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..
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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.
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___________________ DIARY ______________________
24th June – I finished making and TIG welding the two frames that hold the furnace together and put some 10 m.m. studding legs on the bottom frame to hold a couple of half thickness bricks as a floor. The whole thing has gone together pretty well so far – the Youtube design is well thought out by the author who says in the video that he is doing his GCSEs – so he is presumably still at school – a highly commendable effort. I deviated somewhat in my construction as I wanted to use up scrap materials I had around the workshop – which included a lot of M10 studding amd M10 nuts. I found a bag of 10 mm. Belville washers – they are the dished washers that act as a spring – I used them with the nuts that hold the bottm bricks in place – as I didn’t have any M10 washers I used two Belville washers facing each other. I found some high temperature wire I had saved from the inside of an old electric cooker and used that to do the wiring. This evening I finished the main parts of the furnace, but need to do a bit of shaping around the top opening to get rid of some 1 to 2 m.m.gaps that are letting heat out – it probably needs a proper lid. I did a test run with a temporary top in place, and the temperature gradually climbed over half an hour to almost 1000C ! The outside got a bit warm and the aluminium plate that holds the bottom bricks in place also got quite hot. Anyway 1000 C is not bad, and the temperature was still rising
The frames are earthed, as they should be. The furness will shortly be controlled by a P.I.D. (Proportional, Integrated, Deririvative) controller if I can get one covering the temperature range – otherwise I’ll just use a cooker control with its simple on/off regime.
23rd June – Clearing out my ‘rough’ workshop left the big bench empty so an invitation to start a project I’ve had in mind for some time – a simple electric furnace, primarily for annealing and hardening, but alse possibly for colour case hardening and maybe brass casting. The design comes directly from a Youtube video (How to Make an Electric Foundry For Metal Casting – Part 1) , so I can’t claim any credit for what is a very elegant little vertical furnace. It uses bits from ebay – the most expensive part being the silica kiln bricks – 10 bricks at £26.00 for 5 inc. carriage. The heating element is a length of heating element from ebay – there are lots on offer, mostly from China, but I found one with next day delivery for a few pounds. I won’t go into the details as the video is comprehensive, but so far I’ve grooved the 4 main bricks for the element- they are very soft and fragile, and stretched and checked the element – its around 1.6KW, I had to cut around 200mm from the length to get the correct heating effect, and ended up with about 67 inches which equates to around 4 complete turns within the four brick enclosure. I bought a K type thermocouple from ebay for a few pounds – using a simple testmeter on the milliVolt range enables me to measure the temperature to within about 10 degrees – I put the 4 bricks together on another couple of bricks for insulation and fired it up with the thermocouple suspended in the middle and a couple of bricks on top and in less than ten minutes it had got to about 530 degrees Celsius – I didn’t bother to leave it longer as the corners are not very tight and have gaps at the ends of the grooves so there is quite a lot of heat loss that will disappear when the extra bricks are used to fill in the corners. I now need to cut the bricks for the corners and base etc and make a metal frame to keep it all together – I have some old Dexion angles that I’ll probably use as it will help clear some ‘junk’ from the workshop – thus killing two birds with one stone ( I’m not sure if the RSPCA prosecutes anyone who uses that saying – I think I’m safe as I understand they have seen the error of their ways and stopped being so litigatious – they are in a bit of a mess at the moment and the Charity Commission has put in its people!). I have a temperature controller that I will fit, but it needs a bit of fiddling as its meant for a K type thermocouple but only goes up to 400C so it will have to be ‘doctored’………..
The maximum temperature will depend on the insulation and I’m not sure that the elements will be good for much above 800 C.
The corners need filling in and a proper bottom shaped and the whole lot held in a frame welded from Dexion angle.
22nd June – My evening reading lately has been Cruddinton and Baker’s books on the British Shotgun – all 3 volumes. I am getting interested in old breech loaders in spite of my earlier resolution not to get involved in anything later than percussion, except for the odd modern over and under. Dick came up with an old hammer gun – a rather nice bar in wood to Smith’s patent with rebounding locks and a single bite snap action closure with a lever on the right side of the lock – it looks in excellent condition and is having a few bits of the wood repaired – it looks as if it was reproofed after 1955 as its stamped with BNP and 12 x65 on the underside of the barrel. It has a very fine damascus barrel. I guess this is the 1863 patent of J Smith although the opening lever doesn’t seem quite the same as the description in Cruddington and Baker. I’ll have to get a copy of the original patents from the British Library. I gather the gun is probably for sale, so if its within my budget (very low!) I may be interested in adding it to my growing collection of breech loaders! I’ll try to get some pictures. I didn’t watch the Holt’s Auction live as I was trying to get my outboard motor running ( it took 4 hours but its now good!) but it looks as if the auctioneers had a tough job getting the punters going – I don’t think I’ve seen so many unsold lots in a Holt’s sale before, and many lots sold a few bids up from the bottom estimate. There were one or two that beat the top estimate, but the best percussion shotguns – the Blissett and the pair of Beaties didn’t find a buyer. Several lots were knocked down at below the lowest estimate, which is not something you see often at Holts. I don’t know if the market is in a sulk over brexit, or the extreme heat of the viewing days kept people away. The ‘Manton’ I mentioned at 200 to 300 went for 340 hammer price, that’s around £440 to pay, which is probably a fair price – If I’d tidied it up I’d probably sell it at £550 – £600 but the next bid up on 340 would have been a bit close to the bone. Anyway not sorry I didn’t bother to bid, but it would have been interesting to have watched a bit of the action. One cheering outcome is that our Heavy Dragoon ( see Guns & bits for sale) is something of a bargain at £1200 – hurry before we think better of it and up the price – 1 went for £1000 + 300 and one for £1200 + 400.
21 st June – back from an exhausting day in London at the Holt’s viewing. Not sure what to make of the guns – there were a few really fine muzzle loaders if you have a lot of dosh – the pair of Beaties were very fine, as they should be at those sort of prices, and there was a nice Blissett but a lot of the less good percussion and flintlock guns have low estimates on them – I am in two minds whether to bid on a couple of items or go shooting instead! Difficult call! – There were one of two cheap percussion guns that might possibly make shooters with a bit of cleaning up e.g lot 516, the (possibly spuriously signed) ‘Manton’ at £200 -300 estimate ( that’s £260 to £390 cost), but I don’t really have time to do it, so I guess I will stand back! Nothing like as inviting as the Bonham’s recent sale in spite of the much greater volume! I din’t manage to find a single wooden antique gun case or anything else that really took my fancy. The sheer volume of stuff is overwhelming – the sealed bid sale for July has a pile, literally, of repro percussion revolvers, mostly in good condition that have to be on a F.A.C. so not to be bought on a whim- where will they all go? I guess for a collector of percussion rifles there might be more joy in the sale – one or two very nice offerings. As usual side by side non ejector shotguns by lesser makers can be had for a song – but a bit more expensive than Southams where many fetched only £5. But I think overall I’ll keep my hands in my pockets! It will be interesting to see what things go for but I have too much on to watch it on the web.
20th June – I don’t seem to have time to catch my breath these days, but I’m off to Holts viewing tomorrow to see what is happening to the market and meet up with friends. It seems there is a widening gap between good antiques and the indifferent stuff – good percussion shotguns are becoming more popular as the prices of fine flintlocks disappear over the horizon, and a decent gun by a good middling maker might make two to three thousand – and that is the hammer price! I was having a look at Holts selling commission, but their terms and conditions seems very coy about it! I have decided to pass on my almost new Pedesoli modern reproduction Mortimer 12 bore flintlock shotgun as I have a single ‘Twigg’. – I’m told its a fairly early one, but in mint condition – I doubt its fired much above a couple of dozen shots – it is of course a section 2 firearm and must be on a shotgun license – offers around £750 if you want it….. I’ll put it on the website later. I was going to deliver a gun to someone at Holts, but I don’t think I want to be wandering around London with a gun in a slip, things being what they are! Discretion and all that – it will have to wait…….. I’ll follow up the Holts sale with a trip to Birmingham arms fair on Saturday to see what goes there – I’m suspicious that there are one or two dealers who seem to shut guncases when I approach their stands – I can’t imagine why…………….As the Gilbert and Sullivan Opera goes…. ‘I have a little list’ – its growing!
I noticed there was a ‘Samuel Nock’ in Holts without a name on the lock and with the barrel name ‘recut’ – I shall be interested to see if its as bogus as the photo suggested – but then I am on old cynic !!
18th June – I’m sorry I missed posting yesterday – driving to Rugby and back without aircon and being out all day in the heat left just enough energy to clean my gun when I got home! I got a taste of things to come today as son Giles is buying a flat that needs complete renovation and muggins has volunteered, so today was a trip to IKEA in Milton Keynes to look at kitchen units – and another 3 hours of driving without aircon – the car showed 31.5 C so another ‘boil in the bag’ experience! I took some videos at the helice to see how easy it was to track shot – helice is not the best discipline to try the experiment on because you don’t know there the hit will be so need to keep a wide field and thus a rather low resolution, and you need to be fairly well in line with the gun which put you directly in line with the smoke with muzzle loaders – plus a lot of shots are with the bird not rising above the horizon – I managed one shot where you could see the shot going away after the impact, but the impact itself was obscured by smoke – so not much use. I haven’t looked at all the many videos yet but I’m not hopeful – the rabbit one I did previously was much easier as I knew where the impact would be, and it was shot with a breech loader so no smoke. I’ll have to set up a better trial of airbourne shots! I took a number of photos of shooting, but didn’t manage to get any of the moment of firing!
This is the helice layout – when ready the 5 traps spin up the ‘birds’ and oscillate the launch direction back and forth and up and down , and on the pull command one at random fires off a clay in a random direction – they have a more or less completely unpredictable flight path although in general they follow one of a number of familiar patterns. The object is to separate the white inner part from the orange wings – the white part must drop within the fence for it to score -one of my precious and rare hits took a long time to separate and carried over the fence – no score! Its a tricky target and you have to hit the ring at the centre of the wing to break them apart – probably easier with a breech loader with some choke – anyway our winner managed 12 hits out of 20. My score will remain a closely guarded secret! ( I think the photo above is a breech loader shooting between our details)
Helice is great fun and we are extremely lucky to be hosted by the kind folk at the Rugby club – one of only three helice layouts in the UK – explained by the fact that they are very complex and expensive installations to run!
16th Off early tomorrow to Rugby for the Helice Shoot – I will use by little Henry Nock converted percussion – probably with 1 1/4 oz and 2 2/4 Drams of powder if my shoulder stands it – when its hot I shoot in shirtsleves so no padding. We only shoot 20 shots, spaced over the day so its not very hard going. I have packed my best camera and tripod as I want to catch some videos of the shot pattern if I can – the camera shoots at 50 frames a second so given the success of the rabbit video there is some hope. I tried to buy a spare battery for the camera but it turned out to be the wrong type – I’ll pack the charger in case I can find a socket. We go to the pub for a meal after the shoot, so I’ll be late back – so the video results will have to wait until Sunday.
15th June A morning at Cambridge Gun club – I took along my Blair and Sutherland double flint 18 bore to see if I could get it going but I couldn’t get the ignition speed anywhere near fast enough for reliable shooting – Bev had a go and of course got it to shoot perfectly! I was using some fine powder I had for priming, maybe old FFF, not the Swiss OB that ‘proper’ flint people use, so that is probably at least part of the problem. Anyway I gave up and got out my ‘new’ Beretta hammer gun – by then I was really not in the mood and was trying too hard so I didn’t hit much – I should have gone for a few simultaneous pairs – that usually gets me going! The Beretta is nice to shoot – when I came to clean it I looked at the date stamp under my microscope and found it was clearly 1931 not 1951 – so IF that is the date its quite a venerable gun – a very early M401 Vittoria? – not sure when they came in. I showed it to Dick, who knows breechloaders and he thought it hadn’t seen more than 100 cartridges through it in its life. When I came to clean the B & S I poured water throught the barrels and used the bronze brush and wadding and tissue and got the barrels clean – although old guns always come out dark grey unless recently honed. When I put it away muzzle down, shot came out of the end of one barrel! It wasn’t fully loaded – there was no powder but I had been loading just one barrel for the last couple of shots and I must have put shot in both – just shows the need for care….. In the afternoon I had a meeting in the Engineering Department about STEM clubs in primary schools – currently a hot area – lots of interest and lots of support if one can think of ways to utilise it – the only problem is that the kids in my club REALLY like making things with cardboard boxes and tape and bits of string plus a handful of cheap components from ebay etc and that is very resource light! We are trying to use expensive Lego computers but its a bit of a struggle and they still manage to incorporate cardboard boxes into everything – I brought half a dozen in with me this week and they had been seized and carried off before I had walked across the room!
14th June – A small engraving job – Dick had an unusual Queen Anne turnoff pistol to renovate that had a brass sheet wrapped round the front of the stock under the barrel that continued into the long brass trigger guard. It had a crack in it but when he took it off to repair it fell into several pieces that had to be silver soldered together – when he was refitting it he dropped the brass piece on the floor and in stepping back to look for it, trod on it, whereupon it fell into numerous pieces – to numerous and too fragmented to be re-used. Anyway having a workshop full of bits he found a piece of brass the right colour and made a new one which I have now engraved a border on. Brass is a pain for not only can it be cussed to engrave, but it comes in many different colours, and old brass is usually what we would call ‘lemon brass’ – somewhat paler than modern brass, presumably more zinc and less copper. Strange stuff brass – it isn’t an alloy ( Bev says it is, but if so its a very funny one!) and you can’t change the composition by melting it and adding more of either component – it just doesnt form a homogenous material. I’ve also been fitting the cock to the other Lancaster lock, and filing them both to get rid of the outer skin left over from the casting process – it is possible to leave parts ‘as cast’ and many restorers do, but it looks a whole lot better to put a better finish on parts.
It needs to be silver soldered to the trigger guard and a countersunk hole added as per the top fragment
14th June – Bev pointed out that I was two days ahead of myself – I thought time was flying! I checked the Beretta hammer gun more carefully and its dated 1951 – in the US they seem to go for $1000 up so I probably did OK! They are not that common and went out of production in 1958 as the last model of hammer gun Beretta made ( maybe there was a retro line at some point?) so I’ll do a post on it later.
16th June – Collected my ‘new’ 20 bore from Southams at Bedford – it looks good and little used so I look forward to shooting it on Thursday. I have no idea when it was made, or why Beretta were making hammer guns, but perhaps someone will tell me. I’ll put a picture in the blog when the camera battery is recharged – I just ordered a spare as it doesn’t last long when you are recording 50 f.p.s videos as I was with the pendulum apparatus. One of the amusements of running this blog is looking at the Google search terms that brought visitors to the site – I can usually see a vague connection between the search term and something on the site, but I’m puzzled by one of today’s searches for ‘roofing services MOUNT HOPE’ – how that brought anyone to Cablesfarm.co.uk is a mystery – maybe I should enter the same search term and see where I end up! I tried but no sign of Cablesfarm, although I realise there is a very old post on renovating part of the roof of our house that might have got caught up in a search.
A bit of checking on the internet suggests it a Beretta model 401 Vittoria made around 1956 – it has a triple bite lock with cross bolt. I suspect that a 20 bore Vittoria in this condition is quite rare – maybe justifies the £300 I paid for it!
15th June – I spent today at the lab in Cambridge trying again to get a video of the pendulum gravimeter working – it was the original method of measuring gravity – prompted by the observation of George Everest in 1856 that his pendulum clock gave a different time when near the Himalayas than when far away. We have an original apparatus from 1926 that was used from that date until the early 1960s as the best absolute method of determining the value of gravity at any place. In the 60s it was used by the American military to measure the gravitational field of the earth so that they could calculate the orbits of satellites they intended to launch – if course once the satellites were in orbit their trajectory could be measured and a more accurate measurement thus made of the gravitational field affecting them. The method involves swinging two pendulums in antiphase ( to balance any forces) and timing the swings against a very accurate clock – and therein lies the difficulty! In it was a few years before radio time signals were available, but for convenience I’m using my Casio watch, so it won’t be an absolute measurement. Tomorrow I’m off to Bedford to pick up the 20 bore hammer gun from Southams – its always a slightly tense moment when you first get your hands on a gun you have bought, even if you viewed it before the sale. Dick and I see a lot of guns that people have bought at auction without seeing them – sometimes it turns out to be a bargain, but occasionally there is a good reason why it seemed like a bargain at the time!
11 June – Out at a party – friends have been having Elderflower wine making parties every June since 1981 – they used to make 60 gallons a year, but are now down to 20, anyway a very peasant day. I sharpened another batch of gravers when I got back and was going to do a bit of practice but started to look at the Holts online catalogue for the 22nd June sale – the website was driving me mad because I couldn’t get back to the catalogue after setting a track. There are lots of interesting guns in the catalogue, but I can’t help getting the feeling that the cheaper items are now being given deliberately low estimates to get more people interested – I’d be surprised if any of the low priced flint and percussion pistols and guns sold for anything near to the low estimates based on prices that Southams got. I don’t think it applies to the mid & top priced stuff, which I guess may fall within estimate or within a bid or two as usual, with the odd exception. The only factor likely to bring the price down is the sheer volume, but I’m not getting excited about bargains, although I might have a punt or two on spec.. I’ll see if I can get a sense of the pricing policy from an inside source when I view! It’s an interesting sale, and I’m tempted by one or two things – I wouldn’t mind extending my revolver collection to later types from the Adams and Tranters etc. and the last bit of the Bull collection is for sale. I’m puzzled by changes in the number of people visiting this blog – its usually pretty steady, varying by +/- 20% each day but pretty much keeping around an average number that varies slowly on a month by month basis. It went form about 200 a day in the winter to around 130 recently and then to 100 in the last couple of days until today when it jumped to almost 400, an unprecedented number. Before that happened I thought that the number of visitors was weather dependent, the better the weather the less time people spent indoors on their computers – but that doesn’t explain today’s jump. My only guess is that a new version of the software that does all the hard work of recording visits to this site, and which was loaded automatically today, has in some way double counted visitors…….. we shall see!
10th June – Our recession shoot at Cambridge Gun club – a beautiful sunny day to be standing round outside, and a fun shoot. A good range of targets for the main shoot shot as 30 singles with 1/2 oz of shot – I don’t know if it was the targets or the half ounce but the top 4 scorers only hit 16/30 – I manages a typical 10, but when you massage the figures they hit 53% of targets and I hit 33% so I was only 20% (1 in 5 targets) worse – for every 6 targets they hit 3 & I hit 2, which is a reassuring way to look at the statistics – the election results and commentaries should have taught you about creative ways to spin the numbers! Next weekend is the Helice shoot at Rugby which is always fun – I’ll use the same gun, my little 5 1/4 lb Henry Nock with a 13 1/4 inch pull – for some non-obvious reason its a lovely gun to shoot – as long as you don’t try shooting 2 3/4 drams and 1 1/2 oz of shot, at which point it gets a bit punishing after a few shots – I was using a shutter type shot flask I don’t normally use recently after my normal Irish pattern flask had run out and thought it was dispensing 1 1/4 oz as marked, which is just about OK with the Nock with 2 3/4 drams, but when I checked the flask after the shoot I found it was over 1 1/2 oz! I normally shoot 2 1/2 drams and 1 oz in it. As promised, here is the Andrews officer’s pistol finished (as usual, click on the picture for a decent image);-
9th June – When I came to file the square holes for fitting the cocks on the Lancaster project I got to thinking about how interchangeable cocks are, and how standard the size and alignment of most English percussion guns is – for instance the original cocks off the genuine Lancaster rifle (c1840) have pretty well exactly the same alignment and almost the same fit as the tumblers in the locks I made that came from a breech loading hammer gun with Stanton rebounding locks (C 1864?). My Samuel Nock double with odd cocks took a pair of good John Manton cocks I happened to have without any modification at all. I guess they must have been jigged on more or less standard jigs, or all come from the same workshop in Birmingham! Anyway I decided that I would make a jig to mark and swage the holes in my blank cocks to the same alignment as the originals. I turned and filed up a squared rod and hardened it and fixed an adjustable arm to align the back of the cock against – the jig has a squared section and a 5mm pin for initial alignment. It seems to be working… time will tell………………… I’m off to Cambridge Gun Club for our monthly shoot tomorrow – this time its our ‘recession shoot’ where we are limited to 1/2 oz of No 8 shot – its surprising how little loss in ‘kills’ there is – As I intimated before, I’ve gone down to shooting 21 gram cartridges in my 12 bore, hence buying the 20 bore yesterday. A lot of the Anglian Muzzle loading shooters are shooting .410 and 28 bore breech loaders as its more of a challenge!
8th June – I was supposed to be off to Paris for a conference today but one of the ‘aged parents’ was admitted to hospital and that put paid to that plan! I thought I’d finally put the Andrews pistol to bed and so cleaned up the trigger guard screws on my wire brush – only one of them pinged off and I couldn’t find it anywhere – normally a quick sweep round the floor with a magnet on a stick will pick screws up along with a load of ferrous rubbish but no such luck so I had to make a new one – fortunately woodscrews into guns are more like pointed metal screws and have a thread that approximates to either UNC or Whitworth so can be cut with a die. The technique is to leave a long head and cut a temporary screwdriver slot in the top so you can screw it in tight and mark the final position of the slot on part of the screw that will remain (slots align fore and aft) – the excess is then cut off and the final slot put in the marked position and the head filed to the correct profile to lie flat on the metalwork it is securing – it takes a bit of trial and error. Once right the screw is hardened using Blackley’s colour case hardening powder ( it doesn’t impart colour but does tone down the metal . I then pop it on top of the AGA hotplate for 10 minutes, then melt a bit of beeswax onto it.
Having put the Andrews together it remains to put on a few coats of Slackum and then I’ll post a final photo and put it to bed. My next project is finally to fix the cocks onto the Lancaster I restored years ago – its worse with a double barreled gun as both cocks must be in exactly the same alignment – I am tempted to use Bev’s technique and drop an end mill into the back of the cock and make a disk to fit the end mill hole with a square hole so that you can rotate it and silver solder it into the correct orientation – the only problem with the Lancaster cocks is that they have grooves for the safety catch in the back of the lock that restricts the space for milling a recess. I think I’ll tough it out in the traditional way! If it goes wrong I can revert to Bev’s way.
I watched the Southams auction on the web on and off during the day – I had left 9 bids as I thought I would be travelling – most of the things I was interested in went for a lot more than I was prepared to pay, mostly guns as projects. I missed out on a few nice lots like a couple of very old horn flasks and a couple of patent shot flasks, but obviously I didn’t want to pay teh going rate! I did buy a set of brass case corners on the spur of the moment as they were cheap, and I bought a little 20 bore Beretta hammer gun as I fancy having a light gun and I’ve taken to shooting lighter loads in my 12 now. I paid more than I intended but what the heck, I have to collect the brass corners so I thought I might as well have something worthwhile to collect! The only things that are really cheap are the dozens of side by side 12 and 16 bore boxlock guns – you could pick up a functioning double 12 for £10 – £20 and something quite respectable for well under £100. A fair number didn’t attract and bids.
7th June – I swapped a couple of flasks for a giant lock this morning – its a massive flintlock from an East India Company wall gun. I have such a gun but converted to percussion and made into a punt gun – it was converted in a very crude manner so I wanted to put a flintlock in and tidy it up a bit. The stock has been cut down to half stock but maybe I’ll put it back to full stock if I can find a suitable piece of wood. I know it was an IEC wall gun from comparison with a very nice one that was on the Flintlock Collection website some time ago. I knew the I swapped lock had had a replacement cock – it probably isn’t quite the right shape, it should be profiled not flat – but a careful look convinces me that it is a back conversion from percussion. Apart from the cock – which could be a replacement, the frizzen has no marks on it, which means it was replaced too, and looking at the lock you can see a patteren of corrosion on the lockplate that corresponds to the deposits left by caps firing – the most corroded areas would have been shielded by the pan had the gun got to that state as a flintlock – but with a bit of work it will come round to being respectable. I’m sure that these re-conversions have been around for so long that they predate the current owners. See photo below.
I went over to Southams auctions and saw a few lots of interest and left a couple of bids, but most of the antiques were of junk status and nothing could have been made of them – I did spot one potential bargain, but probably others did too! I’ll report fully after the auction so that I don’t encourage anyone to bid on the same lots!
6th June – Devoted the morning to clearing out the workshop so that I could move in there! Then tackled the woodwork of the Andrews pistol using my usual sequence of operations ; wipe over with meths to get rid of any dirt or stain and take off a bit of the varnish (if its shellac), then brush in paint stripper and agitate with a toothbrush and clean off with white spirit and medium steel wool and toothbrush again. Then gently steam the whole stock over a kettle to raise dents. Then go over all the chequering with a tool I made with a sharp angle (about 30 degrees) with a point on one end and small saw cuts on the other – the point is good at clearing out muck and if you need to file the groove the other end comes into play. It took a bit less than an hour to do the butt of the pistol and it is much improved. I then repaired the edge of the fore-end – you can just see the joint – then coloured the wood to bring the new wood into line with the old and hide the joint. A final run over with 0000 steel wool and a quick wipe over with shellac varnish (diluted for the chequering ) to leave just a thin coat. I’ll give it a coat of wax polish tomorrow, maybe after another of shellac. I took off the tail pipe as it seemed loose – it turned out to be very rusty on the hidden side so that is currently being derusted. The trigger guard and trigger and false breech were all cleaned before, so I put them back having cleaned the pin for the trigger and applied a little KO-CHO-LINE leather dressing from an old pot that seems to do the trick! I paint all the undersides of the furniture with a flow coat of MetalGuard to prevent corrosion. The side nail is new – I forgot to harden/colour it so I’ll have to do that, and the ramrod and tail pipe need to go back too…… But its looking much better now!
The secret of any restoration you do is balancing the wear on all the parts to be compatible with each other so nothing ‘shouts’ at you.
The chequering look very crisp and you can see the figure of the wood – much improved.
In fact I don’t think I actually had to recut any chequering – just clean it out.
Here is what it started out like! (I still have the original lock plate, cock and drum & nipple so it could revert)
You can see the faint line of the repair above the bolt.
Teeth cut with a bit of hacksaw blade ground to a sharp V
5th June – Sunday was spent sailing our Cornish Coble on the Orwell with Giles – we had a little problem with the outboard overheating and had to return to Wollverston to get the spare from the car but had a super sail down to Levington and back. This morning I stripped the leg down and found that the impeller was totally perished and disintegrated and the water passages under the water pump were completely full of salt – it looks as if the drain hole that lets water run out of water passages when you take the outboard out of the water had got bunged up so every time you used the outboard you left 160 ml of salt water in the cavity that then evaporated and eventually bunged it all up and caused an alloy part to split. Luckily the engine water path was clear as it was still able to drain – so I’ll get a repair kit and a new plate and hope it is all OK! I usually run the O/B in fresh water after use but obviously the previous owner had not, and had had it in and out of the water many times – a useful lesson learned!
All that is left of the impeller!
The passges on the right should be 20mm deep – they are the drain for salt water when the O/B is lifted!
5th June – I went to Dick’s for another look at the 1660 Blunderbuss – we are trying to ascertain how much is original – our conclusion is that any repairs and changes are likely to be very old – the gun itself is 360 years old and we think that any repair was carried out in the first 50 or at maximum 100 years of its manufacture, so it is all now part of its historical value. It has a sheet brass sideplate that is a rather poor fit – there is evidence that the three ‘nails’ that held the lock had individual washers originally – I think the right thing to do is either leave the sideplate as it is or possibly put back three individual washers as there are clear marks where they went, but not to alter the sideplate for a better fit. Dick thinks the client will want the gun to look ‘good’ but my response would be to explain why that is not the right course of action to preserve the value of the gun – principally the historic value. I checked the inside of the lock – it is an intermediate type dog lock in that it still has the cock pinned on from the inside without a cock screw but does have the sear acting on arms on the tumbler inside the lock, rather than the original system that had the sear acting through the lock plate directly on the cock ( the sear acts horizontally on a vertical pivot, see previous photo. )
3rd June – How the year flies – almost half way through and still not done most of the things I meant to! I finished the Andrews touchhole after a little messing about – I wanted a disc of silver so I epoxied a bit of sheet onto the end of a short piece of 10mm rod in order to turn it down – for some reason the epoxy didn’t hold, nor did the very low viscosity cyanoacrylate I tried next – in the end I got it turned down and soft soldered onto the plug in the barrel and filed down – I thought the silver was wrong, so I gold plated it – looks OK but the joint round the edge is a bit rough as it is an old tapped hole – I should have dropped an end mill into the outside of the hole! Still no-one looks at things in that detail except experts and they will find lots of other things to fault! I started to clean off the old varnish ready to clean up the chequering and steam out a few dings, but shopping, mowing the lawns and getting the boat ready for a day’s sailing tomorrow ( now today) took up the rest of the day and I had a set of circuits to get ready for the school tomorrow, and a powerpoint to accompany them……
Messing about turning the silver disk meant the hole was no longer in the centre, but actually it is a better position with respect to the pan and it doesn’t show!
2nd June – More on the Andrews pistol – the new lock is now finished and working – I haven’t tried snapping it off yet as the trigger is still out of the stock and I pinched my finger when trying to fire the lock in my hand! I have now filed up the replacement safety catch and coloured it and fitted the safety assembly to the lock – the external slider has a tab that goes through the lock and is pinned to a boat shaped catch that intercepts a notch in the tumbler in the half cock position. The boat shaped bit sits in the V of the sear spring, which has a spring cover plate that presses on a lump on the boat to form a detent and hold it in either the locked or free position. I used all the internal bits from the original lock so I didn’t need to make parts, and it all went together just fine, although I did have to make all new screws to hold it together as the threads on my lockplate were not the same as the original lock. I also made a plug to screw into the hole where the drum and nipple were fitted – it turned out to be 3/8 in x 20 tpi – not a known thread, so I turned up a length of thread on my lathe and made a short plug – it was a bit of a fiddle getting it to fit as the hole seemed to have a sightly tapered thread – anyway I cut a slot in the plug and got it to the right length and it fits very snugly – I’d happily shoot it except that I didn’t bore out the reverse so it won’t work efficiently. Having got the plug in place and slightly recessed below the surface of the breech I will turn up a disk of silver in imitation of platina ( introduced around 1809) and soft solder it on top of the plug. I then need to see what needs to be done to the woodwork and put it all together and it will be finished at last! ( I have put picture of a 1660 blunderbuss from Keith Neil and Back’s book on the blunderbuss Post….)
Looks like I didn’t make the sear spring screw quite long enough – I think I forgot to allow for the little cover spring that engages the safety slide. There is always some ‘snagging’ to do!
The back of the lockplate bolster is a bit of a messy weld but it doesn’t show! The cock is a little misaligned – the shoulder should be hitting the top of the lockplate – at the moment its the tumbler that is stopping it – not so good!
The touchhole will get a disk of silver soft soldered in place on top of the steel plug.
1 June – Spent a happy morning making the safety catch for the Andrews lock – not bad, although Dick pointed out quite rightly that I’d made the ‘knob’ a bit heavy looking and I’ll have to fine it down a bit as I agree with him. Photo when that is done! While I was at Dick’s he showed me a very interesting blunderbuss that he had to ‘restore’. It is probably pretty rare and of some historical importance as it looks to be dated from around the third quarter of the 17th century – possibly as early as the English Civil war (1649 – 1660) so I urged Dick to do the absolute minimum and not to add any bits that could be mistaken for original parts, or remove anything that he doesn’t think is ‘right’ – just repair the major cracks in the woodwork and leave it at that. I think the proof marks are Birmingham – if it was made under Commonwealth orders it would presumably have had a shield proofmark? The lock is in near perfect condition – I think its original along with most of it – but it would be easy to fake. The only odd bit is the trigger guard and possibly the side plate. Key features are a horizontal sear pivoting on a vertical axis, and the cock with a square peg secured to the tumbler with a pin on the inside, as well as the overall flat dog lock design with the ‘teat’ on the tail – all of which I’d guess put it before 1670 – that’s about 100 years before most of the guns one sees! I’ll put all my photos in a separate post – 17C Blunderbuss. I am jealous!
This is just the sort of gun that my warning in the header about destroying value was aimed at! Almost anything you do is likely to adversly affect its historic value.
See Post – 17C Blunderbuss for more photos.
29th May – I remembered that to shoot the William Powell I needed to put on a 3/4 inch leather butt pad – I had stupidly forgotten about it! Today I got back to the Andrews lock – I made a top jaw out of a bit of 1/4 inch plate – I always leave a tail on the working bit to hold it in the vice , then when I come to work on the back edge I weld the tail onto a scrap to get the vice jaws out of the way – see photo. I turned up a No 10 UNC top jaw screw and case hardened them and the frizzen and frizzen spring and tempered them in the Aga – the frizzen spring I tempered on top as its hotter and I wanted a blue spring temper. It all went together, but the frizzen cam got stuck in front of the roller and was difficult or impossible to shut, and also was a little loose in the fully open position – increasing the size of the roller on the frizzen spring from about 4.6mm to 5.8mm diameter sorted the problem. That part now seems to be in order, the next problem is sorting out the safety catch – the slider outer part is broken off in front and behind the bit you push, so I’ll have to try building it with weld – maybe tomorrow’s job.
Holding top jaws is a pain – in the later stages a screw through the hole works.
The slider of the safety is in need of some delicate welding – note the larger frizzen spring roller in this photo – it now works.
28th May – The Scottish National Muzzle Loading Championships were great fun and Tom and I enjoyed the shooting under light cloud, so it wasn’t too hot and the sun didn’t cause problems. There were 4 competitions – single and double in both muzzle loaders and hammer guns. There were a number of really good shots competing, so we were not really in the running for prizes although Tom did creditably in the double hammer gun. It was very interesting shooting more or less the same targets with 3 different guns ( I don’t have a single hammer gun so we used doubles as singles as did most people). My best shooting was with the Single barreled Henry Nock covert gun, which using the standard metric would be considered almost an inch too short in the stock for me. I did OK with the double Egg but had a problem with my beautiful William Powell – it is too high in the comb for comfort and the recoil was uncomfortable on my cheekbone. I swapped over to sharing the Bacon patent bolt action double 12 that Tom was using and had much better luck. I am afraid the William Powel is not a good fit, although it was only by shooting the same targets with different guns that made me realise – I’ll have to think about what to do with it – its a thing of beauty but I really don’t have space in my life for non shooting guns on certificate and I shall have to get another hammer gun that fits! We had a minor problem with the Bacon that will need attention before it is used again – we had 3 misfires on the left barrel as the cap wasn’t indented enough – the same cartridge fired at the second attempt in the same chamber, so either the force or the length of the firing pin is wrong or there is too much headspace due to wear in the bolt lugs – investigation due before next time its is used – I’ll get Dick to cat an eye over it.
26th May – Recut the Griffin – this is a difficult call – it’s an original Benjamin Griffin pre 1760 barrel ( Stamped F for ‘foreigner as he wasn’t free of the Gunmaker’s Guild) and it had enough faint traces of the engraving on barrel ( as usual the curves of Ds and Os – I do like it etc) to confirm what should have been there, but not enough to decipher if you didn’t know. It had been very badly rusted and then struck up, and as the previous photos of the woodwork show, it was in a pretty bad state, so the person who bought it wants the address recut along with all the other work. I checked out photos of engraving on similar early Griffin guns so that I got the formation of the letters correct and used the appropriate serifs – and noticed that they all used a small = sign between words. I think I made a reasonable job of it, and I hope that the poor original state of the pistol justifies the intervention for the owner- I do recognise that others may have a different opinion !
Sorry about the photo – had to use my phone!
25th May – I drilled the cock of the Andrews flintlock conversion for the cock screw in No 10 UNC and hardened and tempered the lockplate and cock. I bought a tub of anti-scale ‘paint’ from Brownells, so I painted a little in all the screw holes in the lockplate and the square and cockscrew hole to reduce the loss of metal through oxidation – in particular I didn’t want to loosen the fit of the cock on the tumbler. I coloured them a bit using Blackley’s colour case hardening powder – it doesn’t really colour, just darkens with splodges! I then tempered them in the top oven of the AGA at around 255 degrees C to give a bit of overall colour. It took me quite a while to get the cock ready for finishing – all the surfaces need to be filed to get rid of the cast surface and any small defects, and the cock engraving and border lines recut. I would put up a photo but I took the lock over to Dick’s to discuss a bit of it and left it there. While there I took some photos of a 7 bore percussion gun that is up for sale following the death last week of Mike Miller, a well known Essex gun dealer. It is a good working wildfowl gun, it has had a break across the hand that has been carefully repaired but appears to be in good condition. I’ll put the pics on the FOR SALE page. I picked up a couple of little engraving jobs – a scrap of metal to have a 1760’s style scallop and dot border put round it, and the barrel of a Benjamin Griffin officer’s pistol that has been sold but needs a few lines refreshed – it also has a very faint address on the top flat, which corresponds to the usual Griffin address – BOND STREET LONDON – The purchaser is being consulted as to whether he wants the address refreshed. And a couple of dog tags for Dick’s wife……… I used the GRS as I hate hand engraving hard brass, especially when plated.
I dug out a nice 9 inch pistol bore (.56 inch) barrel with all the right proof marks etc and in good condition – I had to repair the tang, but it is now a pukka barrel – I need to go through the books to find what it should be part of – I think it needs a 4 1/2 inch lock, and it will need brass furniture, but maybe the normal New Land will suffice? Another for the long line of projects……..
Here is the 7 bore by Lees – a medium quality gun that was someone’s wildfowling gun years ago, and could be again.
24th May – I went with Yr 5 from school to an anniversary celebration for Bill Tutte who is something of a local hero – he was one of the Blechley Park codebreakers, and broke the Lorenz code in 1941. He came from a fairly humble background in a local village and now has a science and maths club and events run in Newmarket in his name – makes a change from fame for four legged inhabitants and kings and their mistresses which are the ‘normal’ Newmarket celebs! Apart from that I tackled the fitting of the cock to the Andrews lock- a job I dislike, and don’t usually do particularly accurately, although this time it does seem to end up a very nice tight fit and in the correct alignment!
There was a depression from the mould and the alignment wasn’t correct for the tumbler, I drilled a 2 mm hole through the centre of the square and then welded round it with piano wire and let it cool carefully in wood ash ( a good insulator of low thermal mass) – Dick had a nasty issue with welding on a .410 gun today as the weld had cooled too fast and hardened the metal so he couldn’t work it. Once I’d dressed off most of the surplus I drilled it 4.6mm and got the alignment with a layer of modelling clay on the back of the cock and started filing the square. I started a tapered hole from the back to get the initial alignment on one edge of the hole and corrected a slight misalignment as I enlarged and filed the square. A mixture of smoking the cock and pressing it on in the vice (gently) and filing in small increments secured a very good fit and alignment.
I now need to get a decent finish on the cock and drill it for teh cock screw and make a top jaw – I also need a set of screws to hold the lock parts on as my tapped holes in the lock plate are not the same thread as teh original plate holes.
23rd May – A busy day on the Bullard Archive, then I thougth I’d better sort out guns to take to Scotland for Tom and I to make sure I had enough wads and cards, so I checked the bores of all the guns I might take – it turns out that most are around 16 bore, although the Jackson is 14 and the single barreled Egg Tom shoots sometimes is 13 bore. So I spent a happy hour punching out circles of card! Some of the guns that we might shoot were taken off my shotgun certificate when I had a discussion with the firearms officer about the number of guns on certificate – now resolved. There is a slight problem for the police now as they seem to be using a computer system that doesn’t readily let guns appear from no-where and disappear to no-where and doesn’t like guns whose makers are not listed on its database, or that do not have numbers. It make it difficult for them to check antiques on certificate as they have been listing guns as ‘no name’ when they don’t have the name on the database, rather than adding it to the database. This is a problem for them when antiques collectors want to shoot antiques that qualify under section 58 of the firearms act and thus don’t need to be on certificate if not shot and for which no records exist. Firearms thus appear on certificates from no-where, and when one no longer wants to shoot them they disappear into no-where. I spent a good half hour explaining it all to the firearms clerk at my local office.
21st May – I thought I’d better get sorted to the Scottish Nationals, and realised I was getting a bit low on Black Powder after I’d finished making 100 cartridges for my lovely Westley Richards hammer gun (see post). As Tom shoots every class, as I do, we will get through a around 80 Cartridges plus extras for hammer gun (40 ‘bird’ each), and Muzzle Loading doubles (40 ‘bird’ each) and singles (30 ‘bird’ each). We’ll probably share the hammer gun but we will need separate muzzle loaders as the reloading takes time. – that lot amounts to quite a lot of powder (> 1 Kg.) and shot ( around 7 Kg). It also means I have to sort out around half a dozen guns – I’ll probably take a couple of spares as well – fortunately Tom can shoot most guns I can shoot, although he is quite a bit bigger than me! I used to shoot the Baker bolt action 12 bore (see post) – it was allowed to count as a hammer gun due to its very early date, but its getting a bit worn in the action (but still very safe) and deserves a quiet retirement – or perhaps Tom would like to shoot it one last time?
20th May – Out to a lunch party today that somehow seemed to sap my energy for work! I did manage to load 25 black powder 12 bore cartridges for the Scottish National Shoot next w/e, so not all wasted. I’m puzzled that the number of recorded visitors to this site has suddenly dropped from around 200 to around 150 per day – I do puzzle about the statistics but in this case I think its down to the way visits are recorded and in particular to the question of how the various catagories of rogues and hackers are counted or ignored – the software that guards this site and records users keeps getting upgraded, and I change various things to make it easier to keep a track of attacks, so nothing stays the same for long……. In reality I get the impression from emails that more people are viewing the site than in the past – I do get a pleasing flow of queries about antique guns that I do my best to answer as fully as I can – keep them coming……
19th May – I finished off the Davis Lock below by making a stud and nut for the sear spring – it works fine – not worth a photo! I fitted a frizzen spring to the Andrews lock that Dick filed up for me – he had a casting that fitted so I abandoned the spring I was fabricating! I made an 8 B.A. screw to fix the spring to the lock plate, and then dropped it – I went over the floor with my telescopic magnet that is usually able to find any bits of steel on the floor, which is an old brick floor with lots of ‘texture’ but not this time – back to the workshop to make another – I didn’t mind too much as I quite enjoy making screws, and I had rather messed up cutting the slot in the first one. Made a roller for the spring – its a posh lock! and fitted it – not bad, I think it will work well – given how unpromising the castings for the pan and frizzen were, and how much weld had to be applied to make them work, I’m quite pleased. I celebrated finishing the functioning by refreshing the engraving round the border where it had got filed and bashed, and put a running leaf border round the frizzen to match the lock plate – I know its not how it was done, but I couldn’t ‘read’ the original engraving on the frizzen – there was some. That leaves the cock to sort out – I have a casting so its a question of fitting it – a job I hate! I finished work by personalising a de-capper for one of the AML shooters.
Andrews Lock: The frizzen spring doesn’t overlap the lock plate, but its a close thing!
18th May – Playing with bits of guns today except for a meeting at school in the afternoon and a trip to Dick’s. I tackled the Davis lock I re-engraved – it needed three screws made to hold the bridle and sear as the previous screws had no threads left – they are No 5 UNC with .125 inch shafts. I then ran into the problem that the sear spring screw hole has the same thread, but a No 5 UNC screw is too big to go through the eye in the spring – its a case of sorting how to hold the spring on with a smaller shaft on the screw or making a new spring with a bigger eye as I don’t think that one can be opened up easily – I will opt for the former and make a stud with a 5 UNC thread at the bottom and a .118 shaft with a No 4 UNC thread on top and a nut – bit of a bore to have to go to that much trouble just to put it back together again!
T Davis lock: I should have plugged the spare mainspring peg hole before engraving it! But I didn’t so it will stay – its only from a fairly ropey old blunderbuss
The screws are perfectly good, but for a high class gun I would make sure the heads stayed dead flat.
I went to Dick’s to take him some water buffalo horn to make a fore end tip for the Witton and Daw and collect the lock for the Andrew’s pistol that he has very kindly filed up in his very skilled and patient way – it certainly looks good – now I have to finish the frizzen spring and tough up the engraving that has got a bit battered in the welding and filing – I’ve also got to do something about the touch hole which is currently a void where the drum and nipple came out.
Once the frizzen spring is sorted I’ll touch up the engraving and I might try colour case hardening the lock – I have stainless foil on order from Brownells to do the job properly – I need to think about the furnace. Then the woodwork needs a bit of a going over – the chequering is rather coarse and is filled with gunge or varnish, so probably it will be a paintstripper job, after which a short steaming will get a few dings out of the wood. ( The frizzen does fit tight to the pan, but it’s without the spring and is where it was left.
Here is a photo of the pistols I bought yesterday – they are sad looking and will take a lot of work to get right, but it will make a good project with all the elements of restoration present – not in any sense an economic prospect but they will make a pretty pair – although they are not actually a pair, there are some differences, and only one is marked for an inspector of mail coaches. I am not sure when I’ll start that project – probably in the autumn, although I might de-rust them sooner. I will have to spend most of the summer refurbishing a flat in Cambridge for Giles, if the purchase goes through.
They are quite similar, but the barrels have different lengths of octagonal section and the butts are slightly different shapes – one cock is a horrid replacement – the locks are slightly different – see the safety slot positions.- I’ll have to find a suitable replacement cock, or if that fails, get Kevin to make a mould of the good one and copy it. Given the damage to the stock of the upper pistol I might make a new stock to the pattern of the lower one – that would be fun & the old one would still be intact for its historical significance!
17th May – an exhausting day in London at Bonham’s auction – since viewing and auction are on the same day I have to leave at 8 and didn’t get back till 8, and sat in the auction room this afternoon for 4 1/2 hours non stop as all the lots I was interested in were spaced out. I and a friend were interested in a couple of boxes of junk estimated at £300 so we thought we could buy them both and have a lucky dip! The first lot went for £1400 hammer price and the second for £1000 – that’s without the 25% buyer’s premium and the VAT on that! So much for that idea… Somewhere along the line I must have dozed off when a somewhat ragged Durs Egg double flinter went for £300 – I only realised what I’d missed when I saw it being wrapped by the happy purchaser who was gloating over his luck! I did get a little pair of rare Post Office overcoat pistols in dreadful state in bits in a box for £650, which was a bit steep to say the least, but they will do very well for a Blog project – the sacrifices I make for Blog readers know no bounds..(photos when I recover my energy………….). I was disappointed to miss out on a beautiful cased pair of officers pistols by Ryan and Watson in stunning condition – (lot 340) I took it up to £4000 hammer price but stopped there and it went for one more bid – you never know if another bid would have got it, but with the additions I thought it was enough, although I kicked myself all the way home! One thing that was evident is the power of a ‘name’ in pushing up prices – very good Birmingham guns like the Ryan and Watson go for half or less of something no better, or possibly more worn by a London ‘name’ that was in any event probably mostly made in Birmingham anyway ( that’s the cynic in me talking). There was another pistol I went after, but it also just escaped my price – a little double pistol by Wilkinson (lot 313) that has a single trigger that I wanted for my collection of unusual guns, so I could check out the mechanism – they don’t like you taking guns to pieces in the viewing room for some reason. It went for £1200 + extras./ A lot of the better stuff went well above the top estimate – the pair of John Manton percussion guns looked really fine – the catalogue had them as rebuilt from flintlock, and the Keith Neils book lists them as being rebuilt in Belgium, but apart from the case which was obviously originally for a pair of flintlock guns (Manton’s cases for flintlocks always had spaces for the locks to be stored out of the gun on the assumption that they would be removed each time for cleaning anyway) , they don’t show many signs of rebuilding – they have new locks and and breeches – they went for £7500 hammer price. A Forsyth ‘scent bottle’ sporting gun sold for the top price of £23000 – I’m always suspicious of Forsyths as there was an exceptionally good modern forger who made almost indistinguishable guns – another Forsyth -a blunderbuss- in the auction made much less – but it did look a bit too good to be true and the catalogue said ‘ inscribed Forsyth & Co.’ rather than ‘by Forsyth and Co’ as it did for the sporting gun….as always caveat emptor! I am told that even Keith Neil himself shows one of the forgeries in his book and didn’t spot it. At least today gave me an insight into the current market, so that I can better price things…. And the owner of the heavy Dragoon pistol I restored recently is delighted, so that is a result.
16th May – Having recut the engraving I hardened the Davis lock – sprinkling a little case hardening powder on it to give it some texture, then tempered it in the top oven of the AGA to a pleasant colour…. After that I realised that the holes for mounting to bridle and sear spring were pretty much without threads, and I should have sorted that out before hardening! Luckily for me it turned out the I could get a No 5 UNC tap through them all and the pitch was exactly right so I’ll have to make a set of new screws as the old ones were either missing, stripped or had to be drilled out. If I only had one set of taps and dies it would be UNF/UNC as they fit old guns most often – I use B.A. or Metric once in a blue moon. It is probably enough to have sizes 4,5,6 and 8, and 1/4 if you want to make nipples – I guess UNC is a bit more useful than UNF, so you don’t need many taps and dies to do 90% of jobs. I’m off to Bonhams auction tomorrow, so I hope I’ll have something to show for it tomorrow evening! Lots of possibilities on offer, but probably a few other people with the same ideas – drat.
Sorry, the engraving doesn’t really show very well, but it is there!
15th May – I finished yesterday with the Tho. Davis lock plate cooling after annealing so that I could recut the engraving. The problem with simply heating the parts up with a torch is that they build up a layer of hard scale, and my de-rusting won’t get rid of it, so it has to be sanded off, and even then all the engraved cuts still have hard scale in them. This makes it difficult to engrave with a push engraver as there is a tendency to slip and the graver gets blunt, so I have started to do the recutting with the GRS air graver, which makes it much more controllable and since I’m following the original engraving my usual objection that I don’t like the style that comes from using the GRS is somewhat mitigated. We shall see how it goes. At the Northern Shooting Show I was discussing annealing with another restorer, who told me about a stainless steel and titanium foil that can be used to wrap parts in – like a pasty with the edges crimped and hammered – so that the oxygen is excluded – the titanium absorbs the oxygen in the pasty – and the whole operation can be done without the production of scale – its ideal for annealing and hardening and for colour case hardening using a mix of wood and bone charcoal and it seems likely that it will need much less charcoal to make the packet. When its had its soak at the required temperature a corner of the pasty is cut off with shears and the contents dumped into the water. All this saves having to have a gas flush furnace. I just have to try it – it is available from Brownells in the UK as well as in the US. Brownells also sell a paste to paint on for straight annealing and hardening. I probably ought to buy or make a furnace with temperture control if I’m going to do much of this – I did fish a whole pile of 2KW elements out of a bin recently with a view to making a furnace. – I’ll need a high temperature thermocouple too.
14th May – Last months AML shool left me with 2 locks – one to engrave for a gun being built in memory of Richard Morris, and the other that I couldn’t really remember what I was supposed to do with, or for that matter whose it was – what I believe is called a senior moment! – only mine last a lot longer than a moment. So I didn’t do anything with the second lock. Today I found out what I was supposed to do and for whom! So it needs teh name re-engraved, we think it looks like T Davis but could be almost anything! So I need to anneal the lock plate – I’ll probably recut the engraving so I’ll anneal the cock too. It turned out to be a pain to disassemble as the screws holding the bridle on had mostly lost their thread, and been riveted over on the outside. The sear screw had a very mangled slot too, so I had to drill out the head, and punch out the one remaining bridle screw from the outside. So that’s probably a couple of screws I’ll have to make! Anyway its now annealed and I’m waiting for it to cool down… There are lots of newcomers at the AML shoot, – muzzle loading shooting is getting very popular, so I thought a few hints on loading and cleaning were in order – I’ll start a new post forthwith – LOADING & CLEANING.
Apart from the screws it is probably OK – there was a washer under the cock screw – not where you would want a plain washer
14th May – Update – I am reliably informed that the matchlock is Northern Indian, possibly Uttar Pradesh & the numbers are police registration numbers. Another informant says that Westley Richards imported a vast number of miscellaneous guns from India in the 1970s including matchlocks and the numbers were customs numbers that were put on all guns before export – It is possible that they are police marks and that they then sufficed for the export. Anyway it looks like the answer is North Indian. Thanks due to my informants!
13th May Having finished the Heavy Dragoon I have time to sort a couple of other bits and pieces – first is hardening a lock I engraved for Martin – it came out quite dark, which I like – if that isn’t to the end client’s taste it will easily lighten with a bit of 2000 grit paper. Tomorrow is an Anglian Muzzle loader’s shoot at Cambridge Gun Club so out comes my Egg double 16 bore and all the kit to go with it, including making some 50 card wads. In two weeks I’m off to the Scottish National to join Tom (son) for our annual sortie to Leuchars – that means taking guns for both of us, and since one of the competitions is for hammer breech loaders with black powder cartridges, I’ll have to make around a 100 for us. Last year Tom got to the shootoff for 1st in the hammergun – he was beaten by two regular shooters, but he hadn’t touched a gun since the last Scottish National so not bad – we’ll see what he can do this year, he is sure to beat me! I had a query about a gun that I ought to know the answer to, and I think I might, but I’m not sure so I’ll put it on the blog in the hope that someone will tell me. It’s a matchlock, and looks to me like a fairly modern one, possibly for shooting in competitions – but I can’t see much detail from the photos so it’s a guess! Tell me what you think via the comment box or email – see CONTACT.
I’d like to think I could get that colouration when I wanted it – but I haven’t managed it before!
Not sure what the significance of the number 3113 is?
12th May – Finished the Heavy Dragoon (which I mistakenly called Cavalry, although I’m not sure of the difference) this morning – I was happy with the action after a bit of gentle filing so I hardened and tempered the tumbler and sear – a file would hardly touch them, so that is back together. I decided the cock screw was wrong so I checked the thread -the old screw was about UNF 6 ( 40 t.P.i ) but the thread in the tumbler was more like 28 t.p.i. – since I didn’t have a 3.5 mm x 28 t.p.i die (excuse the usual mix on units!) I settled for 6 UNC as being the nearest I had, and it seems to hold at least as well as the one in there before, which was clearly not original. I dulled down the colour with heat and Blackley’s case hardening compound and did a bit of reverse electrolysis to dull the surface – it looks reasonable and is a much better shape. A bit of peening on the back of the cock to tighten it up, and its all ready to go – it sparks quite well, although if I were going to fight a war with it, I’d probably fit a stronger mainspring…… I’ll leave it, as snapping it off (only with a flint and the pan closed, please) is less violent that way – Swan neck cocks can break, particularly if the pan is open when they are snapped off.
Good safe half cock bent!
11th May – Technology continues to haunt me – on Tuesday I couldn’t edit this post on the blog and had to copy the recent bits and start over as they say – whoever ‘they’ are… Then last night my mobile phone refused to speak to me, or indeed to do anything, which is pretty serious as it runs my life! Anyway the web offered the solution and life is back to normal….. And so to the serious business of the Heavy cavalry pistol – I started by rasping and filing the chunk of wood to the correct profile and in doing so managed to find out how much of it was filler and how much wood – it turned out to be good enough to leave in place, it would have been tedious to put on a new piece as the ramrod pipes had been glued in and it would have needed a fair bit of destruction to free them. The rest of the woodwork was coated in a thick dark varnish and had a lot of dents, so I used paint stripper to get back to the bare wood, and then oxalic acid to get rid of dark stains and slightly lighten the wood, after which I steamed it all to reduce the dents, and very lightly sanded it ( so as not to round off anything) with 400 grit and medium steel wool. Having got a reasonable finish I played around with various spirit based stains to get an even colour, then a light coat of ‘shellac varnish, brushed on and wiped off, followed by 0000 grade steel wool and wax polish, with local touching in of stains and a marker pen to deal with the joins etc. I use a very hard release wax plus brown and black hard wax to finish the wood and blend in faults. The finish looks a lot better now! Interspersed with the woodwork I stripped the lock and welded additions to the sear and tumbler and filed them up – I have a bit more to do on that tomorrow, and I’ll need to harden them too. See post on Heavy Cavalry for more….
11th May – Work has started on the Heavy Dragoon – it will now go into the separate post I’ve just started, but here is a preview….
It’s amazing how effective the electrolytic derusting is, and the fine wire brush on the old grinder leaves a very good finish without scratching. That job is done in very little time – its the other jobs that take the time!
10th May – A Heavy Dragoon Pistol arrived yesterday for a bit of TLC, so I’ll be putting up a post on progress, plus highlighting it in this bit. It looks to be an original, with round lock and swan neck cock. Its had some repairs at some time, probably a long time ago when it was still in use. The frizzen has been refaced, but not used much since this was done, and a chunk of wood has been used to replace the front couple of inches of the stock – I use the work ‘chunk’ because it encapsulates the rough way the work was done – it seems to be held on with a pin, so probably before modern glues (wrong – its modern!). It has a steel ramrod – probably original, I need to look at some pictures -and the action is at fault, as they say, in this case the full cock notch seems to be worn, although I haven’t stripped the pistol yet. There is also some wood missing around the lock, as is usual. So I’ll take it to Dick’s and we’ll have a look at what needs doing – I’ll probably get him to sort the wood out as that is his speciality, and I’ll derust the lock and sort the action and see why the fixing screws for the bridle come right through the lock plate. I don’t know how much refinishing the wood will need – obviously the ‘chunk’ will need replacing as its the wrong shape, which means the front part of the stock will have to be redone. Here is the starting point;-
I’m experimenting with out of focus white backgrounds but I will need some more lighting to make the illumination even.
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 & www.tinminerscottage.co.uk. 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 www.kettlefields.club . 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.