to get my eye in again.  I have been meaning to have a look at what happens when you load semolina so I decided it was an ideal opportunity to make a youtube video.  I wanted to see if the semolina and powder stayed separate, and if the shot sat on top of the semolina or got buried in it.  I also wanted to see what happens to semolina when you apply heat, and I was wondering if the grains more or less locked up into a solid when under breech pressures.  I managed the first two experiments and given the results I’m not sure the last objective is particularly relevant.  My video explains it all, so I have put it in the VIDEO tab, and there is a link below.  I’ll try and see how it goes on a pattern plate tomorrow if I get time, and maybe make another video.  Now to see if I can remember how to link youtubes in to the blog – I think it may take some time for youtube to process – I seem to have read somewhere that it takes a while to put them on line ( its now been many hours!).  Another little project that, like the semolina experiments, has been hanging around at the back of my mind came to the fore – I’d had in mind to make a card dispenser but hadn’t got round to it (familiar story?) until I saw someone had one at the last shoot, so having an odd half hour and a pile of 11 bore cards I happened across a piece of  1 inch PVC  conduit that was the right internal diameter for the cards, so I turned up an end from a scrap of plastic and found a couple of springs and put one together as a prototype.  Its a bit Heath Robinson but it (mostly) works and will hold and dispense around 50 cards –   The design is pretty basic and could be tidied up and made more attractive, but first it needs field trials – and I need to know what bore of gun I  end up shooting most often. Oh and I realised that the tip of the sear of the early 18th century pistol I made the tumbler for was not properly hard so I must do that before I forget.

In theory the gap at the end between the white tube and the black end can be adjusted for dispensing one or two cards for greater economy of effort shooting doubles!  It needs some form of suspension loop and it could be prettier!


This was a trial run – I used more semolina than powder by volume – probably twice as much, and it went in with quite a slope on top.  My flask got stuck and dispensed far too much shot – but even when it only dispensed 1 1/4 oz it mostly buried itself in the semolina.  I didn’t have a problem with the black powder forming a level surface, and the semolina didn’t mix in with it.  But the semolina usually formed a sloping top surface.  For  what I thought were reasonable loads most of the shot was buried in the semolina and it almost reached as far as the powder.  Shaking and banging the ‘barrel’ caused the semolina to float up through the shot, but left the interface between powder and semolina pretty much undisturbed – although I guess the shot would eventually reach the powder.





29th October – Still no body in the ditch….  I finished off the tumbler and hardened it and made a new cock screw as the old one didn’t fit the new thread I’d cut – I put the trigger back in the stock and the lock all works as sweet as a nut.  Someone had painted the whole pistol in some kind of varnish that turned all the brass into copper colour – most of the furniture had been stripped and cleaned but the ramrod pipes were still ‘orange’  – I had hoped to remove them but looking at the pins holding them in, I decided to try to strip off the varnish in situ using paint stripper and various tools and 0000 steel wool and a small polishing mop in my ‘psuedo Dremel’ – it all worked a treat and saved any damage to the stock from knocking out the very rusty pins.  Dick now has the wood to patch up a couple of chips.  I was intending to try the Westley Richards some time but don’t have a wad punch for it, although I am expecting to be using semolina instead of wads now – still I need a punch for overshot cards, so a chunk of the 1 inch bar was made into a punch, starting off by putting a 3/4 inch drill up the middle for 35 mm (I like mixed units – so soothing)  I turned the inside with a slight taper (2 degrees) out from the mouth so that cards free up.  I was going to mill the opening in the side but alas the controller on my Axminster milling machine packed up, so I cut the slot with an angle grinder and files – just as good and in truth probably quicker.  The cutting mouth got hardened along with the tumbler and cock screw and works fine, although I may have made it a trifle large – the cards will be a tight fit.  

Its designed to be run in a drill press or hit with a club hammer.

28th October – Expecting to find Boris dead in a ditch shortly!  Hope its not the one in my garden….  Went into school today to see how many children had taken up my challenge – 3 so far out of 20 ish – more to come.  I’ve been making prizes – little wooden boxes (£1 each from the cheap shop) with engraved brass plates.  Must be mad…    I had some time to attend to the tumbler of the early-mid 18th century pistol.  Having made it, I then had to tune up everything to get it so that everything was just right – that means making sure it lets the cock stop on the edge of the lock as it should, making sure the end of the spring rides smoothly on the tumbler arm, working on the bents to put the half cock and full cock positions where they should be, and the sear bar is in the right place in relation to the edge of the lock etc. and the half cock bent is secure but isn’t caught by the sear on firing and everything runs freely without binding…   All this has to be done in small steps as the only way to put things right if you take too much off is to apply weld and file it all up – nasty!  I think I must have put on and taken off the tumbler, bridle, sear, cock and mainspring about 30 times (minimum!) this evening as I sorted it out.  I think its all exactly right now, so I’ll leave it until tomorrow and check it in the cold light of day and if it is OK I’ll harden it – I think the steel has a fair amount of carbon in it, so it should harden nicely.  The mainspring is pretty strong and is marking the tumbler arm when you cock and uncock the pistol, so I’ll have to repolish it when I take it out before hardening it.  I’m planning to go to Eriswell to shoot on Thursday – its scheduled as a semolina day and I’ll try my guns out on the pattern plate as well as trying to remember how to hit clays!

I put a a flint in the lock to check the fired and half cock positions as I tweaked the bents etc.  The mainspring end acts quite close to the tumbler pivot, but it works OK.

27th October – Very pleasant sunny day – inspired me to trim the hedges this morning – I spent the entire day being disorientated by the time change but I survived.  This afternoon I made the new tumbler for the pistol as I found a 1 inch  bar of some very tough steel in the workshop.  My usual technique is to  turn up a disk with the lock bearing and blank for the square and tap the hole for the cock screw then partially turn the back and part it off and glue it onto the end of the bar (with a hole in it) so I can work on the other face. I used epoxy in the past but this time I was in a hurry and used instant glue which worked just fine  – I couldn’t break it off but a bit of heat shifted it.   I printed out the photo below on A5 and marked up lines to give a guide to the geometry and hacksawed off most of the spare metal and filed it up – first clear the part of the diameter that goes past the top tumbler mount, then the bit that has to clear the pivot of the sear, then shape the bit where the spring end rests.  I then put in the full cock bent some way round from its probable position.  At this point I put the square on the shaft by careful comparison with the old one and pressed the cock on – perfect fit!  Now it’s possible to fix the full cock bent and start work on the half cock  position  – while the full has to release, the half cock has to capture the end of the sear and hold it when the trigger is pressed, which calls for a bit of tricky filing.  I had to reshape the end of the sear as it was too thick to go into a reasonable half cock bent, but it all seems to work as for as I can tell – I will put the lock together as soon as I get time, and if its OK I’ll harden the tumbler. I may have to do a bit of fiddling with the bents when I can try the gun with the spring in place to make sure the sear doesn’t pop into the half cock bent as it goes past in firing. It all seems to fit reasonably together and I think there is no need to do anything with the bridle – most of the slop in the system has gone with the bearing fit of the new tumbler in the lock plate, and the gun will not be used for shooting, I assume!  A good afternoon’s  work – with a bit of the evening to put in bents and finish it – say 5 or 6 hours work.

26th October – Had another offer of a muzzle loading shoot yesterday – they seem very popular at the moment! I had a discussion with the owner of the pistol I mentioned yesterday and we decided the best course of action was to make a new tumbler rather than try and mess about with the old one.  The first step is to sort out the dimensions for the blank – mostly measure with calipers or a micrometer, but also photograph it against a ruler to get a better clue to the shape.  I’ll have a look for a suitable bar of metal when I go into the outside workshop tomorrow.  I’m still hoping someone will tell me what the slot across the tumbler is for – it must have been quite difficult to shape the axle in the middle of the slot!    I had to make a couple of wooden bench hooks/tops for my STEM club – the kids discovered the hacksaws in out trolley of bits and pieces and decided it was fun to saw up the strips of wood I provide for projects – I have no problem with that except I live in fear of them cutting into the nice classroom tables ( we don’t have a craft room and we always make a mess so I live in fear of the caretaker – I seem to remember that traditionally the caretaker strikes more fear into everyone than the head teacher! – certainly does for me) – hence the wooden bench tops.

The cock screw hole is well off centre in the square. It looks like 25 mm bar will just do without using a 4 jaw chuck.


25th October – My shoot wasn’t the best I’ve ever been on – I hit an unlucky run of pegs and didn’t see much action, and what I did see I didn’t make much of!  The last two drives were shot in pouring rain which with a muzzle loader is a bit more of a bother than with a breech loader.  I did feel a bit smug as I’d put on waterproof overtrousers at the start when the rest thought they could  get away with it so I was comfortable and dry throughout.  I expect my gear will dry out sometime!  We had several discussions about the use of semolina instead of wads so I must do some quasi-scientific experiments some time.   I had a visit from the owner of the Wilkes 11 bore so that has now left the workshop and another satisfied customer.  He brought a single barreled gun to ask me if the nipple ( a new commercial 1/4 BSF one)  was a tight enough fit to be safe from blowing out.  It was a slightly wobbly fit all the way down although the thread in the breech looked fine – it would probably have been OK, and if it had been my gun I might have used it, but if someone asks me, I feel obliged to ere on the side of caution as they are relying on my judgement. Anyway I was able to find a titanium nipple that I’d made with an oversize thread that was perfect.  As I’ve mentioned before, titanium is funny metal to work with as it does not like very fine cuts with a die so I tend to cut just once with the die opened out to make a slightly oversized thread as most nipple holes have worn a bit and when cleaned out with a 1/4 BSF plug tap ground a bit flat at the end come out perfect for  them.   I got another job in this morning – a nice classic flintlock pistol from the first half of the 18th century – its only unusual feature as far as I am concerned is that it appears to have a detachable pan.  Its main problem is that the half and full cocks don’t hold – basically a wear problem that is exacerbated by a bit of messing about at some time.  The bents in the tumbler seem to be worn but also reshaped with a file, as has the nose of the sear.  The tumbler is loose in its bearing in the lockplate but also in the hole in the tumbler, which has been crudely countersunk on the inside.  The tumbler has a fine crack and part is almost broken off.   The tumbler also has a groove filed across the middle that I can’t quite work out – my first thought was that it was for a fly – the little arm that steers the sear past the half cock notch when the gun is fired, but it doesn’t correspond to the form of that device that I am familiar with on later guns and I can’t see how it would work as it is.  So the question is how to sort it out.  The tumbler is straightforward – it needs annealing and flattening – I forgot to mention its a bit warped – and a spot of weld put on the crack.  The sear can probably be reshaped, possibly with a spot of weld on the nose.  The tumbler has three problems – the lock plate bearing, the tumbler bearing and the bents, so the best solution may be to make a new tumbler with oversize bearing surfaces,  or just to forget the poor bearings and pop a bit of weld on the bents and refile them.  To be discussed with the owner……….

Red arrows – evidence for detachable pan – green arrow bad sear/bents

What is the slot across the tumbler for?    The full cock bent is very deep, and there is no safety element to the half cock bent.

The countersunk bearing for the tumbler shaft is cracked at the thin bit and the large look has lost part of its side, its all also warped a bit.

23rd October – Shoot tomorrow, usual gun so I got the kit ready.  Its only just over an hour away so no need to get up at cock crow (ours starts around 4 a.m.).  Had a session today replacing duff fluorescent tubes around the workshops – in total I have something like 20 tubes in use, mostly 6 ft ones.  I’ve just replaced the first with an LED strip fitting which is very effective.  I changed over to white tubes some time ago and the one or two old ‘warm white’ ones look very dim by comparison. The fluorescent  LED fittings are pretty expensive, so I don’t think I’ll be doing a wholesale change yet – just the odd one or two.  They are not all used very often so there isn’t much saving in power.   I’ve been doing a bit of engraving for prizes for the school children’s half term challenge – mostly in CZ120 brass – I can now handle that as well as I can steel.  It’s mostly lettering  which is good practice – I have got my spacing almost up to scratch!   I was looking over the two 11 Bore guns I have in the workshop (finished) at the moment  – the Wilkes has a bore of around .751 in both barrels which is bang on for 11 bore, but the ’11 bore’ Westley Richards clocks about .753 in the right barrel and about .740 in the left – i.e. there seems to be a bit of choke in the left barrel. The WR barrel is so late for a percussion gun that I began to think it might be a 32 inch breechloading barrel from a 10 bore with the chambering cut off ( the barrel itself is 29 1/2 o.a.) but the bore is a bit small for that possibility ( 10 bore should be .775 ?).   Actually, having had a look at replacements for LED tubes its not too bad – but I can’t find a simple rewired 6 ft tube in daylight, but I’ll keep at it.

22nd October – tried to harden the WR lock plates in my electric furnace but the element kept popping out and shorting – needs a new element – they come for China so a week’s wait.  I did it with a couple of  gas burners – seems OK .  I put the locks together – the mainsprings were a bit of a struggle as my mainspring clamp is a bit worn and the springs were strong and quite open – I got thee eventually without breaking either spring!  So now that is all together – there are a couple of small wood repairs that I could make, but I’ll see how it shoots before I get carried away.  It promises to be a cracking gun – quite modern in its balance ( there is some lead in the stock for balance, or so it seems) and about the weight of a modern o/u 12 bore.  It seems to come up nicely.  That leaves me with a dilemma – I have a shoot this Thursday – should I take it, or stick to my regular gun?   Probably stick to the regular as I haven’t got any wads for the WR and I haven’t explored the equipment needed to use semolina instead of wads in the field – a jam jar and spoon probably won’t cut it with my fellow guns!   I have one small job to finish – I bought what I thought might be an original Spanish military pistol from a photograph but it turned out to be a repro – the buyer was happy sell it to me at the appropriate price as I wanted one as a demonstrator for the through the lock sear.  I am tweaking it a little to make it look a bit less like a repro – the screws are a terrible so I’ve made some new ones, and cleaned up the stock and distressed things a bit so it looks more presentable – I do NOT intend to pass it off as an original – the buyer had acquired it on her father’s death so had no inkling that it might be a repro, and had consulted an antiques expert – who of course would not necessarily know about guns.

Very modern semi pistol grip for a percussion gun –   the gun is part 1843 part 20th century.

21st October –  Quiet day – went up to school to take advantage of half term to try out a bit of soundproofing between classrooms – there is a big gap I was trying to fill with foam sheet to see if it had any effect – just as a test, as obviously foam is not a good sound insulator – anyway playing sea shanties at full blast (ideal as the sound level is pretty constant) I measured the loss through the existing structure as -20 dB and with the foam as about -25 dB so its probably worth replacing the foam with something more solid –  it’s wonderful what you can get a phone app to do – think of the cost of a sound level meter!   My gun time was spent finishing the re-engraving of the Westley Richards locks – They are not perfect, but I am happy to leave them like this as I don’t want to  refinish the lockplates down to clear metal as a) the job isn’t worth it, and b) it won’t add that much to the overall effect when I’ve coloured up the plates and put them in the gun. If I wanted perfect lock plates I’d probably make new ones anyway!   I now have to re-harden them and temper them – not sure if I’ll do it in the furnace or just with a gas torch – I’ll need to check the book for the right temperature.  There will be the problem of avoiding scale again – more important this time as the engraving will suffer if it scales up.

20th October – looking on the Westley Richards website at ‘New Guns’ I saw a picture of a very nice duplicate pair of rifles in a case and a nice leather label saying what they were, with special mention of their Patent Detachable Lock’s (sic)  – you would have thought that if you were selling a pair of rifles at, lets say £100K, you would at least proof read your labels and not commit the apostrophe sin!  I of course emailed them, troublemaker that I am….   I decided to bite the bullet and re-engrave the Westley Richards locks – One problem is that you have to anneal them or they are as hard as the gravers and you get no-where.  To anneal them you have to take them up to about 820 degrees C for 20 minutes or so and then cool them very slowly.  If you are not careful this puts a hard oxide layer on the metal that you then have to clean off  – I have two ways of defeating this – I have a coating from Brownells that in the past has been almost as  difficult to remove as the oxide, and a stainless foil that you can make a supposedly sealed packet from to exclude oxygen – you put a piece of brown paper in the packet to burn up the residual oxygen.  On this occasion I painted the goo on the backs of the locks, and put the faces together with chalk between them, wrapped them in brown paper and sealed them in a foil packet (its deadly sharp stuff so you have to handle with great care) – I then put them in my furnace set to 820 C and left them to get up to temperature and soak for a bit, then turned on my graduated cooling heater for 4 hours, after which they had got down to 100 C.  When cool I opened the packet and to my surprise the coating all brushed off and there was virtually no scale on the lock faces.  A first!   I gave the lock faces a rub with 600 grade paper and am re-engraving the first one.  It is always interesting re-engraving gun bits as long as there is enough of the original left to get an idea of the pattern.  In this case 95% was just visible so I was able to keep to the design – after a bit you get to work out exactly how the engraver did each sort of cut and are able to imitate his cutting, and with a bit more practice you can easily extemprise where there is not enough to go on.  I will go over all the engraving including the name as a first go, then look at whether I want to refine the finish on the lock, which will knock the engraving back, so I would have to re-cut a second time over my initial re-cut.  Here is the first recut of a bit of the lock – I have just done the W of the name, no more yet.


At this stage I’m just re-cutting the bits I can see clearly – in the next iteration I will look at possible missing bits, and do the name. I haven’t recut the fine border line yet but I have cleaned out the main line a bit.

18th October later – Just got back from ‘The Greek Play’ – every 3 years the Arts Theatre,  Cambridge puts on a play from ancient Greece  all spoken in ancient Greek – mostly performed by students.  Its a sort of culture fest – we have been going for many years so its become a regular if infrequent outing – my ancient Greek is no better than it ever was, i.e. non existent, but there are subtitles and its mostly declamatory so quite easy to follow. This year it was ‘Oedipus’ – the chap who murdered his father and married his mother, all ordained by the oracles – very complicated stuff, makes Brexit look like a walk in the park…………..At least this one didn’t have any blood – most are pretty full of gore.  The culture infusion will last  3 years!    At last the Wilkes barrel can be called finished after 14 rustings – I think probably the early rustings didn’t have enough time to bite, although the ramrod tubes that were made out of a different twist did go much earlier.  Anyway its now an acceptable shade of chestnut – its not as shiny as some jobs turn out, but I couldn’t take off enough metal to get rid of the twist texture – the original finish was  quite deeply textured.  The whole gun now looks so much better – the stock is showing some figure – I deliberately didn’t take out all the dings as it’s not a new gun and shouldn’t pretend to be one.  The titanium nipples I made for it do fit and the barrel is not too bad, there is a bit of pitting about 10 inches from the muzzle, but by then the stress is much less – altogether its taken a sad gun worth a couple of hundred pounds to a useful gun worth maybe £700 – not sure what the final bill will be – probably £240 for the barrel browning and new pipes and nipples etc, and  £120 for the for the stock and foreend pipe and general cleaning.  I usually give a bit of a discount if the owner doesn’t mind the job going on this blog – if they want to keep it off it costs them more!  I sometimes do a halfway house where I put a record of the work on the blog but don’t mention the maker’s name and blur it out on locks and barrels so that the work can’t be found by a google search but in general I like to put it all on the web!



18th October – Looking at the statistics for this blog, I had been puzzled why the post on the New Land conversion had had over 24000 visits – seemed a bit strange that something so obscure should be the second most popular visit after the main page.  I discovered that sites in Russia had been visiting that page every 5 or 10 minutes day and night – the Russians were using a block of IP addresses rather then a single address so they didn’t all show up together.  I noticed a lot of visits from one site a week ago and spotted other visits from sites with close IP addresses so I blocked the whole block of  addresses (easy to do in Wordfence) so now all those visits just get blocked – I can look at blocked visits and they still persist with the futile action – someone must have programmed it into their computer and they must also have access to a whole contiguous  block of IP addresses, which is unusual – it has been going on for several years! It’s probably not a solitary amateur.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that the Wilkes barrel browning is getting somewhere – maybe a couple more iterations, maybe only one – photos will follow when this browning with Blackleys following steaming is done. I rang Westley Richards re the 11 bore – they have records for 1917 but they say that if it was rebarreled  and in the records it would have had a new number assigned to it and stamped beneath the old number on the barrels.  It doesn’t so the assumption has to be that it isn’t in the records  – all the original percussion records for the original number 1019 are lost.  In all probability it was indeed rebarreled by WR, but how or why is a mystery.

17th October – later – My strong treatment of the browning might just be paying dividends!  before rubbing off  it was a pretty solid brown overall, see below.  After rubbing off there was some coverage over the steel but still some way to go – I’ve given it another go with Blackleys and we’ll see, maybe steam it after that and perhaps another go with my solution – I rather like browning with a blackish tone – anything but the dreaded ginger browning!   Dick had got the bridles of the Westley Richards welded for me – a really neat job – I can’t keep my welds anywhere near that neat – it cleaned up in no time on the diamond hone and the hole only needed a couple of strokes with a round needle file to clear it. Dick has more or less pursuaded me that I ought to anneal and re-cut the lock plates of the WR – I am almost convinced.  I will ring Westley Richards archivist tomorrow and see what history he can dig out on this gun or general information that might be relevant – The locks are 1843 ish but the barrel has a post 1917 WR address and  post 1868 proof marks but the only number on the barrel is the same as the locks – 1019 – an approx 1843 number which implies that it was a replacement barrel from WR numbered for the gun ?

This has gone a bit further than I usually let it but desperate times call for desperate remedies!


That is a dummy tumbler to support the broken bridle during welding ( and soft in case I needed to drill it out if it got welded)  The sear bearing pin is most unusual – it screws in from the outside of the lock plate with the thread in the plate and the head countersunk slightly on the outside – it is a plain bearing in the bridle hole.  Niether Dick nor I have seen one like this before.

17th October – Very frustrating – I’ve now clocked up 11 rustings of the Wilkes barrel and so far there is no sign of any browning on the steel elements of the twist – I’m beginning to think that the barrel maker inadvertently invented stainless steel!  I’ve now tried Blackley’s and Dysons’s slow brown and my own pretty aggressive used printed circuit etchant, all to no avail, although the iron component is being well etched!  This morning in desperation  I steamed the barrel pretty thoroughly and then put a coat of my solution on while it was still hot – if that doesn’t get it going I don’t know what will!  I am not filled with hope.  I am going into school this pm to give the yr 5 & 6 children a challenge for their half term – to decypher some (fictitious) emails relating to a (fictitious) raid on the school – Penny is worried that they won’t realise it is fiction and I’ll scare them!   We shall see………………….   I took the locks of the Westley Richards to Dicks and he is going to take the bridles to our speciality welder as they both have small cracks across them.  I made up a couple of small dummy tumblers so the bridles could be welded while on the lock plates to ensure they are aligned properly – The dummies are soft so can be drilled out if they are inadvertently welded to the bridle.  My welding is not really up to such fine work and if I try to do it I’ll end up spending ages removing all the surplus weld and ruining my best files on bits of the tungsten electrode that get broken off when I touch it in the weld pool, which I do occasionally.  Every time I look at the WR lock plates I start to wonder if I should anneal them and re-cut the engraving as they would look so good.  The gun is obviously made up from bits of different generations, so I wouldn’t be destroying a straight antique…. I still can’t decide……

14th October – AT the Bullard Archive a.m. and then school this afternoon.  I managed to fit in a bit of barrel browning – but still not touched the steel bands after 7 rustings with Blackley’s slow brown.  It really is resistant stuff!  I’ll keep at it although I think I’ll try some of my solution as its a bit more dynamic!  I purchased a small Spanish flintlock pistol stamped for the King’s guard from a correspondent – it looked interesting and is in need of a little, I hope, gentle cleaning and tidying up.  It should arrive tomorrow so I’ll put up some photos when it does.  Tomorrow I’ll get a load of logs dumped on the drive so my day’s work will be shifting them to the log store… tedious!  Not too creaky from the climbing but my right  hand had the odd twinge  – I guess I don’t usually hang  by my fingers so climbing is a bit of a shock for them!  Better remember to take the Slacum off the Wilkes stock before bed!

13th October – Climbing (boulderng) this morning has left me a bit creaky – I do feel a bit out of place there as I’m usually the only person over about 25!  I am some way into browning the Wilkes barrel and its not going quite as I would hope – I’ve done 6 passes with  Blackley’s slow brown and a bit of my ex printed circuit solution but it is quite uneven in its action – it is etching the iron bands quite enthusiastically but has still left the steel more or less unmarked – the twist pattern shows clearly but I wish the shiny bits of steel would start to bite.  I guess its the metal, and it would account for the fact that when I first saw the barrel I thought it had been etched – I guess it was just that there is a marked difference in the effect of the rusting on the two components of the twist – more than usual.  Patience is the name of the game….I will carry on and see where it gets to – I may move to using my solution as it has a bit more bite than Blackleys.  I’m still putting Slackum on the Wilkes stock – that’s up to about about 5 coats and is beginning to have a uniform shine – I’ll probably be able to stop in a few more.  This afternoon I decided to try and melt my lemon brass and cast up some rods for making ramrod ends so made a mould and fired up my flower pot furnace with charcoal – I made the furness some time ago from a large flower pot that I set in plastic tub lined with weldmesh and filled the the gap with a mixture of cement and vermiculate ( plastic tub removed when set)  – I put an old vacuum cleaner on blow through a hole near the bottom.  Last time I used it I managed to melt and cast brass – this time I just couldn’t get it quite hot enough -I  packed the crucible in charcoal but the blower didn’t reach round it so it mainly heated from one side and that wasn’t enough so I ended up with a crucible of slush – I’ll have to do better next time!  We live and learn…    Following my visit to Shuttleworth and meeting up with my old school friend I thought I might learn to fly – not necessarily to get my license but just to find out how.  Anyway John kindly offered to take me up in his Auster which has dual controls so I might just do it!

 Wilkes 5 rustings in….Not great quality twist here – very different widths on the two sections.

Pot furnace and blower – I need to sort the air path within the pot so it heats all round.

11th October – I have started to brown the Wilkes barrel after scrubbing it with detergent and water and coating it in chalk paste – it’s had a light coat of Blackley’s slow brown and is hanging in the cellar, but I have to say after 10 hours its not showing much sign of any rusting although the pattern is emerging in places. Patience….   I made a couple of titanium nipples for the Wilkes barrel but as its being browned I don’t want to mess about fitting them so I don’t know if the threads will be a good fit – they have a 1.2 mm hole at the bottom about 2 -3 mm long, then 2 mm up to the top – that’s the generally accepted standard for modern caps.  Some people use 1 mm for the bottom hole, but I broke the 1 mm drill so its 1.2 mm!  I’m still putting coats of Slakum on the Wilkes stock – the workshop isn’t heated and it seems to get to a good tacky/gummy state in about 12 hours so as long as I remember to remove it before bed I will be OK – I have only left Slackum too long once before, and I had to take it off with steel wool and start again, so I am ultra careful. 

10th Ocober – I filed up the cast Westley Richards cock to get rid of the casting ‘orange peel’ effect and engraved the tails and colour hardened both and fitted them.  It is amazing how exactly they now match – there must have been a limited number of patterns of cock made in whichever suburb of Birmingham made cocks, and the squares must have been put in by the maker/filer against a jig, leaving the lock fitter to put the square on the tumbler.  Anyway as you can see, the cock that was on the WR and the cock from Dick’s junk box line up exactly without touching the squares.  I keep looking at the locks of the WR, as the outside surface is quite worn/polished down and I did wonder if the lock plates were in fact a modern casting, but further examination at x25 has convinced me that they must be original, with the engraving just worn down and polished almost out.  I can’t decide whether to anneal the lock plates and re-engrave them – I probably won’t as its a working gun and from that point of view re-engraving them doesn’t do anything for the gun.   I just have to get a spot of weld put on the bridles where they are cracked from being dry fired out of the gun.    I bought some 400 grade wet and dry to finish the Wilkes barrel, and took it down to 2500 grit.  I managed to extract the remaining nipple without any damage – I got the tip of a square needle file onto the nipple so I could get a sharp bottom corner on the faces that the nipple key works on.  Just to make sure I touched the end face of the nipple key on the grindwheel to create a sharp edge with a bit of a burr to bite onto the flat of the nipple.  I put a fine hot flame on the nipple for a while.  The nipple key gripped well but I had to put a large vicegrip on it to get enough leverage and at one point I thought I was twisting the nipple key shaft!  I soldered on a fillet at the muzzle to hold the ramrod in place.  So its all ready to go – wash down with hot soapy water, coat with chalk paste and allow to dry, (? dip in copper sulphate – not sure about that) and brown very slowly – the last gun I did was too quick and the browning wore off quite quickly. 

Wilkes 11 bore barrel – I can live with that finish as a base for re-browning.

Westley Richards 11 bore – Matching cocks!   I will have to do something about the german silver(?) plug in the breech plug – someone has tried to prize it out.

9th October – A couple of school meetings this morning, and then another look at the Wilkes barrel – I found I don’t have any wet & dry between 240 and 600 so I’ve ordered various grades and will wait til it comes.  I started on the old cock for the Westley Richards that I got from Dick – the spur was a bit oversize and the engraving was wrong, but fortunately the one I got from Dick was 1/2 mm thicker than the other so I could file off the unwanted engraving.  I reshaped the spur to be pretty nearly the same shape and size and recut the chequering  with the Gravermax – the advantage of the  gravermax, apart from it being less effort and less liable to slip, is that you can hold the cock resting on a surface while you engrave it, which means you can turn it to cut the lines across the curved surface without forever resetting the vice.  Having done that I ran it against the fibre wheel to wear the cuts down a bit.  Next job was to mount the cock on a piece of wood with setting wax and engrave it.  The metal was pretty horrible so I used a mix of hand and Gravermax.  It is now done and looks remarkably similar to the other cock – I do find it amazing how much standardisation went on in the gun trade, particularly in Birmingham. Anyone who imagines that every gunmaker  lovingly made all the bits of his guns in his own  workshop has some serious explaining to do!  Looking at the photo, I realise I ought to do some more surface filing on the casting to get rid of the cast surface – nothing is ever finished!

The re-engraved casting is on the left, the re- engraved cock from Dick’s junk box on the right – amazingly good match – even the square is right!

8th October –  I spent a dirty couple of hours stiking off the Wilkes barrel – it looks possible although there is really no prospect of getting rid of all the pits etc.  I need to get rid of some of the remaining scratches – its distressing how many faults always show up when I photograph things- my photos are always very revealing – most of the photos I get sent to look at are , by comparison, like looking through soup!   I keep my Canon M50 with  18 – 150 lens handy and have a 500mm square white LED panel on the ceiling so its very quick to do, and I always use manual focus.   I went to Dicks and we has a look at the locks of the Westley Richards 11 bore – the lockplates are castings as are the cocks, although the works look like they were originals.  Unfortunately the bridles have both been cracked – probably because the tumblers stop against then instead of being stopped by the cocks hitting the nipples.  I will keep the cast lockplates – they need the engraving recut – I managed to get an almost perfect original cock to replace the really bad one from Dick’s box of spare cocks, its a good fit and as often happens with late locks, the square drops on teh tumbler in exactly the right orientation. Dick’s supply of percussion cocks  is fine if you want a left hand cock (I did) but not so good if you want a right hand cock – in fact he has hardly any, not sure why, I think he bought them years ago in a box of junk from aWeller and Dufty auction, which is where most of his stuff originated.

It looks a bit better in the flesh but I’m not going to be able to get all the pits etc out – maybe a bit more though…..

7th October – I derusted the Wilkes barrel to see where we go from here – still not clear on the best course of action – the barrel has a very uniform fine pitting over its surface with no obvious areas of serious corrosion – I’m still puzzling out how it got to be as uniform !    I’m not sure how much metal I’d need to remove to get a smooth surface, or what it would look like if I did a partial strike off.  In any event its probably not possible/sensible to strike it off to get rid of the deeper twist related fissures.   But I do realise that leaving it as it is is not a viable option, so something has to be done…… And I still need to get one of the nipples out – I don’t like drilling them out as it risks messing up thread.  The one I did get out left a reasonable thread in the breechblock that I cleaned out with a 1/4 BSF plug tap but its a bit oversize so I will make up some (titanium?) nipples oversize for it.   I need to collect my fine gas torch from Dick’s where I left it, to see if that will shift the second one.  I probably need to make/find a better fitting nipple key as I can’t get a really good grip on it to put enough force to turn it – to do that I’ll need to buy some more 10 mm silver steel rod from ebay!  I have learned to be patient and try different things before resorting to anything too drastic!  There is always the option of recutting the nipple holes to 9/32 BSF (same pitch as 1/4 BSF) but I prefer not to have to do that.

Very uniform pitting over all the surface, with some deeper fissures as part of the twist pattern.

7th October – on Saturday I went on a trip to the Shuttleworth Collection at Old Warden airfield – my old school friend John had been the Director for several years and my nephew wanted to give my brother a day out as he is suffering from Parkinsons, so John kindly flew him down to Old Warden in his vintage Beechcraft Bonanza and we all had a tour round the collection – almost all the aircraft there are kept in flying condition and get an airing from time to time – John was one of the Collection pilots and has flown most of the planes, so was able to give a real insight into the merits and demerits of the various planes.  One thing I learnt was why the Spitfire became the dominant fighter plane in WWII in preference to the Hurricane – the Hurricane could never have stood the development that ultimately resulted in the Mk 10 Spitfire which involved fitting an engine of over 2000 bhp in an airframe originally designed for 850 bhp!  As John pointed out, you only have to look at the thick aerofoil section of the Hurricane to realise that the drag was always going to restrict it – its more like the (Clarke Y??) sections we used to use on our slow flying model planes when John and I were mad keen aeromodellers in the mid 1950s ( mostly control line planes – John gave me back the last plane I built – a Lucky Lady stunt plane some time ago).  Great day out, if you haven’t been to the Shuttleworth Collection – GO!

6th October – I think I’ve put enough coats of Slakum on the Wilkes for the time being – I’ll let it harden off for a few days.  I derusted the barrels inside and out in the tank and got all the superficial rust off.  There is quite a lot of structure in the exposed surface and I’m not sure how much I would have to take off to get a better finish – I’m not sure it is sensible to take them down to a perfect surface – it would mean removing a fair amount of metal, but I may be able to take it partially down and etch it slightly in copper sulphate before browning – I’ll have to see what looks possible.  I had another careful look at the Westley Richards and decided that the locks were a recent replacement from castings – nicely made but in need of some work on the engraving – luckily that’s something I can do.   I have been p[

lanning a challenge for the children at school and was looking for some prizes  – the school ‘badge’ is a couple of owls so I am engraving them on slices of rod and mounting them in oak blocks as I do with screwheads for the kids when I do engaving demos.

4 th October – I woke up in the night and realised that I’d left a coat of Slakum on the Wilkes stock and it was probably getting past the gel stage, but my concern didn’t overcome my desire to go back to sleep!  I had a meeting at 8:30 so rushed into the workshop early to find the Slackum still  just about workable, so rubbed it off with kitchen roll and linseed oil – hard work, but it looks good & I made the meeting. I put another coat on today (and I’ve taken it off before bed time!).  I made up a couple of screws – as regular visitors to this site will know, its one of my favourite jobs.  I made a side nail for the Westley Richards 11 bore to replace the brass one.  I reckoned that a 2 B.A. thread would fit as that seemed to be what the brass one was, so I made a blank and cut a thread with a new 2 B.A. die  -it didn’t fit the thread, so I closed the die right down and recut the thread but it still didn’t fit, which was odd as I’d tried it with a different brass 2 B.A. screw.  Rumaging in my screwcutting box I found an old 2 B.A. die that turned out to cut quite a bit smaller than the first one, so success.  I also had to make a small screw to hold the foreend pipe on the Wilkes – those are very short screws with large flat heads filed into a hollow to clear the ramrod – it worked so that is in place now.  P.M. I went over to Dick’s to see about the Wilkes barrel pipes that needed resoldering – a tricky job as it means locally heating the barrel up to around 300 C to melt the tin ( tin is the preferred soldering material as it melts at about 100 degrees C  lower than lead and is stronger) – Dick had made a couple of pipes out of a bit of a twist barrel, so they were tinned, and the mounting places on the barrel/under-rib were gently tinned keeping the heat to the minimum as one doesn’t want to expand the under rib to make it bulge out  – anyway suffice to say that they now appear to be soldered in place and the ramrod fits.  I have a gas/oxygen torch with a tiny nozzle that is ideal for localised heating – it was sold for lead welding.  We will see if they stay in place after derusting – I’ll derust the barrel inside and outside over the weekend, then take a view as to whether to strike it off or just rebrown as it is. I might be able to get the nipples out after derusting, as the moment I can’t shift them.  I filed off the face of one of the Westley Richards cocks at it was a plain but rough surface and engraved it in imitation of the other cock – both were modern castings and the metal isn’t ideal for engraving so I used the GraverMax machine – it’s a bit of a cop out but the metal was so horrible that I couldn’t really get passable curves with hand engraving – even with the GraverMax it was difficult to get flowing curves, but I think its passable.

Wilkes stock – Photo shows the grain but not the shine!


Westley Richards cocks – made from reject castings ?  I engraved the one on the right -not as conspicuous as the one on the left as that was smeared  in the casting process


3rd October – Carried on with the Wilkes 11 bore stock – after removing most of the shellac based finish the wood was looking a bit grey so I wiped it over with a damp tissue with oxalic acid on it to lighten the finish, then when dry put on a couple of coats of sanding sealer with another tissue and filled a couple of pits with instant glue and walnut dust.  After rubbing down with 0000 wire wool I’ve started to put on an oil finish – rub on ‘Slacum’ – a mix of boiled linseed oil with colouring from alkonet root, beeswax (4%) and Terbine drier (1%), then leave till it gels and rub off with linseed oil – it will take many coats to get a good finish but each takes only a few minutes.  The foreend pipe was missing so I ‘stole’ one from an old stock – its not quite the correct shape but will perform the function and with a bit of filler it will not look out of place.  I could have made a new one as an exact fit, but I’m afraid the job doesn’t really merit the expense.  See photo below.  Looking for a suitable foreend pipe I came across the 11 bore Westley Richards I’d picked up at auction and hadn’t done anything with – it looks like a good shooter so I’ll see what needs doing to it – If you look at the post about it, it is a mystery – I haven’t yet got on to WR to see if they have any history on it.  The first and obvious job is to replace the threaded Brass 2 B.A. screw used as a side nail for fixing the locks with something a bit more appropriate – a job for next week.  Tomorrow I have a meeting in school again – being a school governor is a very demanding ‘job’ if you take it seriously.  Schools are run and managed in a way that seems totally illogical to anyone who has been involved with businesses in the ‘real’ world.  How any small organisation can generate so many different policy documents, development plans, termly reports, head’s reports, action plans and newsletters not to mention inumerable charts, tables and graphs is well beyond me.  They almost always duplicate something that exists already with slight variations and many repetitions.  The nett result is that no-one can see the wood for the trees and there is no time to think – it’s what I believe is known as displacement activity.  One of the wonderful concepts introduced by the Department of Education and OFSTED is ‘British Values’.  Not only are the children supposed to learn and understand these hypothetical concepts, but be able to recite them if anyone asks ‘What are British Values’.  No one has yet given me a satisfactory explanation of what is ‘British’ about them – one is democracy (presumably a bit dented at the moment) and the rest are in part derived from (modern) Western  Christianity, which is in turn based on evolved ways of cooperative living with a bit of authoritarianism thrown in. All seem to me to be shared by any number of countries – Scandinavia, western Europe, Australia, Canada etc etc.   The only truly British Values I’d be sure about are a propensity to form queues, and to laugh at Monty Pythonesque humour…….but that won’t cut much ice with OFSTED……                        Howsoever, I’m told that as a governor I must take it all very seriously, which of course I do, as anyone who knows me would expect!

It will cover almost all the cutout – the fixing hole in the stock will need moving and some filler put in a few voids.

2nd October – One of my regular viewers rang me this morning and complained that I had ruined their mornings for too long by ignoring my blog – Apologies – I have been busy with school things and trying to bring a little order to our lives – alas without much success so I have reverted to playing with guns!  A friend brought a couple of guns he was thinking of buying to my stand at Sandringham.  One was a somewhat tired 11 bore double percussion – sound and once a good gun.  He was looking for something to shoot so I suggested he go for the other gun which was in better condition and didn’t need any work, but in the end he bought both – he paid at the low end of my suggested price for the 11 bore which I reckoned left a bit of a margin after I had sorted it.  The gun is signed T Wilkes London on the locks – I can’t find a T Wilkes in my books , lots of J Wilkes but earlier than this gun, and a T Wilks of the right date – so none the wiser – could just be the retailer. I forgot to take pictures of it before I started, but it looked sad but not bad!  The barrel was, I think, originally quite deeply etched twist as in the French or Rigby tradition, and had been a bit rusted but because the etched twist was an uneven surface it probably looked worse than it will prove to be. One ramrod pipe was missing and the other was soldered on with a great mass of solder over the pipe and barrel.  The bores looked possible but not perfect, although there was plenty of metal at the muzzle. The locks were OK – a bit of surface rust but still decent engraving and the actions were fine.  The furniture had need pretty well rusted so that there wasn’t much engraving showing, but the fit in the wood was very good – always an important clue.  The stock looked a bit worn and had the remains of a fairly shiny black finish, with little of the chequering visible through the thick layer of dirt/oil/varnish.  There were a couple of old splits in the foreend and the foreend pipe & finial was missing.   Estimating the value when restored as £600 to £800 leaves around £300 – 400 for restoration and a small margin- not a lot, and not enough to get too fancy!   My first job was to give the barrel to Dick to sort out the pipes, then I’ll get it back and de-rust it and decide if it needs to be struck down or just wire brushed and browned.  In the meantime I had an investigation of the finish on the stock as it was clogging up the chequering and didn’t look right.  First test was to go at a discreet bit with meths to see if it was shellac based – it was.  That meant I could use my normal method of getting rid of the finish – apply meths to a couple of layers of kitchen roll and wrap them round the stock and cover tightly with kitchen foil, then after half an hour remove and rub with 000 steel wool soaked in meths and wipe the gunge off with more kitchen roll.  A whole lot of dirty black muck came off with the shellac and the grain became visible.  After soaking the chequering under paper and foil I brushed it with a brass suede brush along the lines and it came up fairly sharp and clean after a few iterations.  I decided that I would strip all the furniture from the stock – its not always sensible but in this case all the screws came out fairly easily and the edges and backs of the furniture were not rusted so it all came to bits OK.  I  took the mainsprings out of the locks and a all the metalwork went into the de-rusting tank in relays, was then dipped in clean water, dried at gentle heat and brushed hard on a fine wire wheel and sprayed with gun oil.  Stripping and de-rusting and brushing took about 2 1/2 hours in total – all the parts could go back in without further work, although I might strip the locks right down later.  I may, if I feel like playing, recut some of the engraving on the furniture but the surfaces are rusted and for it to be effective I’d need to file  the surfaces smooth, and that is probably too much work – I’ll see.  Back to the stock, after a number of goes with meths I steamed the surface to lift a few small dents, and cleaned it up with meths again.  I could call it a day and apply sanding sealer and then oil, or I might do a bit more before I start to refinish – so far I think I’ve spent about 2  hours on the stock.  The whole gun begins to look like it will be nice when done, and I look forward to finishing it.  Although I didn’t take photos to start with ( I’d not done restorations for the blog for so long I’d forgotten), I do have some progress ones;-

As luck would have it, it was a shellac based old finish – easily removed!

After derusting & brushing:-  The lockwork and insides of parts is in good condition – the edges of bits are not rusted at all.

While the lock (hardened) is fairly rust free, the furniture engraving is  pretty far gone and would need a lot of filing to get it flat enough to re-engrave – its probably best left, but I’ll see whether I feel like having a go at it later for fun – almost certainly not an economic proposition.

26th September – I went to a School Governor’s meeting yesterday and was told that I had to send in a (short) report on my trip to Norfolk and to Kentwell Hall – there is no such thing as a free holiday!  I’ve been struggling with making my cupboard – the doors are a bit of a problem as the outer layer is planked in t&g and that is not ideal for screwing in hinges – in the end I bought a couple of pairs of ‘Parliament Hinges’  which are deep and will screw into the blockboard behind the T&G.  I had to buy large fancy ballbearing ones that will support 120 Kg per pair, rather overkill for a 900 x 450 door as they were the only ones Screwfix had and I wanted them today.  I’m looking at my pile of  gun jobs that I should be doing – a double percussion to restore, a single tubelock needs the lock engraving and an o/u pistol needs sorting – in fact I’ve even forgotten what needs doing to it, I think it needs its cocks refitting and matching….. Plus my own Venables is crying out for the barrels to be resoldered (again).. Ah well, I’ll do a bit when the cupboard is finished. Tomorrow I must take the funny pistol back to Dick as I’ve done a bit of engraving on it, and send back the rat tailed Albanian job.



Jun 242019

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

Top – Kuchenreuter, lower Pistoia barrel (Italy?)

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


Here is the Pistoia pistol;-

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

Pistoia lock – a bit dirty, but quite similar although inferior – no bridle on frizzen etc….

P – traces of inlaid pattern in silver – obviously quite a fine barrel – you can see in this photo that the cock and frizzen don’t quite line up!  I think its the cock that is wrong.

P –more inlay
Inside before cleaning – lots of rust where you can’t see it! This is about as primitive as a flintlock can get- no bridle, no link on mainspring etc..

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

 Posted by at 10:19 pm
May 012019

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

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

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

 Posted by at 11:32 pm
Mar 202019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 4:29 pm
Dec 212018

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

before restoration showing repaired cock
A little unusual in that the lock is fixed through the lock plate into the side of the false breech with one short screw and with a hook on the front end.
Another unusual feature is that the frizzen is connected to its spring with a link, not plain or a roller as was common later.
Nothing unusual here, nice bridle and very short link. The spring is not original, but that is common as springs often broke in use – this one is abit soft – I might try to get it more balanced with the frizzen spring., which is OK
 Posted by at 12:11 am
Oct 112018

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

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

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

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


Initials surmounted by an unclear crest above.

 Posted by at 10:14 pm
Aug 082018

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


 Posted by at 9:59 pm
Apr 012018

Any serious collector of Antique firearms is likely to have cased arms in their collection, and will be well aware of the value added to the firearms themselves by having the correct case, label and accessories.  In a recent auction, an authentic Manton case for a pair of duelling pistols went for £5000 including buyer’s premium, more than the price of a pair of uncased duelling pistols by a good but less famous maker.  The definitive book on gun cases, until someone writes a better one (unlikely) is – British Gunmakers Their Trade Cards, Cases  and  Equipment by W.Keith Neal & D.JH.L.Back , so what follows is culled from their book and the observations of others who know more than I do.

The story of gun cases coincides perfectly with the rise of British gunmaking from a position of significant inferiority compared to continental gunmakers to become the most sought after gunmakers in the world through the efforts and innovation of a few dozen individuals, and it is not surprising that this rise was accompanied by a major upgrade in the presentation of their products.

Since best guns were mostly made in London, but bought by the landed gentry, they were usually shipped from maker to buyer, and that would have necessitated some form of packaging, if only for shipping back and forth between maker and user on purchase or repair.  Before the middle of the 18th century packaging for long guns probably consisted of plain deal boxes that were discarded after use, although none survive.  Pistols that needed to be carried around in use were normally carried in leather holsters  , but  would  have been sold in cheap bags made of blanket offcuts, called ‘shoddies’.  Presumably if they needed to be shipped they would also have been packed in simple wooden boxes.

The transition from simple deal box to what we now recognise as a gun case saw a number of short lived transisions via hard leather and wickerwork and tin, but they don’t really throw much light on what we now deal with, if you are interested see Neal & Back’s book.

From about 1770 cases began to converge on the designs we are familiar with – initially made of oak, or  possibly leather covered deal and divided internally to hold the gun and accessories. The first mahogany cases probably appearing occasionally around 1775 and would, like the oak cases have had a handle on the top that consisted of a bow shaped handle pivoted at each end in a  hole drilled in a tube that was part of a fitting with a disk screwed to the case lid.  Note that these Chippendale style handles were mounted ON the lid and prevented boxes being stacked.  Two hooks were usually fitted to the front of the case engaging with loops on the lid – again these stood proud of the wood – they were of rounded section and often hung down  below the bottom of the case, making them liable to scratch furniture or get broken off. At this time shot for guns was carried in an over the shoulder leather ‘snake belt’  and not in the leather flasks that later replaced them. and cases would have had a long compartment for the belt where appropriate – before the snake belt shot would have been carried loose in a bag or pocket.  The case lock, if fitted, had a single bolt and a bone or ivory escutcheon or a simple brass strip round the keyhole.  Long guns were almost always arranged with the barrel removed and at the back with the breech to the left, presumably because it was easier to lift out the muzzle using the right hand for right handed shooters.  For similar reasons the stock was cased with the butt to the right.    Up to 1775 long gun  flintlocks were left in the stocks when cased, but after that date they were always given their own compartment separated from the stock. It was and still is considered necessary to remove flint locks after firing in order to remove all residues and prevent corrosion – it wasn’t until the percussion era that locks were left in the stock when in the case. Some flint long guns, for instance by John Manton, had the side nail passing through the breech block, so the locks had to be removed before the barrel could be taken off to clean – remember that to remove black powder residue normally requires water, usually hot so the barrel will dry off afterwards. Pistols were almost always cased with the locks in the stocks, and cases were made so that pistols only fitted with the locks at half cock.  Case lining would  be in baize from about 1780, or 0ccasionally patterned paper before that.  Baize would have been quite rough and hairy gradually getting finer and smoother in later  years after 1790.

From about 1785 we see a number of changes introduced piecemeal -first the Chippendale  handles were bolted through the case lid – initially with exposed nuts on the inside and later with the nuts concealed beneath the baize, then a version of the style was used with the handle and mounts sunk flush with the case top.  Later, around 1795, a new pattern of handles of circular form recessed into the lid and having a large escutcheon filling the centre was substituted.  This allowed cases to be stacked without damage, and also made it suitable for enclosing in a hard leather travelling case – which became a common feature of best pistol cases, and is still occasionally encountered today.   From about 1790 the hooks were housed within recesses in the case and lid and engaged with pins rather than loops.  The recesses limited the movement of the hooks and made their operation easier.  The hooks were now flat, rather than rounded.   By  1785 it had become common for gunmakers to put their (small) trade card in the gun case, either loose of glued in, at first sometimes cutting out the baize around the card, but later always glueing it to the baize.  As 1800 approached gunmakers had larger paper labels printed and stuck inside the cases.  Some early guns that were returned to gunmakers for modification or major  repair had their labels replaced by that of the gunmaker doing the repair, and so may not be an accurate guide to the maker. From about the date paper labels were used, the escutcheon that had filled the centre of the ring handle was reduced to a smaller escutcheon with a band of wood between it and the ring.  By this time the lock would have had two bolts and the plate in the lid  the same length as the lock plate and with two holes for the bolts.


Cased guns;   Long guns were cased with barrels removed, flintlocks with the locks also removed.  Usually single guns per case, but very occasionally as pairs, possibly with lift out trays.   Pistols cased intact, almost always in pairs in the flintlock and single shot percussion era.  Very occasionally as a garniture, often with two pairs of pistols for different purposes. Flintlock pistols almost always cased with the locks at half cock and the pan closed.  Percussion usually with the cocks let down.  Percussion revolvers usually cased individually, often with a spare cylinder.

Case material;   Oak initially to about 1770, then mahogony until about 1820, by which time it had got coarser and paler, then mostly oak, initially  again quite dark but becoming lighter.  Some presentation cases were made up in rosewood.

Case lining;   Paper in very early cases, then rough (Irish) baize or velvet, later smoother baize or velvet, occasionally leather, After about 1850 occasionally pigskin.

Lining Colour;   Mostly green, but some used blue, purple, red or pink.

Lining style;  The basic styles were the continental, in which the components are held in sculpted recesses in a flat board covering the top of the case, often covered in velvet, and the British in which the case is divided into compartments with flat bottoms and equal depths by ‘fences’ that are covered in the lining material.  The fences could either be made of any wood and totally covered, or be made of mahogany  and carefully covered so as to leave the top edge showing as exposed wood, the fence section being shaped to recess the top edge of the lining. The raised edges inside the top of the case could be treated in either way. Occasionally fences were left as wood.  Fences were usually just glued in, but sometimes rebated into the sides of the case.

Lifting tapes;  Tapes that matched the lining were fitted to assist removing items from the narrow compartments of the case – e.g. the cleaning rods, tools and barrel.

Case Handle.    1770 Chippendale standing proud and screwed on, then bolted, then countersunk.  1790 circular flush handles with centre escutcheon were bolted through.  From about 1800 the central escutcheon reduced to a disk with wood between it and the handle. From around 1820 some cases were fitted with square shaped handles with clipped corners.

Case corners; Not used initially and not common.  Around 1790?  brass corners were sometimes applied externally, later  recessed into the wood.   Bands/strips of brass were used as well as corners.

Case hooks;  Initally fixed to the case with loops on the lid, standing proud of the surface and of rounded section.  Later in shaped recesses to restrict movement and of flat section, the loops being replaced by pins.  Later -1845… sliding bolts  occasionally used instead of hooks.

Case hinges;  Early hinges allowed case to open fully but later (1785?) changed to stop butt hinges that held lid open just past the balance point.

Case locks;  Originally (1770) single bolt with shorter latch plate in lid. Later 2 bolt locks with lid plate same size as lockplate.

Case lock escutcheons;  early inverted teardrop  of ivory or bone or bent brass lining, later brass.

Case labels.  1770 none – 1785 trade card inserted in case on glued to baize or in a cutout in baize.  around 1795 – 1800  printed labels on paper were used, probably about the same time as makers started to number their gun.

Case compartment lids;  From early days there were usually at least two lidded compartments in any gun or pistol case for small parts, wads, balls flints etc.  The lids were usually left as wood to match the case and not baize covered.  All early and mid lids were lift off, but later in the percussion era sliding lids were occasionally used which necessitated cutting away the top of a partition to allow the lid to open fully.

Compartment lid handles;  Around 1770 the lifting handles for the lids were loops of tape or leather.  By the 1775  pistol cases  had loops of brass or silver wire to lift the lids and by 1785 buttons of ivory or bone with concentric rings were replacing the rings although these still appeared.  Occasionally pistol l.ids had turned brass buttons  Long guns mostly used turned brass knobs, larger ones for the lift out mounts for the detached locks.  From 1810 loop handles were no longer used.


Internal arrrangements;

Feb 162018

In the later days of flintlocks, after about 1780, best guns were often sold cased in mahogany or oak partitioned cases with the accouterments necessary for their use and casual maintenance,which would probably include a jointed cleaning rod and jagg, a pair of turnscrews, a powder flask and shot flask or bullet mould, a small gunmetal oil bottle and sometimes a spring cramp for removing the mainspring. The case would also have a space for patches or wads and in the percussion era a box for caps, or a space for a box of Joyce or Ely caps.  Pistols would have the same but with a single piece cleaning rod.   In the flintlock era a small brush was usually(?) provided for brushing out the pan and pan area.  This was also included with some percussion cases and was used to clean round the nipple and in the hollow of the cock.   Percussion revolvers  sometimes also came with a brush to clean round the nipple area.

Accounts from gunmakere like the Mantons often list accesssories and their cost on customer’s bill, but appear not to include the brushes, and I don’t know what proportion of cased guns originally had brushes – however they would be easy to loose in the field and would wear out quicker than any other part of the outfit so that might explain their rarity in cased guns nowadays.  Looking at a few sources of photos of cased guns it would appear that where there are brushes they are quite small, and often handled in ivory.  I came across 3 photos of John Manton guns of a wide spread of dates and a couple by Egg that all had similar shaped ivory brushes, but given that one is from Keith Neil’s book ‘The Mantens’ it is possible that this was used a model for reproduction brushes to be included in the cased guns of the ( extensively restored) Paul Murray collection.  Almost all the brushes I’ve seen have a single  round bunch of bristles ( probably pig) of about 8 to 15 mm in diameter, although there are some that have 4 or so small bunches mounted in a line.

John Manton from Paul Murray collection – Bonhams Nov 2017 sale.

John Manton & Son  from Paul Murray collection – Bonhams Nov 2017 sale.

 W Keith Neil – the Mantons’

This and all below from W Keith Neil’s book on cases and labels.

My slightly fat copy of  a common John Manton pattern?  Turned from faux ivory (poyester resin) and mildly distressed.

 Posted by at 9:54 pm
Nov 072017

There are several types of safety catch found on muzzle loaders – I’ll put examples here as I find specimens to photograph.  One of the earliest safety catches to be widely used was the ‘dog’  on a flintlock – giving rise to the name ‘doglock’.  This catch, which was all external to the lock took the form of a pivoted hook that could be latched into a notch in the back edge of the cock, thus preventing the cock from falling.  This was originally used in place of a half cock notch with early locks with horizontal sears.  I’ll look out some photos.

On somewhat later guns there were several types of safety catch, including ‘grip safety catches’ where a movable section let into the trigger guard tang had to be gripped in order to allow the gun to fire.  A more common type is that found on many flint and percussion overcoat or horse pistols which is described below;-

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.



Safety catches were often fitted to percussion rifles – my Lancaster double rifle has safety catches – but they differ from those common on overcoat pistols such as the Andrews described below – In many rifles the catch is fitted in front of the cock and has fewer parts and a simpler construction.  These catches work  on the inside face of the cock, which has a radial groove with a notch in it.  The slider combines all the functions of the knob, bolt and spring, and apart from the groove and slot in the lockplate and the groove in the cock, the only other part is a small screw with a flat head that screws into the slider from the inside of the lock.  The slider has a raised lump on the rear end of the spring tail that engages the groove in the cock, and the forward end of the slider is formed as a spring with a slight protrusion on the underside that engages with one of two depressions in the face of the lockplate to hold the slider in the safe or open position.  A further groove on the inside of the lockplate takes the head of the screw so that its top is level with the inside face of  the lockplate.  So there are only two additional parts to this safety, the slider and the screw.

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


 Posted by at 10:42 pm
Oct 012017


Not really very inviting!

The old cast iron bath weighed a ton and wouldn’t come out, so I cut it in half  ( 7mm thick cast iron!) see below.

 Posted by at 11:53 pm
Jul 222017

Here is a rather ratty New Land pattern pistol with Birmingham proof marks on the barrel and a safety catch I haven’t seen before – which is not surprising as I haven’t really got into military stuff, although I seem to have few by accident!   Obviously the breech block was made for the percussion conversion,  but were New Land patterns made with Birmingham barrels or was the barrel new with the breech block at the time of conversion?

See later on in the post for full details – this was one of a number of flintlock New Land pistols taken to Hanover after Waterloo in 1815 when George III’s Kings German Legion was disbanded and transferred to the Hanoverian military. the pistols were used and stored until 1838 when they were converted to percussion and issued to the Hanoverian Artilliery

This New Land pattern  has a clever safety bolt – the main purpose of the bolt is that it blocks the cock very securely from hitting the nipple but holds it fairly close so that a cap on the nipple cannot come off but cannot be fired, even if the pistol is dropped on the cock, until the pistol is put on half cock – some way back from the bolted position – and the bolt withdrawn.  The bolt has a spring fixed within the false breech acting in one of two grooves in the underside of the bolt so that it is firmly held in the lock or the free position.  This means the pistol can be carried with a cap on the nipple and the cock let down onto the bolt in complete safety – it can then be fired without having to fumble for a cap – put it on half cock, move bolt to left, full cock fire……   Clever and safe!

See later in post for the full history, and for restoration details…….

Continue reading »

Jul 072017

Here is a fine early hammerless gun  – Gibbs and Pitt of Bristol took out patent 284  in 1873, two years after the first hammerless patent by Murcott  No 1003   in 1871.   The 284 patent describes two versions, one with the action built on the triggerplate, and one with sideplate action – this is the triggerplate version.  It has an underlever that follows the outline of the triggerguard and hinges down and forward.  As it goes forward it withdraws a sprung loaded bolt that goes  into the barrel lump to secure the barrels in the closed position, allowing the barrels to fall open.  The underlever closes by a flat spring which forms part of the underside of the action bar – when the barrels are lifted the bolt snaps into the forward lump and locks the barrels in position.  The bolt acts on two lumps, the one nearest the hinge has the ramp that does the snap action, the one near the breechface is just a lock.  I guess the technical description of the gun is a double 12 bore hammerless non ejector underlever double bite snap action gun on a triggerplate action !     (triggerplate means that the works of the action – triggers, sears, tumblers and springs are mounted on the triggerplate that comes out with the triggers on it  – on guns of  earlier generations  the actions were mainly mounted on the side locks, as they are on quality guns now – modern guns mostly have boxlock actions – the bits mounted in the action box as the name says!  The barrels are a beautiful plum brown colour and I can’t see if there is any twist beneath the browning – they have obviously been struck off at some time – they could be Whitworth pressed fluid steel at that date, or twist.    The barrels appear to  have an original set of Birmingham proof marks and a set from re-proofing after the 1955 proof stamp changes and carries an NP mark for London – it also has 12 in a diamond and 2 1/2″ and 3 TONS stamped under the barrel  and .740.    The barrels forward of the flats have 13 stamped on them and the original Birmingham view and proof marks.   The maker’s name on the barrel is faintly traceable but there is no trace of any Whitworth designation as is usual on steel barrels of this date.  The bores are very clean and have plenty of wall thickness in them.

There is a mystery with this gun – the engraved oval on the broad backstrap that says Gibbs and Pitt Patent Bristol has the patent as No 204 whereas Crudington and Baker list it as 284 , and say it was his only patent – did the engraver get it wrong, its quite clear and no room for doubt.

The gun serial number is C 395 – the C indicates that it was one of Gibbs and Pitts second grade guns, made up in the Birmingham trade and finished and regulated by Gibbs, but it is a second grade from a first rate maker.  This became a popular action and sold well once hammerless guns were accepted.

Part of the triggerplate action sticks down into the triggerguard area – making these guns instantly recognisable!

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Jul 052017

This is a pretty single barreled gun in decent condition for its age  – the action is quite tight. Serial No 2772  – it would appear that Lang didn’t stick to a single serial number sequence.  The later centrefire Lang 14 bore is serial number 2012.  This gun has the Lang single bite ‘inert’ closer, which was used on the first English breech loaders to gain real popularity amonst sportsmen around 1859.  It has the problem that all the first break-open breechloaders had in that the bolt that acts on the barrel lump to hold the barrel against the action is close to the hinge pin, thus magnifying any wear in the bolt or lump, although this gun is obviously little used and is as tight as a nut.   Being a single barreled gun it has a wrap round action body that is very rigid so it  doesn’t suffer from the early defect of  the double barreled guns that had a rather skimpy action flat that could be liable to flex under heavy loads   –  the forces involved were not initially well understood.  Lang never patented this action.

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May 142017

I am asked about loads for muzzle loading shotguns quite often – in fact about as often as I ask other people about loads for muzzle loading rifles!

The answer is that within reasonable limits there is variation in what people use, and I’m sure whatever I say those limits are, someone will pop up and contradict me!  This is strictly my own version of what to use and how to load, modified slightly for beginners – you may cut corners when you have a bit more experience;-

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 Posted by at 6:55 pm
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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Apr 282017

Shou Sugi Ban is a Japanese technique of putting a burnt surface on wood.    Giles does a bit of woodturning from time to time (following in my footsteps!) and likes to experiment in techniques – here is his latest project piece.  It is turned from a chunk of spalted beech which was going spongy  in places – I had started to make a bowl of it and then abandoned it years ago so Giles used it for his bowl – he has a good eye for shapes and with a bit of guidance was able to get a reasonable finish on what was a very difficult blank to turn.   Having turned it he went at the inside with a gas blow torch and then put the fire out with water.  Once dry the inside was coated with EPOSEAL 300  – a solvent based two part epoxy sealant that has very low viscosity so it soaks in deep, and sets hard throughout – it leaves the burn surface completely sealed and inert so that it won’t brush off or shed charcoal bits.

Apr 282017

Here are a list of the guns currently for sale from my collection and from private sales from friends.  I put this Post as a link to the separate page of GUNS AND BITS FOR SALE because the website won’t let me highlight things on a separate page – this page contains links to the relevant page-

Photos and full description at  GUNS AND BITS  FOR SALE

New Land Pattern officer’s carbine bore  (.65″)  pistol of around 1812 with rare flat bolted lock of Paget pattern with raised (waterproof) pan, 9 inch barrel and  and captive ramrod in very nice condition with the trigger guard very neatly engraved for the 1st Hussars of the King’s German Legion (KGL) £2500

Heavy Dragoon Pistol of Carbine Bore ( .65″) with 9″ barrel  with flat lock engraved H Nock.

Griffin Officers’s Pistol of 1760

Cased pair of percussion turnoff pistols by Abbey of Long Sutton

John Blanch percussion pocket pistol

T.Perrins of Worcester percussion ladies/youths fowler

Mar 312017

Here is an ususual 4 barrelled pocket pistol in brass by Wm Walsingham of Birmingham, around 1760 ish.  It is designed to fire all 4 barrels at once with a single powder chamber communicating with all 4 barrels – the 4 barrels are made as one piece and screw off in one.   The stock was silver inlaid but now has only dark lines indicating where the silver wire went.  The underside of the action has script in a language with a  non roman script – I’m not sure what it might be – perhaps Farsi or Sanskrit or a far Eastern script, and this was obviously put on some time after manufacture – possibly much later?   Dick thinks the silver wire inlay might have been done in the country that engraved the script on the gun – I think it is actually fairly typical of decoration put on guns made in England.  The added foreign script look less worn than the original engraving, so the pistol may have been exported some time after it first entered use.



 Posted by at 11:33 pm
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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Mar 172017

Joseph Griffin opened his business in 1739 in Bond Street London, and went into partnership with Tow in 1773 to form the well known gunmakers Griffin and Tow.   That puts a bracket on the possible date for this gun, and I would guess this was made in the middle of that period – say 1755 to 1760.   Like all pistols of the period it would have been made and sold as a pair, and indeed the escutcheon has No 1 engraved on it along with a chained bear – the personal arms of the owner.  The pistol is all original and conforms to the pattern seen in other Griffin Officers Pistols  – it suffered extensive damage to the fore-end and that has been very skillfully repaired and  is  inconspicuous.






 Posted by at 11:07 pm
Feb 192017

I have Gold plated the pans of flintlocks using the brush plating system sold by SPA Plating  ( 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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Feb 132017

This is a most unusual gun that I inherited from my father’s collection – I have no idea where he got it from, I have never seen another gun even vaguely like it, and although I  have shown it to many collectors and experts I haven’t met anyone who has a clue about it – and that includes Holt’s valuer and old gun guru Robert, who must have had most things through his hands at some time or another.    So any information or comments would be valued!

Stock shape and barrel are early features – may be a case of re-use?

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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
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.


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!    ;-


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Oct 062016

Here is an amazing pistol Dick bought for £20 – he tells me he  will accept offers in three figures (not including the pence)!






Elegant inlaid aluminium !


Ingenious – coil spring for the sear – I somehow don’t think its a shooter!  I’ll derust it anyway.

In many ways it has to be said that this is a masterpiece of the gunmaker’s art – somehow that sear, tumbler and cock function as they should!   Its difficult to guess the age, but the spur of the cock is clearly welded on – a possible repair or original?.  And how is a flint fixed in with the cock screw going through the middle of it?   Clearly made for display – I decided that the patina of rust is actually part of the charm, and that it would be vandalism to clean it!

 Posted by at 5:24 pm
Oct 022016

Oct 2019  – I got used to using the M50 and decided to bite the bullet and buy an 18 – 150mm lens for it so I could use it on holiday – That lens is expensive (£400) – it has 17 elements, but I managed to get one from a photo dealer at a little over half the new price – nominally second hand but I can’t see any signs of  previous use – it makes a fantastic lens for video and for stills  – I have the camera mounted on a stand with a tripod head on the table in my office with the led panel above and can take good photos of anything from a large pistol to a small part in seconds – I usually use aperture priority at F6.3 and manual focus with the camera about 18 inches above the table.  The resulting photos almost always show up defects that I hadn’t noticed before when I put them on the computer screen – in fact its a good way of checking work!  If I blow the photos up to the max resolution it gives an image that is part of a 6 ft wide image.

July 2019  -Since posting the original post I’ve started to do some videos to put on Youtube and thought it was time to refresh my photographic setup.  I almost never take photos or do videos looking through the viewfinder, so the essential feature of a single lens reflex camera is wasted.  My ‘old’ EOS 760 D is a good camera but I have to keep kicking it into lifting the mirror and using the screen on the back that I could angle to look at when not directly behind the gun ( it now doesn’t swivel and tilt as I sat on the camera when the screen was extended! ).  I also wanted to be able to record videos at a faster frame rate/higher resolution.  My two lenses for the big Canons are very good – a 60mm macro and an 18 -135 zoom and represent a substantial investment so I wanted a mirrorless camers with interchangable lenses that offered full functionality with my existing lenses.  I bought a Canon M50 mirrorless with its kit lens (the kit lens, 15 -45 mm,  in case I want a small portable camera) plus a cheap converter to take the bigger old Canon lenses and a wireless remote shutter release.  I also bought a small battery powered  HDMI  screen that I can use to monitor videos while I can’t see the camera.  I made a couple of stands to use on tables etc instead of a tripod, and bought another tripod head with the Manfrotto mounts so I now  have two sets.  This makes it easy to have 2 cameras running for videos so I can cut in and out of closeups during editing.   The stands are very steady and fully adjustable and the cameras can be clipped on and off very quickly.  I have installed a 450mm square white  LED panel ( equivalent to 50 watts) on the ceiling above the table in my office and now tend to take photos and make videos there.

Photography is an important part of this blog – without it the blog would be very dull, and I try to put up a photo as often as possible – so I need to be able to take pictures quickly without a lot of fuss, and they don’t in general need to be of fantastic quality.   Most of what I’m working on is small so I don’t often need to be able to photograph whole long guns.    To make it quick I have a camera set up permanently next to my  engraving station so that I can photograph things in a  minute or two.  I keep a board covered in green felt as a background and the camera is mounted on a good quality  full adjustable tripod ( Manfrotto) and has a remote shutter release so I can take long exposures if necessary.

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 Posted by at 12:30 am
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!


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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 »

Jul 132016

I  have a .75 bore 9 inch barreled pistol by Jas. Price that looks a bit like a heavy cavalry pistol of 1796  with 2 marks on the barrel, it has the crown and GR and Price’s name on the  stepped lock and a flat swan necked cock and roller on the frizzen spring  ( I’m not an expert, or even really beginner on military stuff – its all a bit of a dark art to me, but this clearly wasn’t a standard issue pistol) ;- Continue reading »

 Posted by at 10:15 pm
Jul 062016

Land Cruiser steering lock problem is here if you really want to know!

June 2018 – Had an email from someone who had broken off the die cast link rod connecting the key assembly to the electrical switch and the steering lock – the usual problem!   Contrary to popular view I think its a relatively easy job for a mechanic or an enthusiastic amateur  provided you still have a working key- you first need to remove the plastic dash bit around the column so you can get at things.  The lock barrel is held in by a peg underneath about 2 inches from the front of the lock – with the key in the off but not lock position ( I think that is the right position) you can push the peg in and pull out the barrel.  The first part of the link rod should come out- you may need to press the sprung slider on it to clear a ridge in the housing.  That leaves the broken off bit in the housing.  It is held in by a tab that needs to be rotated to the correct position to pass through a slot in the back of the housing BUT you can’t rotate it because the ignition switch assembly stops you  going far enough  ( I think it needs to go 90 degrees anticlock from teh lock position), so you have to take that off the back of the housing – 2 screws that I believe are difficult to remove ? –  the heads face the front of the car (disconnect the batteries at this point!).   Having got that off, you need to rotate the bit so that the broken end of the die cast shaft is a D shape with the flat surface horizontal and at the top ( the V shaped cam that works the steering lock should point up and be on the left side of the centre) – a bit of jiggling should free it – you may need a fancy pair of very  long nosed pliers or something to be able to manipulate it  ( long reach 3 pronged spring grabber?) – I didn’t do that bit, the garage did it along with messing up the rest of the job. If you can see what you are doing, (mirror ?) its probably easier to rotate the bit and line up the key and slot from the back of the housing and push it through, then you just have to fish it out…   Once you get it out you need a new diecast bit ( I believe around £20) and put it all together again……..I didn’t do all of this job, but I have played around with the bits ( except the ignition switch)…………… good luck….


this is the bit that breaks off – you can see the V cam that moves the steering bolt pointing up and to the left  at the front- the part is almost in the right orientation to remove, it needs about 20 degees anticlockwise rotation! 

This is on its side – up is to the right – you can just see the keyway for the tab beneath the die cast link rod sticking through the housing – rhe flats on the end engage in the electrical switch.

This is on its side too

April 2017 – I still have a more or less full set of bits of the whole steering column and lock assembly that I think is pretty well perfect – minus the shear bolts – if you are interested please contact me via the comment box – Cambridge area.

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Jun 202016

The UK definition and legal requirements for a gun or pistol to be classed as INERT and thus exempt for requiring a firearms licence are contained in the Home Office  document ; Guidance_on_Firearms_Licensing_Law_April_2016_v20

Basically you can make a reproduction of a gun or pistol and make it INERT and exempt provided that;-

1) it is based on a design that predates 1870 – so in practice nothing breech loading .

2) Is unable to be fired in any way.

3) Cannot be modified to fire with the skills and tools that a normal person may have for the construction and repair of his/her house – i.e with basic DIY skills and tools.

If you build a pistol or gun, that doesn’t meet all of these 3 requirements you will, if caught with it in the UK, face a long MANDATORY prison sentence – there is no effective defence and the police are really hot on this.

In building this pistol I inserted and welded a length of 1/2 hardened steel rod into the breechblock that would prevent the chamber from being loaded, and would be too difficult to drill out with normal DIY tools. To be on the safe side, I welded the breech plug into the barrel so it can’t be unscrewed.

Note – although I’ve referred to this pistol as an inert pistol, it is, technically still an antique as its based on an original barrel and still has the original proof marks on the underside, and indeed some of the furniture is also original, so its stricly a restoration and reconstruction project, but I nevertheless made sure it complies with the requirements for being legally INERT …….

I need  a decent looking (antique) flintlock that isn’t shootable – i.e. it has to be without a touchhole and not easily convertible to fire – to take into schools as a demonstration for historical topics.  As long as it can’t be fired I would feel OK flashing off a pinch of powder as a demonstration, but while I’m happy to take an antique into a class and let the kids handle it, I draw the line at flashing one off.  I nearly bought an Inert pistol from Kranks but then realised I had just made a lock – the Dolep lock ( see  post) –   that I didn’t intend to use seriously, and had a roughly shaped pistol stock blank that wasn’t quite right for a decent repro.  So I have gathered up a few parts to see what I can do.  I found a single old and very rusty twist barrel from a double percussion gun and removed the breech plug (called the ‘hut’).  I have always been astonished that however old and rusty a gun is, once the initial joint of the hut in the barrel is broken, the thread will turn out to be in excellent shape………

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Jun 162016

A group of us went up to Harrogate to man the MLAGB ‘have a go with a muzzle loader’ stand and I did an engraving demonstration with my new microscope suitably modified, and a new bench with space to transfer my turntable – it all worked splendidly.


Clare took this photo which shows the digital microscope quite well.


Here I am doing my stuff near the end of the show – you can see the pile of blunt gravers to my right  The large notice stuck on the Microscope is a bit unfortunate!   Very unusually I managed to stab myself with the graver – see bit of cloth wound round finger  and held with self-amalgamating tape – the only things to hand!

 Posted by at 2:47 pm
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 »

Apr 152016


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


I assume he is holding the sling out of the way with his left hand?  from  Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..

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

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

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

(Photos on this site are copyright unless attributed)

___________________ DIARY ______________________

9th May – I’m back now, so can get back to keeping the blog up to date and doing a bit of gun play!   Sunday at the Northern Shooting Show is more of a family day out – Saturday is for the serious shooters, so I had a steady stream of  spectators but no so much involvement, although I did run out of screws to engrave and give away!  It was mighty chilly again, but I snook off to a hotel for Sunday night before going to visit the Royal Armouries at Leeds at the invitation of an Emeritus curator who had come across this blog.   I had a tour of the incredible museum with my expert guide, but the highlight was a visit to the store room where the full collection is held, where my host highlighted some incredible guns – the collection has everything, but is a bit light on the purely presentational stuff, which suits me as I prefer antiques that were made for use.  It really made me revise my ideas about the standard of workmanship  possible – some of the fine engraving and steel carving of the European gunmakers is staggering, and made me realise how crude most of the stuff I do is. Being able to handle some of them (with cotton gloves!) was awsome.  I would love to put together a book on gun engraving, which would in reality have to be a picture book with fantastic photos – its been a long term ambition of mine to do it – I had better learn to take better photographs and chat up the armouries and a few museums!  Anyway I’m inspired to try harder with my engraving – I hadn’t done much in the months before the show, and it took me all Saturday to get back into the swing of it – when I haven’t done any for a while I always end up breaking the tips off gravers – on Saturday morning I had a dump of half a dozen broken tips by half way through the morning, and it wasn’t until Sunday morning that I had the knack of sharpening the gravers to cut sweetly.   One interesting aspect of engraving I shared with a couple of engravers who visited the stand was that they too found that a freshly sharpened graver needed to wear down a little before it was cutting at its best, which explains why I don’t often use my very hard Glensteel gravers as they don’t seem to get to the sweet spot.  I think they are much more popular with the GRS and Lindsay users where the feel of the cut is masked by the powered cutting – another point that was made to me was how different  the engraving from these machines, and from chasing, look compared to that done by simple push engraving – as readers of this blog will be aware, it’s a point I feel strongly about.  I can tell at a glance which technique was used to cut a design.

Along with my visit to the Royal Armouries I got to visit the National Firearms Collection which is near the Armouries – its the formal national collection of arms, particularly military arms, including modern arms from all nations, and arms kept for forensic purposes – as at the Armouries, most of the military stuff is in quantities that would arm a platoon or two, so its a massive warehouse.  I was very privileged to  visit as its normally out of bounds through three sets of security doors – but I was able to handle the 1864 Warner Carbine, and see how the breech block was configured so I can think about making one for mine – unfortunately I had to hand over my phone at the entrance so couldn’t photograph it.  I’d thoroughly recommend a visit to the Armouries – entrance is free and its awsome – go before trendy new museum folk get rid of all the guns from the displays because its not politically correct!

6th May  – Very busy day at the Northern Shooting Show with lots of interest in gun engraving.  I gave away lots of engraved screws to children and several to adults.   I had visits from several people who have visited this website, which was very satisfying, including a couple of engravers who were also re-enactors – one who even knew what ‘narlbending’ was!  (It’s the Viking answer to knitting and is how they made their socks – don’t say this website doesn’t educate you in directions you never thought possible).  Anyway its pretty chilly here but we are looking forward to another busy day tomorrow.  The popularity of the show is put down to the reasonable entrance price compared to many (£10).   Anyway, I’m looking forward to welcoming more website visitors tomorrow.

4th May – I went with Dick to see a firearms dealer in the south of England, and saw amongst his many hundreds of old guns  one that would qualify for my collection of curious firearms inventions.  It was a percussion double shotgun with back action locks, well made and signed Firearms Manufactory (?) on the barrel, the locks unsigned. Its special feature was a framework pivoted either side on the front lower corner of the lockplates that carried a bridge that in the backward position introduced 2 pads in the way of the cocks to prevent them hitting the nipples.  The bridge was moved by a spring loaded sliding member under the fore end with a trigger shaped frame sticking down at the front of the fore end.   To fire the gun the ‘trigger’ had to be pulled back by the left hand  while it was supporting the gun, against the fairly strong spring, in order to swing the pads out of the path of the cocks.  It seemed a very difficult maneuver to operate the trigger at the same time as  shooting the gun.   It was quite a decently made gun but totally impractical – a relic of a short period when percussion guns were thought more dangerous than flintlocks and some odd safety devices were patented. I am sorry to say I didn’t get a photo, but I did express an interest and I will follow it up.  I’m more or less ready to set off for Harrogate – my contact at the Royal Armories tells me the good news that there are one or more Warner’s patent carbines to view.   If you are at the Northern Shooting show be sure to visit the Artisans and Classics pavilion opposite Hall 1 and introduce yourself to me – I’ll be behind my microscope!

3rd May – The number of attacks on this site dropped quite dramatically a few days ago – from about 100 a day to about 25 – there seem to have been a network of ‘bots’ installed on hacked computers that was actively targeting all WordPress sites (this one uses wordpress) under the control a a hacker controlled computer that stayed hidden.  It looks as if the network has more or less stopped its activities – we hope permanently but who knows? Maybe one of the security services has taken it out?  There is a whole dirty world out there!

3rd May – Still sorting out what to take of interest to display at the show this w/e.  I’ll gather all the military flint and  percussion pistols I can lay hands on as they are popular.  One of my objectives in visiting the Royal Armouries is to see the Warner’s Patent carbine I believe they have.  I have one that is missing its breech block, and if I could get a really good look at a similar one, I’d have a go at making a new one – I have a piece of brass that is about the right colour that I rough cast into a block some time ago – I think its enough for two goes…  The Warner carbine was one of many carbine designs rushed out for the American Civil war in 1864 – like many of the other designs, the military was so desperate that they ordered some of each, and about 4001 Warners were made by Warner and later by Greene Rifle Works in Worcester mass.   Most of these were never issue and were sold off in 1866 at the end of hostilities – many ending up in France.  Some appear to have ended up in England and have London proof marks – they are .50 calibre, although many were made for  56-56 Spencer cartridges.  The breech mechanism is similar to the Snider, except that it has a separate slider in front of the trigger to move the extractor claw.  Presumably the gun then had to be turned over to drop the case out as it would be too hot to handle for a minute or so. It will go to the show, and I’ll take my rough old Snider 1853 carbine conversion as a comparison.

2nd May – It being Giles’s birthday we went out for a meal instead of concentrating on this blog – disgraceful!  Today I began to sort out stuff to take up to Harrogate for the Northern Shooting Show, and making labels for the guns and pistols I’ll take.  I’m looking forward to going to the Royal Armouries after the show – somehow York seems miles away, whereas its only about 3 hours drive, so I should have gone ages ago!   I had a battle with the printer trying to get it to print a batch of business cards to take – sometimes I think technology is taking its revenge for the 40 odd years I spent pushing it around to achieve my evil ways (or something like that)!   If anyone reading this wants to see any particular guns at Harrogate, let me know!

1st May   I decided to clean out some of the workshop to celebrate the bank holiday, but didn’t get far.  I did sharpen about 20 gravers, but then blunted or chipped half a dozen engraving a barrel for Martin – engraving barrels is always difficult because you can’t rotate the workpiece to do curves – you have to do it all with the tool and as I am limited as to where I can point the barrel some cuts are quite awkward and you end up cutting curves the ‘un-natural’ way – clockwise is more difficult for a right handed person. This barrel still had a fairly crisp coating of rust/browning that made it more difficult still as the metal underneath was softer than the surface layer – anyway its got done!  I wiped it over with G96 gun blue that turned it dark and made it look as if it had always been there….

30th April – Went to North Norfolk for lunch with friends followed by a long walk so nothing much to report.  As often happens the number of visitors to this site goes down at weekends, but only by a little –  it now gets over 200 visitors a day on average, and each visitor looks at an average of  from 5 to 15 different posts. Add to that around 60 visitors a day who get stopped from visiting the site because they are up to no good, and it makes the site quite popular, given its specialist nature!  It is difficult to ascertain exactly how many  of those visits are from regulars, but it looks as if up to half of the visitors have visited the site before.   Around 20 visits to the site come from searches, almost all through Google.  Most of the visits come from the UK and the US, but the list of countries that have visited since the site went live a couple of years ago totaled 182 when I last looked – I didn’t know there were that many countries!  I suppose  that almost all the visits from obscure countries like Papua New Guinea and Ulan Bator are actually the hackers in other countries using hacked computers in those countries to attempt logins, and all of those will have been blocked by the software.  I have some difficulty in knowing which statistics include the blocked visits, and which exclude them. There is a long blacklist of visitors who have tried to hack into the site, and they are permanently blocked from any access to the site.  Keeping the site interesting and safe is quite a labour, but its gratifying when I get appreciative emails and comments, which I do quite often, usually tied to questions about guns they have recently acquired and want to know what they are and if we will repair them – I’ve made a number of interesting acquaintances that way!

29 April – Derusted Dick’s bits and pieces – I had to clean out the old washing-up bowl I use for electrolysis as it was getting a bit full of rust – the process effectively takes the rust off the objects and puts it on the piece of scrap steel that is used as the other (+ve) electrode – if course it doesn’t actually do that, its just looks like that!  In fact the electric current splits water molecules into hydrogen that is released at the object, and oxygen at the scrap electrode.  The hydrogen and oxygen are in a very reactive state (nascent) so the oxygen rusts the electrode and the hydrogen reduces the rust (iron oxide) on the object to a different form that doesn’t adhere and becomes a dark powder that is easily removed.   The caustic soda in the solution is just so that current will flow through the water,  but it has the added advantage that it attacks any oil and grease on the parts.  See the article in ARTICLES page for how to do it.  The parts of the Witton and Daw (see photo below) were done in two batches, each for about an hour, at a constant current of about 2.5 Amps with the voltage around 10 volts. Doing all the small parts is tedious, but I have a number of wires with miniature crocodile clips to hold screws etc They were then dried and fine wire brushed and lightly sprayed with Napier cleaner that contains a vapour phase inhibitor VP 90.    When I went up to look at the Sandringham  gun collection Purdey’s were there checking the guns, they didn’t oil any of the guns – just put a fresh VP 90 sachet or two in each display case – I keep a sachet in each gun cabinet or cupboard – if its good enough for Purdey and the Royal guns, its good enough for me!.

Fine scroll engraving, the finial on the triggerplate is particularly fine and in perfect condition.  There are some deep corrosion pits in the flash guards – it might be worth welding and reshaping the inner surfaces as the rest of it is perfect.

The escutcheon of the bolt is unusually good – it is a substantial steel piece with the head of the bolt recessed flush and a slot under the head for a screwdriver to get it out.

28th April  – Dick brought over the furniture of the Witton & Daw to be derusted – its not in bad shape but the caustic gets rid of all the old grease and muck and the electrolysis gets rid of the rust, leaving it much easier to see what needs doing, and means that the fit to the wood is not spoilt by rust.

Emails have started to arrive about preparations for the Northern Shooting Show at Harrogate next weekend – I started to sort out a few bits to engrave while I talk to people – its no good trying to do a ‘proper’ job as I can’t keep up enough concentration and still interact.  I have made a batch of Percussion decapping tools that I can engrave in my sleep, more or less, and also the usual supply of blank screw heads so that I can engrave flowers and  give them to the young children  – the girls in particular love small, intricate things  and take a lot of interest in  engraving,  it must be boring for them being dragged round a gun show  so I make a point of engaging with them.   I might take my electric hone this time as there is power and I ran out of gravers last time – sharpening them by hand is tedious when you are used to a motor driven hone!  If you are coming to the show be sure to introduce yourself!  I’ll bring the New Land Hussar’s pistol and the Heavy Dragoon with me in case anyone wants to have a look at them.

Parts of the Witton and Daw to derust – not in bad condition!

28th April  – I’ve put  post on Giles’s woodturning Shou Sugi Ban ……  see it on recent posts menu to the right….

27th April – I went to Dick’s and took a couple of nice military pistols he has fettled to put on this site for sale – there is a very nice New Land pattern Officer’s Pistol signed to the 1 st Hussars  and a nice Heavy Dragoon pistol by Henry Nock with the number 14 on the trigger guard – presumably one of a number issued to a privately raised unit.  I have to say both look stunning and the New Land is particularly fine because of its provenance.  See GUNS FOR SALE for photos.   We sat down and had a discussion about prices – we want to avoid the excesses of some well known dealers and offer guns that people will want to own at sensible prices so that they are a reasonable option for those beginning a collection.  They have all been expertly restored and mostly any serious work is recorded on this website  so there should be no  hidden nasties ! – we will always consider offers but be warned that we have already tried to keep them low.   I will be adding a post on a bowl that Giles turned at the weekend as its a trendy and interesting technique, if not immensly practical – not that that ever bothered Giles…….  (the technique is called Shou Sugi Ban – japanese burnt wood)

New Land Pistol of 1st Hussars ( Kings German Legion) with bolted Paget pattern lock – see for sale page…

Henry Nock private Heavy Dragoon pistol – see for sale page….

26th April – My battles with technology continued unabated!  I struggled to get my powerpoint stuff working for my talk to the children at the Bill Tutte club and as soon as I had it working the projector went so dim that none of the slides could be read anyway – so I had to do it all on a whiteboard, which I really prefer anyway, being a bit of a Luddite.  Now I just have to get the Microbit computer program running for tomorrow at 9, so I’m sorry, no gun waffle tonight…….  Except reading Lister’s book I noticed that he thought guns with a false breech or a lock fixed with one screw and a hook on the front were unusual – he must have mainly dealt with flinlocks.

25th April  Computers really bug me!  I spent an hour sorting out a  powerpoint presentation when my Windows 10 computer decided to shut down to install upgrades and lost the work – Microsoft decided to include  uncontrolled upgrades in Windows 10 and made it almost impossible to circumvent them. Grrrrr…….. By the evening I was in need of a little soothing so got out my all time favourite book  “Antique Firearms – their care repair and restoration” by Ronald Lister  which is a wonderful example of a 1960’s  ‘gun restoration for dummies’.   Among others, there is a chapter on the ideal workshop and one on tools – the workshop  chapter has a full paragraph describing his cupboard, with all the dimensions and what it was made of and what you can put in it!  Oh for the days of a simple life….  My second favourite book is called ‘Foundry Irons’ by Kirk and lists all the types of iron a 1911 American foundry might make, complete with recipes – even in the face of terrible insomnia it is guaranteed to send me to sleep within minutes – I’ve never got past the first chapter…..     Serious guns are going to have to wait until Friday as I was reminded that I said I would go into school on Thursday and help the children with some new Microbit computers – I did play with them once for half an hour, so I suppose that makes me an expert!  I hope the children are on the ball!   Children and computers is turning into a bit of a thing… taking over life….  I did manage to derust the Witton and Daw locks today (see below), and Dick and I had a further discussion about the 4 barreled pistol – We have been puzzled as to how it can hold together when fired as the single powder chamber  is large enough to hold around 5 drams of powder, but the screw threads don’t fit very securely and the barrels are just soldered in, plus the barrel alignment finishes up rather out of line.   I did think that maybe the thread and alignment were because the barrels got swapped for another similar pistol, but now we think that actually the barrels are an inferior Indian? replacement and not at all of the quality of the action body – we have doubts as to whether they would stand anything other than a minute charge, and would also explain the very poor fit of the thread, and the misalignment. If you shot the pistol as it is, the barrels would become the projectile!      Probably the original barrels would be cast brass in one piece?

The Witton and Daw locks (here derusted) are unusual in that they fit a percussion round bodied gun – the bottom edge of the locks is rounded, although it doesn’t show in this photo.  Its a good quality gun – its a shame that the barrels are not better or I would have bought it myself to shoot. The plain cock screw is wrong – I don’t think I’ve ever seen a highly engraved lock and cocks with a dead plain screw!  No doubt ithey will come under my graver at some point.

24th April – Busy sorting out my talk to the children at the Bill Tutte club on Wednesday – I was trying to scan some slides into a powerpoint but the scanner would not connect to any of my computers, even the old XP one that is contemporary with the scanner – technology marches on , mostly leaving me in its wake……   Dick came over to collect the stuff I did last night and brought the pistols to which the cock belonged – but I forgot to photograph them.  They are pretty interesting – a pair of smallish bore long barreled pistols with very tapered barrels engraved TOW and GRIFFIN LONDON with diagonal silver cross at the foresight but, apart from the barrels they look very French in the locks, cocks, highly carved stock with wavy silver wire decoration and continental style furniture  – they are percussion, which of course isn’t right for Tow and Griffin who used the joint name for a few years before Griffin gave way to Tow, who was originally Griffin’s barrel maker  ( G & T was approx 177x – 1778 ).  In fact the usual naming had the two names the other way round.   Anyway I’m not sure what was going on – I suspect that the pistols were made as percussion pistols in France using a pair of old T & G barrels, and that none of the rest of the original flintlock was incorporated.  It could I suppose be that they were made in France as flintlocks and  converted there.I have a French Long gun with almost identical cocks and similar locks made in Lyon, so I’m pretty sure that it was made in France, at least in its final incarnation.  I’ll try to get a photo before they disappear…….Dick is anxious to get his hands on the Andrews lock and finish it off as he doesn’t think much of my filing on the final shaping (in that I think he is quite justified!). Anyway its  a swap for my engraving and welding – I had better touch up a few welding faults on the lock before I hand it over.  He bought me a pair of locks from the Witton and Daw from Holts last sale that need the derusting treatment – maybe I’ll do that tomorrow, although I have STEM club in the afternoon to sort out…..   How do I come to have so many things to do?  (answers on a postcard please!)

23rd April – The weather got pleasant to be outside so the boat got all the attention until evening!   I got a call from Dick asking when I was intending to do the welding and engraving so I figured I had better do it there and then, which I did.  I put a little extra weld on the spur of the cock as it was a bit thin compared to its mate on the other gun of the pair – I will leave it to Dick to file up, I did a rough shaping just to make sure I had put on enough metal.  I also engraved the false breech – a 10 minute job.

22nd April –  Back from the Arms Fair, which was not exactly teeming with buyers!  I formed the conclusion that the volume of sales is not high and that dealers are keeping their turnover up by increasing their prices – but then I am known to be a  a cynic!   A few very nice guns were on show – including the inevitable cased pairs of Manton flintlock duelling pistols – but now they carry price tickets of £40,000 or so.  There is a lot of overpriced mediocre stuff and I was a bit surprised at the price labels on Colt percussion revolvers – but I guess the main market is set by prices in the US and the fall in the pound pushes our prices up.   I did see a few choice pieces on the Bonham’s stand that will be in the auction on 17th May – I had a look at the online catalogue and it struck me that Bonham’s estimates are about 50% less than Holt’s estimates for similar lots – but I bet that isn’t reflected in the actual hammer prices! Having said that, my rule of thumb is buy at Bonhams, sell at Holts!   Anyway I’ll be viewing the Bonhams sale in due course.  The C & T auction tomorrow has a few guns at very low estimates – I questioned this and was told that it was deliberate and they were expected to fetch at least twice or 3 times the top estimate – you have been warned.   I did find the usual rogue guns – my old unknown friend had been busy with his graver on his trademark ‘Twigg’ signature…..   One thing I noticed is that as the supply of good flintlocks at reasonable prices has dried up, the price of percussion pistols and long guns has climbed, and good cased percussion duelling and target pistols are well into 5 figures.  All good fun, but I didn’t buy anything – I do, however,  meet an increasing number of people I know as I get more into the hobby.      One last observation – the average age of those at this and similar events is going up a year for each passing year…..  that just isn’t sustainable ……………………………………………….

 21st April – I started on the Andrew’s frizzen spring today – first turning up the boss for the end and tapping it 9 B.A. then welding it to a thinned down piece if spring steel, then  bending it, then I got distracted!  I got a phone call asking if I was going to the London Antique Arms fair tomorrow as if so I could collect a case I’d left with a friend to see if it fitted his pistols.  I’d forgotten that it was this weekend, but I do need to go, if for no other reason than to try and get a handle on current prices.  My ideas of prices seem way out when compared with a lot of dealer’s ideas, so I’ll try to ‘recalibrate’ myself! Also I like to play ‘ spot the fake’ – there is usually enough to keep me amused, although there are a couple of dealers who sheepishly close the boxes on one or two cased pistols if they see me coming – can’t think why!  I went over to Dicks to have a look at the very impressive collection of pistols he has been playing with, and brought away a couple of small jobs  – a gouge in a cock to be welded over, and a bit of border engraving on a false breech from a Nock pistol where it had been rebuilt as part of a re-conversion to flintlock.  So I didn’t get far with the spring……

The turned boss in position on the spring blank – a small piece of Plasticine (modelling clay), not yet in place, held the boss in place while I tack welded  it – it really does work very well , unlikely as it may seem!

Bit more filing up required, then weld a pip on the side  for the location and possibly a ramp for the tail of the frizzen.  It really pays to leave a ‘handle’ on the part for as long as possible! 

Nock False Breech to have the border carried round the new surface.

Damaged cock – it really needs some reshaping too as it looks a bit mean!

20th April – Very chilly and uninviting today so I didn’t feel drawn to boat fiddling!  I determined to make some progress with the Andrews lock as its bugging me- I did some more welding to put the cam that contacts the ramp on the frizzen spring  into a better place and widened the bearing surfaces into a smoother shape and made a shaft for a pivot – at the moment I can’t see how the original was fixed as the bearings both have clear holes through them the same size – I guess i may be horribly non traditional and just peen an axle in place – otherwise I will have to weld up the outside bearing hole and tap it M3 – but that risks loosing the alignment, which is critical.  One problem that arises from the frizzen not really matching the pan section is that it is a bit tricky positioning the frizzen spring and the matching cam on the frizzen – the shape of the pan section limits the pan opening angle as the cam can’t go forward much because it hits the bearing arm….  Anyway I think I have just about got a compromise – it seems to open enough to clear the cock, so the next step is probably to make a frizzen spring – I have a couple of castings but neither has a short enough arm to fit the nose of the lockplate.  I feel at the end of this rather frustrating process I might have a working lock (after a fashion)  but I should have a much better understanding of the geometry of frizzens and pans!   So the next problem is to make a frizzen spring  – I will probably cut a blank from spring steel, then build up a boss to take the fixing screw with weld, and also build up the peg on the back then shape and bend the spring and finally weld on the top of the spring for the lump on the frizzen to engage with.   I’ll post some pics while I do it.  Here is today’s work;-

The outer hole for the frizzen bearing is a bit oval – it has been welded at some time in the past. Maybe I should weld and tap it M3 – the shaft is 3.3 mm diameter The pretty purple colour comes from putting it in the top oven of the Aga to weaken the Araldite.

At the moment this is as far as the frizzen will open, but I’m reluctant to take any more off until I get a frizzen spring working and can see how it functions.

19th April – Another lovely day but a bit chilly.  Sat in the sun and planned my session at the Bill Tutte club with a group of would-be scientists aged 9 to 14 next week.  I need to assemble a number of props as I have to keep their attention for 2 hours!  I did a bit more on the Andrew’s lock – I’ll put up some photos shortly but it is shaping up – I drilled the frizzen pivot and filed up the frizzen to a first approximation.  It is going to be difficult to position the frizzen spring so that it opens the frizzen fully – I think I’ll have to do a bit more welding to shift the lump into a better place to catch on the spring.   I don’t think this one will have a roller on either the frizzen or the spring.  I get a lot of visitors to this site who are looking for information on a couple of the spurious posts on the site – both ‘ putting a foot pedal on a welder’ & ‘ land cruiser steering lock problem’ get found quite often – When I was trying desperately to make a bit of room in my shed I came across a box of parts for the steering lock – since Toyota screwed up the repair I have a full set of parts to fix any problems that I no longer need.  I think my patent finder at the British Library is back from holiday so I will try to get the next couple of J R Cooper patents to try and track down the covered lock gun.

18th April – Beautiful morning – I just had to be outside playing with the boat!   I got back to the Andrews lock in the afternoon when it got decidedly chilly outside and put the lock in the Aga top oven to break down the epoxy bond, then had to clean it up before welding the bearing face to make it a bit wider.  The main reason I’m playing around with the lock in spite of the difficulty of getting the pan section and frizzen to mate is that I need the practice in TIG welding, and this job is certainly giving me plenty of that.  Anyway I made a decent fist of this bit of welding so that when I filed it flat for the bearing surface there were no voids and it all fitted.   I’ll now drill through for the frizzen pivot and file up the frizzen and see if I need any weld ‘patches’.  I’m also gearing up to engrave Martin’s barrel – I need a bit of practice as I haven’t engraved for weeks (actually months).

17th April – I was all set to share some really interesting pearls of gun wisdom on the blog last night at 10:30 when all the power failed and my computer and the internet with it…. It still hadn’t been restored by midnight, so I went to bed early for a change and now that the power is  back ( it came on around 1 in the morning) I have completely forgotten what the pearls of wisdom were, and it is as if my brain has been wiped in some sort of computer crash!   Anyway I spent much of yesterday and this morning sorting out bits of the boat so that when the weather warms up we can sail it. ( for those not in the UK, the last few days have seen winds from the North and daytime air temperatures around 13 degrees C., although some nice sunshine appeared from time to time.   The rudder was horribly chewed up as it hits the propeller of the outboard if one isn’t careful, and whoever worked on the boat during its previous life clearly didn’t know the difference between stainless steel screws and the rusting sort – which in the way of things are now so rusted in that they can’t be removed.  Some car body filler and a bit of work on the lathe turning reinforcing sleeves for the pivot and a couple of coats of white one-pot polyurethane paint will see a marked improvement.  Normal gun related service should be resumed tomorrow…..

15th April – Catching up on shopping and  rampant nature in the garden today,  but I did manage a little engraving tonight.  I have now fudged my wordpress files so I can download all the IP addresses of visitors and over time see how many regular visitors there are and which country they come from – I don’t get any identification of individuals, so your privacy isn’t compromised!    Of the 200 odd visitors a day I think about 50 seem to come back on more than one day, and often visit more than once in a day, but so far I’ve only looked at 3 days of data.  Most of the remaining visitors are casual visitors, although probably 20 or 30 are hackers trying to get into the site  – many of the hackers try almost every day although they are blocked from actually getting onto the server.  The worst countries for hackers are Ukraine and the US, with some from China and Russia, but a lot of hacking attempts use ‘bots’ on computers in many small, obscure places like Ulan Bator.

14th April  – I went over to Dicks to look at the 4 barreled pistol he is restocking – it is around 1760 ish so I took Keith Neil & Back’s book on Great British Gunmakers  1740 – 1790  to check out the butt shape.  Looking at examples in the book I suggested slight reshaping of the butt to better fit the period of the pistol –

The line is not quite right, but the outer edge needs to come in a bit and the ‘beak’ to go!

We then had a discussion about the alignment of the barrels when screwed home –  at the moment they end up at an odd angle – its neither a single barrel or a pair of barrels on top, but an intermediate angle with about 30 degrees to go before a single barrel is uppermost.  The screw thread is intact and nothing seems to have been altered (the barrels were made separate and soldered to the ring piece that screws to the action).  We thought that a pair of barrels ought to be uppermost but sighting along the pistol we realised that the barrels were slightly inclined to one side.  At this point we noticed that the ring with the barrels attached had a noticeable built-in angle – which must have added significantly to the manufacturing difficulty.  Based on the assumption that the angle must have been intended to incline the barrels either upward or downward but not sideways we concluded that the alignment must be with a single barrel uppermost and the barrel group slightly downwardly inclined – since pistols usually kick up on firing.  This means that the barrel assembly was designed to be screwed a further 30 degrees round from its current tight position.  Another one of life’s little mysteries!  Here is a picture of teh underside that shows the taper on the ring ;-

The red arrow shows the narrowest point of the ring – it should align with the middle of the bottom of the action.

The writing  at the breech end is apparently in Hindi and is thought to be 3 initials – R.K.K 

13th April – An extra days shoot at Eriswell for a small subset of AML – very informal and pleasant.   I started with my ‘Twigg’ flintlock to see if lightening the trigger pull had improved my hit rate, but unfortunately I didn’t have any very fine Swiss OB for priming the pan due to an oversight, and so it was going off very slowly – so I didn’t have much luck. I then went back to my old D Egg back action percussion standby and managed around 50% hits with that, so about par for the course for me. After lunch I used my Miruku 12 Bore O/U that I hadn’t shot for a while.  I needed more cartridges and without thinking bought 21 gram X Comps instead of the 28 gram I normally use, but I still did pretty well (for me!) .  I swapped 4 for 28 gram loads for a couple of distant clays – which I missed – and was surprised at the extra recoil.  By the end of  the afternoon and  after 50 cartridges I was glad I’d shot the lighter load – some of my companions looked a bit beaten up!     Apropos of the Andrews lock – I realised that it was stupid to try to reposition the outer bracket for the frizzen pivot to reduce the width – much better just to thicken up the hub of the frizzen to fit – so I’ll have to unglue it (heat it up) and weld the hub and file it to fit the slot and then re glue it and drill for the pivot…….

Off to Dick’s tomorrow as he is wondering what to do to the butt of the 4 barreled pistol – I vetoed the idea of a plain oval silver escutcheon as being far to modern for a 1760 pistol – it should be a cast silver or brass  one with relief decoration or none at all – or possibly a ‘grotesque’ – I’ll stick a couple of books in the car so we can look up an appropriate shape for the butt etc.  One problem is that we can’t find a suitable brass casting for a butt plate………

12 April later  – I steeled myself to tackle the Andrews lock – the frizzen is beginning to get into shape, but was offset rather a lot to the outside of the lock – the face of the lockplate was raised into a platform about 1.5 mm high in the contact area with  the frizzen bearing – on most locks it would be  flush, and so I decided to file the platform off to move the frizzen over by enough to put it in the correct alignment with the cock.  This of course means that the gap for the frizzen is too wide, and the outside bracket will have to be shifted over – i.e. cut off and rewelded.  It is all getting to be a bit of a saga. and by this stage I’m only doing it because its a good exercise in fudging!  Each time I file a new bit of the pan section or frizzen I discover that it’s been badly welded and reshaped before – so it is really just a mess – which makes me glad that I made a new lockplate to start with – I’d be feeling pretty desperate if it was the original I was messing about with!  Anyway here are some photos – I got to the stage of fitting the frizzen into the correct place and Aralditing it so that I can drill the pivot before I redo the outside bracket.    We are hoping to sail the boat we bought last year over Easter so I’ve got to sort that out over the next couple of days…. and then it looks as if I will have a kitchen and bathroom to refit for Giles over the summer….. and I still need to get on top of programming the Mindstorms…. and the engraving jobs I picked up at the last AML shoot are waiting… and I need to get a slightly bigger ball mould for the Nock……. no peace for the wicked then……….

The frizzen as it was offset

The raised platform to be filed off – much easier to work on if you screw it to a block of wood!

Glued and ready to drill – the outer bracket will need moving! 

12th April  I did a bit more on the Andrews lock, but it is going to be a bit of a fudge as the frizzen isn’t really right – I may have to do major surgery on it again!   I got a couple more J R Cooper patents from the British Library, but nothing that matches my gun – there are a couple more I could get but I’ll have to wait til next week.  It got me interested in the beginnings of the percussion/pinfire/centrefire revolution – It begins to look as if Cooper was desperate to adapt the percussion cap to the breech loader in any way possible.    The development of percussion ignition in England was severely constrained by Forsyth’s 1807 patent that was held at law to be a master patent and effectively stopped almost all development in England during its life.  France had been ahead of England in gun development in the middle and early 18th century and French gunmakers took advantage of the fact that Forsyth didn’t patent percussion ignition abroad to recover the initiative.   By the time Forsyth’s patent expired in 1823, just after he won a case against Joseph Manton over the Manton Tubelock patent, Pauly in France had effectively invented the cartridge as we know it today and the stage was set for the development of many of the features we are familiar with when we pick up a modern shotgun.  It took a few years for the new inventions to ‘shake down’ – for instance all cartridges now depend on the ability of the case to expand on firing and provide the gas seal to prevent gas escape at the breech  but the metallurgy involved took time to be developed.  Similarly the placing of a pellet of fulminate in the exposed head of the cartridge in Pauly’s design created possible dangers and escape of gas on firing, so the pinfire cartridge was an interim solution until the copper cap was used to avoid the problem.  All this time, and even as late as the 1860’s Cooper was busy patenting breech loading mechanisms using conventional percussion caps.  It all makes for an interesting study – its the most febrile period of gun development of all time, the flintlock era dragged on for several hundred years, but from Forsyth’s patent to a gun that we would feel at home with was a mere 50 years or so  – or maybe a few more if you want to include hammerless boxlocks with single triggers – most of it in  little more than the working life of a gunmaker!   It is a fascinating time to study – while there is a lot of published material on the early breechloading cartridge guns ( e.g. Cruddington & Baker ‘The British Shotgun’ Vol 1), there doesn’t seem to be much covering the ‘dinosaurs’ like JR Cooper who seem to have been struggling to keep the old ignition system going while loading from the breech, for whatever reason.  Room for more study here!

11th April  – back in the land of the living.  I followed up a reference in De Witt Baileys and Douglas Nye’s book on English gunmakers that said J R Cooper had a patent No 7610  dated 1838 for an enclosed percussion lock so I got a copy from the British Library – fantastic service, it took less than an hour!  It is a breechloader, but still has an external ‘hammer’ for cocking it and no magazine.  So the book lists a few more possible patents he took out – I’ll get those too – I’m not sure how many I can get from the British Library on my Reader’s ticket – I have put a link to the .pdf of the patent on the J R Cooper post – you can see the beginnings of the idea – so it will be interesting to follow it up and see how far he patented things……..


J R Cooper’s patent 7610 of 1838 – part of the way to my gun….he had obviously started thinking about it in 1838

There is another drawing on the 1838 patent that is a  boxlock percussion shotgun.

9th April  Last of the fixing – vents for the double glazed windows in the kitchen and bathroom to increase ventilation levels which have never been quite adequate for the Cornish weather. Then a bit of hacking in the garden – not the internet kind, so now just tidy up and load the car and off home tomorrow. Paid our visit to ‘The Gurnard’s Head’ restaurant tonight – still good but I was a bit underwhelmed by my main dish – Ray wing with a very tasty heap of lardrons, lentils and hazel nuts as the poor ray wing was tiny and overwhelmed by the heap on top of it. Anyway we always enjoy going there, and the large picture of an old couple having a meal by Kells  (?) has returned and keeps us guessing about what is going on…..

8th April  Still in Cornwall and still fixing things – a bunker to hold logs, a new curtain rail, fixed a fire guard and made a heat resistant area to protect the worktop.  Almost time to go home so I can resume playing with restoration.   I’ve had an email about a pinfire gun and was wondering what the market for shootable double pinfire  shotguns was?  I do know a couple of people who shoot them, including a 28 bore, and they make quite convincing black powder cartridges based on breech loading cartridge cases with a standard percussion cap as the detonator.  You need to swage out the rim of the case as pinfire cartridges were rimless, and insert a pin that strikes the detonating compound in the  cap.

We had a short trip out to Penzance and Lamorna Cove this afternoon and called in at Scarlets in Lelant near Hayle (one of our favourite eating places – handy while the kitchen was in chaos) – they have a display of pictures by local artists including a series of ‘collographs’ of birds.  I’m still not sure what the technique involves, but it is a form of print making – anyway we bought one of a buzzard that was rather fine.  We currently have 3 favourite eating places – Salts in Hayle, a restaurant cum pub, Scarlets in Lelant – a restaurant/cafe and delicatessen and wine shop that has the great advantage that you can buy a bottle of wine from their vast selection and have it with your meal at the wine shop price, and take the remains (if any) home.  Our third and poshest place is ‘The Gurnard’s Head’ in Zennor – special treat once per holiday meal for many years!

7th April   I put a new top on the other worksurface in the kitchen, fixed the bathroom fan and put a new security light outside – the old type with a halogen tube bulb last about 2 years and the bulb blows and they are by then so rusty and horrible that its not worth replacing the bulb – anyway I replaced it with an LED security light in the hope that it might survive – this one appears to have stainless steel screws so I’m hoping it will do for 4 or 5 years. The wire to the old light was not long enough to reach the cable gland on the new one, so the whole wire had to be removed back to the switch- I didn’t have any more 1 mm t&e cable so used a gash piece of 3 core 13A flexible power cord which is probably better of the final connection anyway, but 13A is overkill – its just what I had – perpetually going out to Screwfix or B&Q or wherever eats into work time as either involve at least an hour.

This blog is now getting around 200 visitors a day – not counting the 50 or 60 idiots per day who try to log on to the site by guessing both the user name and password – since not one of them has even found the correct login page its rather pathetic = but I assume it all done by bots running on computers  controlled by a small number of hackers.  As the site is set up at the moment you have three tries at the password before you get blocked for a day, and anyway I check and permanently block anyone who tries to log on. Most of the attacks come from the Ukraine, followed by the US.  Some of the attackers have been doing it for months and clock up hundreds of blocked attacks – all these things are logged on the site and I check them regularly so keep an eye on what is going on.

6th April  Finished installing the washing machine and rebuilding the kitchen units around it.  I realised how much the design of kitchens had changed since I did this on   e originally – then the normal sink unit took the place of the worktop, now they are all designed to be inset into the worktop.   I bought a cheap new worktop from B&Q – its OK but when cut it looks just like the ‘logs’ made of compressed woodchips that we are burning on the woodburning stove at the mohent – £3 a bag from Poundland -we are big spenders.  Come to think of it, the ‘logs’ are probably about one third of the price of the melamine coated worktop weight for weight!     I’ll post a picture of the kitchen and then settle down to read Keith Neil and Backs book on gun cases etc..

5th April.  The book on cases is fascinating – I’m surprised how late the ‘normal’ gun and pistol case arrived.   The first fitted cases – as distinct from utilitarian packing cases – seemed to have appeared around 1763 and were made of tinplate (produced from about 1723), follow by oak around 10 years later, with mahogany coming on the scene about 5 years after that.   Early cases would have had a simple ‘rectangular’ brass handle planted on the lid.  Around 1795 the inset circular handle began to appear – initially with the centre filled with a brass plate, and later with the ‘classic’ round handle showing wood in the centre.   More tomorrow – and some pictures of progress on the kitchen – I got everything sorted today – the waste fittings are a pain to sort out as there are about half a dozen different types of pipe and fitting, and they are not interchangeable.  I have a sack of fittings left over from previous jobs but couldn’t find what I wanted so had to buy more..  I started fitted the new worktop but found that the standard top I bought is half an inch narrower than the standard top bought 30 years ago, which meant a bit of bodging to fill a gap – its also a couple of mm thinner, but I can cope with that.

4th Mar.  My gun related activity today was limited to reading Keith Neal and Back’s book ‘British Gunmakers Their Trade Cards, Cases and Equipment’ which was published in 1980 and is difficult to come by – I had to fork out £130 for a mint copy – luckily it was more of a swap as I traded a set of 19th century books on insects that I had inherited but had no interest in.  I wish I had had a copy before I started casing guns and pistols!  Like every book published by the pair it is THE definitive work on the subject.  My main activity was stripping o ut the kitchen sink and re-doing a bit of plumbing to accommodate a washing machine and put in a few shut off valves – the cottage was converted in the 1950s and when mains water was installed it was done with NO stopcocks or shut off valves – not even a stopcock on the incoming main which is buried under the bath and its impossible to fit one now!  To shut off the water I have to go into the road and dig up the external stopcock from under the dirt.

Just for fun, here are a couple of photos;

As it was, minus the cupboard doors (I think cupboard is such a medieval word)!

Destruction phase: A couple of flexible tap connectors/shut offs added. I don’t know what happened but it must be the first time I’ve done half a dozen compression joints and not had a single drop of water!

3rd April.  Now in Cornwall contemplating destroying the kitchen to make space for the washing machine.  I had an email from my friend serving in Sinai who has asked an Iranian about the script on the 4 barreled pistol and established that its not Farsi, or, probably Arabic, and that its most likely Sanscrit or Hindi which aligns with my thoughts.  He thinks  that he can get a translation, which would be great, and might throw some light on whether the silver wire inlay is likely to be foreign or from Birmingham like the brassware.

1 April   Fate’s April fools joke on me was to make me miss the first 10 clays on the AML shoot in a row!   Thereafter I was back to normal – miss one, hit one.  My feeling that muzzle loading shooting is getting more popular is amply demonstrated in the number of people turning out for our monthly shoots – we now have 3 squads – around 30 shooters – we’ll soon be swamped by our own success.  I shot the Jackson Improved Central Fire 14 bore percussion double – it is a nice gun, and the breech is very neat and slim as the cocks are in about the position they are in a hammer gun, but there is nothing ‘improved’ about my shooting today.   I finished the afternoon shoot with my Beretta o/u and got about the same result – but I did hit more of the ‘driven’ clays.  I realised today at the shoot that one of the weird things about this blog is that some people know more about what I’ve been up to than I do, on account of the fact that I hardly have any memory for past events!   I picked up a couple of jobs – both fairly low key – an old lock to see if I could decipher the name and the recut it – its a fairly cheap lock so no problems.  The other job is to recut the name on a lock by Morris that is in Olde English script, and engrave the name on the barrel. (Actually, having looked at the lock, I realise that the name on it is different and I am to erase it and start over, so no need for the Olde English).   The jobs  will have to wait until I get back from Cornwall where we are going to sort out the holiday cottage for the season – this includes fitting a washing machine in place of part of a kitchen cupboard – apparently necessary in order to let it successfully on airbnb &  I will take some gun books so I can at least put some snippets of information here.  My evening activity is to do my homework on the Lego Mindstorms computers so I can keep one step ahead of my STEM club children – school and STEM (Science Technology Engineering and Maths) seem to be taking up increasing amounts of my time as I am getting roped in to help in daytime school activities – I can’t say I mind as its very rewarding – see .  I’ve also got to prepare 2 hours of talk and fun for the children of the Bill Tutte club in Newmarket – I’m not sure what the work ‘retirement’ means, but life was a lot more peaceful when I only worked about 50 hours a week!  Our treat in Cornwall will be to slope off to The Gurnard’s Head at Zennor for a meal – one of the nicest places we know in Cornwall.  At least this time we don’t have to find someone to chicken sit as Giles will still be living in the house – getting in a full time chicken sitter at the new living wage would be a bit expensive – cheaper just to eat the chickens and replace them when we got back!

31 March  Another month gone!  I went to Dick’s today to photograph a few guns that are coming up for sale soon – and the odd 4 barrelled pistol by Walsingham of about 1763 – here is a photo, the rest are in the post 4-BARRELLED PISTOL.  I took some more photos of the Griffin as Dick has tidied up the stock under the lock aperture  – its now looking fantastic.  There is also a nice flintlock pistol by Henry Nock – probably an officer’s pistol, and a military issue pistol.  They will eventually appear on the for-sale page when we have an idea of a sensible price.

See 4 BARRELLED PISTOL Post for more pictures

See Griffin Pistol Post for more…

30th Mar.  I had to finish and test a couple of electronic temperature regulator boards for a client who wanted them urgently – I wasted half an hour because I’d swapped two resistors in assembling one of them and finding the fault took time.    I came back to the Andrews lock/frizzen problem – the frizzen is not the right shape for the pan section and I’m struggling to build it up enough to reshape it so it fits – at the moment it just looks a mess but I hope with a lot of filing and another iteration of welding it will come together.  Visitors who leave this sort of mess to people like me can feel smug!

At least if I can’t get it to work I can revert to the original percussion setup and nothing of the original gun will be lost or damaged – the advantage of making a new lockplate!

29th Mar  I went to Dick’s today and had a look at a little flintlock pistol he  has for restoration.  I’ll get some photos of it later – its by Wm Walsingham of Birmingham, about 1760. A  4 brass barreled volley pistol with all the barrels opening into a single chamber that connects to the pan – the barrels unscrew as a group (they are made as a single casting) and powder is put in the chamber – it looks as if it would hold quite a lot – and the barrels screwed back on.  Its worn but nicely engraved all over the brass.  The stock is badly damaged – partly eaten away and the butt cap gone with it – the rest appears to have been filed down – it was clearly originally inlaid with silver wire in a very elaborate way – all that remains are marks where the silver was before it was all filed off.   I don’t know how unusual it is as a design, but I treat anything of that vintage as a bit special – pre 1780 stuff doesn’t grow on trees!  I think there is no option but to make a new stock and a new buttcap but I don’t think it is going to be possible to make a convincing reproduction of the  original, and I certainly don’t think it would be economical – anyway I think it would be wrong – so I would make a plain butt and cap.  The rest of the pistol only needs careful cleaning – I would resist any temptation to recut the engraving – it is perfectly readable as it is and the untouched nature of the pistol metalwork shows clearly. Once you start recutting it makes people wonder just how much is genuine!

8th Mar. A VERY frustrating morning at the range!   The sights I put on the Nock are good and I am confident that  I can aim quite well with them – certainly well enough to get a sub 4 inch group at 25 yards without too much effort – but try as I could, I failed to get a group of any reasonable size – I had a sheet of A3 paper as a target and I even had a few shots off both sides of it.  I tried several combinations of patch, and also tried both 1.7 drams and 2.25 drams of Swiss No 4, all to no avail – I just could not get any consistency in the shots – I think I could have done better with a shotgun firing ball!  The 12 groove rifled  bore is good, with lands narrower than the deep grooves, and I was using two 10 thou patches or one ten and one fifteen to give a tighter fit – I guess that it still wasn’t enough to grip the ball and maybe the ball sheds the patches and rattles around?  Anyway I need to consult the experts!  As an interim measure I’ll get the ball mould reworked to about 20 or 25 thou bigger diameter so I can go back to using 1 patch. I had a couple of misfires – but always it went on the second cap – I think I’ll have to change the nipple – its currently narrow at the top, wide at the bottom but I find the opposite is much more reliable, so I’ll make a new nipple – I hope the thread is one I have a die for!  I took the .17 HMR just to convince myself that I am not completely useless and got some reasonable groups. Frustration apart it was a nice morning with a small but friendly gathering at the ITSC range.   To my STEM club this afternoon – the children were so excited by the weather being good enough to be outside that it took a while to get them to concentrate – so I over-ran as usual…. The school has unearthed another 3 of an older generation of  Lego computers so there will be enough to move to more, smaller groups with less friction!

Clay shooting sequence – range about 25 m

the top frame probably coincides with pulling the trigger, the second the sound of the shot, the third shows the shot as it misses the clay!

The entire sequence is 0.2 of a second. In the second frame you can see a faint trail heading for the impact point – I guess that is the shot column – the shot travels at near the speed of sound and the microphone was about 8 – 10 feet from the muzzle.  Using the audio trace this frame is  when the sound arrived at the camera.

It shows how far ahead you need to aim if you are snap shooting, and shows the slight changes in direction due to bounces.

(I think this sequence was shot with a .410 with a 2 1/2 inch cartridge, which would account for the fact that the shot cloud looks a bit small?)

27th Mar.  In Cambridge running a historical reconstruction of gravity measurement with pendula – using a video recorder and lasers – not very authentic but effective.   I did have a few moments to contemplate the Andrews pistol and drill the hole and cut the slot for the mainspring – I have gone back to thinking the smaller cock is right as, with a flint in the jaws, the top will end up aligned with the middle of the pan – I had to do my STEM club programs so that was all I managed, apart from getting out a few bits for shooting the Nock rifle tomorrow with the aperture rear sight and the enclosed foresight. Last time I got to the range after everyone had left, so tomorrow I will try to hit the ground running!  I might take the .17 HML to sight it in, but I’m running out of ammo.  I tried looking at a video I had taken of shooting a ‘rabbit’ clay with a muzzle loading shotgun in frame by frame mode at 50 f.p.s.  Its quite interesting as you can see when the gun fired, then 4 frames later the shot is just visible in front of the clay and in the next frame  hits the ground immediately in front of the clay but exactly aligned.  Its amazing (to me anyway) how far the ‘rabbit’ travelled between the smoke appearing in the video and the shot hitting the ground – probably a good 6  feet, and that is without allowing for the time delay between brain and finger, and trigger and ignition.  It was a very near miss in front!  I’ll take the camera next Saturday when the AML shoots a Cambridge Gun Club, and try to get some more film………..    You would think retirement would be relaxing, but its far more hectic than working for a living – although I suppose I do get to choose – at least to some extent!

26th Mar.  I made new screws to hold the bridle etc – 4 UNF threads, and the side nail, 6 UNC and cut the slot for the tab on the sear spring with a flat graver.   The cock I was going to use is a bit too small I think, so I found a  slightly larger one – I might go and take advice from Dick as he has done a lot more of these jobs than I.  I did get the grass cut and the apple trees pruned, so it wasn’t a bad day, considering that we lost an hour due to the clocks changing to BST – we’ll have to wait ’til autumn to get it back.  Robbery!   I’ve got to write some programs for my STEM club some time before Tuesday, and I find I carelessly agree to talk to another children’s Science and Maths club in Newmarket in April, which will need quite a lot of preparation if I am to do them justice.

I’m not sure how to tackle the hole for the frizzen axle as it is bored out both ends and so won’t take a screw thread without more welding – its already been welded and moved once – the pan section is a bit of a mess, which is why its giving me more problems to get it in place than I would normally expect.- the same goes for the frizzen!  I’ll finish the back of the lock where it touches the barrel when I do the final fitting with the touchhole in place.

25th Mar. I’m still struggling to get the pan casting into the lockplate neatly!   So frustrated did I become that I resorted to cleaning the house for a couple of hours!  So I’m afraid there is little progress worth showing ( except in respect of our domestic environment!)… I will make a few nails/screws tomorrow and try to get the frizzen into shape – I don’t know where it came from, but it seems to have been welded in a number of places, as was the pan section.

24th Mar.  Went to Jason’s to get the lock welded and have spent most of the rest of the day struggling to get it filed up in a reasonable way – unfortunately it seems to need files of a shape as yet uninvented!  I was very glad its only a lock I made myself as its taking a bit of a bashing – I’d be worried if it was the original.  I found a better frizzen – the problem with the pan section is that the pivot for the frizzen is very high  compared to most others – anyway I had to weld up and reposition the pivot on the frizzen and will have to reshape the tail with weld and add the tab to catch on the roller.  The configuation of pan and frizzen pivot is odd, and it will need a very short frizzen spring – I’m not sure if it would have had a roller for that pan section or not.

23rd Mar. Progress on the Andrews – a bit slow as I had a meeting about computing in schools – I was in the middle of welding the hook when my lift rang the doorbell – miles away….!  Anyway I plucked up the courage to do the script engraving – not my best effort, and tacked the pan section in place so that tomorrow I can get Jason to weld it in – I don’t trust my welding.    I did manage to weld the hook  on the front of the lock that holds it in although I did get the front of the lock rather hot and oxidised it rather more than I wanted – I just built up the hook with filler rod – I got a good approximation to the shape with weld then filed it – I need to do the final lock fitting but I’ll wait til the pan is fully welded as  the lock plate may need flattening.

The script is not perfect, but will tone in when the plate is case hardened  with Blackley’s stuff at the end. 

The mess around the pan is modelling clay I used to hold the pan in the correct position while I tack welded it.  It works long enough to hold until the tacking is done, and doesn’t tend to run or move at all.  I use it often – its just firm enough and stays in the position you put it.   I think the heat just drives the petroleum jelly out of it and leaves the clay!

22nd Mar.  The Andrews pistol is coming along – I cut the aperture to fit the pan but haven’t welded it in place yet.  I filed the chamfer round the lock – it’s not at 45 degrees, but around 35 to the flat surface, then had the excitement of engraving lines at the top and bottom of the chamfer surface which was quite tricky, particularly round the curves – that done I then engraved a running leaf motif down the middle of the remaining surface – the whole chamfer surface is about 2 1/2 mm wide, so by the time the two lines are engraved the leaf motif is probably less than 1.5 mm  wide.  Anyway, it looks better than I expected.  I’ve done some of the decoration and foliage work – so now I only have to tackle the script name, which is a terrifying prospect – I’ll have to have a few goes on a scrap of metal.   Doing the chamfer and the pattern across the tail got through all my gravers again, so I had another sharpening session before I could tackle the foliage.

A few differences, but recognisably the same pattern!  I couldn’t decide if I wanted the ‘leaves’ round the sear spring screw.

21st Mar. – proper day playing with the Andrews pistol  – I copied the holes from the original lock plate  by fixing the old on top of the new, with suitable hardboard spacer, using superglue – one of my ‘must have’ items is a small pump of Locktite 7455 Activator that takes all the uncertainty out of using superglue, even if there are gaps.   I then used my little Seig mill  as a drill, locating each hole in the original plate with a sharpened rod of the  appropriate diameter ( make sure it runs true) and then substituting a drill and drilling right through the new plate.  I think with care I can get to about 0.1 mm.  I drilled a series of 1.5 mm holes through the middle of the safety slot and cut out the slot with a fine fretsaw and filed it with a No 6 file, and milled the 4 mm slot with a 3 mm cutter.  I’ve now tapped all the holes – I couldn’t find a taps that replicated the original threads so I used No 4 UNF for the bridle screws and No 6 UNC for the side nail – that means I’ll have to make new screws etc.  UNC & F are my favourite threads – probably because I have the best selection of taps and dies and it matches more often than not. Next job is to file the bevel on the outer edge of the lock so that it can be engraved – Putting the engraved bevel around a lock is a first for me, so I hope it works out!  I’m not sure how easy it will be to file a constant width bevel – I don’t have the filing skills of a classic gunmaker!    I’ll run round with dividers first to mark a line to file to, and just try to keep a constant angle – fingers crossed.  At some point I also have to fix on the hook that secures the front of the lock in place – in the past I have just built it up with weld, including the hook bit – so I’ll try that as its quick…………….  And I had my STEM club this afternoon, and a School Governing Body meeting in the evening and a meeting at the school at 8.00 a.m. tomorrow…………….

The hole for the mainspring peg can wait until I am ready to put the frizzen spring on.

20th Mar – The browning is coming along nicely but slow – its called Blackley’s Slow Brown, so I suppose I should expect it!  anyway I think 1 or two more goes and it will be OK.  Tomorrow I need to tackle the problem of transferring the positions of the holes from the old lockplate to the new, complicated by the fact that both have bits on the back and can’t be put close together, plus there are no straight edges to measure from.  I think I’ll have to clamp them together with spacers and mark with points of the right size to fit each hole using the miller to push the points in vertically.  I figure that the holes need to be right to within about .1 of a mm – particularly the alignment of the bridle fixing holes with the tumbler hole – I have got that slightly wrong before and the tumbler is slightly misaligned and jams, and the only solution is to make a bigger tumbler hole, which is not a good thing. The other way is to mark and drill the tumbler hole, then use the tumbler to position the bridle and mark that, but its quite tricky to do that.  Once I have the holes drilled I will cut out for the pan section so that I finish with the ‘heavy’ metalwork, and get on with engraving the lock to match the original, except that the foliage on the nose of the lockplate was put on for the conversion.  After that is a matter of welding the pan section and cleaning up and case hardening the lock and fettling the cock and frizzen – not much then?

The lighting wasn’t very even, but the browning is.    The twist stands out very well but not  artificially so.

1 9th Mar  I decided that I couldn’t bring myself to cut up the nice original lock to re-convert it to flint -its against my principles ( I do have a few!) to do that to good guns, OK for junk or if a lot of the pistol is missing.  Anyway that meant I had to make a new lock plate from scratch and put the pan in that – I will reuse all the internals of the lock because they can be put back if necessary.  It took me most of today to mill up a strip of 6 x 50 mm mild steel as a blank and then cut it out and fit it to the lock pocket – it is a bit slimmer than the original plate as I really needed 1/4 inch (6.4 mm) plate but don’t have any.  I am also browning the barrel – first go with Blackleys didn’t touch the metal, I thought I’d try immersing it in copper sulphate to etch the barrel a bit, but that just copper plated most of it and I had to clean it all off.  Blackley’s still didn’t touch most of the metal so I reverted to my used printed circuit board etchant and that got it going.   Making a new lock means I’ll have to make a new side nail as I can’t match up the thread – its halfway between 6 UNC and 8 UNC, but I’ll do a 6 UNC nail as the hole in the lock is a bit near the edge of the bolster.   I’ll probably have to make a couple of screws to hold the bridle as I don’t expect I’ll find a tap that works with the existing threads.   I lined up the barrel and lock plate to find where the touch-hole will go and it seems to go together perfectly – the pan section is just right – I don’t know where it came from, it doesn’t look like a casting, more like an original cut out.    I put the step on the back of the lock, and couldn’t resist engraving it – which meant spending over an hour sharpening 15 gravers that had piled up blunt or chipped.   I usually leave them til I run out, then do them all together as its quicker that way.

I’ll have to mill out the slot for the safety,,. which will be fiddly, and then square off the end – even more tricky.  I did it for the Lancaster (twice) so I guess I can do it again!  My milling machine is pretty crude and has backlash in the leadscrews and vibrates so it is always exciting using small cutters!

18th Mar –  The restoration of the Andrews pistol continues – I’ll make a separate post as I have a lot of photos.  I have stripped it down, so I’ll include a few notes on what you need to know to take antique flint and percussion guns  apart.  I have all the parts to do a back conversion – and I think I’ll probably do one using the original lock plate as it will make a good demonstration of what to look out for in deciding if a flintlock is a re-conversion, and the percussion conversion is not a particularly nice one.   So – see the beginnings of the ANDREWS RESTORATION post.

Selection of castings for Andews re-conversion  – the cocks and frizzen spring will need to be sorted when the rest is in place.

I am temped to make a new lockplate!

17th Mar – I had a visit this morning from a chap who had a couple of antique guns – one he thought might be a shooter, but I’m afraid I didn’t think that was a good idea as it was too far gone to be worth teh considerable work in restoring it, and anyway I suspect the barrel was not recoverable.  Anyway he is keen on taking up muzzle loading shooting and will come along to the Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot on 1st April and join teh growing number of people shooting muzzle loaders.  i suggested that if he likes it he might find a modern reproduction a good way in as they are still affordable at auction.   I did a bit of work on the Andrews Pistol – running the bits through the de-rusting – its in pretty fair condition.  I had a look at a couple of photos on Andrews pistols on the web – Google images – Andrews pistols, and found two different flint lock designs in use – an older version with a stepped,rounded tail to the lock and a traditional English serpentine cock and a semi rainproof pan, and later design with a square tail to the lock and a French cock and a full rainproof pan.  The former matches the lock shape on my pistol.  I went to Dicks and we hunted around for bits to make a flintlock for it – I had found most of the bits but we found a frizzen spring casting that is (probably) the right size – it won’t be clear until the lockplate and pan section are in place.   I now need to decide whether to use the original lock plate or make a new one…… difficult!   The Griffin pistol I showed earlier before repair is now finished and Dick has been asked by a friend living abroad to sell it for him, and I offered to put it on this site.  You can see the photos in the Post Griffin Pistol and some in the GUNS & BITS FOR SALE page at the top – here is a preview;

This  is a Griffin Officer’s pistol from around 1760 – a number are found in America from English officers fighting in the French and Indian wars – see post Griffin Officer’s Pistol for more pics – click on the photo for more details.  It is No. 1 of a pair, no longer together.

16th Mar – It was interesting to watch, from time to time during the day, how the Holts Auction was going – there was so much stuff that it ran from 10 oclock to about 7 p.m.  Many of the lots struggled to make the reserves – but there were so many guns that were much of a muchness that you wonder who was buying it – most of the lots went to either bidders in the room or on the telephone, a few lots went to internet sales (it costs an additional 3% to bid via the internet!).  The percussion guns I picked as being worth buying – the Bond (1800 hammer price) and the Greener (3900 hammer price) shotguns – made good money and the ones I thought were a bit rough, like the Nock 7 barreled gun that I thought rather rough and the Witton and Daw just scraped over the bottom reserve (700) as did the horribly badly ‘restored’/abused  Manton  breech loading flintlock.  Mostly I thought the bottom estimates were on the high side –  Holts seldom sell below the bottom estimate .  By the time you add the buyer’s premium and VAT to the hammer price, the Greener was a shade under £5000 – I would have happily paid £4000 for it, but 5K is a bit inflationary. There will inevitably be some inflation in antique and modern gun prices because a fair number end up in the US and the dollar now buys more gun in England than before, or put another way, it means that Americans can afford to bid higher.  The Witton and Daw was a reasonable buy at the selling price as it was unusual – it was bought by a friend and will probably pass through Dick and my hands on its way to its eventual home.  I look forward to including it in the blog.   I was sorry to see that the East India Company rampart gun lock had been taken out of the sale as I have one that has been converted to percussion that I’d like to return to flintlock – I am chasing the lock via my contacts……….   I was hoping that it would form my next project as I’ve finished all the jobs on hand, but I found a pistol by Andrews buried under the junk on my bench (yes, really! – its been there for months and months…)  that definitely needs a bit of TLC –  It would make a good target for re-conversion to flint s I could make a new lock and remove the drum and nipple conversion, but I have no confidence at the moment that I can get the necessary castings, and although I do have some odd castings in stock, I don’t think I have a pan section, a frizzen and a  cock that will go together – maybe I can get something from Dick…..  Anyway I will start by cleaning it all up and see where we go from there……..  the obvious first step is to dump the whole lot in the de-rusting tank for an hour or so and then lightly brush off the soft black powder that hard brown rust gets turned into when it goes from ferrous to ferric oxide………magic!

Its all a bit sad, nothing serious but a bit of surface rust and worn woodwork – the percussion conversion is rather poor quality but the basic pistol was good – one reason to want to convert it back to flintlock.

The safety catch is broken – a fiddly part to repair and a lot of the lock plate has been filed away in the conversion and would need to be built up if it is re-converted and we didn’t make a new lock.

A reasonably good quality lock on the inside – not top quality but perfectly good, and it will clean up just fine.

The barrel is not too bad – it hasn’t had a lot of wear, only a bit of patchy rust – teh ‘London’ is clearly visible and not unduly worn.

15th Mar  – To Holts viewing today, which turned out to be a bit of a social occasion – I seem to have made a fair number of friends in the business, especially among the keen muzzle loading game and rifle shooters.  I sense that game and clay shooting with muzzle loaders is becoming more popular, which would account for the rising prices of decent percussion shotguns – there were a few in this auction that I had a look at, including a W Greener in pristine condition that will get a lot of attention tomorrow.  One or two of the other muzzle loading shotguns were worthy of attention but really they were a bit thin on the ground – I might have been interested in a couple if I wanted one to shoot, but not the Witton and Daw, a cased gun with an unusual round body that would almost qualify for my new collection criterion – guns must get the response -” I’ve never seen one like that before”, or “you don’t see guns like that often” if the viewer is very experienced!  Unusual as it was, it was a bit grubby and had moderate surface corrosion in a tired case, which would have been sortable, but the muzzles were paper thin and the bore rusted so I’m not sure that I’d want to shoot it, – a no no for me.

There was a flintlock breech loading rifle signed Manton – a bit like the Ferguson but with the screw plug in the side – it would have been a front runner for my collection except that someone had struck the barrel off ( trade term for filed ) so thoroughly that on first look it seemed that it had been replaced by new one.  All the surface had been filed to remove every trace of corrosion (plus along the way most of the proof marks etc.) including round the lug for the breech plug – a prime example of THE most horrible vandalism it is possible to imagine.  The estimate was £2000 to £3000 – a lot less than if it had been in original condition!   I didn’t look to see if I thought it really was by John Manton as I really found it so distasteful to look at!   The sale was mainly taken up with the Harold Bull collection, which was primarily of pistols, a whole lot of section 5 semi automatics and a vast collection of revolvers of all types, section 5, obsolete calibre and percussion.    Taken as a whole it represented a massive collection, of which a few percent were special and most were good examples of their types, but it left me feeling as if I’d eaten far too much of a not particularly exciting meal!   I did see one or two things in the sealed bid sale that I might be tempted by – I’ll have to go through the catalogue again and tally up the total to see if I dare bid on a few. It is becoming expensive to buy at auction, particularly imported stuff that carries 5% VAT on the hammer price. plus pay 30% buyer’s premium (25% + VAT), i.e. you pay 35% and the seller pays  10% sellers fee, so in the end the seller gets £900 and you pay £1350 on a £1000 bid, a total  markup of 50%  on what the seller gets.   Eyewatering!

I get the feeling that I need to make up another gun – I guess it might be time to see if I can get together the parts to make a flintlock for my Henry Nock single barreled shotgun – I’ve been toying with the idea a back converting it since I bought it as it has a drum conversion and I would make a complete new lock and a screw-in touch hole so I could swap back and forth……..

14th Mar – Science day at school has left me exhausted!  Off to Holts early as I have to meet a couple of friends there and return a pair of pistols to their owner and take a possible case for them.  I’m looking for a nice leather case for my William Powell hammer gun, and a couple of percussion gun cases as I enjoy working on them.  I wish it was easier to make them from scratch – I might give pistol cases a try as there is very little furniture and the woodwork is simple.  Back on line tomorrow wit report from the viewing!

13th Mar – I was busy today getting prepared for a science day at school on earthquakes and volcanos – we had a large box like table containing an animated display of an earthquake wave to take into school – although it should have been a 5 minute job, it turned out that someone had cleverly built it so that it was 1/4 of an inch wider than a standard door and one side of the french doors into the classroom was stuck…..  Not sure my Swiss army knife will ever be the same again, but it sorted the problem – I will leave the ‘how’ to your imagination.   I’m off on Wednesday to Holts to view – I had my eye on one item in the printed catalogue that has not appeared in the on-line catalogue so I suspect doesn’t exist – shame!   I have a few percussion guns to look at, including the Greener percussion that everyone seems to like, but I won’t be going for those for myself.  I’d really like some of the revolvers – but it will depend on the demand and whether the market gets saturated or if there are lots of hungry buyers – its a matter of playing it by ear and best done by being there on Thursday.  I’m tempted by the thought of a nice Brown Bess, but I am not sure about the ones in the sale. I also have to take a pair of pistols up to hand them over to their owner.   Not sure I’ll have time to touch a gun tonight – but I feel a bit of engraving coming on!  I did have another look at the pair of  pistols and I can clearly see them as having longer barrels  when they were flintlocks- they would probably have had the proportions of the PARR – see post, but maybe a bit smaller overall.

12th Mar. I’m feeling guilty because I didn’t do my blog last night – I was at a ‘Race Night’ in aid of ‘my’ school and didn’t get back until very late, by which point I just needed to sit and read Private Eye (nothing to do with the wine)!

10th Mar.    More playing!  I made the new nipple key I needed for the Nock  – the nipple screws into a flat with a right angle edge and only just enough clearance for the base of the nipple – about 8.75mm diameter – all my nipple keys have a bigger outside diameter  and jam – so I needed to make one with a maximum diameter a bit less than  that.  I had a nice 40 mm square of Indian ebony I got from a woodturning supplier which turned down into a fine handle – I made two while I was about it – almost matching but I did it by eye!   I turned the nipple from 14 mm silver steel rod and drilled a 5 mm hole up the middle & filed a 5 mm slot.  Then just a matter of filing a square on the tang and hardening it ( quench in oil in this case) and temper on the AGA in a part of the hotplate showing 285 degrees C.  Finally  make a brass ferrule to fit the end of the handle with a band of knurling for aethetics and Araldited it all together.  I used the spare handle to make a traditional pattern turnscrew to fit the lock nail of the Nock – I didn’t get the blade ( made from spring steel)  quite even as I was in a hurry to finish it, having spent long enough on the job.  Again  quenched in  oil and 285 degree C temper. I ought to put a nipple pricker in the top of the nipple wrench handle as is traditional – maybe later!    The handles were finished by wiping over with shellac a couple of times and then using wax polish.  Quick and dirty!

If I’d been prepared to spend a bit longer I could have made them match!

9th March  More or less a complete day spent playing with guns -as a hobby it is quite time consuming!   I’ve been browning the  barrels – they are beginning to show some figure, see picture.  At the same time I’m keeping up the slackum on the stocks, which must now be nearing completion.  I tackled a couple of jobs I’ve had around for a while – a friend has a nice percussion gun that I covet – it needed a cap on the fore-end, it has a lot of big bold inlaid gold lettering on the barrel – Sturman of Barnsley (the lock says Bradley in equally bold gold lettering – discrete its not!). The cap should probably be of German silver but I decided that the gun was a bit of ‘Barnsley Bling’ so I made a gold one – at least I made one out of a bit of 22 mm copper water pipe and gold plated it – I think it looks rather good, although I have to admit that it isn’t quite the right shape!   Oh, and I also soldered a pipe onto the rib of a flintlock and started a new website for my STEM club……

Replacement fore-end cap Sturman/ Bradley;-

Copper pipe annealed and shaped round a mandrel

Gold plated using SPA brush plating stuff

Finished cap – it should really be shaped round the ramrod opening but I like the ‘Barnsley Bling’! 

Here is the lock of the ‘Barnsley Bling’

To give you some idea of what is involved in restoration, here are a couple of photos of the stuff I used in working on the pistols – there is more not shown – like the bench wire brush, vice, sandpaper and steel wool etc etc.  I think everything in the photos got used!

8th later  Dick has a couple of pistols he restored for a friend who now wants to sell them – one is the Griffin I included a few pictures of below – a nice early pistol by a very good maker – I will go to Dicks tomorrow with my proper photography setup and take pictures to put on the FOR SALE section of this blog.

8th Mar.  Trying to get some gun jobs out of the way!   I spent some time fiddling with the frizzen springs of a pair of pistols I’m fixing – they were a bit slack so I re-hardened the first in water and tempered it in burning oil and finished on top of the AGA for good measure and its fine – I measure the opening with digital  calipers before I start and decide how open it should be and the either open it that much if its softish or anneal it and then open it if not.  The second frizzen spring was also slack but it was still soft at the end of the process and closed back to its original size when I intalled it – so repeat, only I’ll stick to the AGA and go for a measured  305 degrees annealing – now to see if it works… did!     I’ve stated browning the pistl barrels after the chalk degreasing treatment.  I couldn’t get the rusting to start (in the cellar), so I suspended the barrels on a large tub over a jug of warm water and they behaved!  First rusting is Blackley’s solution , second is my old p.c.b. solution much diluted – I want it to be a bit blackish as I don’t want it to look like a re-browning job.  I’m continuing the finishing of the pistol stocks – at the moment just putting on Alkonet stained slackum oil until it stays on the surface.  The locks now look a lot more similar after I coloured one up a bit, but the main difference in the photo is caused by the light, although one has a near perfect surface finish and the other has got slight rust pitting – there is really no way to get rid of that difference without being too violent!

The twist begins to show up as soon as I put the used p.c.b solution on – its looking promising – the copper in the ferric chloride gives a darker, geyish to blackish colour.

Pistols receiving red oil finish – the clip is holding a split closed while the glue sets..

7th Mar  I missed the range today as I got held up in traffic and was too late – everyone had gone!   I worked on the pistols when I wasn’t going to the range or showing my STEM club how to write computer programs for robots.  I’ve done the crack repair, although when I photographed it for the blog I saw that there were a couple of depressions that need filling.  I lightly coloured the wood with red mahogany spirit dye wiped on and off as it had lost its nice reddish colour in the steaming etc.  It then got a wipe on coat of dilute shellac, and then another, and the crack was coloured down so that it blended in using a paintbrush and spirit dyes and a Sharpie black pen quickly wiped off with a finger – it gets taken off by spirit stain or oil finish or shellac, but you can build up the colour with care.    I realised when I looked at the pair together taht the spur we had welded on teh cock of one wasn’t at the same angle as the unbroken one.  The broken bit fitted exactly, so it must have been at a different angle to start with, or it was broken bending it.  Anyway I heated it to red heat and bent it to match – which it does reasonably well;-

The cocks match reasonably well, and the crack repair is not really visible, but I might need to do a  better job matching the colour of the lock plate and cocks.

6th Mar.  Archive day at Bullard.

I’m hoping to take the Nock rifle to the range tomorrow morning to check out the sight – but I have a committee meeting at 8.30 so lets hope it doesn’t last too long!  I cast up 30 balls this morning – out of doors as last time I did it in the workshop and it was not pleasant.  I’m amazed that the little flat camping stove will melt the lead and then keep it hot outside when turned right down – I’m getting the hang of casting, but the balls still come out with several different weights…….   In the afternoon I have my STEM club at school so no hanging about…

5th March – I missed last night as I was at a black tie dinner and didn’t get home until too late to blog, even for me!   I was constructing a circuit to charge all my STEM club’s  Mindstorms computers at once – now done, although it gets a bit warm & I might have to boost the heatsinks.  I set to work on sorting the sights of the Nock – Dick gave me a handful of old tubular front sights to try and I found a nice old BSA one with a built in choice of dot or ring by a lever on the side.  My peep sight won’t go very low, so I had to put the sight line about 8 mm above the barrel which meant that conveniently the BSA sight would sit on the barrel and I’d just have to silver solder a suitably shaped bit of 1.5 mm steel onto the bottom.  I  filed up a bit of steel to fit the dovetail on the barrel and silver soldered it on – its not perfect as the silver solder didn’t pull the metal down properly so its not quite level fore and aft, and the wedge isn’t quite tight enough to be reliable, and as its covered by the sight body I can’t use a punch to fix it in place.  Anyway ( there are lots of ‘anyways’ on this blog!) I sighted it with the laser tube and its not too bad – it will certainly get something on an A3  sheet of paper at 25 yards next Tuesday.  I had a look at the set trigger – it doesn’t have much adjustment left, but I gave it a slight tweak and I think it is marginally better.  Now I just have to cast up 20 or so balls to a high spec and see how it shoots – I do need to do something about the nipple, but that is a less urgent problem.  Of course the downside to fixing the tube foresight is that the beautifully fitted case will need modifying and won’t be as neat as it was before – If it works I am tempted to fix a flat base to the barrel and fix the sight into it with lateral adjustment so it can also be removed.

My additional wedge fixing didn’t work as I intended – its a bit tipped up and not tight enough but it will do for ‘proof of concept’ next time I shoot it – I can fix it properly if it works for me.    The lever changes the sight from post and bead to ring.

Saturday was the Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot at Cambridge Gun Club – extremely well attended too!  I shot the Jackson Improved Central Fire gun I mentioned before – it was much admired and handled beautifully – I was quite pleased with the way it shot – I hit almost all the clays I would have hoped to, and missed all the difficult ones – so I was happy with the Jackson, and it is likely to become my first choice for a percussion double, pushing the Egg to one side.  The only issue that I’ll sort when I get time is that one of the nipples is a fraction undersize and doesn’t hold the cap when you cap it with a capper – so you have to pinch the nipple a bit first, which isn’t idea and even less so when game shooting!”  I  thought I had paid over the odds for it but looking at the prices in the upcoming Holts auction I’m not so sure. (most of the stuff in this sale has 5% VAT as its from Alderney, so the total premium is around 35% ). I will go to the viewing, and may go to the actual sale too – I’ve never been to an actual  Holts auction although I have bought too many guns there – I go to the viewing beforehand and usually bid on the phone, but this time there are so many goodies from Harold Bull’s collection that I’d like to be there!   I have been asked by a couple of dealer friends to check out some of the percussion shotguns – obviously someone trusts my judgement!  I suspect they will go at well over the estimates – coming from a known collection always gives bidders confidence!   I’m not sure I’m in the market for anything in particular, but if something catches my eye but passes others by I might find the temptation too much!

3rd Mar Tommorow is an Anglian Muzzle Loader’s shoot so I will take the Jackson as its now on my certificate – I used the proper form downloaded from the web and emailed it – shame whoever did the form didn’t make the date box writable!  But its a lot easier than posting.

2nd March –   Dick has a steel barreled and brass mounted pistol by Griffin to restore – its early – Griffin became Griffin and Tow in 1773 so its before then, he was apprenticed in 1741 so would have finished as a journeyman around  10 or 12 years later, so that brackets the date between 1753 and 1773  – maybe I’d put this one around 1760 ish?   I brought the barrel back to derust and get rid of the varnish on it – I’ve done that and its is now clean – its quite pitted but looks OK – it would not have been browned originally, and it would not be sensible to strike it up as too much would be lost, so it will stay.   He also had a pair of brass barreled flintlock pistols by Brander and Potts of 70 The Minories  that he is renovating  – correcting a couple of bodges, like extra screw holes in the trigger guard that needed blocking – Brander joined Potts in 1825 (?) so they are quite late, although they don’t look fully up to date for that time- right at the very end of the flintlock era.  They do have silver mounts which I believe were dated for 1763, which is a mystery as, apart from the name, the frizzen has a roller (introduced in 1775) and its a semi-rainproof pan.   They are rather well made and appear to have originally had the barrels gold plated.  I brought the trigger guard back to touch up the engraving where the screw holes were blocked.  I have offered to renew the gold plating on the barrels – The client is being consulted on the price!   I guess they are basically what we call a ‘bitsa’  – made from bits of this and bits of that, although in this case definitely contemporary and genuine- a rather classy bitsa, and therefore adding interest to the pistols.

‘I came across a nice quote from a law report in Keith Neil and Backs ‘Great British Gunmakers of 1540 to 1740’ that I thought was worth bearing in mind when you look at some utilitarian pocket pistol with ‘H Nock’ on the side….  It was a case in 1747 of someone making guns without having served an approved apprenticeship or being a member of the Guild ;-

“It appears that the gunmakers business in and about London is divided into twenty one different branches: viz barrel forger, brick forger (?), barrel filer, barrel polisher, barrel loop maker, lock forger, lock filer, lock polisher, lock hardener, trigger and nail maker, trigger and nail filer, stock maker, furniture forger or founder, furniture filer and cutter, tip and pipe maker, side piece and thumb piece repairer (?), polisher, engraver, bluer, stick maker, flint maker, and mounter or screwer together, and all that the master gunmaker do in London, after they receive the several parts, is only to screw those parts together in which very little skill or art is required.”    He got off on the grounds that he had made a very fine gun – entirely by himself.  Of course in time almost all those subsidiary activities migrated to Birmingham where the cost of labour was less.

That was in 1747 – by the time the double barreled gun arrived you can add a few more trades, and given my belief that by the mid 19th century  the engraving on sporting guns was farmed out within the engraver’s shop so maybe three engravers worked on the bits of one gun I reckon upwards of 30 people had a direct hand in making a gun!

The Griffin pistol barrel:-  Classic mid 18th century shape and engraving.

The trigger guard of the Griffin needs the tip re-engraving – as you can see the lines are a bit wavy so not too difficult to copy!

1 March -Busy day trying to sort out some electronics – banging head against wall!  This evening I decided it was time to do a bit of engraving of lettering on a test plate so that I didn’t loose the skill altogether  – I don’t understand how the brain (or at least mine) disconnects from the words when you are engraving, particularly through the microscope – I happily engraved ‘DUULLINGHAM’ and didn’t see anything wrong until I looked at it without the microscope – and I had marked it out carefully too , although I did notice that my spacing seemed to have slipped!  As a punishment I made myself redo it in letters 0.8 mm high and get it right!  I’ll try to make time for some gun work tomorrow – de-rust the pistols and maybe start on the fore-end tip for the Bradley gun – I was thinking to try making it from a bit of 1 inch copper pipe and then silver plate it……

28th Feb  I took the Nock rifle to the range this morning and found a number of muzzle loading pistols being shot, which was handy.  My sighting laser worked well – it shows up at 25 m on a reflective strip – luckily there were a couple in the butts to check the sighting on.  I decided to try 1.7 dr of Swiss No 4 as compromise between the 1.5 mentioned in old books, and the 2 or 2.5 that had been mentioned.  The balls from my .632 mould were a steady lightish  push fit with 15 thou lubricated (WD 40) wads, but perhaps not quite as tight as I would have liked.  My first shot was a couple of inches at 3 oclock to the  mark, and my first 5 shots were about within a tea plate, but I’m afraid it was downhill from there!   I did the first 5 without setting the set trigger,  but was worse with it set as it was so sensitive that I couldn’t even feel the trigger on my finger before the gun went off !  Anyway itgot worse – I’m not quite sure why – except that the gun was getting a bit fouled, and I was having some difficulty in seeing the sights and lining them up.  The rear sight has hardly any v in it, only a gold inlay on the back face as a mark that you can’t see under the roof of the hut, and the foresight is not very visible.   At one point I was distracted and put the patched ball down the barrel without any powder – at that point I found out that all my nipple keys were too big on their outside diameter to fit in the space around the nipple ( not sure how I got the nipple out and back when working on it, but I know I did!).  Luckily someone had a little revolver nipple key that worked fine and a bit of fine powder in the nipple hole blew the ball out and it landed a couple of meters from the muzzle.   I also had a couple of misfires – another cap got it going in both cases.    What did I learn?   1) the .632 + 15 thou  balls are a tiny bit small and might not be gripping the rifling – I don’t think they would stand a chance at 2 or 2 1/2 drams of powder.  I might have to get another ball mould or try two 10 thou patches together.   2)  I need to adjust the set trigger a bit so I can actually feel it before it goes off.  3) My eyesight is not really  good enough for open sights, and certainly not with an invisible rear notch.  I need to use the peep sight, perhaps with a smaller hole, which will mean raising the foresight as  the peepsight won’t go low enough on its mount – since it won’t be traditional I might put it in a short tube, or modify a modern one.  4) misfires should not happen, certainly not twice in 20 shots or so – the nipple is the original one and flares out from the top to about 2 to 3 mm.  – our experience with M/L shotguns is that the hole at the bottom needs to be quite small – around 1.3 mm diameter, to fire reliably.  So I’ll have to bite the bullet and make a new one – I hope its 26 t.p.i.  5) I need to think about a ball puller or a gas ejector!  6) I ended up using some balls I had marked as rejects because of surface flaws or weight discrepances – they  did (not surprisingly)  shoot more erratically than the better ones. Anyway, it was an enjoyable shoot with several M/L enthusiasts, so I’ve established a good place to go on a Tuesday morning if I have time!   I had my first of the new STEM (Science Technology, Engineering and Maths) clubs at Kettlefields school in teh afternoon – everyone was very excited because the letters the children had written to local businesses had elicited a cheque for £1000 from one kind sponsor, which paid for the 3 sets of Lego Mindstorms I had already ordered on a gamble. Anyway they all dived in undoing the boxes and were soon busy thinking of projects – their theme is Pets.

27th Feb  Clare of Anglian Muzzle Loaders sent me the link to the notice for the Northern Shooting Show  – you can see what I got up to with my engraving and display of photos of work I have done. .   It is approaching fast, at least in comparison to the rate I’m getting things done!  I’ll have to find a good project to take…..     I am off to the club 25m range tomorrow  to sight in the Samuel Nock 16 bore rifle, having now learnt how to get the right size of ball, and got the right powder – I’ll try my laser tube.  I ought to make an unloading rod in case I have to get a ball out – I did try a vicious modern 5 mm screw that seemed to work just fine, so I’ll just have to mount it in a suitable rod with a cover – I did buy a tap and die of the size most commonly used on old cleaning rods – 9/32 BSF so that I could do the job properly but haven’t got round to it – like so many things.   I’m just wondering if I might take my Colt Army to shoot on the range – it is on my FAC and I have  shot it and it is quite a beast – with slugs the chamber is full of powder and the slug is flush with the end, or just looses its tip. I did manage to get a few shots in the target last time I shot it!   The flask is a cheap repro, I think the case is also late.  I do prefer the Navy, but I don’t have a shootable one, although years ago my father used to shoot mine without problems.

This is in very fine mechanical order- its only problem is slightly messed up barrel lettering where someone has tried to ‘improve’ it.

26th Feb.  I do seem to find myself doing strange things – today making a new drumstick used to strike the gong to announce formal dinners at  Homerton College as the steward had been a little too vigorous with the old one – fortunately it wasn’t a very ancient item of historic importance.  I  copied the old one but had to spend some time finding a suitable covering for the head of the stick – too hard and it excited too many high frequency resonances in the  copper dish I was using as I didn’t have the gong itself, too soft and it sounded dead!  I used two layers of scraps of felt left over from lining a gun case wrapped round the ball shaped head and sewn on!   I am incidentally  invited to a formal dinner on Tuesday so I’ll hear how it sounds!  I got a fierce letter from the VAT man yesterday because I’d forgotten to put in my return – slap over the wrist for me!  So unfortunately no guns this evening!     Thinking about the  pistols, they do look quite early in the percussion era – They have two side nails but no side plates, and the back tip of the lockplate is a bit dated, and the flats on the butt are typical late flintlock features – also no escutcheons round the barrel bolt.  The locks and breech plug were clearly made as percussion, but I have a feeling that the rest of the pistols might be from a flintlock – the percussion bits don’t quite fit in style or quality with the rest?    I’ll do a bit more careful examination when I strip them down to clean – but its a nice speculation to work on, and would certainly make them more interesting.

My good deed for the day!

24th Feb  I spent a lot of today wearing my school governor hat, or rather badge.  Governors are supposed to have an oversight of what goes on in the school so that we can hold the head to account, but probably more importantly, so that we can impress the school inspectors that we are doing our job (unpaid of course) so that they will give the school a good rating.  Anyway as the governor with special  responsibility for children with special educational needs I need to know what is done in the school to help them, and how effective any interventions are.  It is interesting to see the way schools are changing – having gone down the route of extreme risk reduction and more or less wrapping the children in cotton wool, the buzzword is now ‘resilience’, which means make them think for themselves and take some responsibility for their lives as they go through the school.  About time too!  I’m quite excited about the way things are going in education at primary level – and particularly the way that schools are opening up to the outside world and encouraging industrial contacts.  All good stuff.  All that waffle is just by way of an excuse for not having touched a gun all day – apart from realising that keeping my (FAC) Percussion Nock Rifle in its case wouldn’t really cut the mustard* with the firearms department, so the barrel has been taken out and put in the cabinet.

23rd Feb.  I went out to the Cambridge Gun Club for a few clays with Bev and Viking but it was blowing a gale and I couldn’t see any prospect of my hitting anything – if I was a better shot it might have been fun but clays with a 50 to 60 mph gusting wind behind them are not something I really expect to do very well at.  The others stayed and braved it, but I headed home clutching my kilogram of Swiss No 4.  Its unfortunate that the black powder we buy – all from the continent – comes in 1 Kg bottles, whereas for legal storage we have to keep it in containers of a maximum of 500 gm.  I’m sure someone had a good reason for changing it, but that is one area where a bit of European joined up thinking would have been useful to the poor punter!   On the way back home I found the road blocked by a fallen tree, so I had fun towing it out of the way with my Land Cruiser- luckily I can tie knots in rope that I can undo afterwards.  I had meant to throw the chainsaw in the back before I set off but didn’t.      This evening I was reading a copy of Howard L Blackmore’s book ‘Guns and Rifles of the World’ as I bought a copy at the re-enactment fair – its a deceptive book because it looks as if it is a casual coffee table book – the title suggests it, but Blackmore is an authority on almost every aspect of the history of firearms  and the book is an excellent introduction to the history of firearms and the enormous variety of guns that have been made – even if the average collector only sees a few percent of that. If you only have one book on antique guns this would be a good choice.  When I got it home I found I already had a copy, so if anyone wants one I’ll sell it for the £20 I paid plus postage.

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May 202014

I am putting this up in case anyone needs to do the same – I have a SIP P178 HF welder and wanted to get lessons in precision TIG welding from Jason McDougall, who said that without a foot pedal control on the current and stop start I wouldn’t get very far!  Welders with foot controls don’t come cheap, and I didn’t want to scrap my almost new SIP, so I had a look around to see if I could fit a pedal control.  No info on the web that was relevant, although there were a few pics of pedals, and unfortunately no circuits available for that model.  Under the hood I found the current knob was a dual gang potentiometer of 1K Ohm resistance, which was a bit of a problem, as I would have to substitute my pedal for this potentiometer  – I couldn’t find suitable 1K slide potentiometers to make my pedal from, so ended up with a bit of a Heath Robinson arrangement with a cord running round a drum that sat between two 1K rotary potentiometers moved by an arm on the pedal – after a bit of messing about I put in a sprung idler pulley to keep tension on the cord and a microswitch that operated right at the top of the pedal movement – doesn’t quite cover the full range of the pots but probably goes to 120 amps – so far so good….



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