Feb 042024
 

 

 

 

13th January.  I am at last getting round to engraving Fred’s parts for a flintlock Cape gun (one rifle and one shot barrel). Its taking me  a while to re-awaken my muscle memory and get myself into an engraving frame of mind, so lots of playing about with test plates.  Fred is keen for me to engrave a bit deeper than I usually do, as my light engraving gets lost in the colour case hardening that he has done on his guns, which is pretty dramatic.  I have been using my GRS air graver to try and dig a bit deeper, but its not quite as precise as push engraving, although I’m getting better with it.  So these are a combination of push and air engraving.  I did think of buying a Lindsey air graver – I’d looked at them a few years ago, and when I looked the other day the prices had doubled and I can’t justify that sort of expense ($3000 + Tax and carriage).  On the standing breech I’ve been doing the traditional thing and using a cut out background with the pattern raised – its more work because its fiddly cutting out the background – I have been using the air graver like a little pneumatic drill with a fine rounded point to stipple the cut out background, which seems to work quite well and should stand out however it is case hardened.  I have one more bit to sort out – the bit of rib between the barrels, so I tried a couple of ideas on a test plate – I’ll talk to Fred about what he wants.  Then I have to engrave the locks – the tail ( stand of arms) is OK, but its always tricky to put names on the centre of the plate as the pan gets in the way and you can only effectively cut verticals from the bottom up, and for small lettering its very difficult to get clean starts to strokes, so doing it in a single cut makes it difficult.  The name will probably end up about 2.5 mm  (0.1 inch) lettering, and the location, which is 10 letters long will probably be around 1.5 mm or so – also the location (Shrewsbury) has a number of tightly curved letters – 2xS, R and B  that are a struggle when the lettering gets small.  Why can’t gunmakers  have names and live in places that are made up of letters that are all straight lines, possibly with the odd O or C ?

When I need a break from engraving – about 2 hours in every 3 – I’ve been playing with a number of Raspberry Pi computers as its time I re-learnt how to write code and run systems – its a struggle at times!  I was slightly heartened that when I got stuck on getting one computer to connect to the internet – my son Giles, who now is a professional programmer in Vancouver, gave up after half and hour.  I later partly got there!

If you are interested in green energy I found an app for my phone that lets me see at any moment where the country’s electricity is coming from.  For most of the last month or so we have been importing around 25% from half a dozen other countries, wind has varied from 2% to 70% (I think on a very windy late night) but is has mostly been around 35 to 45% – the app is ENERGY WATCH GB.  It is a strange and unfortunate fact that UK electricity prices are pegged to the price of gas when over half our electricity comes from renewables (a bit over 40% at the moment) and nuclear (16% at the moment).  Electricity is significantly cheaper in Europe! Anyway the wholesale price of gas has halved in the last month or so…….. A lot of energy companies are raking it in!

Notice that the tail of the tang is curved to the left  – must have come from a cross stock for a left handed, right eyed shooter.

Crown is for a military pistol – boxes are possibles for rib.

28th December.  Well, my good intentions to restart my blog at the beginning of November didn’t get far!   Still busy with the secondary double glazing, which I just got done in time   before the temperatures went below 0C .  It has made a huge difference to the kitchen and living room, considering that our external walls are flint and chalk rubble about 12 – 15 inches thick. Anyway I’m now doing a gun encraving job on a set of furniture and locks for a Cape rifle that Fred has built – he has been waiting months for me to get in the frame of mind to do it – I’m now tackling it having done a few days practive on test plates.  One problem is that test plates are nice, uniform, soft steel that cuts consistently and easily, whereas the bits for the gun are re-used bits form other old guns and are much less kind to the engraver!  I’ve done the trigger guard border and a drum and quiver of arrows on the bow, and it was sort of OK metal but with nasty pockets of ‘rot’ that leave a bit of a hole if you hit one, and patches of harder metal –  I am now doing the trigger plate, it has some original engraving – if you can call it that!  Its hard metal and was from a very cheap gun so there is no finesse in the original engraving.  I can’t do much more than dig our the rust and try to plough a few replacement strokes on what is already there – it will look better, but remember the saying “you can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear”.   I haven’t tried to cut the locks or cocks or the breeching, so that another treat to come!   Quite a lot of my time before Christmas was taken up with sorting out the 3D printing of the Christmas decorations the school children had designed – that meant I had to go over all 30 designs to make sure they were printable, and then print them all, plus another 30 or so to sell at the school fair!  All done in time, I’m pleased to say!

1st November – Very heavy hail and rain storm today – out of the window I saw a great torrent of water streaming off the roof and over the gutters which were full of hail – fortunately it only lasted a few minutes.  I got another secondary glazing window in at the weekend with Tom’s help installing it – 4 down, 2 to go.   My STEM club has started again at school on Monday nights – there were 5 children, all keen on crafts and making things, and very keen to get involved with 3D printing.  Dave, who helps run it, and I are very keen that whatever we do has a tangible outcome, so we introduced the children the the  3D design software Tinkercad and more or less left them to it, with a bit of occasional help.  By the end of the hour they had produced plausible name plates, and most of them carried on with the software when they got home.  I find it the difference between learning and teaching quite intersting – I saw the teacher’s lesson plan for teaching them to use the 3D software in 6  lessons, whereas  our ‘plan’ is to show them how to start and then let them get on with it – children very soon work things out and just get on with it if they are motivated – I wish I could pick up things as quickly as they do.   I guess the problem for teachers is the ‘if they are motivated’ bit – they have to cram it into the brains of those that aren’t as well as those that are… Glad I don’t have to!   The ‘tangible outcome’ of course means I have to print a whole lot of bits on the 3D printer….   Dave’s daughter and her partner have just bought a 1904 house and as an ‘expert’ on old houses I went over and had a look to give my view on the work they were planning – I can’t supress the scientist in me, so I think I’ve set them off looking in detail at insulation values and trying to optimise the way to spend limited renovation resources in a sustainable way against a potentially large and  permenant rise in the cost of energy – its an issue that concerns me here too!   My simple answer is insulate better than you think you need, and put in as many solar panels as possible, and maybe a battery of 40 kW.hrs – then at least you can take electricity from the grid when its cheap.  There is a tarriff from one supplier (Octopus) that lets consumers buy their electicity depending more or less on the spot rate on the wholesale market in 1/2 hr chunks  –  in 2021 that varied from 2p to 100p per unit, i.e from 1/20th to 3 times the current price, so with a decent battery system (cost ~ £6000 ?)  you can survive throught the periods when its expensive and charge when its cheap. There is even some suggestion that the spot rate will go negative.  Given that the battery system will probably last up to 10 years, that could be a win – you would need to use around 2400 kWhrs. a year at half price to break even.  Needs looking into and the sums done properly – but I think thats the way things will go for many users – if you don’t have batteries the use of things like car charging will be linked to spot prices – actually it already is for some systems .

28th October – The warm weather continues here – up to 21C today – wish I hadn’t lighted the AGA but if I let it out it will suddenly get cold!  I went to take back the gun with the repaired nipple and have a look at the gun with the  cleaning jag stuck down the barrel.  I could screw the rod onto the jag. but the thread wasn’t secure enough to turn or pull the jag out, so I secured the (double) barrel on its own in a cleaning jig and  fixed that in a vice with the blocked barrel upward, and poked a small pinch of Swiss No 1 powder into the ‘touch hole’ – it was a tubelock so I’m not sure that’s the right name for the hole that the tube fires through.  Applying a lighter to a small heap of powder on top of the hole produced a small puff and drove the jag to within 6 inches of the muzzle – now, what you mustn’t do is try to put a charge in when the obstruction is part way down the barrel – that’s when burst barrels happen, so it was a case of either getting the jag out from there or pushing it back to the breech and using a bigger charge.  Fortunately there was just enough thread on the now looser jag to pull it out, so job done. I did wonder if firing a tube on its own would have shifted the jag, but the gun was already stripped down so it was easier to do it the way I did. The jag was made of white plastic and the thread had partly been stripped – it went in the bin.  I don’t use plastic jags in muzzle loaders – they are OK for breech loaders as they can’t get stuck – stick to brass ones!

26th October – I’m getting back into the late night habit – curtailing my after dinner siesta!  I got the Locktite 270 and put the sleeve in the Manton – I’ll deliver it tomorrow and have a look at the friend’s double that has the broken jag down one barrel.  Like many people I’ve been conscious of the increase in the cost of all fuels, but particularly electricity, so I decided to do a thorough check of our energy consumption – the weather is still unseasonably warm – I think it reached 20C today – so we haven’t got any heating on.  I did a check on all our electicity uses by turning off all circuits and devices etc until the smart meter said zero watts.  I have a monior system -Efergy- that records peak and off peak current but I’d turned off the necessary computer for the experiment so I relied on the smart meter.  switching things back on one by one gave me a pretty good idea of where the power was going, and I was able to account for all the consumption except for 30 watts – after a bit of head scratching I found that I’d left the loft light on since I’d finished the bedroom 6 months ago!   That may not seem like a lot of power, but at today’s price it is around £40.   The biggest surprise was our 20 year old fridge freezer – I bought a cheap plugin monitor from ebay that records the consumption of any device on a 13 Amp plug which showed that it was consuming around 2 kWhrs per day or £260 per year,  Our kitchen lights, all LEDs, would cost the best part of £300 p.a. if left on all year.   Looking at advice and figures for electricity consumption on the web I’m shocked that when they list appliances in order of power use they get it all wrong – putting  high powered devices like cookers and washing machines at the top, whereas in reality its the things that are on for a long time and often that eat up the power.   We are trying to be green, and looking at how we heat our house, but comparative figures for the cost of heating by different methods make depressing reading – we currently use oil in the AGA – that is currently costing about  12 p per kW of energy, and a coal burning stove that is currently costing around 5 or 6p a kW hour as we bought extra fuel before the price went up.  We looked at an air sourced heat pump run on eletricity, but to be efficient it needs to run at a low water temperature so, as we can’t fit underfloor pipes means very big, ugly radiators.  Even assuming an efficiency of around 250% it will still cost more than the oil and much more than the coal = and the capital cost will be around £25000 plus  = so it just doesn’t add up.  Thats the real dilemma in home heating = the only thing things that make sense are fitting solar panels – with the increase in price of electricity, with more to come in the spring the payback time for solar panels is now probably less than 10 years, and it will probably now pay to fit a big Tessla battery to juggle power and of course adding insulation if you can do that reasonably.   Its really unfortunate that  electricity is so much more expensive than any other source of domestic heating, especially now that over 40% of our electricity comes from wind and solar, neither of which is that much more expensive now than it was a year ago.

While I can see that we might be carbon neutral up to 100% of our current electricity load by 2035 if we can find some good storeage methods, I can’t see how we can replace  more than a fraction of our  massive overall energy use with green alternatives on that timescale, let alone find substitutes for all the petrocarbon feedstock!  Having said that, we really have no alternative but to try…………..

24th October  Busy making the frame for the next secondary double glazing – I bought the oak in the form of  50mm x 200 mm kiln dried lengths and am machining that down on my old radial arm saw and planer surfacer.  Mostly its going well. except that one length of wood I wanted to use for the 850 long uprights had a mighty shake up the middle that I didn’t discover till I got it down to size, so a bit of remaking was called for.  I can’t imagine how anyone could do any woodwork without the means to convert timber – although I did buy this timber specially, mostly I can make things from reused timber or some old oak gateposts I bought many years ago.  We’ve been trying to clear out some of the junk that has accumulated over Covid and which is effectively clogging up a whole large room – I managed to sell a couple of old computers on ebay today – thats a start!  My Haematologist offered me an  Evusheld antibody injection against Covid – apparently its available if you pay but not from NHS or the medical Insurers – on balance, given my impaired immune system and the fact that I am going back into school to run our STEM club and help in class this half term, I bit the bullet and opted for it – tomorrow.  I’m also having a meeting tomorrow to sort out with Dave what we are going to do with the children in STEM club – be great to get that going again.  Talking of school remined me that last week I had fixed with other people to take the boat round to Ipswich on Thursday, and on Wednesday we got an urgent email from the school saying that the ‘expected some time‘ OFSTED inspection of the school was taking place on Thursday and we had to attend  – I couldn’t as too many people were depending on me so I really couldn’t change my plans – we haven’t yet heard the result of the inspection, but people thought it had gone well.  Here are some (rather poor) photos of the insert I have made for the Manton – still waiting for the Locktite.Drilled and tapped 3/8 x 32 M. -The thread is much better than it looks here!

part way in…. I don’t want it to get stuck before it has the Locktite – 1/4 BSF x26 nipple thread

22nd October –  I’m back after a bit of a long break, for which I apologise!   I seem to have been quite busy, although I’m not sure what was occupying me most of the time although I’ve done a fair bit of work on the boat that we are going to base in Scotland from next spring.  We sailed it from North Fambridge to Ipswich to get some work done at Fox’s Marina on Thursday – actually sailed is the wrong word as we don’t have any means of putting up the mainsail at the moment as there is a problem with the inmast furling gear, so we motored all the way – when we got to the River Orwell the engine started to play up, but we managed to limp up to the Marina – so the engine is another problem to sort out.   I have started to make and install the frames for the secondary double glazing for the leaded windows in the old bit of the house – the result is fantastic. as I mentioned in this blog before, I discovered a firm that made a revolutionary form of double glazing using two panes of glass separated by a  near perfect vacuum in a very thin layer that provides better insulation values than triple glazing, which conventionally fills the much larger space between the panes with gas, usually argon, that still conducts quite a lot of heat.  The vacuum windows need some means of stopping the glass bending inwards under the external pressure, and has tiny dots on a 1 inch grid that keep the panes of glass apart.  |The panes have to be specially made to size and finish up at about 8mm thick so are easy to incorporate in more or less normal frames.  I’ve made oak frames to go behind the leaded windows, with a fixed panel either side and a sliding panel in the centre over the opening casement.  I’ve done two in the kitchen and one in the living room so far and it has definately raised the temperature in both rooms.  The thing that strikes one most when you put them in is the reduction in outside sounds and the slight change in acoustics near the windows – the vacuum is an almost perfect sound barrier – check out the glass, its called Fineo – as you might expect its expensive, but as a fraction of the overall real cost of the job its not too bad – costing my time etc I guess it accounts for 30% of the cost.

I  have recently had a few days with a gun for the first time since the last shooting season.  I took the Nock and a Beretta o/u to shoot some clays and surprised myself (and others) by managing to hit lots – must have been due to the long absence from shooting, because next time I couldn’t replicate that level of success.  I have had one game shoot, last week, at Partridge and Pheasant on a glorious warm and sunny day in Suffolk.  It looks like it may be my only game shoot of the season as with Bird Flu now virulent in the area and several shoots packing up during Covid there are not many opportunities for Black Powder shoots, and anyway the costs have escalated – last year’s £33 per pheasant has turned into £50 now.

I havent had any gun jobs over the summer – except for an big engraving job that I’ve yet to psyc myself up to tackle, but recently I was brought a nice single barreled percussion sporting gun by Joseph Manton that had blown out its nipple – luckily without any injury ..  The gun was brought to me to ‘sort out’, of course minus the wayward nipple.   The nipple hole looked much larger than a normal nipple hole and the thread finer than usual and quite messed up.  Looking down the nipple hole with the microscope you could see that someone had screwed in a nipple with a different thread pitch than the one tapped into the hole – screwing a piece of sharpened wood into the nipple hole  didn’t yield a clear pitch for the thread, but a piece of modelling clay pressed in showed that the pitch of the thread had been cut at 32 t.p.i but a nipple of some other thread had been inserted.  Measuring the thread diameter showed that the nearest thread size was 5/16″ x 32 t.pi. which happens fortunately to be a standard M.E. (Model Engineers) thread. Quick shop at my favourite tool store Tracy Tools got me a 5/16 x 32 plug tap (£3)  and die (another £3) by return post.  I managed to get a decent thread in the bottom of the nipple hole, and if  I had been sure the gun was never going to be shot again I’d have left it like that and made a new 5/16 x 32 nipple, but I can’t bring myself to do things like that!   I quite liked the look of the 32 t.p.i thread so decided there was just enough metal in the breech to drill the nipple hole out to take a 3/8 x 32 thread ( another order to Tracy Tools for 3/8 x 32 taps and dies – total £12).  I set the barrel up in the vice of my milling machine (with suitable packing) and with the 5/16 tap in the nipple hole aligned it with the axis of the milling machine and took the plunge and drilled out the hole.  I kept the barrel set up and put the taper tap in the chuck and started the thread with mole grips of the tap body, then second tap. after that I took the barrel out and used the plug tap to get as far as I could, then ground the end of the plug down to cut as near to the base of the nipple hole as possible.  result a very nice thread.  Then turned up a sleeve with a 3/8 x 32 thread on the outside and a 1/4 BSF x26 hole in the centre, coned the end a bit to fit the bottom of the nipple hole and parted it off – result one nice sleeve – now waiting for some Locktite 270 to stick it in place – that is a very strong adhesive and will stand up to 180 degrees C so I think it will stop the sleveve being unscrewed when the nipple is taken out.  I’ll post some photos when I have time to take some – I’ll have to change my habits now I’ve started to post here again – I always used to post late at night and go to bed very late – a habit I’ve got out of over the summer, snoozing on the sofa and going to bed around 11 and waking ridiculously early.

I have another job pending – someone has lost a plastic jag with wadding at the bottom of  barrel and can’t shift it – its a tubelock so its not as if you could take the nipple out and pour in a bit of fine powder and blow it out – might be able to get enough through the flash hole to blow it out, or I’ll have to invent a way of drilling it out – I don’t like having to remove breech plugs in a double as there is always the chance of breaking the solder joint between the barrels.  I have come across the problem of the cleaning rod and its load getting very tight in the bore – there is a technique for avoiding disaster- first always wind any cloth or paper or tow etc on by turning the rod clockwise as seen from the handle – then when its in the barrel turning the rod clockwise both tightens the cloth etc around the jag and screws the rod up.  Now NEVER pull the rod hard without turning it clockwise at the same time – clockwise turns will tend to wind the cloth tighter on the jag and make it an easier fit in the barrel.  It’s much easier that way!  Similarly if you have to use a screw to remove athe jag’s load that you’ve left behind in the barrel, keep turning it clocckwise as you withdraw the rod.

Re 20th August – It turned out that the chap who serviced the engine this year had used the wrong replacement impeller when he serviced the cooling water pump so it wasn’t circulating the cooling water properly.  It wasn’t obvious that the impeeler was too small as the position of the watr pump stops you looking straight into it, but I spotted that the O ring supplied with the impeller wasn’t the same size as the mark on the cover plate of the pump and that it had been pinched in one place.  A proper Sole replacement is now in place and the ‘wrong’ spares disposed of.  Years of using O rings for very deep water (4000 meters and more) has taught me that you have to inspect O rings very carefully and I’m always suspicious if things are not perfect!

20 th August – Still enjoying the good weather here – a couple of days with a bit of much needed rain, but not enough to do much good.  I had a day down at the boat on Wednesday – I hadn’t realised that it was the first time it had been used since launch. Anyway we set off under engine and within 5 minutes it overheated and had to be shut down, leaving us drifting amomg the moorings – the skipper called up the marina launch and we were duly towed back to our mooring for a bit of a post mortem.  I hadn’t been involved with the engine side of things, but the seawater side of the cooling had been modified and serviced, but I think the problem lies in the closed circuit coolant system – I suspect that 2 years of lying idle might have siezed the coolant pump – the system had been filled properly and checked, so it wasn’t lack of coolant. A trip next week is scheduled to sort it out.

15th August Been busy keeping cool!  I’ve worked up to 100 lengths of the pool = I think Ill stick at that for the rest of theyear!.  There was an article in the Sunday Times saying that the recommended daily intake of protein is half what it should be – recommending 100 gm per day – I checked out the calculations I did when I was trying to put on weight – mucsle specifically, after Covid in early 2020 and I came up with 85 gm to maintain weight, and more to build muscle.  That’s quite a lotto put away – meat is around 1/3 protein or less, and to get that much protein from vegetarian or vegan diet without supplements is very hard work.  I’ve found that its very easy to loose muscle – a couple of months back I noticed my calve muscles were quite reduced, and I was struggling to lift things that hadn’t been a problem a year ago, like my outboard motor (20Kg) – anyway I made an effort to eat more protein, including a cooked breakfast, and it seems to be working  – the swimming probably helps, and I do a short burst of weights most days.  I was quite conscious that my sense of balance wasn’t really up to  clambering around on the moving deck of a of a sailing boat at sea, so I’m practising that too!  Problems you never really think about until they hit you as age creeps (or rushes) up.   I’ve been busy making bits for the boat on the 3D printer  – I’m addressing the issue that there is nowhere in the cockpit to put down a cup while sailing – an important facility that most boat designers ignore!  The boat is due to be launched today and put on her mooring – I’m scheduled to be sailing next week, but there are going to be a lot of family on board, including baby and dog, so I might just leave them to enjoy it without my getting in the way!  I’ve sent the Lowe pistol back – the client was happy for me to leave it as it was, and not attempt to get the set trigger firing to work – I’m convinced that if it ever worked, which I assume it must have done when made, it was, as they say, by the grace of God the design being, in my view, fundamentally flawed.

 

 

 

 

 

Before cleaning

Finished

The crack running from the barrel bolt now looks much less obvious

 

9th August (2).  I had an order for a couple of gravers and sharpening jigs, so got that out of the way before I got down to sorting the Lowe Pistol that I’d left in mid air, so to speak.  I had decided the barrel needed to come out as I suspected that there was a fair amount of rust underneath, and particularly at the junction of the wood and barrel, which is where its mostly a problem.  I had a bit of a scrape around on the upper surfaces and found that they had a very thin black coating on top of a suggestion of rust.  Getting the barrel out of an old pistol can be a tricky job – in this case the barrel bolts seemed set in their slots, and the visible rust along the edge of the wood raised the possibility that some of the wood might come away – there was already a split at the muzzle end suggesting that someone had tried to get the barrel out, and there was a lot of damage around the bolts where people had tried to prise the bolts out.  My technique for removing the barrel is firstly remove the lock as the rear side nail is probably notched into the barrel hook.  Then lay the pistol with the bolt heads down on a pad of bubble wrap or something else with a lot of give, and using a screwdriver that sits on the thin end of the bolt, tap very gently, checking that you are not lifting the wood around the bolt head end.  Once the bolt has moved a few mm you might be able to pull it from the head end but DON’T lever against the wood of the pistol without putting something under the lever to spread the load and only lever gently. On this pistol the barrel bolts were very firmly in place and I had to make a  25mm long strip of metal to go into the bolt slot and drive the bolts out, which I managed without any damage.  Getting the barrel out proved a little tricky too, although by this time it should be free and just lift out, this one didn’t want to come out, and I was worried it would break off some wood so I ran a razor blade between the wood and the barrel.  I put a dowel in the barrel end and tapped it gently and eventually the barrel came free.  It was, as I suspeted, quite rusty and certainly justified taking it out.  I thought about trying to get the rust off, and leaving the barrel finish, but decided that it really needed to go in the electrolytic  derusting bath for an hour or two.  After washing and rubbing it down with tissue I put it to the fine steel wire brush on the ‘grinder’ and got a very good clean finish with a suitable dark finish that will do for the final surface,  Before refitting the barrel I cleaned up the barrel bolts as best I could without removing them form the stock, and put some leather grease in the slots to ease  the next removal. I also glued up a previos split at the muzzle.   Looks good now!    Then back to the lock – which I admit I’d been putting off !  With the lock back in ( you need to ‘cock’ the set trigger to put the lock in by pushing the trigger forward till it clicks ) I tried to fire the pistol with the set trigger, but it was not reliable so I stuck to manual trigger pulls to fire it, which worked just fine.  I debated whether to take it all to bits and  do some more micro filing on the detent, but decided that the whole system was so impossibly fiddly that I might easily end up with a pistol that wouldn’t fire at all.  It made me think about why the system is so fiddly and difficult to set up, and I think I eventually understood what was wrong with this method of detenting a lock.   In a normal detent the detent itself  is not involved in the instantaneous release of the tumbler when the sear is raised out of the full cock bent – the detent is free to move a little and the additional work involved in raising the sear up the detent to clear the half cock  comes entirely from the mainspring, not the trigger plate / set trigger.  With the Lowe detent the sear has to lift the detent as well as climing out of the full cock bent, and as far as I can see also has to provide some impetus to climb to the height of the half cock notch, given the angle to the pivot of the detent – this additional force to lift the sear and detent must come in part at least from the trigger plate, or the set trigger if this is set.  Since the set trigger works by inertia and has no other force driving it, it is perhaps not surprising that it is marginal.  To me this explains quite clearly why this was not a common form of detent – as well as being very fiddly to make and set up, and prone to wear, its just fundamentally unsound in principle. Perhaps this drawing will help explain how it is supposed to work;-

sear in pencil – detent in blue is ready to fire, orange is in position to guide sear over half cock notch.  Sear needs to do work to raise detent and climb over it.

I have to admit that the proper shape for the end of the detent is conjecture on my part, but somehow the sear needs to get on top of the detent without pushing it down?

9th August.  I could have sworn I  posted a new post yesterday, complete with a couple of photos, but I must have forgotten to click on ‘publish’ I suppose.  I’ve been down in Cornwall, part sorting the cottage, and part holiday.  We towed our 16 ft dayboat (Cornish Coble) down and parked it at Mylor Yacht Harbour and had several sails around the Falmouth Estuary in lovely weather, and chopped down the encroaching vegetation round the garden – the rate things grow, particularly sycamore trees, in Cornwall is something else!  By the time I’d finished cutting back enough to be able to see out of the garden I’d generated more than we could fit onto the  available space, so I had to go and buy a shredder to compact it – I got a £66 one at B & Q which is the same as the one we have at home – its fantastic and shreds branches up to about 45mm which is about 2 or three years growth, so ideal.   Cornwall continues to get better as a holiday destination – its now much easier to get good food from farm shops, and there are three or four good bakers producing artisan sourdough bread that is really worth eating – which makes a lunchtime diet of sandwiches quite bearable.

At anchor opposite Falmouth for lunch

We even had a swim at Lamorna Cove!

22nd July  I was having another fiddle with the Lowe pistol this evening, trying to reshape the little detent that I hardened yesterday as it was getting worn by the sear and I wasn’t sure it would keep its shape.  I did a trial fit again but this time it was exactly like the original problem – no full cock.  I think I spotted where I need to take off a bit of metal ( with a diamond file as its now hard) and was removing the pivot pin with a pair of fine long nosed pliers when the pin pinged off across the workshop, never to be seen again.  It was about 1.5 mm diamete and 4mm long and slightly tapered – very fortunately I have a set of hard steel clockmakers blanks for shafts including one a fraction too big for this job, so a few minutes holding the rod in a drill against my diamond hone put a slight taper on the rod and reduced it to the required diameter.  I had to use a diamond file to nick the rod deeply and then break it, and held the little bit in a micro chuck of a dremel while I honed down the ends to fit.  – all in all it only took me about 35 minutes to recover from the loss.  I need to try he revised shape – assemble the lock AGAIN etc etc.   I’m not sure I’ll be able to give much time to it in the next week or so as I have some family business to attend to that will keep me occupied – plus I need to go down to the boat a few times to assist getting it ready to launch………  Just put it all together for the umpteenth time, and it worked, even to the extent that the set trigger fired it and it sparked up nicely in spite of using one of my home-made flints.  I only tried a couple of times, but I’m optimistic that it will go on working (I hope!).  I certainly wouldn’t want to try it too often, because even with my hardened detent there is still some wear and in my view the whole design is pretty marginal – I think I probably need to do a bit more to the pistol before I return it – I think the barrel really needs to be taken out as there is likely to be some rust underneath  and I think it will require care to remove the barrel bolts as they are likely to be rusted into the wood.  I removed some more hard black rust from the lock with the back edge of the modelling knife and 0000 steel wool and the signature now shows up well.  I would put up a photo of the new detent, but actually it doesn’t look that different from the original and I don’t have a good enough macro lens on my camera to show it well.

20th July  The owner of the Lowe pistol suggested that this particular design of detent might have been rare because it was so fiddly to make – I’d go along with that, and add that it would have been susceptible to wear that, like this example, would render the pistol useless for anything other than scaring adverseries!  By comparison, the ‘normal’ detent on the side of the tumbler is much easier to make and much less critical and less susceptible to wear.  I didn’t get a chance to do any more to it – I hope I can get it to work, but I’m not sure yet!   I did a bit more on the boat, fitted the second jib sheet car, fiddled around with a new lock on the hatch board and fitted a bit of trim in the saloon.  I also took down my little wooden dinghy that has stood in the shed unused for 20 odd years.  I built it about 40 years ago as a challenge after aquiring a few sheets of 1/8th ply from a bankrupcy sale  (“take as much as you can before the bailiffs come in this afternoon, and drop me a few quid in cash” – even included a nice BMW coupe that I couldn’t afford to insure so didn’t take – to my everlasting regret!). My challenge was to make an 8 ft dingy light enough to carry on ones back with the building taking less than 24 hours work.  I stiched together a model from card and a needle and thread and then scaled it up to  stitch and glue full size.  I got it made and one coat of 2 part polyurethane in the 24 hours, I’m sorry to say that the secod coat over-ran!  It is a fine boat – the seat ( ‘twart’ – obviously the wrong word as that implies across)  runs fore and aft so you can always slide to balance the boat.  The aim is to launch Sepiola in the next couple of weeks onto her mooring.  Going from here to the boat I use Google maps.  It offers you a choice of 3 ways that are almost the same time, but the one I use most often varies in detail from journey to journey and I often take a wrong turn, whereupon google routes me through many tiny roads because it won’t tell me I need to turn round !  Strange thing is that I always get a different route when I ask for the return journey – a slightly flakey routing algorith that I’ve noticed usually starts off on major roads and descends into back roads as you near the destination, When returning it takes you straight to a main road and then descends to smaller roads.  Annoying!

19th July  One would almost say it was a hot day, I had to retreat to my workshop that stayed at about 25.5C so I was able to work on the Lowe pistol.  Our house its pretty cool as its old and solidly built and has most of the accomodation in the North part, but if the heat lasted for many more days the advantages would be lost.  Playing around with the detent, I concluded that the reason it didn’t work was that a vital bulge had been worn off  so the sear could slip out of full cock without activating the detent to block the half cock notch.  The only way I could see to try to make the lock work was to make a new detent, which is what I was doing today.  I started with a bit of 2 mm spring steel and annealed it – that way I can harden it when I’ve finished if it works.  Making an accurately shaped bit just about 4 mm x 2.6 mm is OK as long as its still attached to a bit of metal you can hold, but once you get to the stage of fitting and trying it you have to separate it, and then the fun starts – for one thing I am terrified that I’ll drop it, and I’d never find it on the old brick floor,  then to file it you have to hold it so you need a small high precision vice.  To get the shape right I threaded the old one and my version on the same axle and checked under a X15 microscope, then took a few strokes with a very fine file while holding the part in the vice, then checking again.  When it came to getting the bit that engages the sear, I filed it under the microscope with my finest file.  I’m still working on it – of course to check if it works you need to put the whole lock together, mainspring and all, and also put it back in the pistol as you need the trigger blade. I must have done that at least half a dozen times so far, and taken the detent in and out about 20 times.  I think I could strip a flintlock with my eyes shut now!   I’m not there yet – I have now got it so that it will hold both half and full cock, and fire from full cock with a firm pull as the sear has to climb up a bit of the detent – it won’t yet fire by the set trigger – at least that is an improvement!   It’s by far the fiddlyist job I’ve ever had to do, and of course I don’t really know the correct shape for the active face of the detent – I just hope I don’t take too much off and have to remake it!  I did manage to get a swim in – 50 lengths, the pool is getting a bit green in this heat despite the chlorine – probably needs an algicide.  I finished the sear spring yesterday – I carelessly forgot it was a left handed lock and bent the spring the wrong way, so I had to straighten it out and rebend it – I didn’t close the joint fully up as I didn’t want to overbend the metal twice – its a bit wavy too but  it works just fine.  Off to do a few jobs on the boat tomorrow…..

1 mm graph paper – critical surface marked by arrow.

17th July – Quite a warm day, at least up to about 3 p.m. – every nice day I’ve planned to have a swim at about 4 p.m. and every day it’s clouded over about then.  I did get up to 60 lengths yesterday so not doing badly.  Still messing about getting the boat ship shape, and doing odd jobs outside while its so nice.  Today threatened to be too hot so I moved to the indoor workshop for a bit of work on the Lowe & Son pistol.  Actually all my workshops are pretty cool in summer – probably the evaporation of all the damp!  Anyway I thought I’d try Bev’s suggestion and turn the little detent up the other way, so I knocked its pin out to release it.   Tip;- if you have to knockout a pin rest the object on a bit of lead sheet folded 2 or 3 thicknesses and hammered flat – that way the object is ‘dead’ and won’t bounce around and the pin can sink into the lead and doesn’t get lost – it even works for driving the barrel pins out resting the wood on a lead block – it avoids accidentally driving out a chip of wood.   I found a pin punch that was the same size, more or less, as the pin so I could easily put the detent back in and inspect its action.  So, sad to say, that doesn’t seem to be the answer – put in the other way up the detent wont go down far enough to let the sear into the half cock bent, although from the point of view of the full cock bent, things seemed a little better – so original orientation half cock works but full cock wont hold, reversed I havent tried assembled, but it looks as if the opposite happens – full cock works but it won’t engage half cock……There are some signs of wear from the sear on the detent, which might suggest that it did work once, although the ‘nose’ of the half cock bent does appear to have been impacted by the sear and burred over.  That is a bit of a mystery too, as would probably have stopped the gun being fired – why do that enough times to burr over the top of the bent?  So I’m no further forward on that puzzle – I am still trying to believe that the gun has worked with the parts that are there now,  but my faith is wavering!  I decided more evidence was needed – I need to make a new sear spring so the I can see the gun in action properly, so I got a bit of 5 mm spring steel and milled it down for the blade – its now ready for final fitting – I need a UNC 3 die to cut a new screw to hold the spring – I managed to get the old rivet out of the lockplate, and the original thread  in the lockplate was intact, and a slightly loose fit to UNC 3, so I’ll have to expand the die as far as possible.

Tumbler and detent on 1 mm squared paper  – arrow points to slot in tumbler for the detent.

This is how it was – you can just see the detent in the main bent – see arrow, the perspective is a bit unhelpful!

Here the detent is reversed and is visible blocking the half cock bent it won’t go down any more.

Reversed – this is a s far down as it will go, so stopping hte half cock bent.

Part made sear spring.

13th July  Decided to strip the carburetor of the 4 hp outboard for our dinght as it will only run with the choke out, suggesting that the fuel isn’t getting to the engine.  I seem to remember checking the fuel pump some time ago and it was OK, the fuel filter is OK too.  The dependence on the choke suggests that one of the jets is partly bunged up or some other part of the carb after the float chamber.  Anyway I had a look on YouTube for an idea of what to expect during the job and took it all apart – a bit of muck in the float chamber but not much evidence of bunged up jets.  I remembered that I’d ‘inherited’ a small ultrasonic cleaner when Giles emigrated so put all the parts in that and got quite a bit of muck in the bottom of the cleaner that must have come from somewhere.  Now waiting for the new gasket etc set.  I had a problem with it overheating when I last used it, and stripped and replaced the water pump, which was completely solid with salt, and took the head off to clean out all the water passages.  It still got too hot even with the thermostat fully open, so I removed it altogether and it was better. Now I’m trying to get it all right!  Saturday is the Helice Shoot at Rugby – I’ll be there!  Just got another two of the kids’ keyrings to print for tomorrow morning,  unlike most of the 3D printing which will run unatttended to the end, these require the filament to be changed to give a colour change just for the text,  so it has to happen at exactly the right point.

New sheave and axle assembly

 

12th July  Busy printing 29 keytabs for a class at a Haverhill school where a friend teaches – the kids designed them, so one or two needed a bit of remedial work.  I’ve been gently working on the dinghy to get it in shape for taking to Cornwall later in the summer.  Bev left a comment about the detent on the Lowe and Son pistol suggesting that it has been removed and mistakenly replaced the wrong way round as had happened to one of his locks.  Makes sense as no amount of wear would explain why the sear hits the detent when its trying to engage the full cock bent to cock the pistol.  I’ll try reversing it when I get a moment. Its not the sort of job an amateur would undertake, so I guess it might be done by someone who had never seen this type of detent – but why would they leave it in place the wrong way round? And why for Bev’s lock too?  Mystery….. We’ll see if it works when reversed…. watch this space.    I’ve been gently cleaning off a few bits of rust on the pistol – my preferred tool is the back edge of a modelling knife blade, very slightly polished to make sure it isn’t scratching the metal – it scrapes off the rust without damaging the patina underneath,  then a very light rub over with the 0000 steel wool and oil stop more rust and leave a good surface.  I guess it really needs the barrel taking out as there is bound to be rust underneath at the edge of the wood.  Its a fine pistol and I’m trying to avoid doing too much to it as its originality is important.  If its something like the Rigby wreck I did recently, anything is an improvement,  but the better the gun, the less is justified in my book.  Oh and I finished turning a new sheave and bearing for one of the ‘cars’ on the track that adjusts the angle of the jib sheets on the boat — not the dinghy ( sorry about the jargon!).  (makes me realise that I jump around from one hobby/pastime/job to another at a dizzy pace – perhaps that why I’m not really an expert in any of them!)

Keyrings designed by the 10/11 year olds using CAD software – pretty good effort.

 

10th July  Received a nice pistol to work on – Hermes left it on the doorstep of next door, who were away – they are terrible (Hermes, not the neighbours)!  Anyway now have it and its quite unusual – A silver mounted pistol, not hefty enough for a duelling pistol, but I suppose what you would call a ‘horse pistol’ to be carried in a holster in front of the saddle – a pair that is.  Anyway its unusual because its a mirror image of a normal pistol, with the lock on the left side – its a complete mirror image, the barrel bolts even go in from the right side – they usually go in from the left side like all pins etc.  Made by Lowe and Son of London with hallmarks on the silver for 1787 and the maker’s mark for Moses Bent, a fine silversmith.  It is in good condition, there was some superficial rust on the lock etc that was hidden behind some sort of blacking, but the engraving, which has very fine lines, is still sharp, and its cleaning up OK.  The faults are that the sear spring has broken, and somehow the lock fails to engage full cock.  The inside of the lock is in very clean condition with only a trace of rust around a few bits of the edge.  There is one very unusual feature of this lock – it has a set trigger, with adjustment behind the trigger, rather than in front as is usual, so it needs a detent to carry the sear past the half cock position – the seat only gets a tap from the trigger blade if the set trigger is used, so will fall into the half cock bent without the detent to guide the sear past the half cock notch.  This pistol has a form of detent that I’ve never seen before – I havent seen it described either.  The tumbler is quite wide and a tiny detent is pivoted within the tumbler.  It looks as if its meant to lie flat when the sear is in the half cock bent, but  then when the sear is in the full cock notch it catches the detent as it climbes out of the full cock bent and the detent deflects it over half cock bent.  The trouble appears to be that the detent gets in the way of the full cock bent and the sear engages it, causing it to pivot up and carry the sear over the half cock  bent rather than fitting properly into the full cock bent.   I suspect that the detent is worn or damaged – I dont see that it could have had a spring within the tumbler.  Anyway, I will sort out the sear spring first – some bodger has made a rivet and rivited it through the original screw hole – Anyway a nice pistol and a nice mysterious project for the blog….  In the meantime I’ve got my small outboard motor running and started to varnish the spars of the dinghy that we are taking on holiday to Cornwall later in the summer.   I had fun with the 3D printer – I bought some new filament called PLA +  and found that if I followed the specified setup for PLA+ the print of my mug holder took 28 hours instead of 16 for normal PLA!  I tried both settings, but the slow one is definately best, so I’m now watching while my printer chunters through that job….  Oh and the awimming pool has come into its own – I manage 40 lengths – about 350 meters today, I’m trying to increase by 10 lengths a day up to 100 lengths….  And here are some photos of the Lowe & Son pistol – they worked in London and had premises in Westminster from 1796, not sure where they were before this. Blackmore’s book lists them as in business from 1792, but they were clearly working earlier that that on the basis of this pistol.

 

 

Notice rivetted head of Sear spring fixing

Tumbler with the mystery detent – I’m not sure in detail how it should work – as it is it won’t let the sear engage full cock

6th July  Guns are a bit neglected at the moment, although I am going to the Helice shoot on 16th at Rugby Clay ground – its a great sport and the Anglia Muzzle Loaders make it an annual event (Covid excepted).  Its really tricky shooting – I’m not particularly good at it but enjoy it – son Tom only shoots about once a year but is pretty quick – last year he just missed out on the shootoff.  I’ll need to get the dust off my faithful Nock.  I’ve been down to the boat several times – I spent Monday lying on my back with my head in a cupboard fitting new hoses to the loo – not my favourite job, then on Tuesday I was helping Tom plumb in a new sink – lying on my back with my head in a cupboard……. getting a bit boring.   Being in the boat mood, I will have to recover our dinghy from the farmer’s field and check it out – maybe use it once more and then sell it – I’ll have to fix the outboard first.  Bit of 3D printing – clips and bits for the boat – I’m also making mug holders to fix somewhere on deck – in Scotland in particular, hot tea and hot soup are essentials for the helmsman, so they need somewhere to put a mug down that won’t slide off when the boat heels – I think if I 3D print one with walls with air spaces it will help to keep drinks hot – little creature comforts are important !

3rd July  – months tick by – perhaps we’ll have a bit of proper summer, its been a bit miserable for using the perfectly functioning but cold swimming pool.   We’ve given up shooting over the peas, the pigeons have migrated to the wheat and our farmer doesn’t have any so that game is over – I’m still sitting on 200  No 6 catrtridges.  I’ve been busy on bits for the boat that friends kindly let me work on – I had to remake one of the blocks (pulleys) that fit on the deck to take the sheets (ropes) from the jib (foresail).  It was a bit of a puzzle as to how to take it apart, although a post on a website helped, so I made a short video of how to do it.  I’ll put it as a post on this website so a google search will find it – its also on You Tube @ https://youtu.be/rTFfx7-J-7w.   A regular client is sending me another flintlock pistol to work on the lock – it looks a little unusual from the photo, and has a couple of faults – the sear spring is broken, and then fired from full cock it gets caught in half cock.  I quite like fiddling with lock mechanisms, so that should be a bit of fun and will provide some proper gun stuff for this blog – at the moment I’m not working on my own guns, and not shooting the muzzle loaders, so not much to report.

 

27th June – I can tell you confidently that the wood pigeon has become almost extinct overnight in our part of the world, and not because of our success in culling them!  On the previous occasions when I’ve been out I get through 40 or 50 cartridges in 3 or 4 hours and see hundreds of birds over the pea fields, even if not very many of them come our way. Tonight I managed 4 shots in two hours, and that only by taking anything vaguely possible – The two of us managed one pigeon each!  Not sure why – I think maybe the pea leaves near the ground, which is what the pigeons are after, are getting a bit dry and yellow, also it was overcast and the wind was quite variable –  we didn’t even see many in the distance.   Maybe we left too early, but one feels a bit of a fool standing idly in a field all evening.  We’ve been trying to work out what the pea crop will be used for – the peas are clearly not for the table although about ‘eating’ size now,  –  the farmer says they wont be harvested for another month by which time the foliage will all have died back and the pods dried out, maybe a fodder crop.

26th June – Sorry about the void in blogging – last week was hectic – Dave and I did a class on Earthquakes at school that required a lot of preparation, and we also did STEM club.  On Wednesday I had another Covid jab and went down to see a friend’s boat (Moody 37) that we may be able to sail in Scotland next year – by happy chance it is similar to the type I was looking to buy a month or so back, so I am glad I didn’t!  I will help with working on the boat a bit to get it ready to sail up there, and probably help sail it there.  By the time evening came I was reacting to the jab with flu like symptoms that laid me out for a day.  As part of our STEM club I’d 3D printed a set of parts for the children to make SAFE boxes, but stupidly left the safes in the back of my car in full sun on Tuesday, forgetting that the PLA platic I used is not very heat resistant – anyway nett result was 2 sets were warped out of all possible recovery, so had to remake them – 10 hours printing each plus a few  hours assembly – all done now but I feel stupid!   I haven’t done any more gun stuff as its really too nice to be indoors – the swimming pool turned out not to be leaking noticeably if I shut off the pump, so we are now swimming – its quite chilly in there still, but pleasant.  I went pigeon shooting again on Monday using my multichoke Berretta 687 and got on with it Ok – I think at the end of 4 hours I was getting my eye well in when the pigeons tailed off!  I’m going again tomorrow so we’ll see how my eye is!  This gun has a hard butt plate, and I only had a thin shirt on, and used around 40  29 gm 1450 fps Superfast Pigeon cartridges so I’m thinking that I might slip a sponge butt cap on !  I could get away with a little longer stock as the comb is a tiny bit high and it would slightly depress the barrel end – we’ll see – I also have to remember to take my specs with a bit of sellotape over the top of the left lense to stop it mastering – if I’m not careful I end up rifleing if my eyes get confused and that is not good – I need to keep both eyes working, just enough haze in the left to let the right eye dominate – its amazing how the brain and eyes work it out.

17th June My optimism concerning the swimming pool and leaks was not justified!  It is leaking at a rate of around 500 litres/day.  I spent a couple of hours today injecting red dye near any possible leaks to see if it would be drawn in to the leak – the loss amounts to around 1 litre a minute, which should give a just about discernable flow rate close to the leak.  So far no success.   I decleared an end to the browning of the harding pistol, and put it together – it is now officially finished, at least until such time as I feel energetic enough to remake the frizzen spring with a roller.  I spent a happy few hours yesterday late afternoon standing in a pea field shooting pigeons on a flight path with my o/u 12 bore and an odd assortment of cartidges – some heavy loads for high game, so I never knew what recoil I’d get – I am lucky in that I’m not particularly conscious of recoil, and can happily shoot full loads  with only a light top.   I was shooting with Pete, who has now had around 170 pigeons off that  field – there are hundreds of them feasting on the peas – unfortunately some of the ones we shot fell amongst the peas, and its not really possible to get them without doing more damage to the crop than the pigeons do, so they are left for the foxes, red kits and buzzards.  Here are a few pics of the Harding;

Complete with working  home knapped flint!

14th June – We are having a few hot days, so will be trying the swimming pool – miraculously it doesn’t appear to be leaking, or only very slightly – not bad for a 14 year old plastic bag!  I’ve been in and out of school this week as the year 6 are having their leavers trips etc – a group of 8 are doing  a MasterChef week cooking a starter, a main meal, a dessert and then some canopes and I’ve been the main judge – quite a responsibility. but the children have done pretty well – Their main courses were all well cooked and appetising – I helped one pair with their main – they had a sirloin steak and wanted it medium rare so I had to tell them to half the cooking time given in the recipe – I dread to think what would happen to a fairly thin (1/2 in) steak if you cooked it 4 minutes each side – not so nice!  Anyway I offered to make some prizes on the 3D printer – which I am doing at the moment.  Starting in black and changing to flourescent raspberry for the lettering is quite pretty, so thats what I’ll do.

  Test 2 colour lettering.

12th June – the pump on the swimming pool filter was seized when I came to test it, so a couple of hours spent stripping it and freeing the rotor – not sure what was stopping it rotating, probably rust between rotor and stator – anyway now seems Ok. ( Thinks – thanks to WD40!) – I guess being in the garden all year round for 14 years is bound to take its toll – I’m amazed that any of it works – last year I had to patch a rubber hose joint – using self amalgamating tape and hose clips as the rubber had more or less perished and I couldnt find a replacement.  I wonder if in future I might be able to print a flexible pipe on the 3D printer?  I decided to use the frizzen spring without a roller, as I want to put the job to bed for the time being.  Bit of a problem tempering the frizzen spring as I’d just let the AGA out as it was pretty hot in the kitchen and its summer!  I just about managed a dark straw temper…  I knapped a small piece of flint that fitted the cock and put the pistol together – minus the barrel that was in the cellar being browned. To my great surprise the flint produced a healthy shower of sparks – twice…. so my wobbly flints do work, at least twice!  I do need to replace the copper washer behind the cock as it shows – I’ll have to turn off a thin steel washer on the lathe and file a square hole in it.

11 June – Started to fill the giant plastic bag that is our summer swimming pool. Tom (son) came over to help struggle with the bag, which is a massive and heavy object about 30 ft long – I’m dealing with 3 Toms at the moment – all about the same age, and am reminded that in his year at school about 1 in 8 boys was called Tom!  A bit more work on the frizzen spring for the Harding.  I’ve got the fixing done and made a new screw (No4 UNF) to hold it in place and filed up the peg to go through the lockplate..  I now have a dilemma – I was planning to make a simple spring that just bears on the heel of the frizzen without a roller, which is the easy way, but when I went through my collection of small pistols I found they all have rollers on the frizzen spring.  That means that a) the end of the frizzen spring with the roller must be in exactly the right place, and b) that I have to do a bit of  blob welding technology to thicken the spring enough to get the roller pivot through it, which will be tricky with my crude welder and welding.  If that doesn’t work I’ll have to start over with a new blank and leave the end thicker….  bother! Annoying because if I’d thought of it in the beginning I could have left a thick bit to finish off.

 

I always leave a ‘handle’ on any small part I’m making until the last minute as it makes holding much easier.

10th June – Summer rushes by!  Wasted a morning trying to get my 3D printer to pause in mid print so I could  change the colour of the filament, only to discover that there is a bug in the software and it doesn’t do what its supposed to.  Oh well, think of something else!   I filed the square in the cock for the Harding pistol – the cock is quite slim and the square on the tumbler is longer than the thickness of the cock, so I have fitted a washer behind the cock to take up the extra space.  the only thin metal I had was copper sheet, so I used that.  The safety catch is one of those that works on the ace of the lock and  slides into a notch on the back of the cock, so that has been cut.   All works fine now – I am now in the middle of filing up the blank for the frizzen spring – I found a bit of 4.5mm thick spring steel, that’s thick enough to make the boss on the spring, so I milled down the rest of the thickness to around 2mm and am filing it into shape – looking OK.   I’ve done quite a lot of work on the wood of the pistol – there were a few pits and a couple of visible cracks so I have put a coat of shellac over the whole pistol, and then put a build-up of layers of shellac over dips and the crack and sanded them off each time – it takes a while for the shellac to harden so its not a fast process, but it is giving a good result and the defects are slowly disappearing. The barrel is starting to brown.   I’ve just finished getting a decent brown on the barrels of the Nock pair and just need to put a final finish on the wood and they will be ready to return to their owner.

The horrible cracks at the back top of the lock have now been replaced by an inserted repair – quite pretty now, just got to brown the barrel….

7th June  Made the harding top jaw and top jaw screw today – about 3 to 4 hours work, but looking OK.  I might have to thin down the top jaw as the cock I have looks very light, and my top jaw may look a bit top heavy.  I was messing about for an hour or two trying my hand at flint knapping having watched a couple of videos.  I sort of got the hang of it and at one point I did maage to knock off a series of flakes that almost looked like proto gun flints!  I took the flakes that looked most likely and trimmed them into rectangles, and got a whole pile of ‘almost’ gun flints.  I guess if I was marooned in a flint rich part of the country with a flintlock and a supply of powder and shot I would be able to make flints that would last a shot or two.

6th June  Cracking on with the Harding overcoat pistol – I got the last wood repair finished off – not too bad!  I’ve started to refinish the stock – a coat of red oil followed by a coat of sanding sealer or two, then polish with 0000 steel wool and more red oil.  Along the way a few strokes with a walnut coloured wood touch up pen to blend things in a bit – hides a multitude of sins!  I hsve managed to get it a fairly light colour, as I didn’t want another dark old pistol!  Did a bit of filing on the replacement cock – it was a Blackley casting that had had the tip of the spur re-welded, difficult to reshape as its mostly a concave surface, but I think it will do – I need to make a top jaw and top jaw screw, and fit the square, then make the frizzen spring……… meanwhile the front hedge cries out to be cut!

5th June Splendid party making Elderflower wine (indoors as it was a bit damp – fortunately not the heavy rain that had been forecast earlier)  It was so nice to meet up with old friends we hadn’t seen for over 2 years – one begins to feel like a member of the human race again.  I’ve done a bit of work on the overcoat pistol – I’m sorting out the woodwork – very carefully sanding it off without rounding off the corners or changing the shape – quite a challenge – the repair I made first is bugging me a bit, so I may just cut it off and do it again – not sure at the moment.  There were a series ofgaps and cracks around the top backof the lock that were not going to be easy to hide – in places the wood was below the proper level.  In circumastances like that its always best to take out a big chunk of the bad area, and replace it with a single piece and reshape that.  I have a fine Japanese saw with a kerf of about 0.3mm that I can cut into the stock with and leaves a very clean edge, so two cuts and chisel out the bad stuff – its always best to make the cut out bit in the form of a wedge so you can push the new bit in tight – now I’ve mislaid the proper wood glue, and I am a bit put off instant glue just at the moment!   Having cleaned off the surface of the rest of the pistol with 400 grit I was left with a number of black stains, mostly along the edge of the steel furniture, particularly the trigger finial.  As its basically an iron stain you can mostly get rid of it with a solution of Oxalic acid in water – a few grains and a thimble full of water will do.  There are a couple of small stains left, but most have gone.  The chequering was a bit dirty so I scrubbed it with a toothbrush and Nitromors paint stripper which did a reasonable job, but some bits werefilled up and I had to go over the chequering with one of my home-made chequering points – now looking OK – its in pretty good condition.  So just the block to glue in now, then apply a finish, (but what?) and re-brown the barrel and fit a new cock and frizzen spring….   It’s getting near the time of year when our big plastic bag has to be errected and filled with 30 tonnes of water to become a swimming pool, so thas a job for next week…………………….

 

It will need major surgery to remove the damaged area!

4th June – A session of lawn mowing called! We are into peak grass – not enough to support a sheep, but the idea is nice – I did once borrow a goat – that was when I discovered that goats don’t eat grass, they eat anything that grows above the grass – including garden flowers, hedges and anyhing else in between.  It took a year for the garden to recover from a day’s goat!  I decided to ‘strike off’ or file down the barrel of the overcoat pistol, which I more or less have don

 

3rd June Anotther gorgeous day – We are going to an outdoor party on Sunday and its forecast to rain heavily, the only day in the next two weeks that won’t be fine! Such is life.  Well, I did put the Rigby to bed with a nice foresight. As I was packing it I realised that the trigge guard tang wasn’t fitting  very well, so that had to be sorted, but its all paid for and ready to post on Monday.  In the background for the last however many days Ive been browning the pair of Nock barrels – still not got where I want to be, but coming along.  I started on the little overcoat pistol – there isn’t any major woodwork damage, but I’ve never seen a stock with as many small cracks and splits – most won’t move but are very slightly open, some can be closed up – anyway Ive been going round with superglue trying to stabilise it, then there are a couple of places that will need a small new piece of wood let in.  I steamed it to get some of the dings out, which has raised the grain – its a sort of dirty brown colour – I’ll have to see if I can clean it up a bit. Also the chequering is filled up with something quite hard in a couple of patches, so I’ll have to work on that.  The lock is  not too bad but needs a new cock – I have one that will fit, more or less – and a new frizzen spring, which will be a fancy bit of construction – either filed from solid or a bit of weld-blob technology, we shall see.   I think the barrel might look good if it was struck up fairly thoroughly – I don’t usually like to do it, but I’ll see when I’ve done the stock what the overall aim needs to be. I’ll start the post on LOcks and Detents while I have the photos to hand.

1st June – Missed a day and didn’t put up the photos I was going to as my access to the website went funny and I couldn’t edit or save any changes and so couldn’t do anything.  I came back to it this evening and it wouldn’t even let me look at the website!  I tried another website and that got the same impenetrable message.  I remembered I’d installed a new VPN and ‘threat protection’ a few days ago, so I deleted them all and I think its now back to normal – I hope!    I finished the Rigby today, or at least I thought I had until sitting on the sofa playing with it I realised I hadn’t put a foresight on it.   I spent a good few hours fixing the half cock bent- I’ll  put a separate post on Locks and Detents and describe it in detail, but in summary I stuck a couple of tiny blobs of weld on the broken ‘top’ to the half cock notch – a really tricky job as I didn’t want to weld up the whole half cock notch and start again, then filed it to shape – it has to be just the right shape as I’ll outline in the post for the detent to work.  The detent consists of a small ‘flag’, the ‘fly’ that pivots through about 10 degrees in a recess on the tumbler and stops the sear from falling into the half cock notch when the gun is fired, but allows it to enter when you want half cock – on a ‘normal’ gun or pistol you pull the trigger hard enough to keep the sear out of the way when you fire the gun, but that doesn’t happpen with guns or pistols set up for very light trigger pressure, or those fitted with a ‘hair trigger’ so you need the ‘fly’ to guide it safely past the half cock bent. Getting the tumbler, sear and fly to work together is about the trickiest job in setting up a lock if you have remade any of the parts.  Anyway that is done and works well, I’m really pleased to say!   I made a new barrel bolt escutcheon out of copper sheet and silver plated it (quite thinly using my little brush plating kit, and also fitted a finishing escutcheon or ramrod pipe, also out of copper, silver plated – its a very small object and I couldn’t think of another simple way of doing it.  The barrel bolt was another job – in the past I have had a job cutting a neat slot in the middle for the pin that stops it being lost – I cracked it this time by marking a line of holes by sliding my centre punch along a straight edge as I tapped the marks – they came out perfectly in a straight line, and my Dremel with a cut-off disk joined them, then a small flat needle fire finished the job.  For the ‘knob’ on the end I used ‘blob technology’ with the welder again and filed it up, then heated it to red heat and sprinkeld on Blackleys case hardening powder and quenched it, then wire brushed it and popped it on the AGA for 10 minutes at about 280 C (I didn’t bother to check the tempreature, but its usually about 280 at that place on the second plate.)

I wAs thinking about why I do some of these jobs – some are obvious – nice things in reasonable nick with a single fault that needs fixing where you can charge a reasonable rate for the job and it is still viable. Others, like this Rigby I do because I don’t like to see a salvagable pistol get discarded – I can’t make a silk purse out of a sow’s ear (although I’m working on it!) but I can make something that is worth hanging on to and will give pleasure to someone.  Even if, as in this case, I take shortcuts and don’t do as thorough job as I could, I end up taking many more hours than I can reasonably expect a client to pay for so I revert to thinking about it as a hobby that earns enough to pay for the tools and materials.  If I were to do a thorough job on the Rigby from start to finish it would  probably run to well over £1500, which is well above what the pistol could ever be worth, and its still only a poor conversion of a nice pistol.

30th May 2022     I’ve had to restart my diary here as I couldn’t get the old one to work – I couldn’t put any more on the blog as it wouldnt let me publish it so I’m guessing that its full.  Now I just have to find out how I make it appear first on the ‘front page’.  Well sort of – bit of a mystery so for the time being this will just sit in front of the other one and I’ll hope I can at least save and publish on this post – who knows!

Probably divine intervention becasuse I missed a few days of the diary!  Actually I had a bit of a problem with the infection I got – my GP surgery didn’t listen when I explained which antibiotics worked, and  so gave me the ‘wrong’ one, by the time I’d  collected the prescription and saw it was wrong, then managed to see a GP in person and get the right meds, the infection had got out of control and I ended up in A&E with intravenous antibiotics for a couple of days – no lasting harm done, I hope,  but not best pleased with the Surgery for not listening to what I said.  So back in full swing, and I hope no more sofa days or half days.  Trying to finish off the Rigby – its more or less done, now put together and looking pretty good compared to what I started with – shame about all the old irreversible repairs or it would be reall good.  I’d welded up the mouth of the cock fairly generously so it took a while to file it to shape and mill the cavity.  The first replacement nipple I put in was too short for the hammer, but I found an old one that was about right, and it will now ‘cap off’ in a satisfactory way.  I’ve put the re-etched barrel back – there is currently no barrel bolt so I made a quick and dirty ramrod out of dowel to hold the barrel in place – works fine.  So there are a few more jobs I could do if the client wishes – there is no ramrod pipe, barrel bolt, one barrel bolt escutcheon and the half cock bent needs welding and filing as its broken out and won’t catch.   All in all its an improvement of several orders of magnitude

26th  Sorry about the missed post yesterday – I have a nasty infection and a mostly sofa bound. I did manage a bit of gun work in the mornings.  The  Rigby is coming on.  I more or less finished the woodwork, and etched the barrel in ferric chloride which seems to be what the damascus knife makers use, then gave it a soak in hot logwood to blacken it.  Now bad!  I welded up the mouth of the cock – just have to file it into shape.  There are still some issues with it -;  no barrel bolt, no foresight ,no ramrod pipe, no ramrod , and the half cock bent is damaged so it won’t hold half cock. I’ve already spent a lot  of time on it so I’ll have to see what the client wants.

24th May  Mix of heavy rain and weak sunshine.  I’m spending more time on the Rigby than its really worth, but its a challenge and I think it will look good when its done.  I had done the basic wood repairs, just needing finishing, but I didn’t like the look of the  top of the projecting saw handle bit – it had a large hole, off centre and filled with plastic wood (remember the stuff?) and just detracted from the look of the pistol as it was the first and most obvious bit you see – I toyed with the idea of renmoving the plastic wood and putting in a wooden plug , but there was also a smaller hole with a plug, so I decided to bite the bullet and cut a slice off the top of the projecting bit and glue on a piece of walnut with a more or less matching and interesting grain.  I’ve oscillated on this job between using instant glue and proper wood glue.  Instant glue is obviously fairly fast, so if you keep a can of activator handy you don’t need elaborate clamps to hold things, but on the other hand if you need to position and clamp the repair, wood glue gives you time to get things right.  Mostly my instant glue gives me a few seconds  to position the pieces, but one bit I stuck on today set instantly before I had even a couple of seconds to move it – luckily it was just OK.  I had a look at refreshing the engraving on the Rigby barrel – its one of their pistols that have the name in Olde English Lettering – I had never done any and I couldn’t quite make out from the worn letters how some were made up – anyway the web came to my rescue and google images produced a pepperpot revolver with the right engraving. I think if I put the barrel in for etching I had better protect the engraving somehow mmmmm- I’ll think about it….

 

 

Good self-amalgamating tape as a tension binder.

 

23rd/24th May Busy with gun jobs – stripped the Rigby and glued a couple of blocks of walnut into neatly reshaped cavities – one more piece to add when I’ve shaped those two.  Someone had been messing about with the pistol fairly recently – there were cracks glued up with a very hard glue – unfortunately they didn’t close up the gaps before the glue set, so I’ve had to try to remove the glue. I’m hoping that it will all go together – I can’t reverse some of the repairs so it wont be perfect.  The barrel needs re-etching – Rigby pistol barrels were  almost always of etched fine damascus, this one could do with a little refreshing of the etching if I can find out what to use ?Copper Sulphate?  Nitric Acid?  I’ll have to do some research…………………. I’ve started to brown the two Nock barrels – lets hope it goes better than the last pair of pistols I browned, which took 14 rustings and were a bit stripy for my liking.

22nd May – Out to lunch with a couple of expert antique firearms friends – they had a very very nice  cased and  minty double 8 bore tubelock wildfowl gun (all of us are tubelock officianados) made in East Anglia in 1845, the second period of tubelock popularity – the first being much earlier when Joseph Manton patented the idea.  This one looked perfect, with a Lancaster style sprung holder for the tubes. Our interest centered around the touchholes – there was a short gap between the tube holder and the face of the barrel and touchhole – maybe 2 mm – that the tube had to bridge as it sat against the face of the touchhole. Our concern was that the face of the touchhole and barrel had only the small hole for ignition – around a mm in diameter or less whereas all the other tubelocks we have encountered have a  recess in the face of the touchhole to take the end of the tube.  Why hasn’t the Marham got a recess, which we thought was necesary to ensure the fire was directed accurately into the touchhole, even if the hammer distorted the tube on firing?  We speculated that the barrels may have come form a flintlock, or the gun originally made as a flintlock and then new locks made, but everthing looked of a piece as the saying goes – and that is always  important when you have some experience, which we all do.  My conclusion was that the maker, or whoever put the ensemble together could easily have recessed the touchholes or fitted new ones ( a standard repair at those times) and the fact that they didn’t suggests that they didn’t know it was the usual way, or didn’t think it was necessary. Anyway an interesting half hour after a splendid lunch in the garden.  Apparently according to my American friend my leaflet perporting to tell  how Joseph Manton made tubes for tubelocks is being circulated – so I think it is time I put it on this website, of course I can ony do that if I don’t believe anyone would be so stupid as to try making tubes…………………………………………  Being out most of the day, and it being a weekend, no gunwork was done!

21st (2) Loads of attempts to hack into the site today – about 500 from ip addresses scattered round the world, each a slightly different attack – either one person using loads of different vpn addresses or a botnet used individually.  I wish whoever it was had better things to do!

21st May – Out shooting clays at CGC all day with the Anglia Muzzle Loaders – I took the double Nock percussion in the end and hit about half the clays – must work on my psycology and I’d do better.  I went with a few friends on a mixed breech loader, percussion and flint round, and we did shoot a few simultaneous pairs – I was shooting my  1955  Berreta 20 bore hammer gun – loads of choke but I can hit a few clays although I do better with the 12G o/u if I want to shoot breech loaders.  I shifted a few cappers and a card dispenser so a small start to paying off my investment!  I’ll now put the rest of the bits and pieces in this websites SHOP and on ebay and see how they go.  It appears that there is a major shortage of percussion caps – maybe due to manufacturers working all out to make cartridges for Ukraine, in which case I don’t mind a bit of inconvenience!  I started to very gently strike up one of the Nock barrels – very gently using a No6 file along the barrel, followed by a small sharpening stone, followed by 1000 grit paper.  I don’t like to go finer than  1000 grit, or to do too much with it – my aim is not to make the barrel shiny – almost all barrels originally had at least some file marks where they were struck up.  It did get rid of most of the staining – I didn’t need to take of much at all and I was careful not to round off the edges of the engraving – indeed I was careful to leave all the arrises as sharp as possible.  I will try to unscrew the foresight when the penetrating oil has had time to work as its easier to brown without it – foresights  always penetrate through to the inside of the barrel as its too thin to tap a blind hole.  I  got another repair job today – the Rigby wreck – such a shame as it was once a fine gun but it obviously had a major break in the butt that has been repaired with  nails or pins and a screw, so one presumes that it was done before strong glues became available  – at least before WWII.  There is also some obviously more recent damage to the woodwork.  The dilemma with such damage is whether to try to undo the repair and redo it better, although in this case I think that approach would leave an even worse result.  The barrel is typical Rigby deeply etched true damascus, but with varying degrees of wear and damage -its a conversion from flint with a new breechblock. I think it will clean up OK but I won’t attmpt a reconversion!

Major break right across the butt and extensive fore end damage

I think with a bit of work it will be much better = I’ll try to sort the barrels, maybe re-etch them – but I’ll derust it all first.

20th May – Bit of gun work today, along with the week’s shopping.  I stripped the other Nock pistol of its barrel – they seemed to have coating of something, but I couldn’t touch it with alcohol or acetone so used Nitromors paint stripper which got off a ginger mess – no ides what the barrel was coated with (over the rust!).  Popped both together into the derusting tank at about 3 Amps for a couple of hours which turned the rust black and let me rub it off with 0000 steel wool and a very fine wire wheel on the grinder – the metal is pretty clean with just a few patches of shallow corrosion, almost just staining.  I’ll very gently rub them down, probably with a piece of sharpening stone so as not to round the corners – we’ll see.   I also stripped the little Parker pistol I bought – it has the usual splits under the barrel, so the first job is to see what can be closed up, and then work isocyanate glue into the cracks and set it off with activator after binding it up gently with self amalgamating tape – I got quite a lot of glue into the cracks so I’m happy that it went in a decent way and should hold it all together. n The metalwork will all go in the derusting tank and get cleaned up.  The basic repair needed is replacement of the cock – I think I probably have a suitable casting.  the mainspring was loose when I got it, I’m sure I put it somewhere!  I usually put all the small bits of guns in zippy plastic bags and label them, even if I only take them off til tthe next day as I’m always afraid of loosing bits of client’s guns – I just got another 1000 small bags (about a tenner!).

Electrolytic derusting and 0000 steel wool and a very fine wire wheel ( avoiding the engraving)

 

19th May (2) – just been checking the statistics that my server keeps of the visits to the site – quite an increase in visitors since I started posting every day again, and a lot of searches on Google and suddenly a lot on Bing too.  The Russians are back – hi Guys! – after disappearing for a while,  My software blocks anyone trying to access bits of the site they are not supposed to, and if its repeated attacks I make the blocks permenant instead of 30 days.  Most of the attacks are from bot nets – computers that have been hacked and had programs installed that relay attacks – the computer user being unaware his computer is being hijacked.  There are a couple of botnets that I can track that target this site, because when they attack they always repeat the attack a fixed number of times from each computer, and it stands out in the blocking statistics – one botnet always tries 21 times, so every day I get a different  IP address (hacked computer)  that tries 21 times to access something it shouldn’t.  I did once track down the IP address of the botnet master and get him stopped by his service provider, but that is unusual and he had a particular pattern of deploying his bots. There must be many hundreds of hacked computers round the world that are banned from this site permenantly.  Its amazing  what you can find out from message statistics without knowing the details, as law enforcement knows well.   I’m reminded that in warfare you can, or at least could, predict enemy action simply by the volume of traffic without being able to read it, presumably that is now avoided by dummy traffic.  My blog has had almost half a million visitors since I started it, and they have made over three and a half million clicks on things!  7 clicks per visit is reckoned good for a website – retailers would be envious!

19th May – Most of the day pottering about outside filling the skip as it was really too nice to be indoors.  I finished off fitting the link – it fits perfectly and when the cock is completely down it leaves the spring about 1 mm above the bottom edge of the lock – identical to the other lock, so I could pack it up for posting and send off a Paypal invoice – I use Paypal for all my invoicing because it allows clients to pay by card online without an account and then lets me buy postage and print an post paid address label and keeps a record of it – seductively handy!   If it fits a post box I can then drop it in, otherwise I have to go to the local P.O. which is 5 minutes drive or 20 minutes walk away.  I do feel guilty about not putting the money through the local office, but it does save fussing about with labels and addresses.   I have now got to finish the job I started on the Nock pistol – I have its mate now and have to de ding  it and then sort out the barrels – the engraving is very sharp but there is some rust – there appears to be a layer of varnish on them too, but it might just be oxidised oil.  When I took the first one out of the woodwork there was a little red rust along the edge under the wood, and a few pits.  I’ll run the barrels through the electrolytic deruster, then see about gently rebrowning them.   I need to think about Fred’s engraving, but I have to be in the mood and at the moment I’m not really there!  I’m also expecting a Rigby pistol in a terribly smashed up condition, only just not a bin job, and only because it has a famous name on it – I took it on as a challenge to see if it was possible to make something of it.  I’m still fidgeting about the possibility of buying a boat to keep in Stornaway for Hebredean cruising when Penny retires, the trouble is that any boat I buy in the South of England is about 3 weeks sailing from where we want it……………….

18th May – Odd job day!  Sorting out a few outside jobs that needed doing in anticipation of summer – clean up the barbeque and garden furniture for example.  My skip arrived so happy days filling it – they always look so big, but somehow they get filled in the week they are on site.   Did my STEM club yesterday – the kids came in having spent the afternoon outside in the sun at a racing stables and hot and excited so it took a while for them to settle, but they got into computing eventually!   I printed up a few more cap dispensing ‘stars’ yesterday – when I came to look at the progress they were still printing but were a mess – not sure what happened but it looked as if the top layers were displaced relative to the bottom.  anyway when I tried again it wouldn’t get the first layer to stick to the printer bed as the extruder nozzle was too high off the bed – not sure how it got that way, but it took me a while to sort it out – in the end I only managed to sort it out by following the handbook exactly – not the sort of thing I normally do!  The Anglian Muzzle loaders have a shoot on Saturday, so I might go – its a double barreled competition, but I could take my single and do my own thing – not sure yet which it will be – I will take a pile of my cappers etc and see if there is any demand –  I will print up some covers with Angla Muzzle Loaders on them!  Then I think I’ll put them on Ebay and on the SHOP on this site.  I got as far as drilling the hole in the link casting, but haven’t separated it from the sprue yet as its easier to handle while attached

17th May  Just typed in a whole lot and lost it!  I got the go-ahead to do the link on the lock that was wrong, and with great good fortune found an old link casting I got from Dick a couple of years ago along with a load of rusting junk and some lock part castings.  I took out the old link, not only was it a bit too long, but the hole for the pin holding it to the tumbler is very worn.  My casting is slightly longer than the link in the OK lock, but with luck will do the job – I’d very much prefer not to have to machine and file up one from solid!  I managed to give away our old trampoline yesterday – a relic of when the boys were at home, and cause of two broken wrists!  I have a skip coming tomorrow – always a cause of excitement, so I’ll see how much rubbish I can dispose of……..

 

TThe mainspring is very strong, I’m surprised the  worn top hole on the old link didn’t break.

15th May  Finished the safety catches after hours of filing – then trial fitted and drilled peg hole, then engraved them and coloured them down – first at red heat with Blackley’s colour hardening powder then clean up and pop on the AGA hotplate at around 260C till the colour looks right, then put it all together – it worked.  The little detent on the spring that pops the safety slider from one position was a bit strong, so I eased it a bit – that aspect now works OK … BUT when I finally put the locks together, including the springs, the spring and link of one hung below the edge of the lock, meaning it would rest on the woodwork if installed. The other was fine.  My initial thought was that I had got some component swapped between the two lock, but that was pretty unlikely as I am always meticulous in keeping all the parts from each gun separate and in zippy plastic bags.  Anyway I figured I might possibly have got the springs swapped, so I swapped them – that seemed to make no difference – the spring of one still gaped – however in the swapped state the cock wouldn’t go to full cock on the ‘gaping’ as the link on the spring was fouling the tumbler  – looking carefully one mainspring is slightly longer than the other.  But that didn’t explain the spring hanging low on one lock. Carefull measurement on each lock showed that the link between spring and  tumbler was very different on the two locks – 9 mm on one lock, 11 on the other, gaping lock.  I assume that the long link was a replacement because the original broke.  It needs fixing if anyone is going to fire off the pistol or it is likely to break out the wood

 

 

Cocks against stop on edge of lock plate – tumblers are in about the same position. Bottom spring overhangs badly.

 

The springs are slightly different lengths.  The different link lengths mean the top lock spring has much greater tension. Both at half cock.

 

14th May – Beautiful day.  Bit of excitement in Waitrose car park – a woman was trying to collect samples of people’s signatures and , I think, credit card details on a bogus petition – She was asking for ‘something that could confirm your signature’ which I think she hoped would be a credit card – I suspect she may have had a micro camera too.  Anyway the Manager and security man and I checked out the car park and saw someone who looked like her from the back getting into a car and driving off – I got a photo of the number plate – police notified, although whether they will follow it up is another matter…..  Anyway the sfety catches are moving on – one is almost complete – I don’t have enough of the broken one to know what the ‘handle’ looks like, although obviously the original wasn’t strong enough as it was very thin where it joins the sliding part and had broken off.  I had a look at a few flintlock pistols and came up with a compromise pattern, see below

20 mm overall length – quite fiddly to make… still a bit  of finishing to do, and the engraving – a couple of lines of running leaf pattern, so small they just look like lines until you look with the microscope.

13th May  Went for my regular visit to my oncologist – his cheering thought for the day was that once you get to 80 it means you are a surviver, and actuarially your risk of dying levels out – all the unhealthy individuals having dropped out already!   I made another card dispenser – slightly modified – its so easy and cheap and prints overnight, so its easier to make another for each improvement, rather than spend a lot of time with the designing.  I  am working on the stock of the Nock pistol – its looking OK so far – now I think the barrel looks a bit sad……….  I started work on the safety sliders for the Parkers – it is a very fiddly job and my milling machine is pretty rickety, plus the digital readouts are prone to jumping, so I don’t dare to get very close to the finished sizes.  The key to making small bits like these is to have a handle to hold the work in a vice, and cut it off when you are almost finished.  In this case I have left a full, deep ‘keel’ that will be cut down to make the tabs that passes through the lock plate  when the external parts of the sliders is finished.  I rang about the other Moody this morning but it was already under offer, having been on the market for only 5 days – clearly they are in demand .  I’ll have to widen my search. Looking through the countries of origin of visitors to this site, I see that it has got a lot more visitors since I have been posting every day – I also saw only one visitor from Russia today – they used to make up around 1/4 of all visitors

I should be able to make both out of this, but not much to spare.

12th May – finished my SATS invigilating and etc.  The only downside is that I ought to write a Governors report on the activities for the Board of Governors -I hate writing these reports!  I did the repair to the butt of the Parker pistol, and now need to take out some dings and dents by steaming it.  In preparation I took the barrel out, probably a mistake (or a good thing depending on your vantage point) as I dicovered a bit of rust around where the barrel and wood meet at the edge.  It looks like at some point the barrel, and probably most of the gun got a thin coat of shellac – the barrel could really do with stripping down and refinishing…. but |I’ll take a rain check on that!  I have finished rendering my overshot card dispenser in plastic and it works just fine.  I did have to resort to gluing two parts to get the slot where the cards come out right as slots don’t print very well, but I am quite pleased with the design.   I found another Moody 36 on the web today, so I’ll try to go and see it ASAP.  They are old boats, made in 1980, but they made them well in those days!  And of course they are much cheaper than a modern boat of the same size.  We shall see….

Needs colouring to match and refinishing

Holds 50 to 100 overshot cards

11th May – I havent been doing much this week as I’ve been in school invigilating the SATS exams, playing at being the Black Knight for the 5 and 6 year olds, and running STEM club.  I do have a 3D printing project on the go – Some time ago I made a fancy dispenser for overshot cards for my 16 bore Nock etc.  It was very fancy – brass, and leather covered, and worked a treat, but too costl to offer for sale ( about £100 each?) so I am working on a 3D printed card dispenser on the same lines – its going OK, I did get one printed but one of the components was a bit thin and broke, so I am beefing it up and also making it suitable for any cards up to about 11 bore.  Watch this space….  I have started a couple of gun jobs – a pistol stock with bit out of the butt – a neat chip off along the grain that will be straightforward, and a couple of safety catches to make as replacements for a pair of pistols by William Parker.  To my amusement, but not surprise, I found that the side nails didn’t fit if you swapped them – I did it as an experiment – and the sliding safety catch was 4.5 mm wide on one and 5.25 on the other , so no chance of quickly making a couple to the same milled dimensions.  Safety catches are always a bit of a fiddle – they are by far the smallest components in a lock, and the pin holding the inner part to the slider is about 1.5 mm long and about 0.4 diameter, so VERY easy to loose.   Replacing the chip shouldn’t be too bad as it broke along a fairly flat bit of grain  – one tip with small repairs like that is to slightly hollow the middle of the area  so you get good contact round the edges – its particularly useful if you are using epoxy adhesive as that ‘likes a certain thickness of glue layer – I I used astandard D3 Gorilla wood glue as it makes a thinner glue line.  I had a bit of a disappointment today – we had decided that we might buy a yacht and keep it in Stornaway.  I’d found a nice 36 foot Moody 36CC only a couple of hours away and was going to view on Friday, being busy in school till them, but alas it sold in the meantime – he who hesitates looses!  So I’ll have to look around – trouble is, its probably a sellers market at the moment.  Oh, and my first capper system is on the SHOP page at the top.  The rest of the system will follow when I get a moment – I’m waiting for boxes at the moment.

 

The grain is quite curved, but the missing bit was sheared along the grain fairly flat – you can never tell if it is going to match til you finish!

Making the new sliders (bottom right) will be very fiddly!  might try welding this one.

7th May – Maybe we are into the warm weather here now – it will be warmer next week.  I got another gun job today, a small piece of wood to put on to repair a butt of a Henry Nock officer’s pistol.  I looked at Freds ebgraving and felt guilty that I hadn’t begun – any hope of doing it next week was out of the door as I will be spending most of the week in school – its the national SATS exams and I’ve been recruited to invigilate, plus doing Tuesday afternoon as a Knight, and later in the STEM club.  I’m hoping to  wrap up the cappers by the end of the week – I have built up a bit of a stock and got the packaging sorted, just need to print up some labels and start selling them – I worked out prices on the basis of printer time for the various parts plus material cost (not much) plus a postage and handling charge – I won’t get rich but it might go some way to paying for the printer!

5th May – Lovely day shooting at CGC – I used my little Nock and hit a few clays that I was really pleased to get, and as usual missed some that looked easy – it was ever thus!   I took my Cablesfarm capper system to show our regular group and immediately sold two full sets, so that was good.  I’d printed one up with Cambridge Gun Club, and I think when I’ve got into production they will sell them – they are quite into muzzle loading and are planning to sell black powder so that would fit.   Pete commented that he’de like a loop on the tub as he likes to hang everything about his person – so I’ll obligue… I’m just in the process of working out how to price them – it reminds me of the school activity that got me involved in primary school STEM activities – I was asked by Suffolk Education Dept if I would be a Dragon for a primary school Dragon’s Den for 7 and 8 year olds.  I offered to help with the run up to the activity and got heavily involved in making things in class,  any way the point of the anecdote is that when we came to judge the event the children had to explain their business plan, including costs and selling price – one lad gave a figure for his unit cost that was higher than his selling price – when asked how he was going to make any money that way, he said he would just sell more!  A lot of people in real businesses seem to think that way too!  I am not one of them….

3rd May – Did my STEM Club at school today – great to be with the kids – they are getting involved in the programming and had fun running around tha school testing out the range of the radios built into the Microbit computers – I reckon they work to at least 100m on the default setting, which is enough for boats and cars, although probably not good enough to use them to control model aircraft!  Next week we will take in the 3D printer to show them and set them to printing name plates – their teacher and the head are both coming along to see the technology at work!  I’ve been playing around with different sortware for ‘slicing’ – making the model shape into instructions for the machine to move and push out plastic in the right places.  One program produces perfect bottoms in contact with the baseplate, but slightly scrappy top surfaces, the other is the opposite – I’m sure that with enough expert tinkering ( there are around 50 or so variables to tweek!) they can both be made near perfect, but fiddling with a lot of variables gives an enormous number of possible options, only a very few of which are what is wanted – how to find them?   My current plan is to put my capper system on this website when I have got it sorted – I’ll start by selling a simple option and add my fancy bits in time.

1st May  – Happy May Day – whatever it is that happens on May Day, possibly the official start of spring?   I made the perspex case to fit round my 3D printer to keep little fingers off the works when I take it into school.  Only problem was I didn’t measure the backward projection of the printer bed when it was in the back position accurately enough and the case is  about 2 mm too short so I’ll have to cut a slot for the bed to go into – not a problem, just a bore!  I’m quietly printing more bits for the capper system and refining bits so they don’t need any tinkering with once they are printed.  Might make a turnscrew tomorrow for fun.  It would be good to have a nipple key too – I’ll have to think about that, the space is a bit limited and it would need to be pretty strong  – still,   as the whole point of the exercise is to have fun doing mechanical design and making things, that isn’t a reason not to have a go!   Might make a titanium one, not sure if I can TIG weld titanium, must have a look – almost certainly involve buying more tools – making things always does! Getting near to engraving Fred’s gun etc – the workshop is nearly warm enough to work in and I can probably find some old floorboards to cut up for the woodburner – need to check that I haven’t inadvertently left any black powder lying about!  And time to order a skip to clear out the muck from renovating the bedroom, and I ought to do a car boot sale soon to clear out the attic  and the lawns are now approaching max growth rate…………  No peace for the wicked – makes me tired just to think about it.

30th April – The frost took out one Courgette plant and two runner bean plants last night – not best pleased!    I finished off the nipple jobs today – I managed to get the total time to make one down to 55 minutes, which, allowing for tea breaks, means I am probably almost on the minimum wage now if you ignore equipment costs!    I did make one improvement over the last few days – I turn up and tap the thread in the lathe first, then screw it into a bit of bar with the correct thread, and put the bar in the lathe to turn the nipple end – I now mill a flat on the bar with a step at the nipple end so I can locate it in the vice in the milling machine and put both flats on accurately and quickly.  I also saved a few minutes by drilling both holes from the nipple end – first the 2.1 mm hole nearly through, and then the 1.2 mm hole through – that way you only  drill the necessary bit of 1.2 mm thread.  The reason I didn’t do it like that before was that it puts the 1.2mm hole as the last operation, so if the drill breaks you have to throw away the whole job!  My 3D printer is still working overtime – making hinges and bits to put a cover on itself.  I should finish the cover tomorrow, then I really need to think about engraving Fred’s locks and furniture – a good deal of practice will be needed…….

29th April Another 3 nipples today – I didn’t screw up any of them this time, but I had a small battle with Pete’s gun, which had had one nipple tapped out to M8 x 1.25 and the other sleeved to 1/4 BSF 28t.p.i.  I happened to have the M8 taps and dies from my previous engineering exploits so that was no problem,  The 1/4 BSF was a bit tight in the insert, and eventually unscrewed it ( it was Araldited in) when I tried to get the nipple out to recut it a bit.  I was able to separate the nipple and the insert with some trepidation and a big pair of pliers*, and glued the insert back in and ran a very sharp carbon steel die down the nipple.  I use carbon steel dies and not HSS.  HSS are about 4 times the price, at least they are from Tracy Tools, and actually don’t cut as well – they are less brittle, and for lathe tools stand much faster cutting speeds, but for hand cutting of threads heat is hardly a problem – as for wear – its much better to buy several and discard them after a dozen nipples of so.  I reckon it takes me about 1 1/2 to 2 hours to from start finish to make a nipple on average, so at the price I charge it would hardly pay the minimum wage, let alone the living wage!  Lucky I don’t depend on it for anything other than paying for the odd tool or material.  My evening project at the moment is fixing a Perspex cover round the 3D printer so I can take it into school and leave it running in class.  Ive designed a set of brackets and hinges to hold the panels and they will print overnight tonight so I can finish the job over the weekend.  I also need to print out several sets of my cappers before I put them on Ebay – each set will take around 12 hours to print so my maximum output is 2 sets a day – I’m not going to get rich at that either! (it might just pay for the materials and wear and wear on the printer). But then when you look at a lot of fast growing businesses they don’t make a profit for years and investers pour millions into them  in the hope that they will hit lucky and one day the company will actually make money – its all about building a brand – Cablesfarm.co.uk  – any investor wishing to pour millions into growing my brand will receive a free set of cappers (maybe).  *One lesson I’ve learnt in this game is that you need to hold things very firmly to avoid damage = half hearted gripping does the most damage.

 

 

28th April – back to being a bit chilly, especially evenings and nights, after the warm spell  in March.  I did do some gun work today – in fact I spent half the day making a couple of nipples – I sometimes wonder why I insist of making them out of titanium as its a real pain – very easy to work harden it if you don’t make continuous cuts – I got the end of the parting tool so hot by not noticing that it was not cutting that it flashed the titanium – fortunately only a quick flash, but a reminder that titanium is quite inflamable when in the form of fine swarf, and mixed with cutting oil is a potent fire risk that water only makes worse. Anyway I trashed two nipples, one by taking too much off by not thinking, and another by busting off the 1.2 mm drill – drilling such fine holes in titanium is really quite tricky as you need to keep up some pressure on the drill to keep it cutting and avoid work hardening, but too much and it breaks – I can guarentee that when I get back to making nipples after a long break, I screw up a couple before I get the hang.  I buy the 1.2 mm drills by the 10, partly because I break them but mainly because they only stay sharp enough for a few nipples.  Mostly I use lathe tools with replaceable carbide tips, but that doesn’t work for the parting tools or for the modified parting tool that I need to undercut the shoulder of the thread.  Beware that taking  very fine cuts is very hit and miss – the metal will either cut or burnish – its particularly true of thread cutting – you have to get it right on the first cut – if you try to run the die a scond time closed down, it invariably burnishes and will be very tight – and when you back it off it will be just as tight as no metal has been removed.  I did a bit more playing with my capper system – I made a box and lid to fit in the housing to carry 50 or 60 spare nipples – mostly to see if I could get the opening and locking right – it works on the third attempt……   I’ll tackle Pete’s nipples tomorrow, if I can remember what the problem was!  I’ve still got a list of outside jobs to finish and the hedges are starting to burst forth, and the lawns to grow rapidly……   Penny is now able to drive again after her hip transplant, so that means I will have the house to myself in the daytime.

 

 

Two new + sample

Really an exercise in design for 3D printing – my printer is working overtime since I bought it!

27th Did my first STEM club at school for 2 years – great to be back with the kids.  On the way out I got clobbered – to bring my suit of armour into the little ones class and play the part of a knight for their history project – promised to be fun – I have a couple of helmets and they all get to try them on (its all repro, probably late Victorian?).  I am busy refining my cappers – its turning into a system – I do enjoy engineering design – Dave, my STEM buddy, said it ought to have a cover – quite right!  And I was going to supply my decappers with it, but redesigned them to fit within the cover – now I’m designing a container to be part of the system for spare caps, then I need to design a nipple pricker.  Only possible because I spent several years gainfully employed doing  CAD design work in Solidworks quite a few years ago!  Tomorrow I start the gun work in ernest – I have quite a queue, so I owe it to my clients to stop playing and get working!

Gets more elaborate by the minute!

25th April – not such a nice day today.  Busy finishing off my STEM project for the school club tomorrow afternoon.  My friend Dave and I have built a model safe with a door opened and closed by a servo motor, all controlled by a microbit computer – a complicated bit of 3D printed engineering and software.  We have now added a remote control to the project!   We have 8 children from years 5 and 6 taking part – basically aged 9 and 10.  We dream up these projects and do our prep and homework, but until we get started with the club we really don’t know how much they will be able to understand or do – so we always end up flying by the seat of our pants!   I just bought a wreck of an overcoat pistol by Harding, the maker of the Post Office pistols I restored –  it has a broken cock and frizzen spring, and need general sorting, but they won’t be too bad when finished, although with a replacement cock and spring they won’t pass as fully original.  The source of supply of good castings for the cocks of small pistols has more or less dried up, but I probably have one that will do at a pinch,  It’s always tricky to put a price on things like this as very few people can source the parts and do the restoration, and overcoat pistols, even originals in fair condition don’t fetch a lot,  I’m not sure why but they are worth  considerably less than larger pistols of comparable quality. A quick look through the auction catalogues indicate estimates of around £250 to £350 for reasonable all original overcoat pistols.  Given that the cost of restoration will be £200  to £250 or more including the parts at my incredibly reasonable rates, it doesn’t leave  a lot to pay for the pistol as is.  On the other hand, I need to feed my blog with restorations occasionally or all my visitors will desert me, and I do have a soft spot for Harding’s utilitarian output!   I figured the estimate at auction would be £80 to £120 – I gave a bit more than that for it as I don’t need to pay myself for the work.  One blog visitor thought that my red cappers I showed yesterday were a bit garish for a basically historic sport – I had the same thought and had ordered a spool of dark green filament – I also have black.  I looked to see if you could buy camo filament, mainly just out of interest – you can, but only carbon reinforced filament that is a bit tricky to print, expensive and unnecesarily strong.  Probably what people in the US use for 3D printing bits of firearms – I’ve never quite understood how much of the pistol you can print, and whether you need any metal tube. I think you can only get a couple of shots before the thing is unusable?   I would go searching the internet for designs in order to get answers, but goodness knows what level of surveilance we are all subject to – and not just from Google.  I use a VPN (Virtual Private Network) portal for connecting to the web but that doesn’t completely isolate you.

24th April  – Enjoyed a pleasant clay shoot on Thursday with the lads – I reverted to using my little Nock single, and convinced everyone, myself included, that I shoot better with that gun than any of my others.  I still need to educate myself to shoot slow clays effectively – the longer I can see them coming the less likely I am to hit them – if I don’t spot them until the last minute I am a much better shot.  Its particularly noticable with the little Nock as its rather too easy to wave it about in the air if the clay is in sight for too long, whereas my big old o/u 12 is a bit steadier for those clays.  The only exception to the long wait/poor result is fo incomers or crows where I don’t shoot them until they are falling fast.  I used to find that I did well at simultaneous pairs, but that is not an option with a single barreled gun!   I’ve been busy getting our tomato and runner bean plants in, and setting up the automatic watering system – I have a small reservoir that is filled from the clock controlled tap control, and then drains into the grow bag via a perforated tube. I needed to make a bung for the resevoir and a couple of mounting brackets – an hour doing the CAD design and it was ready to print on the 3D printer and four hours later they were installed and working.  The technology is really transforming making things.  I more or less finalised the design of my percusssion cap dispensers – I settled on using ‘spiders’ with 8 arms as its handy not to have to keep changing them, and designed a double ended sprung shaft  so you can have loaded ‘spiders at one end, and put the empty ones at the other end, with a disk separating them.  I tried an earlier design on Thursday, but it had nowhere for the empty spiders so I put them in pockets etc and it was not easy to find how many caps I’d used.  A shaft has room for up to 7 spiders, giving you up to 56 shots, which ought to be enough for any muzzle loading session/shoot. +  I used a square shaft as it works out better for printing, and it keeps all the caps in line so they can’t fall out.  I’ll put them in the SHOP on this website and also on ebay when I have worked out a price and made a few more sets.

The ‘frills’ on the top  spider are an optical effect due to the somewhat flourescent plastic

Maybe I should make them in a more sober colour, only these are easily spotted if dropped.

19th April (just)  I had another look at the Manton to see if I could find the reason it double fires once in every hundred shots or so – I put a smear of modelling clay on the wood where the sear arm might touch if it didn’t have enough clearance, but that just showed there was a clearance of 1 mm or more – so still no nearer a solution – I was pretty sure from looking at it that it was OK, before the clay check, but its best to measure these things if possible.   Still busy with the 3D printer – the pile of almost right designs grows by the hour!

17th April  – I remembered I needed to look at a bit of a problem I had with my flintlock at the clay shoot on Thursday – On one occasion I fired the right barrel and the left cock came down and fired immediately – apparently on the recoil.  It had happened once before to Bev trying my gun for the first time, and once to me  out of perhaps 200 shots.  On this occasion I just swapped to firing the left barrel first, but in the past I didn’t bother to do this.  My first thoughts were that the full cock bent on the left lock must be worn so the engagement was poor.  When I stripped the gun to clean it I checked the bents and they looked perfect and identical on both locks, with the sear making a good engagement and as far as I could tell with the lock out of the gun, requiring a definite pull to fire – in fact if anything I would have said that the pull was on the heavy side.  The other potential cause of this problem is that the sear arm is stopped from falling enough to fully engage the sear in the bent  – this can be because the sear arm is stopped by the wood of the stock, or because the trigger plate stays in contact with the sear arm because the trigger can’t move forward enough.  Either of these causes might indicate that the sear arm is bent too far down.   In this case there was definitely still play in the trigger on full cock, and no sign that the sear arm was anywhere near the wood.  So I’m none the wiser – I suppose my finger could have slipped onto the second trigger on recoil but I’m not sure that is very likely, I also wondered if it was possible to cock the gun without engaging the sear fully, but playing with the bare lock, that seemed unlikely .  It’s a good John Manton with the locks in excellent condition inside and no suggestion that anything has been tinkered with on the locks – it even has neat little rollers on the ends of the sears to reduce friction with the trigger plates – I think I replaced the left roller, but its exactly the same diameter as that on the right and I don’t think the sear arm was bent to compensate for a missing roller.  I’m still playing around with the 3D printing, and getting frustrated because the fluorescent filament isn’t as strong as I’d like.  I’m also still nursing my damaged finger, but it seems to be on the mend….  Just checked the statistics for visitors to this website – very interesting!  Almost all the Russian visitors have gone, some of whom were probably trying to hack the site – Russians used to be about the 4th or 5th most frequent visitors.  I did have one visit from Kyiv today, so someone had time to look at a couple of posts – my thoughts are with them in their terrible situation.

Perfect bents and sear – not sure why it all looks so mucky in the photo – its actually pretty clean with a few spots of old discolouration.

15th April  Had a shoot yesterday and distributed 75 Kg of  the shot I bought from Clay and Game – I could have got rid of 200 Kg instead of the 100 I bought.  It was a  pleasant all flintlock morning, not that I hit much!  In the afternoon I had Tom’s Barreta O/U 12 to see if I could still heave it around as I mostly use a light side by side 20 bore now.  I did hit a reasonable number of clays, including a few snap shots that convinced me that I could swing it fast if needed – I got through 50 cartridges with no ill effects, so OK.  I have been using the 3D printer for various bits of the school STEM project, but I decided to print a copy of a plastic star shaped cap dispenser I had seen- I’m not sure where the design came from but its pretty simple to make, I think a chap in Poland sells them.  Anyway I made a 6 armed star, and then decided that an 8 armed star would mean you only needed 5 stars to cover a 40 bird clay shoot so I am printing a peg to store 5 on.  They are currently being printed in flourescent raspberry red, which actually proved its value on our wander round the shooting ground as I dropped one of the prototypes and it was very easily spotted.  Unfortunatel you can’t get the really tough plastic filament in nice colours so the plastic I’m using isnt as strong as I’d like.  I can probably print 10 or 12 stars overnight, including pegs etc.  I’ll put them in my Shop when I’ve sorted the peg etc and worked out a price – next project will be to print an overshot card dispenser. I’ve more or less finished the window, just got a bit of plastering to do and, for fun, reinstall the little rotating prism device with its solar cell that has been faithfully turning when the sun shines for around 20 years – it causes little moving rainbows to project onto the walls.

12th April  Busy finishing and installing the new window – in the course of fitting the pintles into the frame I hit the frame with a 7 lb club hammer and my finger was directly underneath – right across the top of the nail – not nice – fortunately my left hand!  Anyway ithe window is now in, just a bit of sealing round the edge and a couple of plugs to fill the screw fixing holes, and I can get back to guns again – I now have a queue – Fred’s locks and furniture to engrave, a couple of safety catches on a pair of pistols to make and a pair of nipples for a repro with metric threads that I’ll have to buy a die for as its too fiddly to set up the lathe for metric and turn a thread.  The 3D printing is coming on well, it is a pretty amazing tool, and the parts look good and are strong and quite accurate in size, and the way it does holes is fine for tapping threads – which reminds me, I broke off a M2.5 tap in one hole, so when I buy the die I’d better get another 2.5mm 2nd tap.  I was thinking yesterday that it was ages since I’d shot any clays – I’m itching to take the flintlock out again!  Next domestic job is to build a big bin box under the new widow, and then get on with making the frames for the secondary double glazing – I’ve left it too late for any benefit this winter, which does relieve the pressure a bit although every time I see the £2000 pile of Venio vacuum glass I feel I should get on with it.  Oh, and I’m glad to report that the owner of the sea service lock I engraved is very happy with the result.

3rd April – still a bit chilly, especially in the shed where I did manage to finish getting the glass and cames assembled for the second window opening – ready to solder now.  I have been trying to make a video, but its difficult to find a good palce to put the camera to get an interesting view of how to do things.  I finished making the design for my first useful 3D printed model – a part for the next STEM project at school.  I’m mighty impressed by how straightforward the process is, and how good the finished part is.  The printing can be a slow job – this part took about 9 hours to print, and it saves time and plastic by making all the solid areas as a thin shell with a web inside – it is, however extremely rigid and strong – apart from being a bit lighter than you would expect it is not immediately obvious that it isn’t a solid lump of plastic.  The plastic for this 180 x 90mm part was £1.50, so not even very expensive of material -even at retail prices, and of course no wastage.  You can see why it has the potential to be an important process in the future – commercially you need hundreds of printers all wired up to a control system with automatic collection of parts etc, but that is all possible with very little human intervention.

2nd April -Cold weater and a bit of snow strike, just when one thinks that spring is arriving !   Having finished the bedroom I have started on making the new leaded window, but that involves working in the unheated shed, so it has to be done in 2 hour bursts or I would freeze to death.  So time for other things – I got my 3D printer on Friday and assembled it, and printed the demonstration piece that they give you the G Code for – a sort of small vase.  Printing is quite slow as its in layers of 0.2 of a mm, so it takes a lot of layers to get to a sensible size – the little vase is about 75mm or 3 inches high – that is 375 layers – and there is an inner shell and an outer shell and a web of reinforcement between the two – it took 1 1/2 hours to print.   I will get on to something useful when I get a moment.  Giles pointed out to me that one can now get access to Solidworks – a fantastic piece of CAD design software – for an annual subscription of £107 as an amateur ‘maker’ – that compares favourably to the £3450 it costs per year for commercial use!  I used it a lot when I was a consultant engineer – it is by far the best program of its kind, so I subscribed.  I have been really surprised by how easy it is to get going on the 3D printing – the only hurdle is doing the designs in the first place.  I have some projects lined up in conjunction with my STEM club at the school, and I wil probably take it into school and have it running – the children will be fascinated.   To guns;- When my father died 10 years or so back , my brother and I shared his gun collection, which we bought out of the estate.  He managed to bag a pair of Griffin and Tow horse pistols that I didn’t know about, and as he has now died my sister in law wants to sell them – I have got a couple of estimates for them, and will probably buy them from her.  I was expecting them to be worth more than they seem to be, I will get another valuation before I decide.  I had had a good look at them under the microscope, I would have expected the cocks to be engraved but they appeared to be original, and certainly not made from modern castings – the two tumbler/cock screws are  different on the two pistols, both look as if they could be right,  – one resembles those in the book.  I was surprised that the side nails and tang screw/nails had plain domed heads, but checked against Keith-Neil’s book on Griffin and Beale that appeared to be right for his pistols although unusual except in military arms.  I noticed in the book that a number of the pistols had tang screws with the slots not aligned fore and aft – quite unusual in my experience.  When talking to Geoff Walker he pointed out some faint marks on one cock that could be a welding repair – I might be able to check that by taking the cock off – probably worth doing anyway.  One of the pistols has a repaired break right across the wrist that has been glued up (therefore not contemporary with the period of the pistol) but leaving a visible glue line – the pistols have been refinished over the repair – I havent checked if its a shellac or oil finish ( or possibly a modern varnish – heaven forbid!)  so it looks as if they have been restored – so almost anything could have been done to them, but mostly pretty well. Anyway here they are;

31st March:   I don’t know what is happening to this website!  I lost the main post with all the latest blog the other day and couldn’t find any trace of it!  Today I went to edit it and it was all back so I hastily copied most of the recent blog to a new file – then went back to get the rest, but it had diappeared without trace!  So a new header, and the restored latest diary should be on here.  I think I have actually lost about 6 months

25th March  I finished the Sea Service lock engraving using the air graver to get a bit deeper than I usually go with a push engraver.  The lock plate is quite pitted and worn but some of the old engraving could still be seen so I was somewhat constrained in what I could do, but I found a photo on the web (see below) that resembles what I could make out on the lockplate, even down to some assymetry.  When I had finished engraving it all looked a bit raw, so I gave it a quick go over with my fine fibre wheel to round off the edges of the cuts a little.  That did the trick, but left the lock looking a bit patchy and bright, so I gently heated it up with a propane torch until it turned grey, which looked much more comfortable – it can now go back to its owner for putting in the pistol. I can now think about Fred’s gun parts, which I haven’t yet unpacked.  It was a lovely day here- probably all we’ll get for a summer- so I wandered around the garden and realised that I’d intended to replace the last of the old windows last summer, but couldn’t as our superb crop of tomatos was growing in front of it.  So I really need to replace it before this year’s plants go in shortly.  I made the frame about 20 years ago, and got the iron casement made, so I just have to make up the leaded light panels and fix the glazing bars and my security bars and put it all together,  I haven’t done any leaded light making for years, but once I relearn how to cut old glass reliably, I’ll be away.  You can’t really use modern float glass in leaded windows as it looks all wrong  – the options are to buy modern hand made glass at a high cost, or to reuse salvaged window glass from before the invention of float glass (?mid 20th century) by Pilkinsons.  I still have quite a collection left over from my major window building era, although quite a lot of it is almost too flat to use.   Penny had her hip replaced a week ago and is going round on crutches – makes me think of Long John Silver whenever I  hear her moving around.

This example matches most closely the vestigges of the original engraving

24th March –  A bit busy the last week or so with Penny’s hip, but I got the bedroom finished, even as far as putting up a cafe curtain on a nice brass rod, and putting in some furniture – just waiting for a guest to occupy it!  I have now got time for a few gun jobs –  I had a pair of very nice pistols that the owner wanted me to take the furniture off  so he could sort out the finish on the wood.  The screws all came out perfectly without a sign of rust except for on small spot on one screw.  The ‘nails’ were quite stiff to unscrew, all the way, as the grease, or whatever they had been put in with had gone quite stiff over the years (about 180) since they were made.  Being high class pistols the holes for the nails were a pretty exact fit. In the end I didn’t take out the trigger plate and its finial as it didn’t come out easily, there was no obvious way to pull it out straight, and I was afraid that the very fine wood between the bits of the finial might break off if there was any adhesion or rusting on the edges.  It will hve to be masked in situu.  Anyway they are now done and delivered.  The next job was re-engraving an old very worn sea service pistol lock of about 1777 or so – I hadn’t touched a graver for about 3 months, and as well as this job I have all the funiture for one of Fred’s creations waiting to engrave, so time for a bit of concentrated practice.  The Sea Service lock needed to be engraved quite deep, and Fred is concerned that his lock and false breech are deep so that they will still show up if fairly brightly colour case hardened, so I had a few practices, and got out the Gravermax air graver – I can’t get quite as much control over it as I can with push engraving, but I did get good enough to do the Sea Service lock, which is not meant to be fine engraving – the originals were done for twopence each – a few years later Palmer was charging that per letter!  So the Service engraving wasn’t particularly fine!  Anyway I did a few practive engravings on 2″ x 2″ test plates that I bought some time ago, and then did the lock – there was a trace of bits of the original engraving, particularly the little circles ( which I think on the originals were put on with a punch as they are usually a bit eratic )  that I had to keep as they were quite deep, which gave a somewhat different shape from my templates, although a search round the web images did show one or two locks with similar crowns.  I take it that the crown is a representation of what is known as the Imperial State Crown of George 1st made in 1714.  It had more pronounced arches than later crowns, as on this lock.  I realised I still need to add the broad arrow.   Now I’ll get on with designing Fred’s gun engraving.  I have to start work on the plans for the STEM club at school next term – the plan is for the children to build a safe and program a BBC microbit computer to control the opening of the safe, so that it can be coded.  I decided that it would be good if I could make bits for them to use in building their safes (in groups of 3 children) using a 3D printer.  My sons had a couple of 3D printers over the years, and make a few parts for me, but as Giles is now in Canada, and Tom doesn’t have a one, I thought it was time I joined the 21st century and got up to speed!   I do have this idea that it is now possible to take multiple photos all round an object, and get them made into a 3D representation of the object, which in theory at least, you could import into a 3D printer and print in a plastic that can be used for lost wax casting, enabling you to make castings of the original parts.  Along the way you could  scale the model to compensate for shrinkage in the casting process – for the time being this will only exist as a dream as far as I am involved, although I’m sure lots of people are doing it.  Anyway I have a 3D printer on order, and am working on the software and making the part designs.  In case that doesn’t keep me busy, I’ve got a £2000  pile of the special double glazing glass sitting there waiting for me to make secondary glazing frames in oak, which is in the nice dry attic above the kitchen.

 

Bottom one filled in with a Sharpie to check details.

Lock engraved following the remnants of the original engraving, particularly the circles (distinct) and some other clues.

I’ve buffed over the finished engraving to remove the sharp edges – they didn’t look right.

14th March I got the  night store heater wired in, and waited till the Off Peak period to test it – and discovered that instead of the 11 hour off peak tarrif we are paying for, we are only getting the standard 7 hour off peak – I guess it will be next to impossible to contact EON!  Another waste of time and effort!  Ayway I think the bedroom just needs a bit of topcoat painting to finish, then put in some furniture, mostly from Giles’s flat.  Then a day clearing up the mess and piles of tools etc that resulted from the work, and I should be free to think about some gun stuff.  Penny goes into hospital on Friday to have her other hip replaced, so some of my time will be spent being a nursemaid for a couple of weeks or so………………..

12th March  I’ve been desperately trying to finish the bedroom so I can get on with a few gun related jobs,but the finishing stages always take much longer than you think.  Basically I now just have some painting  to finish, and the night store heater to install and connect to the off peak electricity and  I had a few domestic maintenence chores to sort that took a day or so – The Aga was out because I had carelessly let us run out of oil, so I took the opportunity to clean out the burner, and couldn’t get it to relight after the oil delivery – not sure what was the problem but eventually it gave up the fight and lit.  We also had a problem with the thermostat on our heatstore water cylinder – it mixes very hot water from a heat exchange coil with cold water to regulate the hot water suppl and had failed, giving only cold water or scalding water.  I couldn’t get a direct replacement – on 3 months delivery – so got a near replacement that didn’t quite fit, so I had to fiddle about to get it to fit in the too small space left by the old one – quite a lot of water escaped before I finally conquered it – now OK, I hope – I always wrap the compression joints in tissue and go back later to see if the tissue is damp – doesn’t work very well on hot water pipes but OK on cold.  I’m off tomorrow to do a bit more repair work on Tom’s flint wall – he has managed to take out a whole lot of dodgy wall and now has two big holes to fill.     I just remembered that I’m waiting for some No 7 shot from Clay and Game – better ring on Monday and check when I will get it.

7th March Spent Sunday helping Tom repair an old flint wall – something I learnt after buying this house – I had a short structural survey which highlighted the high cost of repairs to the flint walls where the wallplate had moved outward and damaged the top foot or so of the flint facing – it actually turned out to be one of the easiest jobs on the house – replacing most of the windows with traditional oak and iron leaded windows took much longer, but at least I learnt how to make leaded windows and oak frames, although I got a local blacksmith to make the iron casements as I don’t have a forge.  Anyway we filled in a large hole with lime mortar and flints – you can only build about 4 or 5 inches before the weight of the upper layers causes the whole lot to bulge out, so you have to put boards across the front as you build up.  The mortar squeezes out between the flints, and anyway you have to be fairly generous to get a good bond round the edges of the patch, so when you take the boards away later it looks a horrible mess – the aim is to catch it when it is about the consistency of cheese (cheddar , not camembert) and then cut away the surplus with a fine detail trowel and when its a bit drier to brush vigorously to clean any residue off the faces of the flints and expose the coarse sand grains in the mortar.  A lot of the wall had been repaired with hard cement, which is not a good idea, as when it gets too much moisture behind it, it comes off as one great big chunk and probably brings most of the wall with it – its not possible to remove it and replace it with lime mortar as the same thing would happen.     Apart from that I am slowly getting nearer to finishing the bedroom – the lights and sockets are in now, so I just need to connect up the power and insulate the loft above and put another coat of wax on the floor and beam….   I really need to get it done as I am beginning to build up a queue of gun jobs – apart from the Sea Service pistol engraving, and stripping the metalwork from a pair of target pistols, I had a call from Fred in the US saying he had completed another two guns and needed them engraved – I have done a couple for him before, they are on the Blog somewhere!  He gently raised the issue of the depth of my cutting – he sends his locks and furniture to a chap in the states who does pretty spectacular colour case hardening, with the emphasis on colour, and the effect of all the colour is to hide the engraving.  I do know that I tend to engrave light – whether its because I’m not as strong in the wrist as a full time professional I don’t know, but I will try to see if I can go deeper……

Just waiting for the final brushing off.  The sections of wall laid in horizontal courses are not traditional and use cement.

3rd February – The MOT expired on my car  – all sorted now without any problems.  My mechanic tells me that it is recommended that you change the tyres on a vehicle after 5 years irrespective of mileage!  Mine have done 13 years and are still OK – Its a hefty price to replace them so I think they will do for another year!  I got a worn lock for a sea service lock to recut the Crown, GR and etc.  The lock is just soft enough to cut, I think, but whether I can cut as deep as the original I don’t know – I may have to resort to the air graver.  I’ll put some photos on later when I start.  The engravers who did the original locks got paid about 2p per lock – they must have banged them out in minutes!  Making good progress with the bedroom – I put the first coat of wax on – I used a jar of home made wax polish to begin with and didn’t realise that it was intended for polishing guns and had linseed oil in it, which darkened the wood a bit more than I wanted – anyway I made some more polish with just beeswax and turpentine that ia a much paler finish, and managed to lighten the wrong finish a bit with white spirit.  Once the first coat was on and more or less hardened I put on the skirting boards – mostly screwed on where there was something behind to screw onto, otherwise a modern building adhesive that  grabs more or les instantly so no need to hold it.    The elm floorboards look amazing – I didn’t realise you could still get elm – one timber merchant laughed at me when I asked if he had any – so I was really pleased to get these lovely boards – just look at the amazing grain pattern in the photo.

These Elm boards are 300mm wide – just look at the amazing figure in the grain!

28th  February – Annoyingly I got a letter at the end of last week telling me that my direct debit wouldn’t take my Road Fund payment due 28th as my vehicle needed an MOT test, having expired on the 25th.  Unfortunately the earliest I could get a test was next Thursday, so the car will sit in the drive til then – I just hope I don’t suddenly need something from Screwfix!  Also means I can’t make a shooting session  on the 3rd. Shame.   Bedroom going OK – made the Oak shelves ready to finish and fit, and the skirting boards ditto.  The elm floor looks beutiful in its natural pale state, so I’ve been looking to see what finish I can apply that doesn’t make it brighter and darker.  Choices are varnish of one sort or another, Oil finish, Paste wax or liquid wax. I did phone a flooring shop, who said that they all gave about the same result, which looks the same as if you put water on the surface, unless you use a product with white pigment which helps retain the natural finish.  I’m not too keen on that idea, so I tried a few of the products I had to hand on sanded scraps of elm floorboard.  The Osma Polyx oil is definately a bit brighter and darker than commercial beeswax polish, which looks like a good finish, so I’ll go with that.  I usually make up my own with grated beeswax and pure turpentine disolved in a bain marie (jar in a water bath bath) and I have a large supply of beeswax , so just need a bit more turpentine.   I discovered a place on the floor where the boards creak – fortunately not where the bed will go, but the problem is that I didn’t take a photo of where the joists in that section run, and once laid there is little to tell me where I can put in screws to hold them tight – I don’t really want to perforate the floor with screwholes that miss the joists even though I am plugging the holes with elm pellets.  Bit more on the sort of autobiography – its now 1/4 of the maximum size allowed for a Cambridge thesis!

27th February A bit more work to do on the bedroom! The nearer you get to finishing, the slower the jobs seem to proceed – I’d guess 2 weeks, but I bet its nearer 4!   I got a call from an old client who specialises in what are called in the trade ‘ investment quality’  antique pistols.  He has a pair of pistols and wants the locks and furniture removed so he can refinish the woodwork, and doesn’t trust himself with a screwdriver so asked me if I would strip the metalwork from them for him – I am always honoured to be trusted with his stuff, and it always carries a significant stress – to the extent that I have to ‘walk round’ the job for a week or two until the mood takes me and I dive in!  I’ve written about techniques for removing awkward screws several times on the site, but I’m hoping that as these pistols will be in immaculate condition, there won’t be any problems – just need to have perfect turnscrews and hold the pistols firmly without marking them.

24th February – Floor is now all down and fixed!  I am just in the process of cutting the skirting boards to fit – the floor boards all fit together but there are still slopes and gentle curves in the floor that need the skirting boards carefully scribed in and cut.  Once I’ve cut them I’ll put them aside while I sand and seal the floor, then fit them I’m beginning to get a sense that the job might actually get finished – it will have been 5 months by the end of Feb, and there is still at least a couple of weeks of work to do –  fitting the electrical fittings and putting in the loft insualtion and a bit of painting, plus all the jobs I’ve forgotten.  I’m looking forward to a bit of gun work when its finished, before I embark on building all the secondary double glazing oak frames for the pile of super insulated glass that sits in the drawing room.   At last we are able to contemplate starting the STEM club at the school, so Dave and I can get a plan together for after the Easter holiday – we can be a bit more focussed and technical for the next session as it will be limited to children from years 5 and 6 –  9/10/11years old  (ish). Might do something like we did for the Pop Up Workshop last summer.

21st February -Having discovered that the floor board saw  blade wasn’t parallel to the sides of the sole plate, so the guide and the saw blade wern’t aligned , I took it back and changed it for a cordless circular saw,  which does the job properly as well as allowing me to cut slanting overlaps at the joints.   I have to say it was  all very easy at Screwfix even though I bought the saw in October  and don’t have the receipt – I don’t even have to give my name when I go to pick things up now, and my account lists all my past purchases if I want to return anything.   I’ve now sorted all the boards for the floor and by good fortune I was able to do it all with good boards, and am left with three or four boards that are a bit too ‘characterful’ to be used – not sure what I’ll do with them – maybe make a knotty  door for Tom.  Now I need to put down the vermiculate insulation and away we go!

20th February – I got the joists down and started to sort out the floorboards – I think I have enough if I’m careful, but the difficulty is compounded by the different widths, which means that there is a limited choice to make up each width –  the boards are mostly 2.4m long and the room is 4.2m wide  but the joints have to land on a joist – good brain exercise.  I ran into a problem when laying the first half, in that the saw I bought which is specifically designed for cutting floorboards didn’t seem to cut neatly at right angles, so I had a bit of a job neatly butting the boards.  I spent some time today trying to find out what was going wrong, thinking that it was my technique, but I discovered that the blade of the  saw is not parallel to the edges of it’s base plate, so it you try to cut along a guide line it cuts a slightly diverging path – its going back to Screwfix tomorrow!

18th February – The storm came through and cut off the power at 8:30 this morning – I got out the very cheap generator I bought about 10 years ago and have never used, and it just about managed to power enough work lights in the bedroom for me to work, but it struggles with power tools – fortunately I’d prepared all the extra joists so they only needed fixing in place – a slow job as they each have to be levelled at both ends, and there is a slight bow downwards in the middle, about 15mm. At the peak wind after lunch it detached my tarpaulin roof alongside the shed and pulled off half a dozen pantiles and broke some.  Anyway the power did eventually come back on at around 5:30 pm so the generator saved me loosing a day’s work.

17th February – Good day’s work on the floor considering I had to go into Cambridge for a long appointment with my friendly  dentist.  We’re supposed to go to a funeral in Epping in a forest tomorrow but with 70 mile an hour winds forecast to peak at the time we have to be there we are pondering……     You can see photos of the Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot last Saturday on www.matthewnunn.co.uk under clay shoots – dozens of photos, the has put one of my Manton firing on his display panel.  I look a bit wild as I forgot my shooting cap and it was windy – I haven’t faced up to visiting the barber for a while!

16th February  Got the floor up in the other half of the room and vacuumed up the mess – not as much as the first half = I think this floor hasn’t been messed about with since around 1700 . The joists and floorboards  are deeply embedded in the flint walls, which must have been built over the timber framed shell of the building, and there are  only nail holes in the joists from these old boards – its a shame that the old boards are too bad to re-use.  I found that the space between a couple of pairs of joists was filled with hop petals as an insulation, and I think because they were supposed to keep insects at bay.  I’ve bagged up all the petals, along with quite a lot of dust, and will put them back before I lay the new floor.  I seem to remember that when the National Trust did a restoration at Wimpole Hall they found some similar old insulation, probably chaff, and carefully seived it to remove the dust – I  shall claim the dust is historically important and put it back.  Building conservation is a funny business – I did an evening  course run by three Local Authority conservation officers for a couple of years, so I do understand the issues!   I saw advice somewhere that one should check one’s blood pressure every few years, so I got out my meter and changed the batteries.  I managed to get 3 completely different readings one after the other – the first was 209/115 – almost an ambulance job, but  the other readings were a bit more sensible, but still higher than I expected so I put it on one side and tried again the next day – after a few more strange readings I realised I hadn’t got it on my wrist quite properly so I think it was having to compress my tendons as well as the blood vessel – anyway now seems about what I would expect at my age – around 123/65 so I’ll probably live to finish the floor.   I’m hoping it will all be finished by the end of February – I’d like to get on with something else!  Bit more on the ‘sort of autobiography’ for those not totally bored by it!  Claire just sent me a fantastic photo of my Manton firing – I’ll ask the photographer for permission to put it on here.

The floor does slope, but not that much!  Quite bent and rough  17 century (?) joists

14th February – Happy Valentines Day !  I forgot til just now.   The half of the floor I am working on is now more or less all finally down.  I got a pair of very cheap (£6 each) strap clamps from Screwfix  that let me pull the boards together, and I got some nifty little screws  (Tongue Tite) that go in at an angle through the tongue of the T & G boards and hold the edge down and in.  All very neat _ I just needed to make sure the ends of the boards mated up, and that the edges of the boards were reasonably straight – I had to plane a sliver off a couple.  I’ve just got a few boards to sort and lay in the passage and then I’ll start to remove the old floor from the other half of the room.

12 th February Club shoot today –  windy and cold – not an ideal day for shooting flintlock as the wind made it difficult to keep the fine priming powder in the pan – I use Swiss OB, which is horrendously expensive but you only need a small amount. I didn’t hit many clays. but I was primarily concerned with getting the gun going reliably – I was the only person shooting flint, but had the advice of Bev, who knows most of the tricks, having been shooting flint for years.  Unlike percussion, which is pretty reliable given a reasonable gun, flinters can be a bit fussy as the ignition system is not ‘cast iron’.  You have to get the main powder charge to come up close behind the touch hole – possibly by tapping the barrel or bumping the butt on the ground in some cases, or by putting a wad down the barrel quickly to act as a pump.  Then you need to get the right amount of powder, preferably the right fine priming powder,  in the right place in the pan – not covering the touch hole, with a flint approximately the right length and with a good edge for making sparks.  I had a couple of misfires of the second barrel (left) after shooting at overhead clays with the first barrel that Bev suggested might be caused by left frizzen lifting slightly on recoil and allowing some powder to escape.  I had been being pretty mean with the priming powder, and the problem went away when I was a bit more generous.  I couldn’t decide whether I should  load the barrels with the frizzens open or closed – open you can’t tell if any of the main charge has been ‘pumped through’ as it will fall away.  With the frizzens close my left frizzen has a shutter with a very small hole that is designed to obstruct the touch hole, so that doesn’t show any main charge.  The right frizzen has lost its little shutter, and does show a bit of powder in the pan after loading.  So as you can see, that is a lot of things to go wrong! I did have one shot where the left barrel fired itself immediately the right barrel went off – I was shooting at a tricky clay I had missed several times already, but this time I hit it, although I have no idea which of the shots did the damage!  I assume that the left sear doesn’t always seat in the bent – its only happened twice in 100 or so shots, and I think (maybe) that if I am conscious when I cock that side I can move the cack past the ‘drop in point’ and make sure its firmly engaged.  I’ll try to do a bit more on the sort of autobiograpy post……

11th February  Going to the Anglia Muzzle Loaders club shoot tomorrow – I haven’t been for quite a while so I thought I’d see how I got on with the flintlock, and avoiding Covid!  I have been shooting a number of different guns lately – percussion, flint and .410 and 20 bore, all of which are quite light, particularly the old Webley bolt action single, which waves about in the breeze when trying to shoot, but the funny thing is that I get about the same success rate with all of them, so I thought I’d get out my Berretta o/u 12 bore for the afternoon  and see what happened if I had a moderately heavy gun…. Will report back.  I took up all the boards as in the photo to tidy up the under structure.  I’ve been wondering for some time about the problems of moisture and shrinkage and warping of the boards.  I reckon the floor will be impervious to vapour as the boards are tongued and grooved, so if laid directly above the ceiling the underside will stabilise at the relative humidity of the workshop, which has a brick floor directly on the earth and the upper surface will be at a lower humidity as it is well insulated and may well be heated if its in use. Recipe for the boards to curl up at the edges.  So I’m putting a polythene sheet under the boards so they can stabilise at the moisture content of the room and hopefully over time will stay flat.  I have just started fixing the first boards down – I’m using flooring screws that are meant to go into the tongues at an angle of 30 degrees to the horizontal and hold the boards down,, but the first boards need screwing down on the groove side.  I  found a 6mm plug cutter in my drill box, and so I am quite happy to put the small flooring screws in from the top and plug the holes before sanding it all down – I don’t think they will show, but I’ll try to keep them regular.  The flooring screws through the tongues are suposed to be all that is necessary, but whether  that works for 300 mm wide boards I don’t know.

10th February – Busy sorting the flooring.  My beautiful  Elm 300mm wide boards are proving quite a challenge to sort out and lay – they are all different lengths, although mostly about 8 ft , a few are somewhat longer, and a few are mixed shorter lengths.  About  half are pretty clear of faults, the rest vary from small knots, with a lot having voids or knots going through the boards that will need filling with epoxy resin.  Some have pretty big knots and defects and I think it was a bit of a cheek including them in the order.  Adding to the complication is the fact that the widths vary by more than can be accomodated in the normal gaps between boards – between 300 and 304 mm, so not only do I have to try to match lengths to minimise waste, but I’m restricted to using boards that are within about 1 to 1.5 mm in width for each span.  I’ve done about 1/3rd of the floor with very little waste as I started with lots of boards to choose from.  I’ve managed to avoid short lengths of waste so far by putting in trimmers between joists if I need to join boards where there isn’t a joist – I have some spare boards, but there are quite a few I’d rather not use if possible – The bit of the floor I’ve done so far is the most visible bit – the other main area will be where a large double bed goes so I can get away with less good boards there – we shall see…………………. I’m putting fibre insulation under the boards  as the workshop below is not usually heated – made from recycled plastic bottles and much nicer to handle than glass or mineral wool, I’ve used up my store of it and I’m not sure if it is still available readily locally. Oh, and I got my letter from the tax man, instead of the £160 I thought I was owed, it turned out to be 60p, so for the 3 hours of doing the return its 20p per hour instead of £53  – shame.

Boards cut and trial positioning – not yet tight and fixed. ( the boards on the right side are not part of the scheme)

6th February.  To my brother’s funeral on Friday – it was a jolly occasion, a bit religious  considering he was an atheist, but I suppose its the price to pay for being buried in a beautiful churchyard. The wake was in Rockingham Castle Walker room and half the village turned up so there must have been over a hundred in quite a small space. My patchy knowledge of statistics told me that it was very likely that at least a couple of them will have Covid, in fact quite unlikely there won’t be anyone with it there, so I stayed outside with an old friend from school who I used to build model aircraft with.  Its funny, and nice, now even after more than 60 years and only a couple of contacts since, we drop into a familiar pattern of conversation immediately.   He pointed out that even then I would turn whatever I was doing for myself into an opportunity to sell it to other people.  I’m afraid its true!   I really want to get back to doing some gun stuff – I have two barrels that are crying out for rebrowning, but luckily no client jobs outstanding as the renovation of the bedroom is taking up all my time – I took up half the old floor so I could sort out the levels for the extra joists I will have to put in to straighten it. I can’t make the floor level as that would mean raising the corner where the door is by about 10 cm  (4 inches) and the door, which dates from about 1650 and so must be kept intact, is already very low, as they often were then as people were shorter. I can make sure that the falls are smooth and no bigger than necessary, which means putting in about 8 new joists alongside the old ones where I can.  I got out about 40 Kg of dirt and mess from under about 10 sq m of  the floor I lifted – its mostly compacted dirt and some chaff that was presumably put there for rudimentary insulation – loads of walnut shell with mouse nibblings (there are walnut trees in the garden).  I found one mouse skeleton and one bat skeleton.  The older bits of the floor are probably  almost 300 years old, so the dirt probably is too!

Most of the floor didn’t have this many sticks under it………….

3rd February.  Yesterday I went through all the boards I had picked up and measured them and noted their quality – a number had knots and voids that will need filling with epoxy or similar and they are all slightly different lengths – mostly around 8 ft.   So I have been trying to work out which bits of the floor will be the most conspicuous and which will be hidden under the bed etc.  I had planned to start at the side of the room where the bed will be, but then I changed my mind and decided to start with the visible bits, so I could use the best boards there and see how I get on – I’m not sure how much I will have left – the joists are fairly widely spaced, the room is 14 ft wide, and so using the boards economically requires some thought and planning.  So today I started pulling up the old floorboards at the end I want to lay the best boards.  The floor is very uneven at that end – a 2 meter straight edge has a 3 cm gap in the middle- anyway under the floorboards is a mess – lots of bits of joist, and lots of dirt, and quite worrying, the ‘nibs’ that should stick up between the lathes to hold the plaster on the ceiling are not there, and not much sign they ever were ( OK where I patched it though).  We have my brother’s funeral near Corby tomorrow – poor chap had Parkinsons and rapidly deteriorating health so in a way it was a relief when he died peacefully at home doing what he loved – sorting out his junk….. Anyway in his honour I decided to wash my Land Cruiser as it had been off road recently, but when out this morning I saw a hand car wash – run by Eastern Europeans as usual, and amazing – it has never has such a thorough clean, including under all the wheel arches and round the doors – £20 and it has not been so clean since it came out of the showroom where I bought it second hand about 5 years ago.  I just wished that the inside had been empty so I could have had that done too.  Here is a bit of what was under the bedroom floor;-

I put in some bits when I rebuilt the chimney 20 years ago.

1 Feb – Well I did get my tax done, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought, about 3 hours.  The tax man ends up owing me £160 so that works out at £53 per hour – not bad!  I went to fetch my floorboards today. I’d arranged to borrow a local trailer, but when I had a look at it yesterday I got a bit worried about the state of the tyres – last time I borrowed it I ended up buying one new tyre, this time I wasn’t sure any of the 4 were road legal so rather than risk 3 points of my license for each bad tyre (thats what they dish out) I hired a massive flatbed trailer – a full 20 ft long and brand new for £70 a day – a bit steep but it would have cost £200 to get the wood delivered. So now I have a massive pile of elm boards.  Laying the floor is going to be challenging as the room is 14ft wide, most of the boards are 8 ft +- 2 inches and the joists are spaced about 1m apart, so it looks as if I’m going to have to be a bit creative, and possibly splice some boards together so they butt away from a joist – quite a puzzle.  On my trip to the sawmill, which was in Sotterley, a smallish place in the country not too far from Beccles, I was reminded of a peculiarity of Google Maps routing algorithm that I’d noticed before.  If you ask it to find a route from A to B is will usually find a quick easy way to get on the nearest main road from A, but in the approaches to B it will  start to route you down all sorts of small one way roads – on this occasion I found myself driving my trailer down miles of very narrow roads, hoping that anything that came the other way would be good at reversing ( I can reverse trailers, but hadn’t tried with the hire one).  When you come to route back from B to A, it finds a nice quick way to the nearest main road, not the way you came.  My solution when I think about it is to get somewhere  is to route backwards then reverse it – you’ll probably know the roads around you if it does the silly small road thing so you can do your own thing until you are on the main road.  I’ve named the problem  ‘Google’s symetrical routing algorithm’.

30th january – I managed another day without doing my tax! sorted out a few things and got the week’s shopping in, sorted out how to fix the floorboards when I get them, and had a look at lead shot prices on the internet ( I found a source at £31.70 /Kg.  – I’ll ring them tomorrow), and did a bit more of the autobiograpy post, but have now run out of excuses……………

28th January – Just a quick correction – I got the calculation about the moisture content of wood wrong yesterday – its not as bad as I thought. I got a bit mixed up with air humidity and wood moisture – normal household  relative humidity in the UK is probably in the range 40 to 55% which gives an equilibrium moisture content in wood of  from 8 to 10% which gives a change in across grain dimension of most timber of around 1/2 %, or 1.5 mm across my 300mm boards.  I can just about live with that, but I’ll have to make sure I get it right before I butt the boards tight  against each other.  Looking at the old pine floor today, I realised that not only is it a patchwork of newer and older boards and short bits and repairs, but it actually alters alignment as it crosses the room by a few degrees – so somewhere I’ll have to taper a board.  Oh, for me the bad news is that I have to do my tax return before the 1st of Feb, although there is supposed to be a 1 month Covid extension………

27th January Had a pleasant day’s shoot at Cambridge Gun Club today – as mentioned I took the Manton double flintlock and managed to hit quite e few clays – no worst than with anything else I shoot, which is pretty good for only the third or forth time I’ve used a flintlock.  By the time I’d worked out a few of its little pecadillos with Bev and Pete’s help – both are flintlock experts – I got it going well, and it was shooting relianbly.  One thing tha we realised was that using semolina instead of a wad on top of the powder missed having the piston effect of wooshing the air down the barrel and carrying the powder into the chamber behind the touch hole.  There is the overshot card but maybe that isn’t as effective.  As I didn’t have any wads of 14 bore with me I used a card over the semolina.  How big a pproblem this is/was we were not sure – to begin with I didn’t have any problems with ignition and was using Swiss No 1 as the priming powder – later I had a few occasions where a frizzen sparked but didn’t ignite the powder in the pan, whcih we put down to the priming powder and I changed to the much finer Swiss OB.  I’m always a bit unsure about these changes that one makes, because one tends to stick with them on the basis of pretty unscientific evidence and nere revisits the issues.  Bev said he had a couple of near identical flintlock doubles, one of which went off quickly and the other was quite slow to fire, so he took the breechplugs out of both to see what the difference was – caution, both he and I are very cautious about taking the breechplugs out of doubles in case we separate the barrels so we use various clamping arrangements. anyway both breechblocks had a fairly deep hole down from the face of the plug that forms one pattern of patent breech, but the ‘good’ gun had a hole of about 7mm and the ‘bad’ one more like 3/16th of an inch ( that is how he told me – 3/16 is 4.7 mm ). He drilled the smaller one out to match the good gun and polished it with a Dremel and it was certainly shooting better.  I could never quite work out the relation between the volume of the reduced bore in relation to the total powder charge – I think that only part of the powder goes into the hole, and some sits in what is usually a semicircular depression in the top of the plug – the original idas of the patent, I think, was to start the explosion in a small relatively enclosed space and the flash front would propogate faster that ignition through the powder..  This was certainly the principle of Nock’s patent breech which had a small trnsverse chamber behind the touch hole that communicated with the main chamber via a fairly small hole.  You can tell this breech because it had s screw plug on the opposite side of the breechplug to the touch hole.   Or have I got this all wrong? someone will tell me!   I took my little Webley bolt action .410 (the Rat Gun) for the post lunch breech loading bit of the shoot using 2 1/2 inch cartridges firing 11 gm of shot as against 24 or 28 in the ‘big boy’s’ guns. The Webley has a very tight choke and probably covers well less than half the area that a 12 bore covers on normal cylinder bore . Judging by a shot into the bank at a ‘rabbit, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the diameter, so you need to be that much more accurate in your shooting – anyway I did quite well with it and broke a fair number of clays when I was onto a good run.  Back to the bedroom tomorrow – the limewash is now done so its a major cleanup, then go and get the floorboards and juggle around with the Relative Humidity of the room and the moisture content of the wood – a 5% change in R.H. makes about a 1% change in dimension across the grain in most woods – thats about 3 mm in a 300 mm wide board – so I ought to aim to get it sorted to within a couple of degrees of the highest RH its likely to experience during the year, or the floor will warp!  Probably should have specified narrower  boards – oh well, too late!

26th January The 4th Jab made me feel a bit rough for a while, but I think I have recovered quicker than from the 3rd.  I’m off to CGC tomorrow for a spot of clay shooting. I’m going to try my John Manton flintlock double – when Bev was over here picking up his guns he pressed me to shoot it again, so I’ll give it a try.  Its a nice gun and was a bargain as it has a repair spliced into the fore-end, the only thing I don’t like is that it has ginger browning on the barrels – the real shame is that its done perfectly, so I’m reluctant to get rid of it and try for a better colour.  I’ve now finished the limewashing of the bedroom walls – I ended up putting 4 coats on to get the colour solid, but its pretty quick so not a problem! I now have to get the room finally dried out so I can go and collect the elm floorboards from Sotterley next week – I think laying them is going to be quite a job as the existing floor is all over the place in terms of levels and a bit springy in places – I’ll have to do a lot of firring to level up the joists, which are bits of wood probably put there in 1750 ish and not squared very well, and a ropey in patches… are well, if I will take on these tricky jobs!

24th January Got my 4th Covid Jab tomorrow – I’ll be beginning to feel like a pincushion!  Got two coats of limewash on the walls and ceiling – it is an amazing paint on lime plaster – it just becomes part of the wall and you can’t rub it off without taking the surface of the wall with it. Not sure if I’ll do one or two more coats.  The lime putty and the Buff  Titanium pigment came to about £25 and that would be enough to to the room (40 sq m) with 4 coats  10 times over. bit more on the Sort of Autobiography, which is getting some positive comments.  I plan to do the University stuff and then my own business .

22nd January  At last, the pair of pistols is finished and in a box ready to post!  When Bev had a look at the trouble I was having getting colur onto the steel of the barrels in the browning he suggested  that I try Logwood chips in solution.  I had imagined that they might be a dye, and indeed they are used as a dye to colour fabric deep red, however then used on iron they give a chemical reaction , the Heamatoxylin in the Logwood giving a strong reaction with the iron to colour it shades of black, and leaving a light scum of black particles on the surface of the liquid.  I followed recommendations I found on the web for guns and dipped the barrels in boiling Logwood solution for a couple of minutes and the steel that had refused to colour came out a light grey – a pleasing overall effect.  while hot I poured clean boiling water over the barrels, and when they had cooled a bit, I rubbed beeswax over them and wiped it off again.  The overall job now passes my standards, and I’m happy to return them to their owner.   Having done that I went with Tom to Giles’s flat in Cambridge to clear out the last of his stuff and say goodbye to my three months of work renovating it!

 

 

 

21st January – Went to see my  Oncologist today – he was cheerful as usual – his Christmas skiing break in France had been great, although he had only made it across the French border about 20 minutes before they closed it to Brits.  Life on the edge!  A bit more on my Sort of autobiography…………. – it  had 20 views yesterday!   Mixed up some more limewash – I need to check the colours in daylight tomorrow.

20th January – got a coat of limewash on all the walls and ceilings.  Sorting out a colour is a bit of a pain – there is too much surface area for lime white to be suitable – it would be blinding, and we didn’t want a strong colour.  There is a bitof a puzzle as its an attic room, and a lot of the area is the roof slope and there isn’t a sharp boundary between the slope and the ceiling so it would be difficult to use a different colour on those surfaces.  We thougth a neutral buff shade would do, and I came across ‘buff titanium’ – a different form of titanium oxide, not the stark white that one usually associates with titanium.  I had a bit of acrylic buff titanium in a tube, enogh to make a few samples on white paper, which is a good way to test colours as you can dry them out quickly.  I got a couple ,more tubes from the art shop – enough for the first coat, but its rather pale and needs more pigment.  I found a website that sells the raw pigment as a powder, so I’ve ordered 2 Kg, which should be enough to colour the limewash a bit stronger and put on another 3 or 4 coats.  It is beginning to look like a room – I am keen to get it pained as soon as possible so it can dry thoroughly before I ship in the floorboards – the limewashing will eventually put about 24 litres of water into the room over 4 coats, and that has to be taken out – my dehudifier extracts about 6 or 7 litres a day…..

19th January – Tidying up the bedroom bits that need sorting before the floor goes in – painting the woodwork etc.

18th January – I think I’v got to the end of the plastering, so I’m letting it dry out before giving it a few coats of limewash.  Limewas is a beautiful, tough and very cheap paint – its basically a bit of lime putty and a lot of water, left for a day so the Calcium Hydroxide dissolves into the water, with a bit of colour added using acrylic paints dissolved in clean water and then added to the limewash.  The  Calcium Hysroxide only disolves to a fairly low concentration ( 1.6 gm per litre) but its enough to react with the carbon dioxide in the air to form calcium carbonate – limestone on your wall – a very tough finish and beautiful too.  I am putting a bit on the autobiographical post each day – really just a series of anecdotes as Penny says.

16th January Last week’s extra job was helping Giles emigrate to Canada, at least, getting hin out of his flat, although Tom and I have to go back next weekend to clear out the last few bits.  I’m still plastering – is going so-so. I’m beginning to get fed up with it to be honest, and almost at the point of wishing I’d got someone in to do it!  I now just have to put a very thin coat of skim lime and chalk to level out the surfaces before limewashing it with 4 or 5 coats of homemade limewash of a sutiable muted shade of nothing.  The problem I’m finding is that the setting of the plaster is very uneven – the ceiling and the tops of the walls sets up well before the walls near floor level – I’m pretty certain most of this is caused by the pattern of airflow and heat distribution in the room – I have a dehumidifier running some of the time, and occasionally a heater, but mostly I leave it to its own devices so that the lime has a chance to carbonate before it dries too much.  I hppe, optimisticall, that by the end of next weekend I will have got the plastering and limewash finished……… well, one can but hope!   I have been contemplating putting an account of bits of my working life etc on the site as a sort of autobiograpical post – I enjoy writing, and there might just be someone out there amongst the hundreds of thousands of people who have visited this blog who would find it a handy way of passing an idle moment.  Anyone not interested could always ignore it!

Nice open texture – I don’t always manage to get it this good!

12th January   Plastering going OK, but it is difficult to find the point at which the plaster is right for the surface to be reworked.   This evening’s job was to make some more bread as we have run out – I make most of it, although I’m lazy and buy the odd loaf from the surpermarket when  we’re going shopping.

11th January – Plastering not going well!  I mixed up the lime putty with sand and used half a bag of sand I had to hand, as well as a bag of kiln dried sand I bought – unfortunately the bag I had was one that I’d discarded when I did the kitchen because it had some large grit (2 -3mm) along with the sand – I should have put it in the skip then. Anyway it makes it almost impossible to put on a 2 mm skim coat, so I’ll have to chuck the large tub of plaster I mixed and start again using the fine sand – expletive deleted here.   After yesterday’s shoot Bev accidentally left his guns in my Land Cruiser that he’d been in, so he came over today to pick them up.  While he was shooting his double flinter on the shoot, it split at the wrist on the recoil, pinching a bit of his hand in the crack. The crack goes pretty well all through the wrist and as he uses quite meaty charges it won’t be adequate just to glue it.  We had a good look at the problem – my solution would be to strip the stock of the trigger guard and probably the false breech as well, and mill a deep slot into the recess where the tang of the trigger guard fits, and make a block of wood that is about 1/4 mm narrower than the slot and comes to the right level for the tang to go back onto.  This can then be glued in with epoxy, the clearance allowing a glue line – necessary with epoxy.   The trigger guard is fixed with a screw into wood and then unwinds from a threaded hole in the trigger plate at the front of the trigger guard – if necessry I would drill out the screw  – the new screw will go into the new block, so no need to plug the hole.  I’d be pretty picky about the wood I put in the slot so that the grain didn’t follow the split – I might even use good quality ply.  Thinking about holding it all together while the epoxy sets, I thought the ideal thing would be to bind it all with self amalgamating /self vulcanising tape – its a fantastically useful stuff – rubbery, will stretch to 5 times its length and then slowly shrinks somewhat, and the layers bond together into a solid mass, still rubbery and retaing a lot of tension – one of those magic things like electrolytic derusting!  On another gun issue I was showing him the pistol barrels and lamented that they hadn’t really taken – he thought they were great, and the client would be delighted!  So maybe I need to look at them in a different way………………………………….

10th January – Game shoot today – actually only 25 minutes away on very slippery roads!  I wasn’t on form, and was mostly out of the action, so that left most of the birds for those who were!  Anyway it was good to be out in the countryside and it wasn’t so cold and there was no wind, so all in all an enjoyable day.  I can now do another experiment in gun cleaning……  Back to plastering tomorrow – Tom and Giles came round yesterday for tea and I sneakily got them to take the bags of unused NHL plaster down and bring up the very heavy tubs of lime putty plaster – a tub holds 25 Kg of the lime putty, but when mixed with 2 parts sand ready to go on the walls the tub holds more, even when only half full.  Giles flys to Canada on Friday, so Thursday is reserved for shifting the last things in his flat, which means I only have 3 days work this week.  I am trying to get the wet jobs done as soon as possible so I can get the elm for the floor into the room and laid.  It is supplied planed to 22 mm thick but needs sanding – at the moment I’m not sure whether to sand it before its laid, or after, or some of both – I guess it will be clear when I see it!  the existing floor is very uneven – probably the variation in height is about 3 or 4 inches overall, and includes quite a slope. Should be fun to lay……

9th January – I thought I’d tackle a couple of outstanding jobs today – fixing up wires and pruning the vine that yielded a splendid crop of grapes this year, and finding out why there were a couple of damp spots on the sloping ceiling of  one of the bedrooms came from – turned out to be a valley that was lead dressed in about 1994 – very well done judging by the superb lead welding – turned out that a slate had slid down the roof and made a very small crack/cut, or at least that is where I think the leak was.  I contemplated doing a lead weld myself – I’ve done them in the past but I not an expert and its a difficult job.  In the end I cleaned it all up and used Fix-all.  I had a real gun surprise – as I mentioned earlier, when I finish shooting on Thursday I spray WD 40 down the barrel and planned to clean it next day – well I forgot , and didn’t remember until late yesterday when I was just going to bed, so I gave it another shot of WD 40 and left it.  I finally got round to cleaning it this  evening – boiling water, a few drops of washing up liquid and a scour with a bronze brush, rinse with boiling water and remove nipple, then a few drops of 303 cleaner (emulsifying oil)  and pump vigorously with polyester wadding round a jag.  Leave to dry for a few minutes then one run through with a folded kitchen tissue on a jag to remove water, then a new tissue with WD 40 – repeat a few times…..  Only this time the tissues came out almost completely clean, whereas they are usually dark grey/black for as long as I keep replacing them. Final wipe through with gun oil.  Not sure why it was so clean, but a lot more dirt came out with the wadding clean water than usual – I will certainly repeat the experiment ( delay of 72 hours and 2 sprays of WD 40) – a completely surprise result – I don’t think I’ve had such a clean barrel since I cleaned a newly honed barrel!

 

7th January 2022  – now finished the second coat plaster and mixed up some lime putty plaster to start the final coat – I’ll wait til Tuesday to start that, and hope that my sponged finish is rough enough for the plaster to adhere.  I had a very pleasant clay shoot at CGC yesterday – it was pretty cold, but actually I  kept quite warm, except my right hand – putting caps on is a challenge in cold weather.  I did have my Zippo hand warmer in my pocket, but there isn’t much opportunity to hold it, I had one of the disposable warmers on one shoot – it was actually a foot warmer with a self adhesive pad for sticking in your shoe, but I found it ideal to stick round the wrist of my gun so I was holding it most of the time.  The disposable ones seem to chuck out more heat than the Zippos or the charcoal ones and last at least as long – it always amazes me that they can work just by rusting a few grams of iron powder, but it makes you realise why its a good idea to keep guns oiled!   I’d been vaguely lamenting that I had no more game shoots this year, but was rung up last night and offered a muzzle loading  shoot on Monday as someone had dropped out – its pretty much my favourite shoot and only about 40 minutes away.  I had run out of semolina yesterday, so had to use cous cous – which seemed to work just fine, so I’ll have to add semolina to tomorrows shopping list.  Several of my fellow shooters seem to have adopted the habit of  putting WD 40 liberally in the barrels of their guns (out of the stocks) after use, and leaving them overnight before the usual boiling water wash in the morning.  I’ve been doing this for some time (and not just for lazyness) and it does make them quite noticably easier to clean. I was looking at the visitor statistics for this blog – most visitors are from the US, next is UK then Europe, with lots from China and Russia – not sure what they make of it, or if its all attempted hijacks!   I had an email from a work colleague from about 50 years ago who had come across this website and managed to associate it with me – goodness knows how as he isn’t an antique gun person.

3rd January – Back to plastering all day – the NHL plaster drives me mad, but I’m learning to get the better of it, although the floor is knee deep in blobs of plaster!  I am using my 1 meter long springy edge (plastering spatula) to level the plaster, and then after a decent interval of 4 to 6 hours going over it vigorously with a sponge float to get rid of any lines etc.  Seems to work.  I will go over it all with some decent lime putty plaster as a finisheng coat.  I was reminded that this web site was originally started to post breadmaking information, hence the un-gunlike name.  It had a brief period as a roof restoration story, and then became a gun blog.  I still make almost all the bread as we prefer it to anything ou can buy in the supermarkets, and we don’t have access to a decent baker, Cambridge and it’s several French bakers being too far and too much parking trouble.  I was reminded yesterday of my early days of experimenting when I made a couple of loaves – Giles is emigrating this month and gave us his Kenwood Chef – its a lot better at least in theory, than mine, which was a very cheap version from TKMAX many years ago and has suffered many indignities, including falling off the table while mixing dough and continuing to mix while lying on its side on the floor – several times.  Its now tied on!  Anyway Giles’s has a posh stainless steel bowl, ours has a cheap plastic one  – but when I tried the stainless one it wouldn’t mix dough at my preferred consistency – the dough just spread itself round the outside of the bowl and left a void in the middle in which the blade rotated and I had to intervene several times.  Its all down to the brushed stainless surface which the dough stickes to – its more difficult to clean too – you leave the plastic one and the bits of dough fall off when they dry, not so the metal one.   When made the bread didn’t rise quite as it should – its interesting because it shows how many variables there are in the process…..  As a boring scientist I’m always interested in how domestic appliences etc earn their keep –  if the breadmaker cost £100 and I use it twice a week for ten years, that still adds about 10p to the cost of a loaf.  When we first had the above ground swimming pool I used to note the cost per swim – its now about £2 per person per swim. Makes you think…..  End of Christmas holidays tomorrow, although mine ended a couple of days ago – lets hope for a better 2022……………….

2nd January 2022  Well, I made it into 2022 in one piece!  Given the ever circling Covid and it’s attempt in March 2020 to do for me, that has to be good.  My best wishes for 2022 to all the followers of this blog, and my particular thanks to the kind and thoughtful people who email me from around the world when I don’t post for a while to see if I’m OK.   I started on the second coat plastering yesterday – I got the plaster recommended by the supplier of the wood fibre boards, but I think its not really the right stuff for the job – I think it is meant for external render.  I always use lime plaster as its an old house, and in the past I have always made my plaster using lime putty, sand and chalk, but this time I’m using the recommended bagged lime plaster which is based on Naturally Hydraulic Lime (NHL) which sets by forming silicates as well as combining with carbon dioxide, whereas the lime putty doesn’t form silicates and sets much more slowly.  Anyway the plaster I have for the second coat ( and enough for a final coat) is a real pain to use!  Lime putty plaster is ‘fat’ and workable and spreads easily as its somewhat thixotropic – this stuff is horribly sticky, even when quite soft and begins to stiffen up almost immediately you have mixed it – not at all pleasant to work with, and not really possible to ‘bring it back ‘ to rework the surface when its beginning to harden up – horrid stuff, but I have another 8 bags, so I will probably use it for the second coat and try to level out all the surfaces, then switch to ‘real’ lime putty.   I put the single barreled gun together – its quite a nice single percussion – I had made a lock for it and engraved my name on the lock and barrel and re-browned the barrel, but the rib came off so I had to resolder it and then re-brown it  – I just hope that the relevant authorities can see that its actually made from antique parts and is thus an antique!  I dug out the Westley Richards double percussion that I used to shoot when I was a teenager going out in the evening to shoot pidgeons to feed the ferrets.  ( turns out Pete, one of the Anglia Muzzle Loaders used to shoot the same wood when he lived at Fingringhoe!).  I used it again for a year or so when I started shooting with the Anglian Muzzle loaders but gave up on it as it would bung up and misfire from the 30th shot on any session – clean it thoroughly and it was fine for another 30 shots .  Anyway it looks a bit sad as the barrel is a bit rusted and stained although the bore is good and there is plenty of metal, so I think I’ll have a go at re-browning it – I’m keen to find something that actually browns ‘properly’ rather than these pistol barrels which are still resisting colouring on the steel after 10 brownings,  I might also investigate why it misfired, although I am always reluctant to remove the breech blocks from doubles as its easy to put a force on them that separates the barrels – and that leads to a major, beastly job.

The barrel of the single has a mild but acceptable browning.

My old Westley Richards percussion – I’m hoping the barrels will clean up a bit without taking off too much metal

 I think it looks worse that it is – we shall see!

31st December – Its late, New Year soon!  I didn’t start the plastering today, just sorted a few tools and got the lads to carry 10 bags of plaster upstairs.   I’m still browning the pistol barrels, but maybe they will shortly come good.  I resoldered the rib on a single percussion some time ago and got fed up trying to brown it, so after about a dozen brownings without much colour I propped it up in the workshop and left it (probably for 3 months).  I thought It looked pretty rusty, so I thought I’d better at least clean off the rust and oil it or it would just clutter up the workshop and mean that gun was useless.  I wire brushed it fairly vigorously and it didn’t look too bad – I heated it up on the AGA and poured boiling water over it several times and rubbed it over with a block of beeswax while still hot (my favourite finish) and I have to say it looks quite a decent lightish brown, but certainly within the range of decent shades and with a strong twist figure. Now Ive got to find the breechblock!  Happy New Year in 2 minutes………….

30th December – The percussion lock is now done.  I realised that I couldn’t re harden the tumbler  without disturbing the silver soldered extension, but when I heated it up to I probably didn’t take the bits round the bents up to a high enough temperature to anneal them – anyway it works just fine!  I coloured up the cock a little – I tried to get the area round the square red hot and dumped it in water, but it didn’t harden much.   As I mentioned its a late percussion gun ?1850 ish?  so the mainspring is more like that of a modern sidelock – the early springs often? usually? had a short top arm compared to the acting arm but later on they got more nearly equal lengths.  I had always wondered about the elegant taper of mainsprings, and I read somewhere that the test of a good spring was that when amost fully closed you could just run a 10 thou feeler gauge all the way along the gap between the blades.  The spring in this gun is extremely strong and when the lock is on full cock the blades of the spring are almost closed. I am a bit concerned that the spring is so strong that it will strain my cock-tumbler square!  I’m tempted to anneal it and close it up a bit as there is no need for such a strong spring, although I suppose it might take the odd millisecond off the firing delay.  I’m trying to steel myself for a return to plastering – I was going to buy a new, £60, replacement for my old plastering trowel which was bowed, but I had a look at the new one in Screwfix and decided that they were meant to be like that, so saved that expense! I do have a nice new finishing trowel that is flat, so that will suffice for the final stages.  I’m still trying to brown the barrels of the two pistols and its still not happening – the soft iron is getting well rusted and dark, but the steel is acting like stainless steel and doesn’t take any colour to speak of. I’m half a dozen rustings into the third attempt, lets hope……………….. I  have never seen this problem before! Well, actually see tomorrows entry- I did despair of the single barrel.

Little blob of grease from the cock screw spoils the picture!

As was – I’d already changed the nipple for one of my titanium ones

29th December – 2022 is approaching rapidly!  I tried to drill out the bits in the cock thread, but the thread extractor metal was harder then the rest even after annealing, so the drill just started to wander, so that was a fail.  I Araldited the tumbler in a bit of faced off bar located by the bearing on the back and cut off the square and faced the 3mm stub and put a 4mm end mill into it for about 3.5mm and turned up a short piece of bar to fit to replace the square and silver soldered it in place, then filed a square on it.  Its interesting that there was a de-facto standard amonst percussion gunmakers that defined the alignment of the square on the tumbler shaft so that cocks are often interchangeable.  I tried to use this standard orientaion and filed up the cock to match – As with many gunmakers I didn’t get a perfect square, but I did get a reasonable fit in the correct orientation – I used one of my unused castings for the cock as the original was pretty horrible.  All that remains to do now is to reharden the tumbler and colour up the cock – not sure that it needs hardening – and make the No 4 UNF cock screw.  I had a bit of a problem with my lathe today – a few times recently it hasn’t powered up when I’ve switched the mains on, and I’ve had to feel round the back in the wiring box and reset the circuit breaker (switching off at the mains first!)  This time it was dead whatever I did to the circuit breaker.  It’s a big lathe and weighs over half a ton and the wiring box is at the back and there is only about 4 inches clearance to the wall.  I cursed, and went and got my testmeter and a crowbar – but when I came back it was on so did the job.  Went out later and same thing, came back an hour later and it was on.  I suspect the main circuit breaker may be faulty as the work light isn’t on and that doesn’t have any of the trips and interlocks in its circuit……Have to dig out the crcuit diagram if I can find it…..   Something else to sort out.   I ought to get back to plastering tomorrow – I need to go to Screwfix to pick up a new plastering trowel as my old one is bowed – thats £50!  I forgot when I was having my rant about the building inspectorate failings to include Grenfell.

The 2 punch marks are interesting – possibly to shift the stopping point of the tumbler?

just hope the brazed joint is strong enough over such a small area…..

I used the one on the left to replace the central one.

Getting on for a day’s work…….

28th December  While waiting for the third try at browning the pistol barrels (!) I got out the slip that was waiting in the office and had a look at the next job which I had more or less forgotten about… Its a percussion single – not particularly special, Birmingham and late.  The cock screw had sheared off, and the owner had resourcefully acquired a screw extractor to  try to remove it.  As anyone who has tried that with an old gun will tell you (with hindsight!), that is a recipe for disaster because the extractor, in doing its job expands the stuck piece of thread, which of course means that its stuck even more firmly – the harder you try the harder it is locked in place until, as in this case, the screw extractor also shears off – and that is likely to be even harder metal than the original screw.  Usually with a flintlock or older percussion I would araldite the tumbler to a bar in the lathe and turn off the whole square and drill out the tumbler and silver solder in a new axle and put a new square on the end and tap a new hole – takes a while but is straightforward although it does mean annealing and re-hardening the tumbler.  However, with this late gun the tumbler has a link to the mainspring (no link on older guns), and the link folds into a slot in  the arm on the tumbler, and the slot actually crosses into the tumbler axis so if I made a new axle I’d have to cut a slot through it, and I am not confident my miller will be accurate enough to cut a 1/16 inch slot.  So that solution is not easy, although I could file the slot before fixing the axle in the tumbler.  That leaves softening the tumbler and trying to drill out the broken extractor and bit of screw, and hoping there is enough metal left to tap a thread without weakening the square – maybe I’ll try that and if it doesn’t work I’ll try the new axle.  The cock (hammer) is a bit of a mess, probably a bad a casting, and has had multiple attempts at tightening it on the square.  I can either fit another cock – I do have 2 suitable castings – or drop a milling cutter through the cock and silver solder in a disk and remake the square to fit the tumbler….   I will have to get back to plastering soon, but I might just sneak another day tomorrow – I did manage to do some work on the loft hatch today so at least some work was done……  Oh and I did a little tinkering on the pistol wood repair and it looks even better.

The hammer looks as if its got some terrible skin disease on its nose

27th December  More work on the pistol stock.  I had to cut back quite a chunk to get to good wood – some of the black stained (rust) wood was very weak – anyway I glued in a chunk of walnut with isocyanate – its quick and makes a thin glue line and doesn’t need clamping, just a quick squirt of activator.  I have now cut it back to match the curves and coloured it up – unfortunately there is still some stained wood around that it would not have been sensible to cut out, so I had to stain the patch black to match.  Then a couple of coats of thin shellac and a rub down with 2500 paper and its looking good – I gave the wood a quick polish with my favourite wax polish – its actually a hard mould release wax polish that gives a good finish and doesn’t clog things too much.   I listened to a program on house ventilation this morning that set me thinking – modern building regs call for 0.4 air changes per hour – if you put 10 people in a 30 cu meter room in about an hour with that low level of ventilation they will be be breathing 5% of other people’s breath even if the air mixes perfectly – ideal for transmitting Omicron!  My old house probably runs at more than 5 air changes per hour – if I hold up a sheet of newspaper in a doorway it isn’t vertical.  Much healthier . So once again building regs have got it wrong – in the 1940’s it was cement as strong as brick, so cracks propogate through walls, in the 1970 is was all reinforced concrete now rusting and spalling off.  Now we are burying tons of carbon intensive concrete in massive foundations – a friend got permission for a 3m x 3m extension to his small Victorian cottage – the building inspector insisted on 2m deep foundations, then looked at them and said they needed to go to 3m deep – right up against the cottage with its ?600mm deep foundations!  How stupid can you get – my friend is now waiting for cracks to appear in the cottage while the extension sits rock solid!

I think this pistol must have been lying on a damp surface for years judging by the stains.

 

Final clean up and polish still to do.

26th December  My holiday from plastering continues, so I got a bit more gun stuff done today (about time too, I hear you say!).  I hardened the spring I modified yesterday with the propane torch and polished it and found a nice spot on the less hot plate of the AGA where the temperature was about 310 C, so I put the spring down there and covered it with a pad of fibreglass insulation (the sort used in roofs) and left it for 15 minutes.  When I got it out it was a nice blue colour indicative of about the required temperature for tempering springs – 305 to 310 C according to my book.  I had been quite careful to open the spring to the same extent as the extant spring on the other pistol while it was soft, and was extremely careful to ‘work the spring in’ to let any stress in the metal redistribute itself  before fully compressing it.  I even kept it fairly warm to make sure it didn’t fracture – it works, thank goodness, so that is one more job out of the way. The photo shows the new spring in place and a modern sidelock spring very similar to the one I modified to make it – the critical detail is the distance of the peg on the side of the upper leaf from the ‘elbow’ of the spring, the rest can be sorted in the cutting, bending and welding – the top leg needs a fairly high tab built up on it, or the elbow hangs down below the edge of the lock and the top arm touches the barrel. The stock of one of the pistols has a crack running forward from the rear side nail cup and looks a bit of a mess – its a very  common place for pistols to crack – they tend to crack from the side nail hole right through the stock, often on both sides.  First thing is to investigate the obvious crack – I do this under the microscope as its easier to see what the materials are, picking the crack out with a modelling knife to get to some wood.  In this case I found I was digging in black filler/glue ( not wax as it didn’t melt).  Now there is no point in trying to put a repair on top of an old repair, so its a matter of digging away till you get to some solid wood, in this case taking out quite a lot of the filler. you then need to finish the gap with straight sides, preferably tapering so you can get a good fit.  I think I’m now almost back to wood, so tomorrow I’ll shape a matching piece of walnut with the right grain and glue it in place. It is always better to make sure you cut back to a sound foundation – trying to keep repairs as small as possible often doesn’t quite look right if there is still some damage on either side.

 

 

 

 

New spring and modern sidelock or late percussion  spring very similar to the one modified for the new spring.

 

Still a bit more at the top to come off as there is still some damage to be cut out and the gap needs to be tapered for a good fit.

25th December  –  I can’t believe how long it is since I last posted – I’m sorry, but I guess a lot of my regular readers will have got fed up and deserted – don’t blame them!  My excuse is that I’ve been desperately working on the house restoration, trying to get to the point of finishing the ‘wet trades’ i.e. plastering before Christmas.  I wasn’t sure if I could do the plastering myself, or if I’d need to get a professional in to do it. Well, I did just manage to finish the first coats on everything and so get the bulk of the drying out of the way – I’m quite slow, which is OK with lime plaster as it doesn’t ‘go off’ like gypsom plaster, so it took me around 5 days to do the 50 sq meters of the walls and ceiling, which were mostly wood fibre board (in place of the original laths) and some cork insulation.  It all required a base coat, then pressing in a fibreglass mesh to stabilise it, then going over with another thin coat to hide the mesh. One job I didn’t enjoy was pressing 3 meter lengths of mesh into the wet plaster on the ceiling – until you have got most of it stuck it doesn’t stay up, and once its stuck you can’t move it around to align it, and then it all falls down and you are left standing there draped in mesh partly covered in plaster – not fun.  It went reasonably well and is flat enough for the top coat, although I found that my big posh finishing trowel had got slightly banana shaped somehow so it won’t do for the top coats – fortunately I bought another one earlier.  I hadn’t realised that there was what I call ‘tool porn’ in the plastering trade, where manufacturers try to make functional tools look sexy and posh as well as functioning well,  I also notice that the cool tool colours are now black and yellow- copied from DeWalt tools.   My excuse for not posting is that at my age 7 or 8 hours work, including plastering leaves one completely zonked out ( is that still a word – we used it when I was a child) so I miss my usual active late night slot. Today being Christmas I have a bit more energy – we had a small family Christmas party, but as some of us are vulnerable, including me, we decided to have it outside round the fire pit with hand food, like we did last year – it actually worked pretty well and no-one died of hypothermia, or at least not before they left.   On the gun front I haven’t done much although I will do some over the next few days while I rest from plastering.  I had a clay shoot with a few friends a CGC a coupleof weeks ago and shot the best I have done for years, if not ever – I wonder if having shot very little for the last two years has got rid of some bad habits I had!  The cheering thing was that I shot well with my percussion Nock single ( the only muzzle loader that I shoot nowadays), but also with a 20 bore hammer gun,  I am getting back to the broken spring job, having made one new spring and then broken it, I’ve found another spring that could be modified, and bent, filed and welded it to fit – I now have to harden and temper it and hope that it will not break – I will be very gently and will probably end up with a spring that is on the weak side, but better than another broken one.  I still haven’t managed to get a decent brown on the pistol barrels – I got rather deperessed by my previous attempts, but am steeling myself for attempt no 3.  I also realised there is another job in a gun slip in the office that a friend left to be sorted out – I can’t even remember the exact details, although I think I wanted to find another percussion cock for it, and was going over to see Dick before this latest Covid thing happened – his wife has type 1 diabetes so is vulnerable, and he is on immunosuppressive drugs and so is very vulnerable, so that won’t happen for at least  a few months.   I wish the vaccine refusenics realised the stress they cause, including to the hospital staff I know who have to pick up the pieces of their obstinacy!     Lets all get jabbed and boosted and re boosted and take care so we can get back to something resembling a  normal life again.  The drug companies are doing a great job designing new treatments as well as vaccines so I hope the days are approaching when Covid can be treated the same way as seasonal flu – I got an email form the NHS a  couple of days ago saying I would get one of the new monoclonal antibody drugs if I got Covid so I’m on their radar which is good news…..  Take care,  and I hope you have a good 2022.

11 November – Really good muzzle loading shoot yesterday!  Weather very cloudy and occasional Scotch mist – enough to twart one of the flintlockers for one drive – and not a breath of wind to deflect the birds.  The bag was fairly small – 67,  but the birds were flying well and the drives were good and even, so everyone had a most enjoyable time – proving that numbers are not everything.  I had mostly pegs on the outskirts and wasn’t in line for any big flushes, and I decided that I prefer it that way, especially as I shoot my single barreled percussion gun, so ‘left and rights’ are not possible. I seem to be the only person to shoot a single – someone asked my why I used it – the answer is I shoot better with it than any other gun I have, it is light to carry about all day (5 1/4 lbs), and it saves the dilemma of whether to reload after shooting one barrel or wait til you have shot both.  I was surprised in discussion to learn that other experienced shooters had inadvertently reloaded with a cap still on the live barrel! I  did make a small plastic ‘top hat’ that fits over the nipple and is locked in place by the cock, but I haven’t used it.     All in all a very good day, enhanced by the fact that it was only 25 minutes drive from home.  I seem to have got my left eye under control – I have a vintage pair of big gold round frame glasses of the type the NHS used to issue that have a W bridge instead of nose pads – so they fit closer to my face than normal specs and thus offer better protection from bits of cap.  I put a bit of sellotape over the top quarter of the left lens which is just enough to stop my left eye dominating when my head is down on the stock – I don’t notice it when looking normally.     I’m carrying on the browning of the pistol barrels – I think we are getting somewhere this time – I’m about 6 or 7 rustings in, so hopefully we will be nearly there.    Work on the bedroom continues – still not much visible reconstruction yet, but lots of fiddly framing started, and I’m now putting in conduits to pull the electrics through later.  I need to use conduits as the house seems to have had a severe mouse problem at some time – much to my surprise they seem to be happy burrowing and making nests in the fibreglass insulation – which makes it pretty disgusting – I’m replacing it with wood fibre (Seico Flex 036) and I’ll try to compartmentalise it to keep rodents out.   I did come across one power wire that had the insulation nibbled off – jut not enough to electrocute the perpetrator!  In my last house when I lifted a floorboard there was a 2 meter length of flat cable with all the copper exposed like a railway track!  That was the advantage of the old TRS rubber covered cable – nothing ate it, although it did get brittle.

7th November – I’m sorry for the missed blogs – I got a nasty infection that made me feel rather useless – and it took a while to sort out – I even stopped working on the bedroom restoration and sat on the sofa most of the day.  I did try and do a bit of gun work, but that turned out to be a disaster!  My browning of the pistol barrels got no-where – goodness knows why.  I never managed to touch some of the steel layers – almost as if it was stainless steel, and the rest didn’t get any colour to speak of – a complete mystery – I ran it to about 14 browning and then gave up and decided to start again when I felt a bit more dynamic!  I hardened and tempered the pistol spring, but wasn’t really ‘with it’ and it ended up a bit too open and the ‘hook’ end snapped when I tried to put it in the pistol – I will have to tackle that shortly!  I am now more or less back on track and working on the bedroom again, which is just as well as there is a load of work to do – as I pointed out before, I do tend to get more ruthless as I begin to be able to see the job in hand – so I did a bit more demolition and removed an old built-in cupboard that was built of completely woodwormed uprights.  I  now have a larger room to finish.  I have taken it all back to the rafters I put in in 2002, and will put in lots of insulation before putting on Savolit wood fibre board – its a substitute for lathes and can be diretly plastered over.  There 1s a lot of plastering to do  – 40  or so sq meters at three coats, I’m not very quick at plastereing so I might ‘cheat’ and get a professional in to do it if I can find someone who is good with lime plaster.  We had Giles’s flat  plastered by a pro – a joy to watch and perfectly smooth, but he left one room to his mate, and that was no better than I could have done (but quicker).

25th October  The browning of the two barrels looks a bit more promising – I may have found a clue – I suspect that if you put on the browning too generously it actually takes off the existing oxide layer? sounds improbably I know, but I’m now wiping on a very little browning solution.  I spent the afternoon scrubbing distemper off the gable end wall  (horrid job) so I could dub it out flat ready for attaching the cork.  I rang the floor board chap this morning to confirm their bank details as my bank doesn’t like me using bank details that come from emails – there  are loads of scams called BECS going the rounds, where somehow a scammer intercepts genuine emails from a business and sends an email perporting to come from that business but with the scammer’s own bank details.  It is usually directed at big business and has raked in hundreds of millions of pounds for the scammers.  Penny got scammed out of £500 pounds when having carpets fitted in the cottage in Cornwall, so I take it seriously…….   Anyway the floor board chap (Ben at Sutton Timber if you need floorboards!) pointed out that I’d better get all the ‘wet trades’ finished before fitting the floor or the boards would curl up ( actually curl down is more likely!) so I must push ahead with the plastering, but a lot to do first – like putting in the conduits for the power and lights, and sticking the wood fibre boards up so I have something to plaster onto!

24th October – Well, a bit of a gap again – sorry!  I had a skip delivered so have been trying to fill it to justify 6 cu yds!  Work on the bedroom has been progressing – I have been debating what to do about the floor – its a mix of old and not so old pine boards with lots of patches and gaps – I was going to board it with OSB and have it carpeted but Giles pursuaded me that that wasn’t in keeping with all the other fearures of the room – I did think of getting a few old pine boards and lifting the floor and relaying it, but figured that that would be quite difficult as the nails will surely tear the wood if they are lifted.  Anyway after a discussion and a search on the internet I have opted for new Elm floorboards (I didn’t know you could still get Elm in England!) 300 mm wide – we have other rooms with old Elm floorboards, so its a reasonable choice.  One really surprising thing came to light when I lifted a section of floorboard – the space between the joists was filled with tan coloured loose material that looked like perfect insulation – at first I thought it was coarse sawdust, but careful examination showed it was plant material that I identified as the petals of hops – I got some hops from the garden, and apart from the colour (garden ones are paler) they were identical.  Goodness knows how many hops would be needed to fill around 10 sq meters of floor to a depth of about 7 cm (3 ins) – I wondered if they were a byproduct of brewing or something.  Anyway they are clean and a good insulator (the room underneath was the dairy) and will stay, possibly supplemented with some vermiculite if there are empty joists.  I’ve never heard of hop petals being used as insulation in old buildings – must make some enquiries….  Things happened on the gun front, but slowly – I did about 8 rustings of the two pistol barrels but they haven’t started to brown yet – in despair I rang Dick to see if he would like to have a go, but he said it usually takes him 10 to 12 rustings and I should be a bit more patient!  I have adjusted my technique, being careful to apply browning with an almost dry sponge, and using medium steel wool…. we shall see……….  The pistol’s owner sent me the stocks to make sure things fit and work – I was having problems with the heel of the spring coming below the lock edge, so I welded a longer stud on the top arm that locates on the bolster, that kicked the heel up, but the tumbler end of the spring then got a bit low and was too short – straightening out the bent bit a little fixed the length, and bending it down cured the problem of the low spring – now I just have to reharden it.   Now I just have a little bit of woodwork to do on one stock and finish the browning, then I have another gun to sort out and another client is threatening to visit wih more work….. And I think I have another pistol to do that I’d forgotten about! And the frames to make for the secondary double glazing…… Plus I have to plan and buy stuff for the STEM club that starts after half term next week…………..   Maybe I should retire for the third or fourth  time, but I don’t seem very good at it!

17th October – I got one gun job out of the way this morning – a repaired spur and ‘mouth’ on a percussion cock to engrave – difficult as its all on a steep curve, so I resorted to the GRS – the welds are not altogether even textured so it was not straightforward, but the overall effect is OK.  I coloured it down with my gas-oxy torch, and then made its mate the same – I think it looks good, but I don’t have the gun to check the overall effect.  I photographed the cocks together after I’d engraved the top and  the photo showed that the repaired cock had much less engraving on the high part of the body – its a thing I’ve  noticed before – you think a job is done and you photograph it, and pack it up to go, then later you look at the photo and see a problem.  Anyway I got the cock out again and recut that bit of engraving – the two cocks are subtely different in engraving and surface texture but now look a bit more of a pair. I’ve done two brownings of the pistol barrels – they are beginning to show figure, but there is still a fair amount of metal the browning won’t bite on.  I’ve been taking photos after each browning, but they don’t show up  as much as in actuality – I must see if I can find a photo trick to show the actual effect.  You can distinctly see that the barrel is made of strands of different iron/steel rather than a homogenous material, but as its a pistol barrel the composite bar wasn’t wound round a mandrell in a spiral as it would be in the case of a long gun, but was made into a strip and wrapped round the mandrell and hammer welded into a tube in a series of grooves in an anvil with a lap joint so broadly the pattern runs along the barrel.  I believe most pistols were made this way, as were all (?)  military muskets and rifles. Some fancy pistols did have wound barrels and elaborate patterning, but most didn’t.

After second rusting – there is pattern, but faint, and a lot of untouched metal!

the cock on the left has lost its engraving on the high part

 

 

Recut – original engraving not identical on the two cocks…… (& different lighting)

Here is the bedroom I’m working on – the visible vapour membrane is directly inside the  slates. –

there is 140 mm of wood fibre insulation to go in and 60 mm of cork on the gable end wall.

This beam is probably at least 250 years old – it has a curved  brace at the left end that I’m repairing as its half rotten.

A similar brace at the right end is missing and will be re-instated when I can find a curved bit of wood.

16th October -More work on the bedroom yesterday – got me thinking about the 7 deadly sins of old house restoration and what would be the 7 deadly sins of old gun restoration. My 7 for old buildings are :- 1) Cement, 2) UPVC in any shape or form, 3) MDF board, 4) Plasterboard, 5) Vapour barriers, 6 Struck pointing of brickwork, 7) Float glass.  Not sure I can get to 7 for guns ;- 1) Sandblasting (yes, it has been done!), 2) Brazing of broken parts, 3) Use of woodfiller, 4) Polyurethane or similar varnish, 5) stainless steel, 6) Slotted head woodscrews, 7) Almost all sanding of existing wookwork.   This weekend is devoted to getting some gun jobs done – I’ve prepped the barrels and cleaned them with water and washing up liquid to get rid of any oil, then given them a wash over with chalk and water mixed like thin cream.  When this was allowed to dry you can see some figure showing through as faint rust marks – the beginnings of browning – its now having its first proper browning.  I decided to make a completely new top jaw screw and cut the thread on the lathe since it is set up for a suitable thread pitch – 28 tpi.  I heated up the top of the screw and dipped it in colour case hardening compound not to full read heat – anyway that dulled it down a bit.  I then reverse electrolytically derusted it ( i.e. rusted it rapidly) – in order to slightly dull the surface.  Its actually put some natural looking blobs of the surface too.  Its not a bad match for the original, I’m satisfied.  There is one niggling job that I need to attend to;- the new mainspring I made/converted is very close to the edge of the lock, and probably won’t fit within the lock pocket of the completed pistol (which I don’t have) = There are 2 options, either move the hole in the lockplate that houses the peg on the top leg of the spring, or reshape or remake the spring.  Either way its a great bore and will take a while – the lock plate is hardened so I’d have to anneal it, which won’t improve it, so I’ll proably work on the spring!  I got an email from school a couple of days ago asking if I’d organise/run a project for 2 classes to build their Nativity display models for the local church – I’ll be delighted to do it, I’ve already bought a couple of strings of LED christmas lights to illuminate Bethlehem!  Bit ironic for an atheist to be doing the church display but hey ho, thats life……

 

II can tell them apart ‘in the flesh’ but don’t know which is which from the photo, so must be OK!

14th October – Destruction more or less complete – just waiting to get the last 20 bags of rubble and muck down to the ground using my ‘crane’ – actually just a pulley stuck out on an arm  from the window. It needs two people, one up one down, to operate so I have to wait for Giles to come over tomorrow.  I was just about to finish in time for my 4 p.m. transfer to gun jobs when the materials for rebuilding were delivered on a couple of pallets and dumped outside – that took most of my afternoon gun time to sort out, anyway nearly ready to go, some framing up to do and it will be ready to stick on the sheets of wood fibreboard (Savilit) that will be the base for plastering with lime plaster.  So I had better go and get a few minutes work on outstanding gun jobs.  I’ve got a percussion cock that has been welded to re-engrave – its all curved surfaces which are very difficult to do hand encraving as you can only keep a constant depth of cut by EXACTLY following the curved surfaces, otherwise you almost invariably slip and make horrid cuts.  My solution for this is to use the pneumatic graver (GRS) that operates with almost no push and so doesn’t tend to slip.  I’ll go and start now………

13th October – Still destroying!  Quite mild here – how long will it last?  We have a massive crop of green tomatoes in need of another week’s sun – can’t face that much chutney!  We planted a grape vine about 5 years ago and have never had more than a handful of unripe grapes, but this year it made it from its trelis to the south facing wall of the house and went mad – we must have had enough grapes for a Chateau Cablesfarm vintage – bottles running to two or three figures ( that’s roman numerals).  It won’t happen, as the potential  winemaker ate them all at about a bunch a day for the last month.   I’m still experimenting with striking up the pistol barrels. One of the problems with using a file is that occasionally a speck of metal gets embedded in the file and creates a deeper scratch.  I tend to file wet as this helps avoid the problem – some people use chalk for the same purpose, not sure which is best.  I got good results from using a small  fine diamond sharpener stuck to a plastic handle (EZE-LAP) until the white spirit I was using disolved the adhesive holding the diamond onto the plastic.   My current best guess at a good technique is filing down to No 4, then use a fine slip, then 400 grit and finally 1000 grit. Looking under my x25 microscope there is still plenty for the browning to get a bite on.  I’ve recut the engraving on the barrels a couple of times as I’ve filed so that they still look crisp.  The microscope x25 does reveal that the surface still has multiple small pits, but I think when browned they will not show (they don’t really show to the naked eye) so I think I’m now ready to go!  I have had to divide my day up to get both the bedroom and the guns done – I reckon 6 hours of labouring is enough at my age, so at 4 p.m. I retire to the gun workshop for a bit of filing etc. ( after a cup of tea of course) until 6, then maybe back again after dinner for an hour or two if I feel energetic, then attend to the blog if I have anything to say!

of blog from Jan 2021 to June 2022, but maybe they will reappear!

 Posted by at 6:12 pm
Dec 042023
 
Video link to Ageing Well No1
Video link to I’ve got CLL

I was chatting to my haematologist during my 2 monthly appointment at his clinic and mentioned that I was thinking of putting a YouTube video on something to do with fitness, exercise, food and old age ( or more probably in the reverse order!) and he was very enthusiastic.  He was very keen that I did something about my age and my experience of having CLL because a lot of his patients who have just been diagnosed with CLL are upset and concerned at the prospect of having ‘cancer’ and of a possible deterioration in their general health, and imagine that it will necessarily change their life for the worse.  Since I have fortunately experienced none of those negative consequences he thought that if I told of how it had affected me, or rather how it hadn’t affected me, he would be able to direct them to my YouTube, which would give them some reassurance – he seemed to think it would be ‘A GOOD THING’.  SO I always do as I’m told, especially by people I like and respect – although not always by the other 99.9999…% of the population!

Here is a slightly different version of the information in the video if you came to it via my website rather than directly to YouTube

 

Hi,  I’m 82 and have had CLL – that’s Chronic Lympocytic Leukaemia – for more than 6 years, how much longer I don’t know because it only gradually produced symptoms as my lymph nodes got bigger over several years, but I was a little concerned and my GP referred me to a haematologist who diagnosed CLL in August 2017 – at that time I had no symptoms at all apart from the enlarged lymph nodes, and they weren’t causing me any problems so I  entered the ‘Watch and Wait’ phase. I got Covid quite badly just before the first lockdown and lost 10 Kg but recovered – but that’s another story.  I was in no hurry to begin  CLL treatment as I have a beard and the lymph nodes in my neck were not particularly visible, but eventually it seemed as if they had started to alter my voice slightly due to pressure in my throat so I agreed to start treatment in September 2021 when I’d finished my annual sailing holiday ( got to get my priorities right), that was  just over 2 years ago from when I’m making this video in December 2023.  The enlarged nodes are caused by the build up of cancerous white cells.  I guess the drug I have is the usual drug for CLL –  Acalabrutinib, which is  a kinase inhibitor – it works by blocking one of the metabolic pathways that the cancerous cells use to multiply so gradually reduces the population of bad cells, which get flushed out of the lymph nodes over a few months so your white cell count goes up for a bit.  Since CLL messes with your white cells, which are a major part of the immune system I was  proscribed a propylactic ( i.e early defense ) antibiotic CoTrimoxazole , and an antiviral Aciclovir to reduce the risk of Shingles.    Remarkably none of these pills had or have any side effects whatsoever – I’m still taking them!     So  if you’ve just had CLL diagnosed, or know someone who has, what can I say;- CLL is a common form of bloof cancer – its the most benign form and nothing like as frightning as the other blood cancers and is very well controlled by modern drugs like Acalabrutinib that are taken as tablets twice a day rather than having to be administered in hospital and they are very well tolerated by most of patients.  Has it altered my life at all?  Physically not at all, practically very little – an hour every two months for a visit to the very friendly clinic, a couple of minutes twice  a day to swallow tablets and 15 minutes once a week to load up my daily pill boxes to keep pill taking in order- that’s probably the sum total of the disturbance to my life!  I do take some notice of the fact that my immune system is somewhat  impaired, so I make sure I have all the Covid jabs I can, plus the Flu jab, and I am aware that I may be more liable to getting Sepsis – I was warned that I should take action if I had a fever of 38 degrees C or higher as that presents as a danger of Sepsis.  On one occasion I did ring the clinic emergency number with a high temperature and was advised to go to A&E where I was put on an Amoxycillin drip and kept pumped up with antibiotics for 72 hours – although I didn’t actually feel that bad and certainly didn’t develop Sepsis – better safe than sorry.   Overall, my view is that the world doesn’t owe me a living, or a life, and at about my age I’ve reached my life expectancy in actuarial terms, so its all a bonus from here on in – my response to the question ‘how are you?’ is invariably ‘Alive!’ – with a positive inflection.   Just as the world (universe?) doesn’t owe me a living,  so it’s up to me to make the effort not to be a burden on the rest of it, and  that means making the effort to stay fit and health as long as possible. I am still very fit – I sail in summer and shoot clays and game in season, and pay  attention to muscle mass by lifting weights and getting adequate protein (I’ll put up a separate video on that later) .  On the positive side I think CLL has made me appreciate life and more the realise the incredible progress science and medics have made in my lifetime, or for that matter in the lifetime of my children.    Rather than CLL closing down my horizons, its made me appreciate every moment of life in a positive way – I hope it does for you too.   And the future – research into CLL and its treatment is suggesting that after some years the cancer cells may be in remission to the extent that it isn’t necessry to carry on taking Acalabrutinib – that might almost count as ‘cured’ but studying the effects of doing things for a long time takes a long time – watch this space!  One last thought to leave you with;  if you’ve recently been diagnosed with CLL it will tend to be on your mind a lot of the time in a negative way – I think its still there in my mind some of the time,   its not a threatening thing, it is just part of life.

 

This is the bit of the YouTube where you fess up to being sponsored and thank your sponsors and try to get people to contribute to your ‘channel’ – well unfortunately no-one is sponsoring me and I’m not expecting anyone to ‘subscribe’ – but I must thank Prof George Follows and the staff at the Genesis Healthcare team in Newmarket who are really like my professional family, and BUPA who fund my treatment on the back of 40 years of contributions and almost no claims until CLL!

 Posted by at 4:41 pm
Oct 292023
 

Sailing to Scotland

Tim Owen

8th Aug 2023

Sepsis is a 1986 Moody 37, one of only two made with a lifting keel that takes her draft from 2.3 m to 1.4 m with the aid of a hydraulic ram and an electric or manual pump. She has been in one family since new and spent most of her life either in the south of France or in Greece. When the original owner died she festered in Greece for a number of years until she was sailed back to the UK, or rather motored at slow speed with a furred up engine as there was no wind. She aquired a new Sole Mini44 engine in Gibraltar, together with an autopilot and new chart plotter and was then based at North Fambridge while further work was done. Covid shut that down for a couple of years and I got involved as we all recovered from that trauma. The two generations of the family now looking after her had no great love of East coast sailing and liked the idea of basing her on the West Coast of Scotland where they had had their introduction to sailing in a previous family boat – a Rival 32. A berth was booked in to an Oban Marina for 2023 and the race was on to get her ready to take up. We originally planned to take her up in spring 2023, but she went into Fox’s Marina in Ipswich in October for 3 weeks work dropping the keel and rudder to replace bearings and taking the mast down so we could work on the in-mast reefing. The reefing was an Easy Reef addition to the Selden mast, and the inner spar had somehow got damaged. Easy Reef is no longer in existence but we managed to source some spare lengths from the mizzen mast of a larger yacht that had removed its system. Due to staffing issues at Fox’s the three weeks turned into 5 months and we finally got on with the work at North Fambridge in April 2023 There followed a couple of months while we worked through a number of routine and non routine problems – One unexpected one being the unpredicted demise of the 4.5Kg calor cylinder (since rescinded, but for how long?) that led me to build a separate gas locker on the stern to hold anything up to two 10Kg Gaslite plastic cylinders of propane – ideal for a boat as they are light and can be dragged and banged around without marking the deck. We had trouble starting the engine – that took a bit of detective work – it was only when Penny was down watching the voltmeter as I tried to start the engine that she noticed the chart plotter go blank as the key was turned – since they are on separate circuits that pointed to an earth fault, and indeed on checking, the battery negative connections were very corroded and wired a little strangely – also why the windlass didn’t always run! Another job that was in my view essential for Scotland was to fit a diesel heater, so I fitted a Webasco AirTop Evo 40. One advantage of a do-it yourself fit is that you can spend a long time planning and exploring routes for the ducts and try things using short lengths of pipe without it adding to the bill – we managed to get outlets where we wanted them with minimal compromise . One of my other activities is mechanical design and 3D printing so I was able to print custom duct fittings in carbon fibre reinforced nylon where there wasn’t a suitable fitting available – in fact I printed a number of different things for the boat including a set of mug holders for the binnacle so there was always a safe place to hold everyone’s drinks under way.

By mid July we thought we were about ready to set off, only unfortunately ran over the mooring and had to have a quick lift-out to untangle the prop. Fortunately no damage, and a chance to clean off a small forest of barnacles that had grown in the 3 months or so she had been on a mooring. I had ‘done’ the East Coast trip to Inverness some 40 years ago in the previous family boat, and knew it was a bit of a slog, so I was a bit surprised when my wife Penny thought it would be a good thing to do in her highly constrained 2 week summer break from her job I recruited two of my sons, Rory and Tom. All of us are quite experienced small boat sailors, Rory has owned his own sailing boat and Penny and I have chartered on the West coast of Scotland for many years and we have both worked on research ships in the North Sea at some point, so can’t complain that we didn’t know what to expect!

I had spent a lot of time over the winter thinking about the passage North – Visit MyHarbour.com has lots on harbours etc. but until the publication of ‘Cook’s Country’ by Henry Irving (Imray) in the spring there wasn’t a pilot book for the northern section of the English East Coast . Passage planning for a trip like that from the River Crouch to Inverness has to be very flexible, especially as it involves the North Sea, which can be an unforgiving place – with almost nowhere to seek shelter in a hard blow from the East. I did contemplate doing the trip to Oban westabout, but it is substantially longer and the owners wanted to enjoy the Caledonian canal. When I last did the trip we did everything on paper charts and Dead Reckoning and the Admiralty pilot, plus I think one noon sun sight, but in those days things were much simpler – in particular there were no wind farms getting in the way, and no VTS with traffic highways in and out of the big ports that get agitated if you do the wrong thing, and anyway we didn’t have a VHF radio. The main framework of the passage plan has to be a list of harbours you can get into at any state of the tide, with a secondary list of those with tidal limits, and a tertiary list of anchorages with their limits on wind direction etc. Since we could put up our keel and get into places with only 1.5 m, life was somewhat simplified as most of the published information seems to take this as the ‘standard’ draft. You also need to tabulate H W tide times for all these places, and also rough periods when tidal flow will be in your favour or against, although this I left to be planned as we progressed. Navigation has changed markedly since I taught the RYA Yachtmaster course, although judging from comments I hear, I’m not sure the RYA has yet totally caught up with the gradual disappearance of paper charts! I did have paper charts to cover the area of interest – 3 Imray charts, plus some Admiralty charts that cost a fortune and had most of the detail removed from the areas I wanted it! But in truth I didn’t use them, except when running a pair of dividers to look at possible legs. My preferred charting is the Boating/Navionics App, now from Garmin, that I had running on two tablets – one mounted on the binnacle when sailing, one portable, and on two phones. When the tablets and my phone are on the internet via wifi or a hotspot they share routes etc. Sepiola has an AIS transmitter and receiver, and I have a separate AIS receiver on the stern locker that talks to my Navionics apps via wifi, although the range is poor due to lack of aerial height. The tablets are great – the one on the binnacle is not very easy to see in bright light, and in heavy rain when the screen is covered in droplets the touch screen doesn’t work until you wipe it clear, but its useable at all times, or you can duck under the sprayhood and look at the other tablet. An invaluable feature of the app is that you can click on the tide gauges or tidal arrows on the screen and display the tide height and stream now or at any time in the future.We had a Raymarine plotter running at the chart table with a pretty chunky version of Navionics charts that was really only useful as a way to see the AIS position of ships at sensible ranges – but using it meant going below, which for most of the trip was uncomfortable if not actually sick making or dangerous, and usually got water over the logbook and any charts that were out. In the event Rory often saw ships AIS on the Marine Radar App on his phone, which was useful as they are updated every minute when the ship is in range of a shore station and moving and we have phone coverage (most of the time). The Marine Radar app doesn’t appear to update the fix time of vessels at rest.

Our overall plan was to make a couple of short legs, from the Crouch to the Orwell (Woolverstone)

and from there to Lowestoft. From there its a long leg – if the weather was kind we planned to head for Scarborough with the option to anchor in the mouth of the Humber. From there you get a number of part day legs between all-tide ports until you get to the leg across the the Firth of Forth, which is a bit long for a single day, then another longish leg down the Moray Firth to Inverness, preferrably timing your arrival at the narrows at Chanonry Point for the rising tide, and to go through the bridge in Inverness when the tide isn’t against you, or for that matter, strongly with you. At the end of each leg I put in the detailed route for the next day, and checked over the list of harbours and anchorages and tides etc, plus committing the entry directions for the destination port to memory! In the back of my mind in planning was the crew limitation – I knew Penny and Tom had to be back with a pretty inflexible deadline of two weeks, although I figured that Rory and I could handle things if we had to, or we could call in reinforcements. In the run up to departure it became clear that we were in for a period of relatively unsettled weather as the June high pressure system had moved East and South and it was likely that at some point we might get bad weather – in any event it was likely to be changeable, meaning that detailed planning was not really possible in advance.

We loaded the boat in Fambridge Yacht Station – while loading Rory gashed his finger rather badly trying to save a runaway trolley so after an exploration of first aid kits he was patched up and decided a visit to A & E wasn’t necessary. The Yacht Station has tide limits so we motored down river and anchored at the junction with the Roach overnight to leave at 5 a.m. to get enough water to get over the Swin Spitway and take the tide most of the way to the Felixstowe. The 5 a.m. start works well as it corresponds to first light, giving you maximum daylight so we tended to keep it up for the whole trip. We were unsure about the amount of chain on the anchor, and about its marking when we anchored at the Roach so at Woolverstone Marina we flaked the chain on the pontoon and discovered that there were only 33 meters – OK for the Med where it had been, but not really adequate for the tidal UK, especially N.W. Scotland – we couldn’t source a suitable new chain en route so we added 18m of rope as a rode which just fitted in the anchor locker . We left at 5 the next morning for Lowestoft and had a pleasant sail, ending in a bit of motoring as the wind backed. Penny hadn’t been able to join Sepiola at the start as her father was ill, so came up to Lowestoft the next day and we left at 1500 hrs when she arrived. Rory took the opportunity to ring 101 and go to the small injuries unit to get his finger properly dressed.

Lowestoft to the Humber/Grimsby is quite a slog and the wind was likely to be from the NW so the anchorage just inside Spurn Point was not likely to be comfortable, Reeds, however, suggested one off Tetney on the SW side of the estuary that sounded fine, We did originally think that we might make it to Scarborough and were prepared for both options. We started from Lowestoft with a fair wind on the quarter and as we got round the top of Norfolk the wind increased until we were on a broad reach with full sail in 20 to 24 knots making 8 knots by GPS (our log wasn’t working) The seas didn’t have much fetch so we sailed without too much motion. The wind gradually increased, gusting 25-28 knots so we reefed both sails. I’d been hand steering but as the wind increased and the seas built up as we diverged from the coast it became more and more difficult to steer an accurate course, and more and more tiring As it got dark we reefed again and started the engine to give us some more control and power the auto-pilot as the seas built up, The auto pilot steers a much better and steadier course than I can, and if over pressed in a strong gust lets the boat round up a little to relieve pressure on the sails – it felt very secure. I’d set our route to converge on the small boat track along the edge of the VTS track for outbound ships from the Humber South but didn’t notice that our course was a couple of degrees off and we drifted into the traffic lane and were called up by a ship passing down the lane to alter course to Port, which initially puzzled me til I realised what had happened. Without an AIS transmitter it would have been more difficult to identify the call from the ship. By the time we’d been bumped around during the night it was clear that it wasn’t sensible to go on to Scarborough so we made the Humber estuary around 7:30 a.m. and called up VTS for permission to enter and proceed to Tetney and were warned to keep 500 m clear of the Monobuoy – the oil transfer buoy in the entrance to the Humber. We followed the 3m contour round and anchored near the WWII Haile Sands Fort in calm water.

We left the Tetney anchorage at 5 am the next morning, calling VTS on ch 14 for permission to cross the traffic lanes between buoys Bravo and Charlie and were asked to report at Buoy 2 for clearance to cross, and told to keep clear of the Monobuoy (again). Since we had an AIS transmitter, VTS could track our position. At buoy 2 there were no ship movements in the area so we called and were cleared to cross. We motored all the way to Scarborough, arriving at the rather crowded harbour and were directed to raft up against a couple of small fishing boats against the quay – access on and off the boat not easy! The harbour is heavily used by pleasure craft for holiday makers and is hectic and noisy during the daytime but fortunately very peaceful at night. Another early start and a good sail took us Harlepool where we arrived within the 4 hour window either side of High Water that the lock operates. On the way into Harltlepool as we ran the engine I opened the side cover to check if the stern gland was leaking – it wasn’t, but my head torch illuminated a little jet of water coming out of the seam around the bottom of the stainless exhaust box – A quick sharpening of a matchstick made a temporary partial plug till we got in, although the jet was not enough to do much harm. Once in I cleaned up the bottom seam and identified a small hole – the rest of the seam looked OK and survived probing with a point. A quick call to the owners revealed that there was very old Milliput epoxy putty on board somewhere, but to be safe a crew member was dispatched to Toolstation to get some plastic metal. Rather stiff Milliput found, I did a trial to make sure it was going to set hard, but realised that it was very difficult to mix thoroughly, obviously vital, so spent longer cutting and mixing to ensure the epoxy and hardener were completely mixed before drying the area and cleaning it with acetone and pressing in a fillet around the area of the leak. We topped up fuel and water – Sepiola has a rather small water tank – around 140 litres, and a 130 litre fuel tank, with 40 litres in cans in the lazarette. By morning the Milliput was rock hard and the test lump I had stuck on the top of the exhaust box without cleaning the metal had stuck fast so I figured that the leak was pretty well sealed so we had another 5 a.m. start towards Blyth. We stopped outside the harbour to pump the bilges as the exhaust leak had clearly been running for some time.

A very brisk sail, getting up to 34 knots in the gusts took us to Blyth by 1700 hrs. where we motored in against a 24 knot headwind.

We were getting quite anxious about the weather forecasts which suggested the weather might get bad in the next 48 hours, particularly round the headland into the Moray Firth, and discussed stopping at Eyemouth or making directly for Peterhead, I decided that we would make a decision when we were near Eyemouth depending on how battered we felt. Visibility was very patchy and we were sailing just off my planned route when we were called up by a windfarm guard vessel as we were on course to skim the corner of a windfarm – one of the problems of the Navionics vector charts is that the detail shown varies with the level of zoom, and the way we had it displayed for the longer passages didn’t show the windfarm – Windfarms are not outlined in pecked lines once they are completed so don’t show up at low zooms – something I hadn’t really realised before, and a bit of a problem as the East coast is a forest of wind farms! In the event we had a pretty fair sail to Eyemouth and decided to keep on to Peterhead across the Firth of Forth and up the Aberdeenshire coast, mindful that there were no easy boltholes on the way. As we were off Stonehaven the wind got up – I was below in my bunk resting – it was a bit too bouncy to sleep – I wondered how we were doing, so looked at Navionics on my phone and was surprised to see that we were only making 1.8 knots. Fully dressed in waterproofs and lifejacketed in record time I ventured on deck to find that the wind had got up very quickly and headed us so Rory was just motoring slowly into the wind to see if it carried on and take stock. As it didn’t go down we put the engine up to cruising revs and motored on course for Peterhead, making about 3.5 to 4 knots into the wind for several hours before the wind finally dropped.

Peterhead was a very friendly port and marina. I called the marina, who said it would make life easier if I put the keel up, and the harbourmaster to get clearance to enter – he called us back when we were on the correct approach line – its a small marina but very helpful with good facilities although some way from shops etc. The Marina fuel pump was broken so the Marina harbourmaster took us in his van to refill our fuel cans and get essential supplies. Another 5 a.m. start saw us begin a very pleasant sail with a beam wind round into the Moray Firth and a wind on the quarter as we sailed towards the narrows at the start of the Inverness Firth. On the way we got an unexpected call from a guard vessel warning us we were heading for the 500m exclusion zone around a UXO (Unexploded Ordinance). Rather than take down the coordinates and plot them I asked if a 20 degree course alteration to port would take us clear, which was confirmed, and asked them to call us when we could resume our course – another advantage of an AIS transmitter! We called Inverness Marina by phone to book a place for the night and arrived at the narrows more or less on time to get to the bridge at slack water, which is advisable as the tide runs at up to 6 knots through the bridge, and makes turning into the river to get to the Inverness Marina quite tricky. We found the last space on the hammerhead in the Marina – rather a dreary place surrounded by very high quays, but good enough for overnight. The sea lock into the Caledonian canal only operates about 4 hours either side of high water, so we had to wait until 11:30 a.m. for a slot, but out lines were taken and we were quickly on our way to the swinging bridge and the next lock before the Seaport Marina. Tied up in Seaport, fuel topped up – job done!

What did we learn:-

Although the North Sea coast is not a particularly attractive cruising ground we enjoyed the challenge and never felt out of our comfort zone. Sepiola felt safe and not over pressed although she wasn’t particularly close winded and bounces around more than we are used to in slightly larger charter boats On the West coast of Scotland we usually consider the Inshore Forecasts to be on the pessimistic side, from our experience this time the forecasts were pretty optimistic – we had forecasts of 5 or less and sea state smooth or slight all the time – if only! I’d say that an AIS transmitter is pretty essential in the areas around the busy North Sea ports and windfarms, plus a good VHF at the wheel, and if you are trying to push on an autopilot is pretty much essential – we couldn’t balance the sails well in the waves we experienced and manual steering was exceedingly tiring and inaccurate, whereas the autopilot was happily turning the wheel through 100 degrees on each wave and keeping an arrow-straight course. We had changed the rigging to bring all the mainsail control lines back to the cockpit which was pretty much essential as it turned out, allowing us to reef when it would have been tricky working on deck. We averaged just over 6 knots over the whole journey and ran the engine for around 60% of the time at an average consumption of 3 litres per hour, mostly at 1750 or 1800 revs. We took 11 days from the Crouch to the Caledonian canal – if we had done the Crouch to Lowestoft in one leg, and the Humber to Hartlepool in another we could have done it in less, or if conditions had been more comfortable we could have done more night sailing. I’d highly recommend our second tablet – a reconditioned ruggedised 8 inch tablet supplied with raster charts and purchased through the VisitMyHarbour.com website – the original tablets cost around £500 so at £200 I recon its a decent buy and comes ready to go – just add a SIM card with some data if you want to use it that way. You will need a big back up USB battery pack to run it for more than a few hours.

Would we do it again? Well, perhaps ask in another 40 years!

 Posted by at 10:20 pm
Jul 032022
 

I had to fix a Lewmar Cheek/Deck/Foot Block for a Moody 37 that had spent 35 years in the Med, so the plastic of the sheave had pretty much disintegrated.  I checked out a couple of posts on  websites that gave an idea how to proceed, but didn’t really provide enough details to know exactly how to proceed, so I though a You Tube video was in order.  The basic problem is getting the pivot pin out as its been heavily swaged  underneath – and the key thing is knowing the core diameter of the pivot pin.   Anyway you can find the video at:

  https://youtu.be/rTFfx7-J-7w

Jun 032022
 

The detent on a lock is a means of preventing the sear from catching in the half cock notch as the gun or pistol is fired.  With a gun designed for a robust trigger pull, for instance a shotgun or military rifle, the trigger finger will hold the trigger back long enough for the sear to pass the half cock notch before releasing it and taking it  up again – an involuntary action called the secong pull that was the bane of lock designers when single trigger shotguns were being introduced.  Anyway  if the gun or pistol is designed to have a very light trigger pressure and  be let off with a very gentle pressure, the trigger finger may well not hold the sear away from the half cock bend on firing, and the cock will stop in the half cock position.  A similar problem occurs with a set trigger where the trigger pull releases a sprung loaded  trigger plate that hits the sear arm by inertia – in this case its almost certain that the sear will fall into the half cock notch.  So a detent is required on rifles and target firearms and was frequently used on later duelling pistols.. I don’t have a date for the introduction of detents – I’d guess early to mid 18th century?  Certainly common by the resurgence of English gunmaking around the mid to late 18th century.

I’m not sure how many different designs of detent there are, but here is the most common where a small component called the ‘fly’ pivots in a cutout on the tumbler and has a blunt pointed end that deflects the sear. There are two variations I have come across – in one the fly pivots in a small hole in the tumbler near to the tumbler pivot, and in the other, the fly has a ring on its end that fits over the tumbler pivot and lies in a recess on the tumbler surface. The fly is quite thin, maybe around 0.4mm and moves in a similarly shallow recess. The fly shown here pivots in a hole in the tumbler.

Here is a sequence showing the tumbler and sear in different positions without the fly present;

n.b. its written as if the tumbler is fixed and the sear moves, which of course is not the case, but its how I was thinking about it and it seemed to make the explanation easier?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Full cock, no fly present – you can see how easy it would be for the sear to slip into the half cock bent on firing

(in a lock designed not to have a detent, the half cock notch would not protrude so far, but the principle remains)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Half cock – no fly –  in this position the slide safety can engage with the notch in the tumbler

although here it doesn’t look like it will – it works anyway!”

here its on full cock with the fly in position ready to guard the half cock bent.

 

here the tumbler is rotating and the fly has rotated relative to the tumbler so as to lift the sear over the half cock notch – job done!

From the fired position the sear will drag the fly upwards until it hits the edge of its recess then the sear will climb over it and as the cock is eased a bit , will find the full cock notch.

If you want to put the lock in the half cock position, the sear will drag the fly ahead of it, leaving the half clck notch open.

To go from half cock to full cock the sear will push the fly up until it hits the top of its recess, when it will climb over it and come back to find the full cock notch.

 

All this needs careful setting up , of course.  quite a fiddly job, but once its set up right it should be OK for ever…….

 Posted by at 11:40 pm
Mar 312022
 

Diary

25th March  I finished the Sea Service lock engraving using the air graver to get a bit deeper than I usually go with a push engraver.  The lock plate is quite pitted and worn but some of the old engraving could still be seen so I was somewhat constrained in what I could do, but I found a photo on the web (see below) that resembles what I could make out on the lockplate, even down to some assymetry.  When I had finished engraving it all looked a bit raw, so I gave it a quick go over with my fine fibre wheel to round off the edges of the cuts a little.  That did the trick, but left the lock looking a bit patchy and bright, so I gently heated it up with a propane torch until it turned grey, which looked much more comfortable – it can now go back to its owner for putting in the pistol. I can now think about Fred’s gun parts, which I haven’t yet unpacked.  It was a lovely day here- probably all we’ll get for a summer- so I wandered around the garden and realised that I’d intended to replace the last of the old windows last summer, but couldn’t as our superb crop of tomatos was growing in front of it.  So I really need to replace it before this year’s plants go in shortly.  I made the frame about 20 years ago, and got the iron casement made, so I just have to make up the leaded light panels and fix the glazing bars and my security bars and put it all together,  I haven’t done any leaded light making for years, but once I relearn how to cut old glass reliably, I’ll be away.  You can’t really use modern float glass in leaded windows as it looks all wrong  – the options are to buy modern hand made glass at a high cost, or to reuse salvaged window glass from before the invention of float glass (?mid 20th century) by Pilkinsons.  I still have quite a collection left over from my major window building era, although quite a lot of it is almost too flat to use.   Penny had her hip replaced a week ago and is going round on crutches – makes me think of Long John Silver whenever I  hear her moving around.

This example matches most closely the vestigges of the original engraving

24th March –  A bit busy the last week or so with Penny’s hip, but I got the bedroom finished, even as far as putting up a cafe curtain on a nice brass rod, and putting in some furniture – just waiting for a guest to occupy it!  I have now got time for a few gun jobs –  I had a pair of very nice pistols that the owner wanted me to take the furniture off  so he could sort out the finish on the wood.  The screws all came out perfectly without a sign of rust except for on small spot on one screw.  The ‘nails’ were quite stiff to unscrew, all the way, as the grease, or whatever they had been put in with had gone quite stiff over the years (about 180) since they were made.  Being high class pistols the holes for the nails were a pretty exact fit. In the end I didn’t take out the trigger plate and its finial as it didn’t come out easily, there was no obvious way to pull it out straight, and I was afraid that the very fine wood between the bits of the finial might break off if there was any adhesion or rusting on the edges.  It will hve to be masked in situu.  Anyway they are now done and delivered.  The next job was re-engraving an old very worn sea service pistol lock of about 1777 or so – I hadn’t touched a graver for about 3 months, and as well as this job I have all the funiture for one of Fred’s creations waiting to engrave, so time for a bit of concentrated practice.  The Sea Service lock needed to be engraved quite deep, and Fred is concerned that his lock and false breech are deep so that they will still show up if fairly brightly colour case hardened, so I had a few practices, and got out the Gravermax air graver – I can’t get quite as much control over it as I can with push engraving, but I did get good enough to do the Sea Service lock, which is not meant to be fine engraving – the originals were done for twopence each – a few years later Palmer was charging that per letter!  So the Service engraving wasn’t particularly fine!  Anyway I did a few practive engravings on 2″ x 2″ test plates that I bought some time ago, and then did the lock – there was a trace of bits of the original engraving, particularly the little circles ( which I think on the originals were put on with a punch as they are usually a bit eratic )  that I had to keep as they were quite deep, which gave a somewhat different shape from my templates, although a search round the web images did show one or two locks with similar crowns.  I take it that the crown is a representation of what is known as the Imperial State Crown of George 1st made in 1714.  It had more pronounced arches than later crowns, as on this lock.  I realised I still need to add the broad arrow.   Now I’ll get on with designing Fred’s gun engraving.  I have to start work on the plans for the STEM club at school next term – the plan is for the children to build a safe and program a BBC microbit computer to control the opening of the safe, so that it can be coded.  I decided that it would be good if I could make bits for them to use in building their safes (in groups of 3 children) using a 3D printer.  My sons had a couple of 3D printers over the years, and make a few parts for me, but as Giles is now in Canada, and Tom doesn’t have a one, I thought it was time I joined the 21st century and got up to speed!   I do have this idea that it is now possible to take multiple photos all round an object, and get them made into a 3D representation of the object, which in theory at least, you could import into a 3D printer and print in a plastic that can be used for lost wax casting, enabling you to make castings of the original parts.  Along the way you could  scale the model to compensate for shrinkage in the casting process – for the time being this will only exist as a dream as far as I am involved, although I’m sure lots of people are doing it.  Anyway I have a 3D printer on order, and am working on the software and making the part designs.  In case that doesn’t keep me busy, I’ve got a £2000  pile of the special double glazing glass sitting there waiting for me to make secondary glazing frames in oak, which is in the nice dry attic above the kitchen.

 

Bottom one filled in with a Sharpie to check details.

Lock engraved following the remnants of the original engraving, particularly the circles (distinct) and some other clues.

I’ve buffed over the finished engraving to remove the sharp edges – they didn’t look right.

14th March I got the  night store heater wired in, and waited till the Off Peak period to test it – and discovered that instead of the 11 hour off peak tarrif we are paying for, we are only getting the standard 7 hour off peak – I guess it will be next to impossible to contact EON!  Another waste of time and effort!  Ayway I think the bedroom just needs a bit of topcoat painting to finish, then put in some furniture, mostly from Giles’s flat.  Then a day clearing up the mess and piles of tools etc that resulted from the work, and I should be free to think about some gun stuff.  Penny goes into hospital on Friday to have her other hip replaced, so some of my time will be spent being a nursemaid for a couple of weeks or so………………..

12th March  I’ve been desperately trying to finish the bedroom so I can get on with a few gun related jobs,but the finishing stages always take much longer than you think.  Basically I now just have some painting  to finish, and the night store heater to install and connect to the off peak electricity and  I had a few domestic maintenence chores to sort that took a day or so – The Aga was out because I had carelessly let us run out of oil, so I took the opportunity to clean out the burner, and couldn’t get it to relight after the oil delivery – not sure what was the problem but eventually it gave up the fight and lit.  We also had a problem with the thermostat on our heatstore water cylinder – it mixes very hot water from a heat exchange coil with cold water to regulate the hot water suppl and had failed, giving only cold water or scalding water.  I couldn’t get a direct replacement – on 3 months delivery – so got a near replacement that didn’t quite fit, so I had to fiddle about to get it to fit in the too small space left by the old one – quite a lot of water escaped before I finally conquered it – now OK, I hope – I always wrap the compression joints in tissue and go back later to see if the tissue is damp – doesn’t work very well on hot water pipes but OK on cold.  I’m off tomorrow to do a bit more repair work on Tom’s flint wall – he has managed to take out a whole lot of dodgy wall and now has two big holes to fill.     I just remembered that I’m waiting for some No 7 shot from Clay and Game – better ring on Monday and check when I will get it.

7th March Spent Sunday helping Tom repair an old flint wall – something I learnt after buying this house – I had a short structural survey which highlighted the high cost of repairs to the flint walls where the wallplate had moved outward and damaged the top foot or so of the flint facing – it actually turned out to be one of the easiest jobs on the house – replacing most of the windows with traditional oak and iron leaded windows took much longer, but at least I learnt how to make leaded windows and oak frames, although I got a local blacksmith to make the iron casements as I don’t have a forge.  Anyway we filled in a large hole with lime mortar and flints – you can only build about 4 or 5 inches before the weight of the upper layers causes the whole lot to bulge out, so you have to put boards across the front as you build up.  The mortar squeezes out between the flints, and anyway you have to be fairly generous to get a good bond round the edges of the patch, so when you take the boards away later it looks a horrible mess – the aim is to catch it when it is about the consistency of cheese (cheddar , not camembert) and then cut away the surplus with a fine detail trowel and when its a bit drier to brush vigorously to clean any residue off the faces of the flints and expose the coarse sand grains in the mortar.  A lot of the wall had been repaired with hard cement, which is not a good idea, as when it gets too much moisture behind it, it comes off as one great big chunk and probably brings most of the wall with it – its not possible to remove it and replace it with lime mortar as the same thing would happen.     Apart from that I am slowly getting nearer to finishing the bedroom – the lights and sockets are in now, so I just need to connect up the power and insulate the loft above and put another coat of wax on the floor and beam….   I really need to get it done as I am beginning to build up a queue of gun jobs – apart from the Sea Service pistol engraving, and stripping the metalwork from a pair of target pistols, I had a call from Fred in the US saying he had completed another two guns and needed them engraved – I have done a couple for him before, they are on the Blog somewhere!  He gently raised the issue of the depth of my cutting – he sends his locks and furniture to a chap in the states who does pretty spectacular colour case hardening, with the emphasis on colour, and the effect of all the colour is to hide the engraving.  I do know that I tend to engrave light – whether its because I’m not as strong in the wrist as a full time professional I don’t know, but I will try to see if I can go deeper……

Just waiting for the final brushing off.  The sections of wall laid in horizontal courses are not traditional and use cement.

3rd February – The MOT expired on my car  – all sorted now without any problems.  My mechanic tells me that it is recommended that you change the tyres on a vehicle after 5 years irrespective of mileage!  Mine have done 13 years and are still OK – Its a hefty price to replace them so I think they will do for another year!  I got a worn lock for a sea service lock to recut the Crown, GR and etc.  The lock is just soft enough to cut, I think, but whether I can cut as deep as the original I don’t know – I may have to resort to the air graver.  I’ll put some photos on later when I start.  The engravers who did the original locks got paid about 2p per lock – they must have banged them out in minutes!  Making good progress with the bedroom – I put the first coat of wax on – I used a jar of home made wax polish to begin with and didn’t realise that it was intended for polishing guns and had linseed oil in it, which darkened the wood a bit more than I wanted – anyway I made some more polish with just beeswax and turpentine that ia a much paler finish, and managed to lighten the wrong finish a bit with white spirit.  Once the first coat was on and more or less hardened I put on the skirting boards – mostly screwed on where there was something behind to screw onto, otherwise a modern building adhesive that  grabs more or les instantly so no need to hold it.    The elm floorboards look amazing – I didn’t realise you could still get elm – one timber merchant laughed at me when I asked if he had any – so I was really pleased to get these lovely boards – just look at the amazing grain pattern in the photo.

These Elm boards are 300mm wide – just look at the amazing figure in the grain!

28th  February – Annoyingly I got a letter at the end of last week telling me that my direct debit wouldn’t take my Road Fund payment due 28th as my vehicle needed an MOT test, having expired on the 25th.  Unfortunately the earliest I could get a test was next Thursday, so the car will sit in the drive til then – I just hope I don’t suddenly need something from Screwfix!  Also means I can’t make a shooting session  on the 3rd. Shame.   Bedroom going OK – made the Oak shelves ready to finish and fit, and the skirting boards ditto.  The elm floor looks beutiful in its natural pale state, so I’ve been looking to see what finish I can apply that doesn’t make it brighter and darker.  Choices are varnish of one sort or another, Oil finish, Paste wax or liquid wax. I did phone a flooring shop, who said that they all gave about the same result, which looks the same as if you put water on the surface, unless you use a product with white pigment which helps retain the natural finish.  I’m not too keen on that idea, so I tried a few of the products I had to hand on sanded scraps of elm floorboard.  The Osma Polyx oil is definately a bit brighter and darker than commercial beeswax polish, which looks like a good finish, so I’ll go with that.  I usually make up my own with grated beeswax and pure turpentine disolved in a bain marie (jar in a water bath bath) and I have a large supply of beeswax , so just need a bit more turpentine.   I discovered a place on the floor where the boards creak – fortunately not where the bed will go, but the problem is that I didn’t take a photo of where the joists in that section run, and once laid there is little to tell me where I can put in screws to hold them tight – I don’t really want to perforate the floor with screwholes that miss the joists even though I am plugging the holes with elm pellets.  Bit more on the sort of autobiography – its now 1/4 of the maximum size allowed for a Cambridge thesis!

27th February A bit more work to do on the bedroom! The nearer you get to finishing, the slower the jobs seem to proceed – I’d guess 2 weeks, but I bet its nearer 4!   I got a call from an old client who specialises in what are called in the trade ‘ investment quality’  antique pistols.  He has a pair of pistols and wants the locks and furniture removed so he can refinish the woodwork, and doesn’t trust himself with a screwdriver so asked me if I would strip the metalwork from them for him – I am always honoured to be trusted with his stuff, and it always carries a significant stress – to the extent that I have to ‘walk round’ the job for a week or two until the mood takes me and I dive in!  I’ve written about techniques for removing awkward screws several times on the site, but I’m hoping that as these pistols will be in immaculate condition, there won’t be any problems – just need to have perfect turnscrews and hold the pistols firmly without marking them.

24th February – Floor is now all down and fixed!  I am just in the process of cutting the skirting boards to fit – the floor boards all fit together but there are still slopes and gentle curves in the floor that need the skirting boards carefully scribed in and cut.  Once I’ve cut them I’ll put them aside while I sand and seal the floor, then fit them I’m beginning to get a sense that the job might actually get finished – it will have been 5 months by the end of Feb, and there is still at least a couple of weeks of work to do –  fitting the electrical fittings and putting in the loft insualtion and a bit of painting, plus all the jobs I’ve forgotten.  I’m looking forward to a bit of gun work when its finished, before I embark on building all the secondary double glazing oak frames for the pile of super insulated glass that sits in the drawing room.   At last we are able to contemplate starting the STEM club at the school, so Dave and I can get a plan together for after the Easter holiday – we can be a bit more focussed and technical for the next session as it will be limited to children from years 5 and 6 –  9/10/11years old  (ish). Might do something like we did for the Pop Up Workshop last summer.

21st February -Having discovered that the floor board saw  blade wasn’t parallel to the sides of the sole plate, so the guide and the saw blade wern’t aligned , I took it back and changed it for a cordless circular saw,  which does the job properly as well as allowing me to cut slanting overlaps at the joints.   I have to say it was  all very easy at Screwfix even though I bought the saw in October  and don’t have the receipt – I don’t even have to give my name when I go to pick things up now, and my account lists all my past purchases if I want to return anything.   I’ve now sorted all the boards for the floor and by good fortune I was able to do it all with good boards, and am left with three or four boards that are a bit too ‘characterful’ to be used – not sure what I’ll do with them – maybe make a knotty  door for Tom.  Now I need to put down the vermiculate insulation and away we go!

20th February – I got the joists down and started to sort out the floorboards – I think I have enough if I’m careful, but the difficulty is compounded by the different widths, which means that there is a limited choice to make up each width –  the boards are mostly 2.4m long and the room is 4.2m wide  but the joints have to land on a joist – good brain exercise.  I ran into a problem when laying the first half, in that the saw I bought which is specifically designed for cutting floorboards didn’t seem to cut neatly at right angles, so I had a bit of a job neatly butting the boards.  I spent some time today trying to find out what was going wrong, thinking that it was my technique, but I discovered that the blade of the  saw is not parallel to the edges of it’s base plate, so it you try to cut along a guide line it cuts a slightly diverging path – its going back to Screwfix tomorrow!

18th February – The storm came through and cut off the power at 8:30 this morning – I got out the very cheap generator I bought about 10 years ago and have never used, and it just about managed to power enough work lights in the bedroom for me to work, but it struggles with power tools – fortunately I’d prepared all the extra joists so they only needed fixing in place – a slow job as they each have to be levelled at both ends, and there is a slight bow downwards in the middle, about 15mm. At the peak wind after lunch it detached my tarpaulin roof alongside the shed and pulled off half a dozen pantiles and broke some.  Anyway the power did eventually come back on at around 5:30 pm so the generator saved me loosing a day’s work.

17th February – Good day’s work on the floor considering I had to go into Cambridge for a long appointment with my friendly  dentist.  We’re supposed to go to a funeral in Epping in a forest tomorrow but with 70 mile an hour winds forecast to peak at the time we have to be there we are pondering……     You can see photos of the Anglian Muzzle Loaders shoot last Saturday on www.matthewnunn.co.uk under clay shoots – dozens of photos, the has put one of my Manton firing on his display panel.  I look a bit wild as I forgot my shooting cap and it was windy – I haven’t faced up to visiting the barber for a while!

16th February  Got the floor up in the other half of the room and vacuumed up the mess – not as much as the first half = I think this floor hasn’t been messed about with since around 1700 . The joists and floorboards  are deeply embedded in the flint walls, which must have been built over the timber framed shell of the building, and there are  only nail holes in the joists from these old boards – its a shame that the old boards are too bad to re-use.  I found that the space between a couple of pairs of joists was filled with hop petals as an insulation, and I think because they were supposed to keep insects at bay.  I’ve bagged up all the petals, along with quite a lot of dust, and will put them back before I lay the new floor.  I seem to remember that when the National Trust did a restoration at Wimpole Hall they found some similar old insulation, probably chaff, and carefully seived it to remove the dust – I  shall claim the dust is historically important and put it back.  Building conservation is a funny business – I did an evening  course run by three Local Authority conservation officers for a couple of years, so I do understand the issues!   I saw advice somewhere that one should check one’s blood pressure every few years, so I got out my meter and changed the batteries.  I managed to get 3 completely different readings one after the other – the first was 209/115 – almost an ambulance job, but  the other readings were a bit more sensible, but still higher than I expected so I put it on one side and tried again the next day – after a few more strange readings I realised I hadn’t got it on my wrist quite properly so I think it was having to compress my tendons as well as the blood vessel – anyway now seems about what I would expect at my age – around 123/65 so I’ll probably live to finish the floor.   I’m hoping it will all be finished by the end of February – I’d like to get on with something else!  Bit more on the ‘sort of autobiography’ for those not totally bored by it!  Claire just sent me a fantastic photo of my Manton firing – I’ll ask the photographer for permission to put it on here.

The floor does slope, but not that much!  Quite bent and rough  17 century (?) joists

14th February – Happy Valentines Day !  I forgot til just now.   The half of the floor I am working on is now more or less all finally down.  I got a pair of very cheap (£6 each) strap clamps from Screwfix  that let me pull the boards together, and I got some nifty little screws  (Tongue Tite) that go in at an angle through the tongue of the T & G boards and hold the edge down and in.  All very neat _ I just needed to make sure the ends of the boards mated up, and that the edges of the boards were reasonably straight – I had to plane a sliver off a couple.  I’ve just got a few boards to sort and lay in the passage and then I’ll start to remove the old floor from the other half of the room.

12 th February Club shoot today –  windy and cold – not an ideal day for shooting flintlock as the wind made it difficult to keep the fine priming powder in the pan – I use Swiss OB, which is horrendously expensive but you only need a small amount. I didn’t hit many clays. but I was primarily concerned with getting the gun going reliably – I was the only person shooting flint, but had the advice of Bev, who knows most of the tricks, having been shooting flint for years.  Unlike percussion, which is pretty reliable given a reasonable gun, flinters can be a bit fussy as the ignition system is not ‘cast iron’.  You have to get the main powder charge to come up close behind the touch hole – possibly by tapping the barrel or bumping the butt on the ground in some cases, or by putting a wad down the barrel quickly to act as a pump.  Then you need to get the right amount of powder, preferably the right fine priming powder,  in the right place in the pan – not covering the touch hole, with a flint approximately the right length and with a good edge for making sparks.  I had a couple of misfires of the second barrel (left) after shooting at overhead clays with the first barrel that Bev suggested might be caused by left frizzen lifting slightly on recoil and allowing some powder to escape.  I had been being pretty mean with the priming powder, and the problem went away when I was a bit more generous.  I couldn’t decide whether I should  load the barrels with the frizzens open or closed – open you can’t tell if any of the main charge has been ‘pumped through’ as it will fall away.  With the frizzens close my left frizzen has a shutter with a very small hole that is designed to obstruct the touch hole, so that doesn’t show any main charge.  The right frizzen has lost its little shutter, and does show a bit of powder in the pan after loading.  So as you can see, that is a lot of things to go wrong! I did have one shot where the left barrel fired itself immediately the right barrel went off – I was shooting at a tricky clay I had missed several times already, but this time I hit it, although I have no idea which of the shots did the damage!  I assume that the left sear doesn’t always seat in the bent – its only happened twice in 100 or so shots, and I think (maybe) that if I am conscious when I cock that side I can move the cack past the ‘drop in point’ and make sure its firmly engaged.  I’ll try to do a bit more on the sort of autobiograpy post……

11th February  Going to the Anglia Muzzle Loaders club shoot tomorrow – I haven’t been for quite a while so I thought I’d see how I got on with the flintlock, and avoiding Covid!  I have been shooting a number of different guns lately – percussion, flint and .410 and 20 bore, all of which are quite light, particularly the old Webley bolt action single, which waves about in the breeze when trying to shoot, but the funny thing is that I get about the same success rate with all of them, so I thought I’d get out my Berretta o/u 12 bore for the afternoon  and see what happened if I had a moderately heavy gun…. Will report back.  I took up all the boards as in the photo to tidy up the under structure.  I’ve been wondering for some time about the problems of moisture and shrinkage and warping of the boards.  I reckon the floor will be impervious to vapour as the boards are tongued and grooved, so if laid directly above the ceiling the underside will stabilise at the relative humidity of the workshop, which has a brick floor directly on the earth and the upper surface will be at a lower humidity as it is well insulated and may well be heated if its in use. Recipe for the boards to curl up at the edges.  So I’m putting a polythene sheet under the boards so they can stabilise at the moisture content of the room and hopefully over time will stay flat.  I have just started fixing the first boards down – I’m using flooring screws that are meant to go into the tongues at an angle of 30 degrees to the horizontal and hold the boards down,, but the first boards need screwing down on the groove side.  I  found a 6mm plug cutter in my drill box, and so I am quite happy to put the small flooring screws in from the top and plug the holes before sanding it all down – I don’t think they will show, but I’ll try to keep them regular.  The flooring screws through the tongues are suposed to be all that is necessary, but whether  that works for 300 mm wide boards I don’t know.

10th February – Busy sorting the flooring.  My beautiful  Elm 300mm wide boards are proving quite a challenge to sort out and lay – they are all different lengths, although mostly about 8 ft , a few are somewhat longer, and a few are mixed shorter lengths.  About  half are pretty clear of faults, the rest vary from small knots, with a lot having voids or knots going through the boards that will need filling with epoxy resin.  Some have pretty big knots and defects and I think it was a bit of a cheek including them in the order.  Adding to the complication is the fact that the widths vary by more than can be accomodated in the normal gaps between boards – between 300 and 304 mm, so not only do I have to try to match lengths to minimise waste, but I’m restricted to using boards that are within about 1 to 1.5 mm in width for each span.  I’ve done about 1/3rd of the floor with very little waste as I started with lots of boards to choose from.  I’ve managed to avoid short lengths of waste so far by putting in trimmers between joists if I need to join boards where there isn’t a joist – I have some spare boards, but there are quite a few I’d rather not use if possible – The bit of the floor I’ve done so far is the most visible bit – the other main area will be where a large double bed goes so I can get away with less good boards there – we shall see…………………. I’m putting fibre insulation under the boards  as the workshop below is not usually heated – made from recycled plastic bottles and much nicer to handle than glass or mineral wool, I’ve used up my store of it and I’m not sure if it is still available readily locally. Oh, and I got my letter from the tax man, instead of the £160 I thought I was owed, it turned out to be 60p, so for the 3 hours of doing the return its 20p per hour instead of £53  – shame.

Boards cut and trial positioning – not yet tight and fixed. ( the boards on the right side are not part of the scheme)

6th February.  To my brother’s funeral on Friday – it was a jolly occasion, a bit religious  considering he was an atheist, but I suppose its the price to pay for being buried in a beautiful churchyard. The wake was in Rockingham Castle Walker room and half the village turned up so there must have been over a hundred in quite a small space. My patchy knowledge of statistics told me that it was very likely that at least a couple of them will have Covid, in fact quite unlikely there won’t be anyone with it there, so I stayed outside with an old friend from school who I used to build model aircraft with.  Its funny, and nice, now even after more than 60 years and only a couple of contacts since, we drop into a familiar pattern of conversation immediately.   He pointed out that even then I would turn whatever I was doing for myself into an opportunity to sell it to other people.  I’m afraid its true!   I really want to get back to doing some gun stuff – I have two barrels that are crying out for rebrowning, but luckily no client jobs outstanding as the renovation of the bedroom is taking up all my time – I took up half the old floor so I could sort out the levels for the extra joists I will have to put in to straighten it. I can’t make the floor level as that would mean raising the corner where the door is by about 10 cm  (4 inches) and the door, which dates from about 1650 and so must be kept intact, is already very low, as they often were then as people were shorter. I can make sure that the falls are smooth and no bigger than necessary, which means putting in about 8 new joists alongside the old ones where I can.  I got out about 40 Kg of dirt and mess from under about 10 sq m of  the floor I lifted – its mostly compacted dirt and some chaff that was presumably put there for rudimentary insulation – loads of walnut shell with mouse nibblings (there are walnut trees in the garden).  I found one mouse skeleton and one bat skeleton.  The older bits of the floor are probably  almost 300 years old, so the dirt probably is too!

Most of the floor didn’t have this many sticks under it………….

3rd February.  Yesterday I went through all the boards I had picked up and measured them and noted their quality – a number had knots and voids that will need filling with epoxy or similar and they are all slightly different lengths – mostly around 8 ft.   So I have been trying to work out which bits of the floor will be the most conspicuous and which will be hidden under the bed etc.  I had planned to start at the side of the room where the bed will be, but then I changed my mind and decided to start with the visible bits, so I could use the best boards there and see how I get on – I’m not sure how much I will have left – the joists are fairly widely spaced, the room is 14 ft wide, and so using the boards economically requires some thought and planning.  So today I started pulling up the old floorboards at the end I want to lay the best boards.  The floor is very uneven at that end – a 2 meter straight edge has a 3 cm gap in the middle- anyway under the floorboards is a mess – lots of bits of joist, and lots of dirt, and quite worrying, the ‘nibs’ that should stick up between the lathes to hold the plaster on the ceiling are not there, and not much sign they ever were ( OK where I patched it though).  We have my brother’s funeral near Corby tomorrow – poor chap had Parkinsons and rapidly deteriorating health so in a way it was a relief when he died peacefully at home doing what he loved – sorting out his junk….. Anyway in his honour I decided to wash my Land Cruiser as it had been off road recently, but when out this morning I saw a hand car wash – run by Eastern Europeans as usual, and amazing – it has never has such a thorough clean, including under all the wheel arches and round the doors – £20 and it has not been so clean since it came out of the showroom where I bought it second hand about 5 years ago.  I just wished that the inside had been empty so I could have had that done too.  Here is a bit of what was under the bedroom floor;-

I put in some bits when I rebuilt the chimney 20 years ago.

1 Feb – Well I did get my tax done, and it wasn’t as bad as I thought, about 3 hours.  The tax man ends up owing me £160 so that works out at £53 per hour – not bad!  I went to fetch my floorboards today. I’d arranged to borrow a local trailer, but when I had a look at it yesterday I got a bit worried about the state of the tyres – last time I borrowed it I ended up buying one new tyre, this time I wasn’t sure any of the 4 were road legal so rather than risk 3 points of my license for each bad tyre (thats what they dish out) I hired a massive flatbed trailer – a full 20 ft long and brand new for £70 a day – a bit steep but it would have cost £200 to get the wood delivered. So now I have a massive pile of elm boards.  Laying the floor is going to be challenging as the room is 14ft wide, most of the boards are 8 ft +- 2 inches and the joists are spaced about 1m apart, so it looks as if I’m going to have to be a bit creative, and possibly splice some boards together so they butt away from a joist – quite a puzzle.  On my trip to the sawmill, which was in Sotterley, a smallish place in the country not too far from Beccles, I was reminded of a peculiarity of Google Maps routing algorithm that I’d noticed before.  If you ask it to find a route from A to B is will usually find a quick easy way to get on the nearest main road from A, but in the approaches to B it will  start to route you down all sorts of small one way roads – on this occasion I found myself driving my trailer down miles of very narrow roads, hoping that anything that came the other way would be good at reversing ( I can reverse trailers, but hadn’t tried with the hire one).  When you come to route back from B to A, it finds a nice quick way to the nearest main road, not the way you came.  My solution when I think about it is to get somewhere  is to route backwards then reverse it – you’ll probably know the roads around you if it does the silly small road thing so you can do your own thing until you are on the main road.  I’ve named the problem  ‘Google’s symetrical routing algorithm’.

30th january – I managed another day without doing my tax! sorted out a few things and got the week’s shopping in, sorted out how to fix the floorboards when I get them, and had a look at lead shot prices on the internet ( I found a source at £31.70 /Kg.  – I’ll ring them tomorrow), and did a bit more of the autobiograpy post, but have now run out of excuses……………

28th January – Just a quick correction – I got the calculation about the moisture content of wood wrong yesterday – its not as bad as I thought. I got a bit mixed up with air humidity and wood moisture – normal household  relative humidity in the UK is probably in the range 40 to 55% which gives an equilibrium moisture content in wood of  from 8 to 10% which gives a change in across grain dimension of most timber of around 1/2 %, or 1.5 mm across my 300mm boards.  I can just about live with that, but I’ll have to make sure I get it right before I butt the boards tight  against each other.  Looking at the old pine floor today, I realised that not only is it a patchwork of newer and older boards and short bits and repairs, but it actually alters alignment as it crosses the room by a few degrees – so somewhere I’ll have to taper a board.  Oh, for me the bad news is that I have to do my tax return before the 1st of Feb, although there is supposed to be a 1 month Covid extension………

27th January Had a pleasant day’s shoot at Cambridge Gun Club today – as mentioned I took the Manton double flintlock and managed to hit quite e few clays – no worst than with anything else I shoot, which is pretty good for only the third or forth time I’ve used a flintlock.  By the time I’d worked out a few of its little pecadillos with Bev and Pete’s help – both are flintlock experts – I got it going well, and it was shooting relianbly.  One thing tha we realised was that using semolina instead of a wad on top of the powder missed having the piston effect of wooshing the air down the barrel and carrying the powder into the chamber behind the touch hole.  There is the overshot card but maybe that isn’t as effective.  As I didn’t have any wads of 14 bore with me I used a card over the semolina.  How big a pproblem this is/was we were not sure – to begin with I didn’t have any problems with ignition and was using Swiss No 1 as the priming powder – later I had a few occasions where a frizzen sparked but didn’t ignite the powder in the pan, whcih we put down to the priming powder and I changed to the much finer Swiss OB.  I’m always a bit unsure about these changes that one makes, because one tends to stick with them on the basis of pretty unscientific evidence and nere revisits the issues.  Bev said he had a couple of near identical flintlock doubles, one of which went off quickly and the other was quite slow to fire, so he took the breechplugs out of both to see what the difference was – caution, both he and I are very cautious about taking the breechplugs out of doubles in case we separate the barrels so we use various clamping arrangements. anyway both breechblocks had a fairly deep hole down from the face of the plug that forms one pattern of patent breech, but the ‘good’ gun had a hole of about 7mm and the ‘bad’ one more like 3/16th of an inch ( that is how he told me – 3/16 is 4.7 mm ). He drilled the smaller one out to match the good gun and polished it with a Dremel and it was certainly shooting better.  I could never quite work out the relation between the volume of the reduced bore in relation to the total powder charge – I think that only part of the powder goes into the hole, and some sits in what is usually a semicircular depression in the top of the plug – the original idas of the patent, I think, was to start the explosion in a small relatively enclosed space and the flash front would propogate faster that ignition through the powder..  This was certainly the principle of Nock’s patent breech which had a small trnsverse chamber behind the touch hole that communicated with the main chamber via a fairly small hole.  You can tell this breech because it had s screw plug on the opposite side of the breechplug to the touch hole.   Or have I got this all wrong? someone will tell me!   I took my little Webley bolt action .410 (the Rat Gun) for the post lunch breech loading bit of the shoot using 2 1/2 inch cartridges firing 11 gm of shot as against 24 or 28 in the ‘big boy’s’ guns. The Webley has a very tight choke and probably covers well less than half the area that a 12 bore covers on normal cylinder bore . Judging by a shot into the bank at a ‘rabbit, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the diameter, so you need to be that much more accurate in your shooting – anyway I did quite well with it and broke a fair number of clays when I was onto a good run.  Back to the bedroom tomorrow – the limewash is now done so its a major cleanup, then go and get the floorboards and juggle around with the Relative Humidity of the room and the moisture content of the wood – a 5% change in R.H. makes about a 1% change in dimension across the grain in most woods – thats about 3 mm in a 300 mm wide board – so I ought to aim to get it sorted to within a couple of degrees of the highest RH its likely to experience during the year, or the floor will warp!  Probably should have specified narrower  boards – oh well, too late!

26th January The 4th Jab made me feel a bit rough for a while, but I think I have recovered quicker than from the 3rd.  I’m off to CGC tomorrow for a spot of clay shooting. I’m going to try my John Manton flintlock double – when Bev was over here picking up his guns he pressed me to shoot it again, so I’ll give it a try.  Its a nice gun and was a bargain as it has a repair spliced into the fore-end, the only thing I don’t like is that it has ginger browning on the barrels – the real shame is that its done perfectly, so I’m reluctant to get rid of it and try for a better colour.  I’ve now finished the limewashing of the bedroom walls – I ended up putting 4 coats on to get the colour solid, but its pretty quick so not a problem! I now have to get the room finally dried out so I can go and collect the elm floorboards from Sotterley next week – I think laying them is going to be quite a job as the existing floor is all over the place in terms of levels and a bit springy in places – I’ll have to do a lot of firring to level up the joists, which are bits of wood probably put there in 1750 ish and not squared very well, and a ropey in patches… are well, if I will take on these tricky jobs!

24th January Got my 4th Covid Jab tomorrow – I’ll be beginning to feel like a pincushion!  Got two coats of limewash on the walls and ceiling – it is an amazing paint on lime plaster – it just becomes part of the wall and you can’t rub it off without taking the surface of the wall with it. Not sure if I’ll do one or two more coats.  The lime putty and the Buff  Titanium pigment came to about £25 and that would be enough to to the room (40 sq m) with 4 coats  10 times over. bit more on the Sort of Autobiography, which is getting some positive comments.  I plan to do the University stuff and then my own business .

22nd January  At last, the pair of pistols is finished and in a box ready to post!  When Bev had a look at the trouble I was having getting colur onto the steel of the barrels in the browning he suggested  that I try Logwood chips in solution.  I had imagined that they might be a dye, and indeed they are used as a dye to colour fabric deep red, however then used on iron they give a chemical reaction , the Heamatoxylin in the Logwood giving a strong reaction with the iron to colour it shades of black, and leaving a light scum of black particles on the surface of the liquid.  I followed recommendations I found on the web for guns and dipped the barrels in boiling Logwood solution for a couple of minutes and the steel that had refused to colour came out a light grey – a pleasing overall effect.  while hot I poured clean boiling water over the barrels, and when they had cooled a bit, I rubbed beeswax over them and wiped it off again.  The overall job now passes my standards, and I’m happy to return them to their owner.   Having done that I went with Tom to Giles’s flat in Cambridge to clear out the last of his stuff and say goodbye to my three months of work renovating it!

 

 

 

21st January – Went to see my  Oncologist today – he was cheerful as usual – his Christmas skiing break in France had been great, although he had only made it across the French border about 20 minutes before they closed it to Brits.  Life on the edge!  A bit more on my Sort of autobiography…………. – it  had 20 views yesterday!   Mixed up some more limewash – I need to check the colours in daylight tomorrow.

20th January – got a coat of limewash on all the walls and ceilings.  Sorting out a colour is a bit of a pain – there is too much surface area for lime white to be suitable – it would be blinding, and we didn’t want a strong colour.  There is a bitof a puzzle as its an attic room, and a lot of the area is the roof slope and there isn’t a sharp boundary between the slope and the ceiling so it would be difficult to use a different colour on those surfaces.  We thougth a neutral buff shade would do, and I came across ‘buff titanium’ – a different form of titanium oxide, not the stark white that one usually associates with titanium.  I had a bit of acrylic buff titanium in a tube, enogh to make a few samples on white paper, which is a good way to test colours as you can dry them out quickly.  I got a couple ,more tubes from the art shop – enough for the first coat, but its rather pale and needs more pigment.  I found a website that sells the raw pigment as a powder, so I’ve ordered 2 Kg, which should be enough to colour the limewash a bit stronger and put on another 3 or 4 coats.  It is beginning to look like a room – I am keen to get it pained as soon as possible so it can dry thoroughly before I ship in the floorboards – the limewashing will eventually put about 24 litres of water into the room over 4 coats, and that has to be taken out – my dehudifier extracts about 6 or 7 litres a day…..

19th January – Tidying up the bedroom bits that need sorting before the floor goes in – painting the woodwork etc.

18th January – I think I’v got to the end of the plastering, so I’m letting it dry out before giving it a few coats of limewash.  Limewas is a beautiful, tough and very cheap paint – its basically a bit of lime putty and a lot of water, left for a day so the Calcium Hydroxide dissolves into the water, with a bit of colour added using acrylic paints dissolved in clean water and then added to the limewash.  The  Calcium Hysroxide only disolves to a fairly low concentration ( 1.6 gm per litre) but its enough to react with the carbon dioxide in the air to form calcium carbonate – limestone on your wall – a very tough finish and beautiful too.  I am putting a bit on the autobiographical post each day – really just a series of anecdotes as Penny says.

16th January Last week’s extra job was helping Giles emigrate to Canada, at least, getting hin out of his flat, although Tom and I have to go back next weekend to clear out the last few bits.  I’m still plastering – is going so-so. I’m beginning to get fed up with it to be honest, and almost at the point of wishing I’d got someone in to do it!  I now just have to put a very thin coat of skim lime and chalk to level out the surfaces before limewashing it with 4 or 5 coats of homemade limewash of a sutiable muted shade of nothing.  The problem I’m finding is that the setting of the plaster is very uneven – the ceiling and the tops of the walls sets up well before the walls near floor level – I’m pretty certain most of this is caused by the pattern of airflow and heat distribution in the room – I have a dehumidifier running some of the time, and occasionally a heater, but mostly I leave it to its own devices so that the lime has a chance to carbonate before it dries too much.  I hppe, optimisticall, that by the end of next weekend I will have got the plastering and limewash finished……… well, one can but hope!   I have been contemplating putting an account of bits of my working life etc on the site as a sort of autobiograpical post – I enjoy writing, and there might just be someone out there amongst the hundreds of thousands of people who have visited this blog who would find it a handy way of passing an idle moment.  Anyone not interested could always ignore it!

Nice open texture – I don’t always manage to get it this good!

12th January   Plastering going OK, but it is difficult to find the point at which the plaster is right for the surface to be reworked.   This evening’s job was to make some more bread as we have run out – I make most of it, although I’m lazy and buy the odd loaf from the surpermarket when  we’re going shopping.

11th January – Plastering not going well!  I mixed up the lime putty with sand and used half a bag of sand I had to hand, as well as a bag of kiln dried sand I bought – unfortunately the bag I had was one that I’d discarded when I did the kitchen because it had some large grit (2 -3mm) along with the sand – I should have put it in the skip then. Anyway it makes it almost impossible to put on a 2 mm skim coat, so I’ll have to chuck the large tub of plaster I mixed and start again using the fine sand – expletive deleted here.   After yesterday’s shoot Bev accidentally left his guns in my Land Cruiser that he’d been in, so he came over today to pick them up.  While he was shooting his double flinter on the shoot, it split at the wrist on the recoil, pinching a bit of his hand in the crack. The crack goes pretty well all through the wrist and as he uses quite meaty charges it won’t be adequate just to glue it.  We had a good look at the problem – my solution would be to strip the stock of the trigger guard and probably the false breech as well, and mill a deep slot into the recess where the tang of the trigger guard fits, and make a block of wood that is about 1/4 mm narrower than the slot and comes to the right level for the tang to go back onto.  This can then be glued in with epoxy, the clearance allowing a glue line – necessary with epoxy.   The trigger guard is fixed with a screw into wood and then unwinds from a threaded hole in the trigger plate at the front of the trigger guard – if necessry I would drill out the screw  – the new screw will go into the new block, so no need to plug the hole.  I’d be pretty picky about the wood I put in the slot so that the grain didn’t follow the split – I might even use good quality ply.  Thinking about holding it all together while the epoxy sets, I thought the ideal thing would be to bind it all with self amalgamating /self vulcanising tape – its a fantastically useful stuff – rubbery, will stretch to 5 times its length and then slowly shrinks somewhat, and the layers bond together into a solid mass, still rubbery and retaing a lot of tension – one of those magic things like electrolytic derusting!  On another gun issue I was showing him the pistol barrels and lamented that they hadn’t really taken – he thought they were great, and the client would be delighted!  So maybe I need to look at them in a different way………………………………….

10th January – Game shoot today – actually only 25 minutes away on very slippery roads!  I wasn’t on form, and was mostly out of the action, so that left most of the birds for those who were!  Anyway it was good to be out in the countryside and it wasn’t so cold and there was no wind, so all in all an enjoyable day.  I can now do another experiment in gun cleaning……  Back to plastering tomorrow – Tom and Giles came round yesterday for tea and I sneakily got them to take the bags of unused NHL plaster down and bring up the very heavy tubs of lime putty plaster – a tub holds 25 Kg of the lime putty, but when mixed with 2 parts sand ready to go on the walls the tub holds more, even when only half full.  Giles flys to Canada on Friday, so Thursday is reserved for shifting the last things in his flat, which means I only have 3 days work this week.  I am trying to get the wet jobs done as soon as possible so I can get the elm for the floor into the room and laid.  It is supplied planed to 22 mm thick but needs sanding – at the moment I’m not sure whether to sand it before its laid, or after, or some of both – I guess it will be clear when I see it!  the existing floor is very uneven – probably the variation in height is about 3 or 4 inches overall, and includes quite a slope. Should be fun to lay……

9th January – I thought I’d tackle a couple of outstanding jobs today – fixing up wires and pruning the vine that yielded a splendid crop of grapes this year, and finding out why there were a couple of damp spots on the sloping ceiling of  one of the bedrooms came from – turned out to be a valley that was lead dressed in about 1994 – very well done judging by the superb lead welding – turned out that a slate had slid down the roof and made a very small crack/cut, or at least that is where I think the leak was.  I contemplated doing a lead weld myself – I’ve done them in the past but I not an expert and its a difficult job.  In the end I cleaned it all up and used Fix-all.  I had a real gun surprise – as I mentioned earlier, when I finish shooting on Thursday I spray WD 40 down the barrel and planned to clean it next day – well I forgot , and didn’t remember until late yesterday when I was just going to bed, so I gave it another shot of WD 40 and left it.  I finally got round to cleaning it this  evening – boiling water, a few drops of washing up liquid and a scour with a bronze brush, rinse with boiling water and remove nipple, then a few drops of 303 cleaner (emulsifying oil)  and pump vigorously with polyester wadding round a jag.  Leave to dry for a few minutes then one run through with a folded kitchen tissue on a jag to remove water, then a new tissue with WD 40 – repeat a few times…..  Only this time the tissues came out almost completely clean, whereas they are usually dark grey/black for as long as I keep replacing them. Final wipe through with gun oil.  Not sure why it was so clean, but a lot more dirt came out with the wadding clean water than usual – I will certainly repeat the experiment ( delay of 72 hours and 2 sprays of WD 40) – a completely surprise result – I don’t think I’ve had such a clean barrel since I cleaned a newly honed barrel!

 

7th January 2022  – now finished the second coat plaster and mixed up some lime putty plaster to start the final coat – I’ll wait til Tuesday to start that, and hope that my sponged finish is rough enough for the plaster to adhere.  I had a very pleasant clay shoot at CGC yesterday – it was pretty cold, but actually I  kept quite warm, except my right hand – putting caps on is a challenge in cold weather.  I did have my Zippo hand warmer in my pocket, but there isn’t much opportunity to hold it, I had one of the disposable warmers on one shoot – it was actually a foot warmer with a self adhesive pad for sticking in your shoe, but I found it ideal to stick round the wrist of my gun so I was holding it most of the time.  The disposable ones seem to chuck out more heat than the Zippos or the charcoal ones and last at least as long – it always amazes me that they can work just by rusting a few grams of iron powder, but it makes you realise why its a good idea to keep guns oiled!   I’d been vaguely lamenting that I had no more game shoots this year, but was rung up last night and offered a muzzle loading  shoot on Monday as someone had dropped out – its pretty much my favourite shoot and only about 40 minutes away.  I had run out of semolina yesterday, so had to use cous cous – which seemed to work just fine, so I’ll have to add semolina to tomorrows shopping list.  Several of my fellow shooters seem to have adopted the habit of  putting WD 40 liberally in the barrels of their guns (out of the stocks) after use, and leaving them overnight before the usual boiling water wash in the morning.  I’ve been doing this for some time (and not just for lazyness) and it does make them quite noticably easier to clean. I was looking at the visitor statistics for this blog – most visitors are from the US, next is UK then Europe, with lots from China and Russia – not sure what they make of it, or if its all attempted hijacks!   I had an email from a work colleague from about 50 years ago who had come across this website and managed to associate it with me – goodness knows how as he isn’t an antique gun person.

3rd January – Back to plastering all day – the NHL plaster drives me mad, but I’m learning to get the better of it, although the floor is knee deep in blobs of plaster!  I am using my 1 meter long springy edge (plastering spatula) to level the plaster, and then after a decent interval of 4 to 6 hours going over it vigorously with a sponge float to get rid of any lines etc.  Seems to work.  I will go over it all with some decent lime putty plaster as a finisheng coat.  I was reminded that this web site was originally started to post breadmaking information, hence the un-gunlike name.  It had a brief period as a roof restoration story, and then became a gun blog.  I still make almost all the bread as we prefer it to anything ou can buy in the supermarkets, and we don’t have access to a decent baker, Cambridge and it’s several French bakers being too far and too much parking trouble.  I was reminded yesterday of my early days of experimenting when I made a couple of loaves – Giles is emigrating this month and gave us his Kenwood Chef – its a lot better at least in theory, than mine, which was a very cheap version from TKMAX many years ago and has suffered many indignities, including falling off the table while mixing dough and continuing to mix while lying on its side on the floor – several times.  Its now tied on!  Anyway Giles’s has a posh stainless steel bowl, ours has a cheap plastic one  – but when I tried the stainless one it wouldn’t mix dough at my preferred consistency – the dough just spread itself round the outside of the bowl and left a void in the middle in which the blade rotated and I had to intervene several times.  Its all down to the brushed stainless surface which the dough stickes to – its more difficult to clean too – you leave the plastic one and the bits of dough fall off when they dry, not so the metal one.   When made the bread didn’t rise quite as it should – its interesting because it shows how many variables there are in the process…..  As a boring scientist I’m always interested in how domestic appliences etc earn their keep –  if the breadmaker cost £100 and I use it twice a week for ten years, that still adds about 10p to the cost of a loaf.  When we first had the above ground swimming pool I used to note the cost per swim – its now about £2 per person per swim. Makes you think…..  End of Christmas holidays tomorrow, although mine ended a couple of days ago – lets hope for a better 2022……………….

2nd January 2022  Well, I made it into 2022 in one piece!  Given the ever circling Covid and it’s attempt in March 2020 to do for me, that has to be good.  My best wishes for 2022 to all the followers of this blog, and my particular thanks to the kind and thoughtful people who email me from around the world when I don’t post for a while to see if I’m OK.   I started on the second coat plastering yesterday – I got the plaster recommended by the supplier of the wood fibre boards, but I think its not really the right stuff for the job – I think it is meant for external render.  I always use lime plaster as its an old house, and in the past I have always made my plaster using lime putty, sand and chalk, but this time I’m using the recommended bagged lime plaster which is based on Naturally Hydraulic Lime (NHL) which sets by forming silicates as well as combining with carbon dioxide, whereas the lime putty doesn’t form silicates and sets much more slowly.  Anyway the plaster I have for the second coat ( and enough for a final coat) is a real pain to use!  Lime putty plaster is ‘fat’ and workable and spreads easily as its somewhat thixotropic – this stuff is horribly sticky, even when quite soft and begins to stiffen up almost immediately you have mixed it – not at all pleasant to work with, and not really possible to ‘bring it back ‘ to rework the surface when its beginning to harden up – horrid stuff, but I have another 8 bags, so I will probably use it for the second coat and try to level out all the surfaces, then switch to ‘real’ lime putty.   I put the single barreled gun together – its quite a nice single percussion – I had made a lock for it and engraved my name on the lock and barrel and re-browned the barrel, but the rib came off so I had to resolder it and then re-brown it  – I just hope that the relevant authorities can see that its actually made from antique parts and is thus an antique!  I dug out the Westley Richards double percussion that I used to shoot when I was a teenager going out in the evening to shoot pidgeons to feed the ferrets.  ( turns out Pete, one of the Anglia Muzzle Loaders used to shoot the same wood when he lived at Fingringhoe!).  I used it again for a year or so when I started shooting with the Anglian Muzzle loaders but gave up on it as it would bung up and misfire from the 30th shot on any session – clean it thoroughly and it was fine for another 30 shots .  Anyway it looks a bit sad as the barrel is a bit rusted and stained although the bore is good and there is plenty of metal, so I think I’ll have a go at re-browning it – I’m keen to find something that actually browns ‘properly’ rather than these pistol barrels which are still resisting colouring on the steel after 10 brownings,  I might also investigate why it misfired, although I am always reluctant to remove the breech blocks from doubles as its easy to put a force on them that separates the barrels – and that leads to a major, beastly job.

The barrel of the single has a mild but acceptable browning.

My old Westley Richards percussion – I’m hoping the barrels will clean up a bit without taking off too much metal

 I think it looks worse that it is – we shall see!

31st December – Its late, New Year soon!  I didn’t start the plastering today, just sorted a few tools and got the lads to carry 10 bags of plaster upstairs.   I’m still browning the pistol barrels, but maybe they will shortly come good.  I resoldered the rib on a single percussion some time ago and got fed up trying to brown it, so after about a dozen brownings without much colour I propped it up in the workshop and left it (probably for 3 months).  I thought It looked pretty rusty, so I thought I’d better at least clean off the rust and oil it or it would just clutter up the workshop and mean that gun was useless.  I wire brushed it fairly vigorously and it didn’t look too bad – I heated it up on the AGA and poured boiling water over it several times and rubbed it over with a block of beeswax while still hot (my favourite finish) and I have to say it looks quite a decent lightish brown, but certainly within the range of decent shades and with a strong twist figure. Now Ive got to find the breechblock!  Happy New Year in 2 minutes………….

30th December – The percussion lock is now done.  I realised that I couldn’t re harden the tumbler  without disturbing the silver soldered extension, but when I heated it up to I probably didn’t take the bits round the bents up to a high enough temperature to anneal them – anyway it works just fine!  I coloured up the cock a little – I tried to get the area round the square red hot and dumped it in water, but it didn’t harden much.   As I mentioned its a late percussion gun ?1850 ish?  so the mainspring is more like that of a modern sidelock – the early springs often? usually? had a short top arm compared to the acting arm but later on they got more nearly equal lengths.  I had always wondered about the elegant taper of mainsprings, and I read somewhere that the test of a good spring was that when amost fully closed you could just run a 10 thou feeler gauge all the way along the gap between the blades.  The spring in this gun is extremely strong and when the lock is on full cock the blades of the spring are almost closed. I am a bit concerned that the spring is so strong that it will strain my cock-tumbler square!  I’m tempted to anneal it and close it up a bit as there is no need for such a strong spring, although I suppose it might take the odd millisecond off the firing delay.  I’m trying to steel myself for a return to plastering – I was going to buy a new, £60, replacement for my old plastering trowel which was bowed, but I had a look at the new one in Screwfix and decided that they were meant to be like that, so saved that expense! I do have a nice new finishing trowel that is flat, so that will suffice for the final stages.  I’m still trying to brown the barrels of the two pistols and its still not happening – the soft iron is getting well rusted and dark, but the steel is acting like stainless steel and doesn’t take any colour to speak of. I’m half a dozen rustings into the third attempt, lets hope……………….. I  have never seen this problem before! Well, actually see tomorrows entry- I did despair of the single barrel.

Little blob of grease from the cock screw spoils the picture!

As was – I’d already changed the nipple for one of my titanium ones

29th December – 2022 is approaching rapidly!  I tried to drill out the bits in the cock thread, but the thread extractor metal was harder then the rest even after annealing, so the drill just started to wander, so that was a fail.  I Araldited the tumbler in a bit of faced off bar located by the bearing on the back and cut off the square and faced the 3mm stub and put a 4mm end mill into it for about 3.5mm and turned up a short piece of bar to fit to replace the square and silver soldered it in place, then filed a square on it.  Its interesting that there was a de-facto standard amonst percussion gunmakers that defined the alignment of the square on the tumbler shaft so that cocks are often interchangeable.  I tried to use this standard orientaion and filed up the cock to match – As with many gunmakers I didn’t get a perfect square, but I did get a reasonable fit in the correct orientation – I used one of my unused castings for the cock as the original was pretty horrible.  All that remains to do now is to reharden the tumbler and colour up the cock – not sure that it needs hardening – and make the No 4 UNF cock screw.  I had a bit of a problem with my lathe today – a few times recently it hasn’t powered up when I’ve switched the mains on, and I’ve had to feel round the back in the wiring box and reset the circuit breaker (switching off at the mains first!)  This time it was dead whatever I did to the circuit breaker.  It’s a big lathe and weighs over half a ton and the wiring box is at the back and there is only about 4 inches clearance to the wall.  I cursed, and went and got my testmeter and a crowbar – but when I came back it was on so did the job.  Went out later and same thing, came back an hour later and it was on.  I suspect the main circuit breaker may be faulty as the work light isn’t on and that doesn’t have any of the trips and interlocks in its circuit……Have to dig out the crcuit diagram if I can find it…..   Something else to sort out.   I ought to get back to plastering tomorrow – I need to go to Screwfix to pick up a new plastering trowel as my old one is bowed – thats £50!  I forgot when I was having my rant about the building inspectorate failings to include Grenfell.

The 2 punch marks are interesting – possibly to shift the stopping point of the tumbler?

just hope the brazed joint is strong enough over such a small area…..

I used the one on the left to replace the central one.

Getting on for a day’s work…….

28th December  While waiting for the third try at browning the pistol barrels (!) I got out the slip that was waiting in the office and had a look at the next job which I had more or less forgotten about… Its a percussion single – not particularly special, Birmingham and late.  The cock screw had sheared off, and the owner had resourcefully acquired a screw extractor to  try to remove it.  As anyone who has tried that with an old gun will tell you (with hindsight!), that is a recipe for disaster because the extractor, in doing its job expands the stuck piece of thread, which of course means that its stuck even more firmly – the harder you try the harder it is locked in place until, as in this case, the screw extractor also shears off – and that is likely to be even harder metal than the original screw.  Usually with a flintlock or older percussion I would araldite the tumbler to a bar in the lathe and turn off the whole square and drill out the tumbler and silver solder in a new axle and put a new square on the end and tap a new hole – takes a while but is straightforward although it does mean annealing and re-hardening the tumbler.  However, with this late gun the tumbler has a link to the mainspring (no link on older guns), and the link folds into a slot in  the arm on the tumbler, and the slot actually crosses into the tumbler axis so if I made a new axle I’d have to cut a slot through it, and I am not confident my miller will be accurate enough to cut a 1/16 inch slot.  So that solution is not easy, although I could file the slot before fixing the axle in the tumbler.  That leaves softening the tumbler and trying to drill out the broken extractor and bit of screw, and hoping there is enough metal left to tap a thread without weakening the square – maybe I’ll try that and if it doesn’t work I’ll try the new axle.  The cock (hammer) is a bit of a mess, probably a bad a casting, and has had multiple attempts at tightening it on the square.  I can either fit another cock – I do have 2 suitable castings – or drop a milling cutter through the cock and silver solder in a disk and remake the square to fit the tumbler….   I will have to get back to plastering soon, but I might just sneak another day tomorrow – I did manage to do some work on the loft hatch today so at least some work was done……  Oh and I did a little tinkering on the pistol wood repair and it looks even better.

The hammer looks as if its got some terrible skin disease on its nose

27th December  More work on the pistol stock.  I had to cut back quite a chunk to get to good wood – some of the black stained (rust) wood was very weak – anyway I glued in a chunk of walnut with isocyanate – its quick and makes a thin glue line and doesn’t need clamping, just a quick squirt of activator.  I have now cut it back to match the curves and coloured it up – unfortunately there is still some stained wood around that it would not have been sensible to cut out, so I had to stain the patch black to match.  Then a couple of coats of thin shellac and a rub down with 2500 paper and its looking good – I gave the wood a quick polish with my favourite wax polish – its actually a hard mould release wax polish that gives a good finish and doesn’t clog things too much.   I listened to a program on house ventilation this morning that set me thinking – modern building regs call for 0.4 air changes per hour – if you put 10 people in a 30 cu meter room in about an hour with that low level of ventilation they will be be breathing 5% of other people’s breath even if the air mixes perfectly – ideal for transmitting Omicron!  My old house probably runs at more than 5 air changes per hour – if I hold up a sheet of newspaper in a doorway it isn’t vertical.  Much healthier . So once again building regs have got it wrong – in the 1940’s it was cement as strong as brick, so cracks propogate through walls, in the 1970 is was all reinforced concrete now rusting and spalling off.  Now we are burying tons of carbon intensive concrete in massive foundations – a friend got permission for a 3m x 3m extension to his small Victorian cottage – the building inspector insisted on 2m deep foundations, then looked at them and said they needed to go to 3m deep – right up against the cottage with its ?600mm deep foundations!  How stupid can you get – my friend is now waiting for cracks to appear in the cottage while the extension sits rock solid!

I think this pistol must have been lying on a damp surface for years judging by the stains.

 

Final clean up and polish still to do.

26th December  My holiday from plastering continues, so I got a bit more gun stuff done today (about time too, I hear you say!).  I hardened the spring I modified yesterday with the propane torch and polished it and found a nice spot on the less hot plate of the AGA where the temperature was about 310 C, so I put the spring down there and covered it with a pad of fibreglass insulation (the sort used in roofs) and left it for 15 minutes.  When I got it out it was a nice blue colour indicative of about the required temperature for tempering springs – 305 to 310 C according to my book.  I had been quite careful to open the spring to the same extent as the extant spring on the other pistol while it was soft, and was extremely careful to ‘work the spring in’ to let any stress in the metal redistribute itself  before fully compressing it.  I even kept it fairly warm to make sure it didn’t fracture – it works, thank goodness, so that is one more job out of the way. The photo shows the new spring in place and a modern sidelock spring very similar to the one I modified to make it – the critical detail is the distance of the peg on the side of the upper leaf from the ‘elbow’ of the spring, the rest can be sorted in the cutting, bending and welding – the top leg needs a fairly high tab built up on it, or the elbow hangs down below the edge of the lock and the top arm touches the barrel. The stock of one of the pistols has a crack running forward from the rear side nail cup and looks a bit of a mess – its a very  common place for pistols to crack – they tend to crack from the side nail hole right through the stock, often on both sides.  First thing is to investigate the obvious crack – I do this under the microscope as its easier to see what the materials are, picking the crack out with a modelling knife to get to some wood.  In this case I found I was digging in black filler/glue ( not wax as it didn’t melt).  Now there is no point in trying to put a repair on top of an old repair, so its a matter of digging away till you get to some solid wood, in this case taking out quite a lot of the filler. you then need to finish the gap with straight sides, preferably tapering so you can get a good fit.  I think I’m now almost back to wood, so tomorrow I’ll shape a matching piece of walnut with the right grain and glue it in place. It is always better to make sure you cut back to a sound foundation – trying to keep repairs as small as possible often doesn’t quite look right if there is still some damage on either side.

 

 

 

 

New spring and modern sidelock or late percussion  spring very similar to the one modified for the new spring.

 

Still a bit more at the top to come off as there is still some damage to be cut out and the gap needs to be tapered for a good fit.

25th December  –  I can’t believe how long it is since I last posted – I’m sorry, but I guess a lot of my regular readers will have got fed up and deserted – don’t blame them!  My excuse is that I’ve been desperately working on the house restoration, trying to get to the point of finishing the ‘wet trades’ i.e. plastering before Christmas.  I wasn’t sure if I could do the plastering myself, or if I’d need to get a professional in to do it. Well, I did just manage to finish the first coats on everything and so get the bulk of the drying out of the way – I’m quite slow, which is OK with lime plaster as it doesn’t ‘go off’ like gypsom plaster, so it took me around 5 days to do the 50 sq meters of the walls and ceiling, which were mostly wood fibre board (in place of the original laths) and some cork insulation.  It all required a base coat, then pressing in a fibreglass mesh to stabilise it, then going over with another thin coat to hide the mesh. One job I didn’t enjoy was pressing 3 meter lengths of mesh into the wet plaster on the ceiling – until you have got most of it stuck it doesn’t stay up, and once its stuck you can’t move it around to align it, and then it all falls down and you are left standing there draped in mesh partly covered in plaster – not fun.  It went reasonably well and is flat enough for the top coat, although I found that my big posh finishing trowel had got slightly banana shaped somehow so it won’t do for the top coats – fortunately I bought another one earlier.  I hadn’t realised that there was what I call ‘tool porn’ in the plastering trade, where manufacturers try to make functional tools look sexy and posh as well as functioning well,  I also notice that the cool tool colours are now black and yellow- copied from DeWalt tools.   My excuse for not posting is that at my age 7 or 8 hours work, including plastering leaves one completely zonked out ( is that still a word – we used it when I was a child) so I miss my usual active late night slot. Today being Christmas I have a bit more energy – we had a small family Christmas party, but as some of us are vulnerable, including me, we decided to have it outside round the fire pit with hand food, like we did last year – it actually worked pretty well and no-one died of hypothermia, or at least not before they left.   On the gun front I haven’t done much although I will do some over the next few days while I rest from plastering.  I had a clay shoot with a few friends a CGC a coupleof weeks ago and shot the best I have done for years, if not ever – I wonder if having shot very little for the last two years has got rid of some bad habits I had!  The cheering thing was that I shot well with my percussion Nock single ( the only muzzle loader that I shoot nowadays), but also with a 20 bore hammer gun,  I am getting back to the broken spring job, having made one new spring and then broken it, I’ve found another spring that could be modified, and bent, filed and welded it to fit – I now have to harden and temper it and hope that it will not break – I will be very gently and will probably end up with a spring that is on the weak side, but better than another broken one.  I still haven’t managed to get a decent brown on the pistol barrels – I got rather deperessed by my previous attempts, but am steeling myself for attempt no 3.  I also realised there is another job in a gun slip in the office that a friend left to be sorted out – I can’t even remember the exact details, although I think I wanted to find another percussion cock for it, and was going over to see Dick before this latest Covid thing happened – his wife has type 1 diabetes so is vulnerable, and he is on immunosuppressive drugs and so is very vulnerable, so that won’t happen for at least  a few months.   I wish the vaccine refusenics realised the stress they cause, including to the hospital staff I know who have to pick up the pieces of their obstinacy!     Lets all get jabbed and boosted and re boosted and take care so we can get back to something resembling a  normal life again.  The drug companies are doing a great job designing new treatments as well as vaccines so I hope the days are approaching when Covid can be treated the same way as seasonal flu – I got an email form the NHS a  couple of days ago saying I would get one of the new monoclonal antibody drugs if I got Covid so I’m on their radar which is good news…..  Take care,  and I hope you have a good 2022.

11 November – Really good muzzle loading shoot yesterday!  Weather very cloudy and occasional Scotch mist – enough to twart one of the flintlockers for one drive – and not a breath of wind to deflect the birds.  The bag was fairly small – 67,  but the birds were flying well and the drives were good and even, so everyone had a most enjoyable time – proving that numbers are not everything.  I had mostly pegs on the outskirts and wasn’t in line for any big flushes, and I decided that I prefer it that way, especially as I shoot my single barreled percussion gun, so ‘left and rights’ are not possible. I seem to be the only person to shoot a single – someone asked my why I used it – the answer is I shoot better with it than any other gun I have, it is light to carry about all day (5 1/4 lbs), and it saves the dilemma of whether to reload after shooting one barrel or wait til you have shot both.  I was surprised in discussion to learn that other experienced shooters had inadvertently reloaded with a cap still on the live barrel! I  did make a small plastic ‘top hat’ that fits over the nipple and is locked in place by the cock, but I haven’t used it.     All in all a very good day, enhanced by the fact that it was only 25 minutes drive from home.  I seem to have got my left eye under control – I have a vintage pair of big gold round frame glasses of the type the NHS used to issue that have a W bridge instead of nose pads – so they fit closer to my face than normal specs and thus offer better protection from bits of cap.  I put a bit of sellotape over the top quarter of the left lens which is just enough to stop my left eye dominating when my head is down on the stock – I don’t notice it when looking normally.     I’m carrying on the browning of the pistol barrels – I think we are getting somewhere this time – I’m about 6 or 7 rustings in, so hopefully we will be nearly there.    Work on the bedroom continues – still not much visible reconstruction yet, but lots of fiddly framing started, and I’m now putting in conduits to pull the electrics through later.  I need to use conduits as the house seems to have had a severe mouse problem at some time – much to my surprise they seem to be happy burrowing and making nests in the fibreglass insulation – which makes it pretty disgusting – I’m replacing it with wood fibre (Seico Flex 036) and I’ll try to compartmentalise it to keep rodents out.   I did come across one power wire that had the insulation nibbled off – jut not enough to electrocute the perpetrator!  In my last house when I lifted a floorboard there was a 2 meter length of flat cable with all the copper exposed like a railway track!  That was the advantage of the old TRS rubber covered cable – nothing ate it, although it did get brittle.

7th November – I’m sorry for the missed blogs – I got a nasty infection that made me feel rather useless – and it took a while to sort out – I even stopped working on the bedroom restoration and sat on the sofa most of the day.  I did try and do a bit of gun work, but that turned out to be a disaster!  My browning of the pistol barrels got no-where – goodness knows why.  I never managed to touch some of the steel layers – almost as if it was stainless steel, and the rest didn’t get any colour to speak of – a complete mystery – I ran it to about 14 browning and then gave up and decided to start again when I felt a bit more dynamic!  I hardened and tempered the pistol spring, but wasn’t really ‘with it’ and it ended up a bit too open and the ‘hook’ end snapped when I tried to put it in the pistol – I will have to tackle that shortly!  I am now more or less back on track and working on the bedroom again, which is just as well as there is a load of work to do – as I pointed out before, I do tend to get more ruthless as I begin to be able to see the job in hand – so I did a bit more demolition and removed an old built-in cupboard that was built of completely woodwormed uprights.  I  now have a larger room to finish.  I have taken it all back to the rafters I put in in 2002, and will put in lots of insulation before putting on Savolit wood fibre board – its a substitute for lathes and can be diretly plastered over.  There 1s a lot of plastering to do  – 40  or so sq meters at three coats, I’m not very quick at plastereing so I might ‘cheat’ and get a professional in to do it if I can find someone who is good with lime plaster.  We had Giles’s flat  plastered by a pro – a joy to watch and perfectly smooth, but he left one room to his mate, and that was no better than I could have done (but quicker).

25th October  The browning of the two barrels looks a bit more promising – I may have found a clue – I suspect that if you put on the browning too generously it actually takes off the existing oxide layer? sounds improbably I know, but I’m now wiping on a very little browning solution.  I spent the afternoon scrubbing distemper off the gable end wall  (horrid job) so I could dub it out flat ready for attaching the cork.  I rang the floor board chap this morning to confirm their bank details as my bank doesn’t like me using bank details that come from emails – there  are loads of scams called BECS going the rounds, where somehow a scammer intercepts genuine emails from a business and sends an email perporting to come from that business but with the scammer’s own bank details.  It is usually directed at big business and has raked in hundreds of millions of pounds for the scammers.  Penny got scammed out of £500 pounds when having carpets fitted in the cottage in Cornwall, so I take it seriously…….   Anyway the floor board chap (Ben at Sutton Timber if you need floorboards!) pointed out that I’d better get all the ‘wet trades’ finished before fitting the floor or the boards would curl up ( actually curl down is more likely!) so I must push ahead with the plastering, but a lot to do first – like putting in the conduits for the power and lights, and sticking the wood fibre boards up so I have something to plaster onto!

24th October – Well, a bit of a gap again – sorry!  I had a skip delivered so have been trying to fill it to justify 6 cu yds!  Work on the bedroom has been progressing – I have been debating what to do about the floor – its a mix of old and not so old pine boards with lots of patches and gaps – I was going to board it with OSB and have it carpeted but Giles pursuaded me that that wasn’t in keeping with all the other fearures of the room – I did think of getting a few old pine boards and lifting the floor and relaying it, but figured that that would be quite difficult as the nails will surely tear the wood if they are lifted.  Anyway after a discussion and a search on the internet I have opted for new Elm floorboards (I didn’t know you could still get Elm in England!) 300 mm wide – we have other rooms with old Elm floorboards, so its a reasonable choice.  One really surprising thing came to light when I lifted a section of floorboard – the space between the joists was filled with tan coloured loose material that looked like perfect insulation – at first I thought it was coarse sawdust, but careful examination showed it was plant material that I identified as the petals of hops – I got some hops from the garden, and apart from the colour (garden ones are paler) they were identical.  Goodness knows how many hops would be needed to fill around 10 sq meters of floor to a depth of about 7 cm (3 ins) – I wondered if they were a byproduct of brewing or something.  Anyway they are clean and a good insulator (the room underneath was the dairy) and will stay, possibly supplemented with some vermiculite if there are empty joists.  I’ve never heard of hop petals being used as insulation in old buildings – must make some enquiries….  Things happened on the gun front, but slowly – I did about 8 rustings of the two pistol barrels but they haven’t started to brown yet – in despair I rang Dick to see if he would like to have a go, but he said it usually takes him 10 to 12 rustings and I should be a bit more patient!  I have adjusted my technique, being careful to apply browning with an almost dry sponge, and using medium steel wool…. we shall see……….  The pistol’s owner sent me the stocks to make sure things fit and work – I was having problems with the heel of the spring coming below the lock edge, so I welded a longer stud on the top arm that locates on the bolster, that kicked the heel up, but the tumbler end of the spring then got a bit low and was too short – straightening out the bent bit a little fixed the length, and bending it down cured the problem of the low spring – now I just have to reharden it.   Now I just have a little bit of woodwork to do on one stock and finish the browning, then I have another gun to sort out and another client is threatening to visit wih more work….. And I think I have another pistol to do that I’d forgotten about! And the frames to make for the secondary double glazing…… Plus I have to plan and buy stuff for the STEM club that starts after half term next week…………..   Maybe I should retire for the third or fourth  time, but I don’t seem very good at it!

17th October – I got one gun job out of the way this morning – a repaired spur and ‘mouth’ on a percussion cock to engrave – difficult as its all on a steep curve, so I resorted to the GRS – the welds are not altogether even textured so it was not straightforward, but the overall effect is OK.  I coloured it down with my gas-oxy torch, and then made its mate the same – I think it looks good, but I don’t have the gun to check the overall effect.  I photographed the cocks together after I’d engraved the top and  the photo showed that the repaired cock had much less engraving on the high part of the body – its a thing I’ve  noticed before – you think a job is done and you photograph it, and pack it up to go, then later you look at the photo and see a problem.  Anyway I got the cock out again and recut that bit of engraving – the two cocks are subtely different in engraving and surface texture but now look a bit more of a pair. I’ve done two brownings of the pistol barrels – they are beginning to show figure, but there is still a fair amount of metal the browning won’t bite on.  I’ve been taking photos after each browning, but they don’t show up  as much as in actuality – I must see if I can find a photo trick to show the actual effect.  You can distinctly see that the barrel is made of strands of different iron/steel rather than a homogenous material, but as its a pistol barrel the composite bar wasn’t wound round a mandrell in a spiral as it would be in the case of a long gun, but was made into a strip and wrapped round the mandrell and hammer welded into a tube in a series of grooves in an anvil with a lap joint so broadly the pattern runs along the barrel.  I believe most pistols were made this way, as were all (?)  military muskets and rifles. Some fancy pistols did have wound barrels and elaborate patterning, but most didn’t.

After second rusting – there is pattern, but faint, and a lot of untouched metal!

the cock on the left has lost its engraving on the high part

 

 

Recut – original engraving not identical on the two cocks…… (& different lighting)

Here is the bedroom I’m working on – the visible vapour membrane is directly inside the  slates. –

there is 140 mm of wood fibre insulation to go in and 60 mm of cork on the gable end wall.

This beam is probably at least 250 years old – it has a curved  brace at the left end that I’m repairing as its half rotten.

A similar brace at the right end is missing and will be re-instated when I can find a curved bit of wood.

16th October -More work on the bedroom yesterday – got me thinking about the 7 deadly sins of old house restoration and what would be the 7 deadly sins of old gun restoration. My 7 for old buildings are :- 1) Cement, 2) UPVC in any shape or form, 3) MDF board, 4) Plasterboard, 5) Vapour barriers, 6 Struck pointing of brickwork, 7) Float glass.  Not sure I can get to 7 for guns ;- 1) Sandblasting (yes, it has been done!), 2) Brazing of broken parts, 3) Use of woodfiller, 4) Polyurethane or similar varnish, 5) stainless steel, 6) Slotted head woodscrews, 7) Almost all sanding of existing wookwork.   This weekend is devoted to getting some gun jobs done – I’ve prepped the barrels and cleaned them with water and washing up liquid to get rid of any oil, then given them a wash over with chalk and water mixed like thin cream.  When this was allowed to dry you can see some figure showing through as faint rust marks – the beginnings of browning – its now having its first proper browning.  I decided to make a completely new top jaw screw and cut the thread on the lathe since it is set up for a suitable thread pitch – 28 tpi.  I heated up the top of the screw and dipped it in colour case hardening compound not to full read heat – anyway that dulled it down a bit.  I then reverse electrolytically derusted it ( i.e. rusted it rapidly) – in order to slightly dull the surface.  Its actually put some natural looking blobs of the surface too.  Its not a bad match for the original, I’m satisfied.  There is one niggling job that I need to attend to;- the new mainspring I made/converted is very close to the edge of the lock, and probably won’t fit within the lock pocket of the completed pistol (which I don’t have) = There are 2 options, either move the hole in the lockplate that houses the peg on the top leg of the spring, or reshape or remake the spring.  Either way its a great bore and will take a while – the lock plate is hardened so I’d have to anneal it, which won’t improve it, so I’ll proably work on the spring!  I got an email from school a couple of days ago asking if I’d organise/run a project for 2 classes to build their Nativity display models for the local church – I’ll be delighted to do it, I’ve already bought a couple of strings of LED christmas lights to illuminate Bethlehem!  Bit ironic for an atheist to be doing the church display but hey ho, thats life……

 

II can tell them apart ‘in the flesh’ but don’t know which is which from the photo, so must be OK!

14th October – Destruction more or less complete – just waiting to get the last 20 bags of rubble and muck down to the ground using my ‘crane’ – actually just a pulley stuck out on an arm  from the window. It needs two people, one up one down, to operate so I have to wait for Giles to come over tomorrow.  I was just about to finish in time for my 4 p.m. transfer to gun jobs when the materials for rebuilding were delivered on a couple of pallets and dumped outside – that took most of my afternoon gun time to sort out, anyway nearly ready to go, some framing up to do and it will be ready to stick on the sheets of wood fibreboard (Savilit) that will be the base for plastering with lime plaster.  So I had better go and get a few minutes work on outstanding gun jobs.  I’ve got a percussion cock that has been welded to re-engrave – its all curved surfaces which are very difficult to do hand encraving as you can only keep a constant depth of cut by EXACTLY following the curved surfaces, otherwise you almost invariably slip and make horrid cuts.  My solution for this is to use the pneumatic graver (GRS) that operates with almost no push and so doesn’t tend to slip.  I’ll go and start now………

13th October – Still destroying!  Quite mild here – how long will it last?  We have a massive crop of green tomatoes in need of another week’s sun – can’t face that much chutney!  We planted a grape vine about 5 years ago and have never had more than a handful of unripe grapes, but this year it made it from its trelis to the south facing wall of the house and went mad – we must have had enough grapes for a Chateau Cablesfarm vintage – bottles running to two or three figures ( that’s roman numerals).  It won’t happen, as the potential  winemaker ate them all at about a bunch a day for the last month.   I’m still experimenting with striking up the pistol barrels. One of the problems with using a file is that occasionally a speck of metal gets embedded in the file and creates a deeper scratch.  I tend to file wet as this helps avoid the problem – some people use chalk for the same purpose, not sure which is best.  I got good results from using a small  fine diamond sharpener stuck to a plastic handle (EZE-LAP) until the white spirit I was using disolved the adhesive holding the diamond onto the plastic.   My current best guess at a good technique is filing down to No 4, then use a fine slip, then 400 grit and finally 1000 grit. Looking under my x25 microscope there is still plenty for the browning to get a bite on.  I’ve recut the engraving on the barrels a couple of times as I’ve filed so that they still look crisp.  The microscope x25 does reveal that the surface still has multiple small pits, but I think when browned they will not show (they don’t really show to the naked eye) so I think I’m now ready to go!  I have had to divide my day up to get both the bedroom and the guns done – I reckon 6 hours of labouring is enough at my age, so at 4 p.m. I retire to the gun workshop for a bit of filing etc. ( after a cup of tea of course) until 6, then maybe back again after dinner for an hour or two if I feel energetic, then attend to the blog if I have anything to say!

Photo a month ago  – a few of the many bunches – almost all eaten now!

12th October – Mostly busy on the bedroom renovation – still in the destruction phase. I went out today to buy some 12 mm OSB sheets for some ‘undersheets’ and to make the floor fit for a carpet, but it turns out that OSB is now in very short supply and is almost impossible to get. Shame as there are no really good substitutes.   I spent a bit of time on Sunday and this evening striking off the two pistol barrels.  Nick, a fellow antique firearms collector sent me a link to a facebook page re my post about the difficulty of browning barrels if you burnish them too well.  The link said that the correspondent never went any finer than 360 grit paper, so the browning had something to bite on.  I wouldn’t be as catagorical as that, some very high class pistols had very highly polished barrels under the browning, but it does make the point.  I rang Dick, who has done many more barrels than I have – he basically works up through the paper grades to 1500.  His browning is good.  I feel it is ‘horses for courses’ as usual – looking at a number of guns you can see distinct longitudinal marks (scratches) along the barrel in guns that have never been re-browned, so they were quite coarsely finished when made.  The pistol barrels I’m doing are fairly badly rusted in places, so there is no chance of  striking them off to get rid of all the pits, so I figure it would be better not to have a highly  polished brown.   For pistols with Octagonal barrels my current technique is to strike off the flats with a good No. 3 file used lubricated with thin oil or white spirit (could use water with a drop of detergent but you can’t leave the work in progress or it will rust) either used as in draw filing with the file at right angles to the barrel, or if the barrel faces are flat along the barrel ( these ones are) then you can use the file parallel to the barrel.  Follow this up with a No 4 file used similarly. then a N0 6.   I then have a small slip stone that gets rid of most of the file marks.  The advantage of using files and the slip is that they are completely flat surfaces and therefore keep the flats flat.  In fact, often the flats are not flat but very slightly convex, so you can allow for that as you file.  I really don’t like using abrasive paper  any more than I have to, as I think it is always liable to round the corners off, but after I have filed and stoned, I’ll work through a couple of grades of paper wrapped round a flat surface narrower than the flat of the barrel.  If you have engraving you want to preserve, be careful if you use paper as it invariably rounds the edges of the lettering.  I did try to get the breechplugs out of these barrels, but failed, and it wasn’t essential so I left them in.

If you click on the images you’ll see the rust pitting – it won’t be too conspicuous when done, but its too much to be filed off completely

Top one is at 800 grit stage, buottom one is at slip-stone stage.

8th October – Still hoping to get down to some decent gun work – I have 2 pistol barrels to strike off and brown, but the last two I have done have been a bit of a pain as it took more rustings than usual to get the browning to bite on the steel component of the iron/steel mix in the twist barrels.  I suspect that I may be rubbing the rust off too well between rustings and burnishing the metal to a surface that resisted the rust?  I have been using 0000 steel wool,  while conventional advice is to use a wire brush, but I didn’t have anything except a very coarse brush that I thought would scratch the metal. Anyway I had to do something to put things right, so a search on the web brought up ‘The Wire Brush company’or something like that, and I was able to buy a couple of brushes that were (probably) more suitable – one with .015 mm diameter wire and one with .035 diameter.  I think the website was the one where I found my very fine Vertex wire wheel recently.  I will be interested to see how the next two barrels turn out.  The stripping out of the bedroom is progressing well – as usual the more I do the more drastic my stripping becomes!  Having taken the plaster off the lathes, it was clear the lathes were going to be problematic to retain, and also I needed to improve the insulation between the rafters (its an attic bedroom), so all the lathes are coming out and after I have put in the new insulation (140 mm of wood fibre) I will put on a 15mm  board made of  bonded long wood fibres that can be plastered on.  We started to remove the plaster from one of the slopes, only to discover that it was plastered onto reeds, and so is probably a considerably older generation of work than the lathe and plaster – anyway its interesting enough that I decided to retain it – it has 150mm of fibreglass inulation behind it, so not too bad.  The gable end wall can’t be insulated on the outside ( its a flint wall and it would be desecration) so I’ll add a layer of insulation inside. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of space due to the shape of the room – too thick a wall and there wouldn’t be room for a double bed, so I will have to make do with 50 mm of cork insulation and the plaster applied to that.  I’ve been having fun calculating U values and juggling things!  Insulation Rebellion would be proud if only they were really interested in getting people on-side instead of just driving diesel cars and living in uninsulated houses and alienating people !

6th October  – Excellent day’s shooting yesterday – after fretting all week at the dire weather forecast we had only 5 minutes of light rain the whole day, and any moisture had evaporated in ten minutes!  It took me a while to get my eye in – there was quite a breeze and  I had a couple of stands at the beginning that were at the downwind end of the line so the birds were motoring.  I thought I was better at partridges, but in fact I had a better hit rate at pheasants.  Anyway good fun, and it was nice to see a group of friends who I hadn’t seen for almost two years.  The world is coming back to life again, and I’ve gone from having no restoration work coming in for the last couple of years to having 3 or 4 jobs drop on me in the last month.  I had a visit from the ‘magic’ double glazing chap this morning, and Dave and I had a look at the sample – It is rather impressive – two sheets of glass about 3.8 mm thick with a 0.1 mm gap in the middle which is a vacuum, giving a toal thickness of 7.8 mm.  Normal double glazing has a 20 mm gap filled with argon or krypton that transmits heat by convection – around 70% of the total  heat transferred. Triple glazing is a way to overcome this but then you end up with very thick & heavy units.  The magic units give a thermal performance better than good triple glazing!  They are also pretty good at sound insulation as sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum.  The secret of how the relatively thin glass doesn’t bend inward under the vacuum is a series of 0.5 mm diameter pillars on a grid of about 25 mm that you just don’t see when its in a window – if you place the unit on a sheet of white paper you can see them but they are not particularly obvious.  So I decided to do a couple more windows and replace the glass in the back door.  It is expensive – its very complex to make – but we all have to do what we can to fight global warming, and insulating homes is (probably) one of the best ways. Oh, and the units are fully recyclable – I’m beginning to feel virtuous……  I do get a bit fed up with most of the discussions of what we need to do to get to carbon neutral – a very necessary aim in itself – because we seem blind to the enormous amount of energy that will go into manufacturing all the electric cars, trucks, houses, boilers, heat pumps, nuclear power plants and even wind farms themselves –  That will probably balance out any benefits from the use of these fossil fuel saving systems for years to come, and we won’t have low carbon technologies on line to make these low carbon technologies.  On the other hand we have to start somewhere!

 

4th October.  work has started on the bedroom- I found a newspaper I had put there when I first did a preliminary rebuild in prparation for the full works – the newspaper was dated 2002!  How time flies….  I spent a happy hour starting on a new cock screw.  I couldn’t find a suitable thread to use on the new one, so I have turned up a head and plan to weld it onto the old screw – I’ve done it before with side nails and it does work although its a bit fiddly getting the two bits lined up and getting electrical connection for the welder too.  I’ve jigged them up in a piece of brass channel in the hope that that will work.  I use modelling clay to hold the bits while I make the initial tack as it lasts long enough, just.  Shooting tomorrow so no chance of any gun work – I’m still pondering the welder – I put a current sensing resistor in the celectrode cable, so I will do some esperiments to see what current I want to work at.  The weather for the shoot tomorrow looks a little better than it did, but not too brilliant!

 

Not sure about that – might have another go – its not rounded enough!

3rd October  managed to fit in a bit of work on the pistol sear – mainly ‘tuning’ it to give the right position of half and full cock – its sensitive to the length of the nose of the sear, as you would expect, so you need to file the nose down with extreme caution to avoid taking too much off and having to start over again.  Anyway it now works and I straightened out the sear arm as I hope it no longer needs to be cranked, then hardened it and tempered it a bit in a fine flame, avoiding directly heating the sear nose, just letting the colour run down and dunking it in water when it had gone straw coloured.  I annealed the sear arm, holding the body of the sear in the vice to keep it cool, as it may need to be bent to fit – I haven’t got the stocks of the pistols so I hope it fits, otherwise the owner will have to try bending it!   The welding on the underside of the sear is not perfect – I was struggling a bit as I mentioned before – I went on the web looking for advice on low current welding but it seems that there may be a number of issues with welders, particularly cheap ones, that mitigate against very fine welding – I understand that welders give a short pulse of quite a significant current to start the arc – maybe as much as 50 amps so my quest for a very controllable low current welder may be pushing me up out of my price range – thats what usually happens when I try to be particular about what I  want!  If I can’t find a suitable welder at a reasonable price I will program up a microcomputer to give me short pulses as in a more expensive welder. I spent a couple of hours building a crane to stick out of the bedroom window to lower the old plaster and get the new stuff up as we don’t really want it trecked through the house and over the Persian carpet in the living room!   A major triumph – I did a sortie after diesel – my car is OK but Penny’s is quite low, so I took a 10 litre can and did a reccy and found the local Tescos had diesel so a quick call got Penny out to fill up.  It really is quite difficult round here – it seems to be pretty easy to get petrol but not diesel.  If we hadn’t got some for Penny’s car I was going to borrow a petrol car for a while!    I’m shooting on Tuesday, which is the only day in the next fortnight that is forecast to have heavy rain!  We are to bring a breechloader in case its too wet for muzzle loaders.  I’m not too sure how game reacts to heavy rain but I would be surprised if they can be persuaded to leave cover!  I’ll take my 1950s Bereta  20 bore hammer gun – it has a very tight choke on both barrels so will be a challenge to hit anything, assuming there is anything to hit!  I would take my bolt action .410 ( the rat gun!) as a challenge, only I don’t have enough 2 1/2 inch cartridges to be worth it. But it will be nice to get out!

1 October – I’ve had to spend time prepping the work area for next week and finishing the prototype secondary glazing frame so I can work out the exact sizes of the super insulating glass to order – its on 8 weeks delivery so I wan to get the order in ASAP.  My gun workshop is now getting cold so I have to get the woodburning stove going, which inhibits me from short expeditions to work on guns.  We did manage to fill up the Land Cruiser with fuel and put 10 litres from a can into Penny’s car, but that won’t last long…………

28th September -I’ve spent some time getting ready to start work on the spare bedroom – plaster to be stripped, insulation put on the external wall and all replastered with lime plaster – my grand-daughter starts work on it next Monday – she is used to working on building sites and has done some demolition work so should be well suited!  I’ve also been preparing the wood for one of the secondary glazing frames as a trial.  In the gun line, I’ve made a new spring for one of the Richards pistols out of a modern mainspring – I welded a ‘flag’ on to space it off the bolster – my welder wasn’t set up very well so its not visually perfect, but it is sound and it all works well.  I can’t get that abrupt right angle that the old springs had at the start of the ‘hook’ that engages with the tumbler, but never mind, this one works very well. ( I think I don’t have a hot enough flame).  I’m now working on the sear – you can see from the photo what the difference in the sear shape is for the two pistols.  I tuned up the welder so it started at a lower current, but now it doesn’t really have enough electrode current to strike a proper arc when you just turn it on with the pedal, but does start the high voltage discharge that is supposed to initiate the arc – the high voltage discharge is a bit fierce and seems to blow the tip off the electrode.  I’ll have to have another go at adjusting it, or I might just put in another potentiometer to allow me to adjust the start current.  Nothing is straighforward – I suppose I should have bought a proper TIG welder with a pedal control and pulse drive instead of modifying a cheap one!   Anyway, be that as it may, I did manage a bit of blob welding on the sear without destroying any vital bits, and am now filing it to shape – its a slow process as I must avoid taking too much off!  I think there is a problem with the contact point for the sear spring which means that I may have to file down that area to get it to work.   I had a meeting with the head of ‘my’ school yesterday about restarting my STEM club after half term, and what we would be doing.  There is a bit of a problem as the school has moved over to Chromebooks instead of laptop PCs, and the they run an operating system based on linux but not standard linux, so only a few programs can run on them – unfortunately our favourite Python front end  (Mu python) is one that won’t run for the  BBC microbits, and its an essential part of our plans!  We’re suffering a bit due to the ‘petrol’crisis as Penny’s car is almost empty and so my Land Cruiser is getting a lot of use!  I did try to syphon the diesel out of mine as her car does about twice the mileage that mine does, but mine has a crafty anti-syphon block at or near the tank and I can’t manage to get a pipe into the fuel, even quite a thin one…………………. Oh and I just spotted what I think is my first visitor from the Falkland Islands on this website – welcome!

 

The one on the left is the ‘wrong’ one – its too short so the cock doesn’t clear the frizzen at half cock – also you can see the bends in it.

25th September – I spent the afternoon sawing and planing up the oak for the first secondary glazing frame for the kitchen window – I just had enough oak in stock to complete the job with oak that was a reasonable match to iteslf, although it’s very light compared to the existing frames, which were quite dark to start with and have darkened in the last 20 odd years.  I got round to some work on the bits of the Richards pistols I have to restore – the locks were a little pitted in places and I scraped off a bit of rust from the insides and stripped the works to check everything was OK and wire brushed the whole lot with my 3 thou wire brush to even up the finish.  The No 1 pistol needs a new mainspring – I think I have a modern one that can be cut down and modified to fit – I have annealed it and begun the work – I need to weld the pillar that engages in the slot in the bolster on the short leg, and shape the hook on the long arm.  Cleaning and checking the No 2 pistol I found when I tried to put a flint in it, that at half cock the top jaw collides with the frizzen.  I also found that it was very hard to move the sear.  You can also see that several attempts have been made to bend the sear arm, and you can also see that the angle the sear spring makes with the top of the sear is too steep so there is too much friction when you try to lift the sear.  All this can be put down to a replacement sear that is too short in the nose where it engages with the bents – it needs the nose extended by some 1 1/2 to 2 mm to work properly, or a new sear made.  In all probability the sear was a poor working life replacement, as was (probably) the top jaw screw on No 2, which is just not quite right.   What to do about the sear?  The pistol is not a shooter, so it doesn’t really affect it directly, but its up to the client – I’ll email and see what he wants me to do.

Half cock – note frizzen isn’t quite closed, sear arm is too low, sear spring angle is wrong  and sear arm is bent slightly.  Sear nose is too short!

 

22nd September – In keeping with the spirit of the age I’m preparing to double glaze the leaded windows in the kitchen, living room, library and one bedroom.  I made the frames and leaded windows around 20 years ago – each is slightly different as the openings were not identical, having been originally made around 1800 when the old 17/18th century house was given a makeover.  I plan to make additional internal frames for secondary glazing. I was looking on the web at prices and performance for toughened glass, perspex or polycarbonate when I came across a strange product that is a very thin sealed glass unit claiming a performance better than most double glazing.  Its intended for replacing the glass in wooden window frames as its not much thicker (6.7mm) than normal window glass, but gives you an insulation performance better than 20 mm thick sealed units.  Yes, I was sceptical too!  It does this using very thin glass (3mm) and a .7mm vacuum gap with glass micro pillars keeping the two sides apart.  It is of course quite expensive at about £280 per square meter, but I’m intrigued.  I’ve talked to the UK agent ( its made in Belgium) and am waiting for a sample.  The snag is an 8 week delivery delay.  My plan is to use this glass in the secondary glazing, which should give a very good insulation –  I’ll keep you posted on progress – if I get a sample I’ll run my own insulation test!  I got the gun with the sheared off tumbler bolt and ratty looking hammer to fix, so that is a job in the queue.  I also have a couple of business card sized plates to engrave to go on presentations, so I ordered a couple of bits of 0.8mm sterling silver from Cooksongold.  When I took the protective film off them the surfaces were strongly marked with striations all over.  I put one surface on the buffing wheel but that just made the surface look worse. Obviously a major cock-up somewhere at Cooksongold.  I phoned and they asked for photos, which I sent and I’ve been trying to ring them all day but there seems to be something wrong with their phone…… Off tomorrow for a quiet shoot at Cambridge to see if I can hit anything – I’ll use the little Nock  16 Bore single again, I am so comfortable with that gun – and its light to lug about (5 1/4 lbs) – I shoot 2 1/2 drams of Czech powder and 1 oz of shot.  I guess it kicks a bit, but fortunately I am not particularly sensitive to it – I have noticed a strange phenomenon – I can shoot that load at clays or game all day without noticing it, but if at the end of a game shoot I need to clear the gun by firing it into the air with a normal hold, it kicks like hell….. others have noticed the effect too. Must remember to take the taped glasses!

This was supposed to be polished silver!

19th September – Most enjoyable shoot on Saturday.  I put a bit of clear sellotape over the top of the left lens of my spare glasses – I only use that bit of the lens when shooting (the glasses have big round lenses) so I can see normally the rest of the time.  The sellotape just fuzzes the view enough to make the brain switch dominance to the right eye but not enough to make one conscious of it.  Anyway it worked and I had a sucessful day – I was back to my ususal habit of shooting really well for the first couple of stands, and then not quite so well – the same happens in competitions at clays.  Using a single barreled gun is bit limiting on a game shoot, but I am very quick at reloading as I am using semolina in place of wads – very few of the ‘gang’ who tried semolina still use it, although as far as I can discover the reasons are not related to shooting performance.  I reckon I can reload in less than half the time it takes wad users to load a double.   It was a beautiful warm day with mostly gentle breezes – absolutely lovely to be out in the country – it has really boosted my mood and I’m feeling dynamic – just as well in view of my pile of work in hand.  Nick sent me a couple of photos of a very small flint pocket pistol in a pretty poor condition that he’de found in a flea market and asking my advice on whether to buy it – I thought it would make a good project, and as it was pretty cheap it might be a good opportunity to give it a more thorough makeover than I would if a pistol had more intrinsic value.  Final decision will wait ’til its in my hands……. Among the jobs in hand is possibly replacing some of the silver inlay in the pocket pistol.  I had hoped that I could draw silver wire flat, but it doesn’t really work – there is no substitute for a set of rolls, which I don’t have – so I either have to get some rolls, make some, or get someone who does have jeweller’s roll to flatten the wire for me.

17th September – Shoot tomorrow – I  am a bit concerned about my ability to hit anything after my last outing at clays as I still have a left eye dominance problem so I am reverting to my most reliable percussion, my little Henry Nock single.  In previous posts I described converting it to flint, and it worked well, but I’m not confident to use it on a game shoot as a flintlock so I have swapped it back. I converted it by making a new lock plate etc and just  used the mainspring, tumbler, bridle, sear and sear spring from the old lock ( I made new screws as I couldn’t match the threads of the old lockplate)  Anyway it was the work of half an hour to swap the touch hole for the drum and nipple and swap the bits over to the old lockplate.   I got used to shooting a single barreled gun and I do find it more pointable – which is why under and over breech loaders have more or less completely taken over from side by side guns.  Using a single has the disadvantage, of course, that you can never get a nice left and right, and you do miss having a second barrel at times, but on the other hand it saves that terrible dilemma with a muzzle loader – whether to reload after one shot if there is a lull, or hang on a shoot both barrels before reloading.  Reloading one barrel is a pain as you have to remove the cap from the ‘live’ barrel, which is always a fiddle, even with my design of decapper. I saw my Oncologist today and asked about my level of immunity to a second dose of Covid – answer, more or less, is my guess is as good as his but probably not great – its a good excuse to avoid what I don’t particularly want to do but not enough to totally avoid what I do want to do! Simple really.

15th September – I seem to have a couple of restoration jobs about to come in – both with a bit of a story behind them!   One is a fairly basic Birmingham Percussion single that has a replacement cock/hammer that doesn’t fit very well.  The owner went to unscrew the cock screw that holds it onto the tumbler and the head came off ‘ in his hand’ without any great force.  I was able to reassure him that we had all been there several times before!  There are two possible causes – either the screw is fractured or corroded and so has very little strength left, or that has already happened to the last owner and he stuck it on with glue.! I’ve had both. In this case my friend tried a thread extractor in a drilled hole in the remains of the screw, and broke off the extractor.  I have to say that I have only used a thread extractor once on a gun as far as I can remember, and that wasn’t very sucessful either!  The basic problem is that the screw/stud/thread extractor forces its way into the remains of the screw and in doing so expands the screw to ensure its an even tighter fit in the threads – the harder you screw in the extractor, the tighter the screw gets…. obvious really!  There are in my view a very limited set of circumstances in which an extractor is any use – its a fine balance in keeping the hole for the extractor fairly small compared with the screw root diameter so there is enough metal in the remains of the screw to resist the radial expansion, while at the same time getting a big enough extractor that it won’t break.  Maybe some people have better luck with them on car engines etc.   Given the existing situation there are a couple of possible solutions – 1)  heat the tumbler shaft up and anneal it to soften the bit of the extractor and try to drill it all out and retap the hole, or  mount a bit of bar in the chuck of the lathe, drill a hole for the back bearing of the tumbler and araldite the tumbler to the block, then cut off the squared bit of the tumbler shaft and drill the tumbler out, then turn up a new shaft and silver solder it in, taking care to get the orientation right when you file on the square ( although you can always heat it up and try again!  The second job involves a mainspring that broke due to mild thermal shock – again I’ve had a mainspring break because I looked at it, or at least that is how it felt at the time.  I also put a mainspring in my derusting tank and came back 10 minutes later to find it in 3 pieces in the bottom of the tank – when I looked at it there were loads of laminar cracks in the spring – the odd thing is that I’m sure it worked before I took it out of the lock!    I do know about hydrogen embritlement but that is only supposed to happen quite slowly as hydrogen diffuses into the metal and then only on high strength steels…..  I finished the browning of the single barrel as the surface was getting slightly rough – I probably left it too long, but my patience was stretched!  If it was a proper job I’d have paid a bit more attention, but its a rough old gun anyway!  The onset of Autumn brought the usual plague of small rodents entering the house (heaven knows where they get in) – I got 7 in 3 days which give me a short lull to go round and find any ways for them to move between rooms – the standard test is that a mouse can get through any crack you can push a pencil into – obviously there has to be some width….

13th September – Following my comment about cateracts I had a very helpful email from a regular viewer of this website – he recommended that when I have my discussion with the opthalmologist I mention that I shoot, as it is possible to specify different lenses for different applications.  Driving lenses are apparently designed to limit dazzle but lenses suitable for shooting are brighter.  I will definately have that conversation.  One of the tricky aspects of this blog is deciding just how much personal stuff to include – like cateracts.  I am sure some regulars would prefer that the site was exclusively about antique firearms, while I believe others do enjoy a more rounded view of what I do!  Talking of which, I am gearing up to renovate a bedroom – move a wall, insulate the outside aslls, redo the floor and redo the lath and plaster ceiling and walls, and at the moment its rather full of furniture that ought to go to the saleroom, although none of it is worth much.  Anyway one nice item is an oak roll-top desk that we have had for some time – the tambour (the roll bit) came apart in me hands, honest guv, so after a quick check on the web I took the desk apart and retrieved the tambour, which had clearly been patched up half a dozen times already – that left me with a choice – do I take all the canvas off the back and start over again or patch the worst bits – in the end I opted for patching – I’m not sure it was the right decision but it should work well enough.  If the renovation sounds like a big job, it is!  I re-roofed that part of the house about 20 years ago – its basically an attic with sloping walls – and left the old roof timbers holding up the plaster while I planted a new roof and new wall plate on top.  We didn’t need the room then so its still as I left it after the re-roofing…. should be loads of fun!     I’m still browning the barrel of my single gun – I didn’t give it a dunk in copper sulphate, which I should have done, so it took around 12 rustings before it would put any colour on the lighter bits of the metal, and even then only if I steamed it after each rusting…. I think its getting there now but I haven’t checked the last rusting.  I started off using Blackley’s Slow Brown, then moved to my ex printed circuit solution and then tried Dyson’s slow brown – but as I was using the same bit of sponge to put it on with, and didn’t wash it out between rustings I was clearly using a mix of all three for all the latter rustings… better go and have a look at it.  And I’ve got some bread rising too.   I had a long conversation with a shooting friend who had been very ill and lost a lot of weight, as I did with Covid – Like me, he had to carry a cushion around as he couldn’t sit on a hard chair, but he is now recovered enough to be shooting and playing golf again.  We are both a bit surprised at how even at our age you can ‘re-inflate’ muscle if you eat enough – maybe we should try extreme bodybuilding to see if it works for us!

9th Septemeber – Shooting today at Cambridge Gun Club – hopeless!  I did a lot worse than I did at the helice (which wasn’t particularly good but it is develish hard)  and just couldn’t get on the clays.. When I got home I think I found the problem – I have cateracts in both eyes – not bad enough to get them done on the NHS, but progressive, and my left eye seems to be taking over.  I have used glasses with a piece of sellotape across the left lense to supress the left eye in the past when it has been a problem, but I didn’t think of it this time as I didn’t identify the problem – stupid really!  Anyway I think on general grounds I am going to have to get them done, even if I have to pay the 2.5K each eye will cost – have to sell some of my best guns!  I guess I’ll have to wait until I can find a several weeks when I don’t need to drive.  I may need to slip off to CGC for a private check before the game shoot – with sellotaped glasses!   On the plus side I found my box of card/wad punches right in plain view….. Definately time to get my eyes done!

8th September  Disaster – I’m shooting (clays) tomorrow for a warm-up for the next game shoot and I’ve mislaid my box of card punches and I’m not sure I have enough overshot cards.  I know I have seen them fairly recently, which makes it all the more maddening!   I was thinking I might shoot my 11 bore Westley Richards for game shoots, but I got it out of the cabinet but  found it much too heavy although last time I’d handled it I thought it would be OK – probably my arms/shoulders were a bit tired from swimming – it does weigh 8 lbs which is a bit much for swinging about after partridges!  I had an email from a chap in Canada with some photos of a pistol by H W Mortimer and Son that he had bought at auction asking about restoration.  It got me thinking about what is a good candidate for restoration and what is not, at least from my perspective.  In most cases if something is missing, broken or not working then, provided its viable from a cost perspective or has some personal significance, then it’s reasonable to fix it.  Similarly its obviously valid to clean active rust and remove dirt from metal and wood, but one needs to exercise care if that destroys the original finish or a patina that has developed with time.  Beyond that, its a matter of judgement – for instance, one often finds a pistol with the barrel in a worse state than the lock and furniture – the barrel being soft and the rest hard or semi hard – if the barrel has deep rust it can be a mistake to try and refinish it – you may end up making the rust stand out, but if a light striking off refreshes the surface rebrowning may well enhance the result.  I don’t belong to the school of thought that likes to see antiques restored to the condition they left the maker,  patina and the odd dings are part of the gun’s history, but each situation needs careful thought – sorry there is no easy answer!    I spent this morning doing silverwork – my sister in law had 3 napkin rings that she wanted worked on, one to remove the badge of the Clacton on Sea Bowls Association and the other two to cover the inscription/name with a silver plate so I could engrave the names of her grandchildren.  I had just enough .7mm thick silver to make plaques, and some ‘easy’ silver solder paste – it melts at 680C, well below the melting point of the silver., so now I just have to engrave the names on them.  I’ll do a few test engravings in copper to get my hand in – its harder than the silver but near enough.  We are having a few days of late summer – I have managed a swim on the last 3 days, the water in the pool is gradually rising from about 19C last week and its now about 22C  – the surface gets a bit hotter after mid-day – I think tomorrow will be the last hot day.

5th September – Family birthday party today – outside in lovely weather for a change!  Lots of fun for my grand daughter of 11 playing with the boat we made at school on our pool, joined by adults too.  On my birthday I started a course of drugs for my CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukeamia) – I currently don’t have any effects from the CLL but my specialist thinks I soon will so is keen to get me popping Acalbrutinib.  So far no side effects, touch wood.   I’m still undecided whether my first partridge shoot should be flint of percussion, but I am moving towards a percussion as my good flint is only single barreled and that is a bit of a disadvantage.  I resoldered the rib on my ‘Tim Owen’ single percussion as it came off recently – I think its on OK, although not the most elegant job.  I really hate resoldering barrels as its so difficult to clean up the metal to get it to tin properly,  Now I have to re-brown the barrel, – it has a nice damascus pattern (I think) so I am wondering whether to ‘flash’ it in copper sulphate to etch the surface a bit and bring out the pattern.  I still have the Venebles to re-do, I soldered the barrels but it subsequently sprung the rib (its a double so double trouble!) so I’ve to do it over again. I do get asked from time to time if I do restorations for clients – the answer is I do, I’m careful about what I can offer to achieve, and prefer not to do work that doesn’t ‘earn its keep’ by adding to the value of the gun.  I won’t do deliberate faking – like changing the maker’s name etc,  and I prefer work I can put on this blog, even if sometimes I hide the maker’s name.  I don’t do work on licensed breech loading firearms or modern repros, and I ask anyone sending me an antique to remove it from their certificate to ensure that it is a Sect. 58/2 firearm (an antique that can be held without a license) as I am not a registered firearms dealer.

2nd Sept – my birthday today!  So I can be allowed a rant!  The latest report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse was published yesterday and makes pretty sickening reading – almost all  of the major religions in the UK have significant failings in parts, for instance some don’t accept some reports of child sex abuse ( one requires 2 witnesses, would you believe it !) or try to cover them up, so the remarks I wrote yesterday before I saw it do look uncomfortably near the truth. Rant over! ………………………………. Apart from tidying up the garden for a party on Sunday , I did manage to nickel plate the trigger of the cigar cutter- it seemed to lay a thin coat of nickel, then a thicker coat that didn’t properly attach to the thinner coat and peeled off if scratched with a finger nail…. not sure what happened, but it looks about OK against the abraded plating on the rest of the pistol, so I’ll leave it.

You can download the full ‘child sex abuse in religious organisations’  report  here;-

https://www.iicsa.org.uk/document/child-protection-religious-organisations-and-settings-investigation-report-september-2021

1st September – bit of a pause as I had to go down to Wales to set a memorial stone on mum in laws grave in a field, then it was the bank holiday.  I have been playing around with silver wire, and built a little adjustable jig for flattening silver wire – works quite nicely – I can get 0.4 mm wire down to strip about .16 thick which should be OK for the superimposed pistol butt.  I have also been doing some preliminary experiments with nickel plating.  You can use an electolyte made by mixing spirit viengar (basically aceatic acid) with a bit of salt and passing a current through a couple of nickel electrodes ’til the vinegar turns nicely green.  I did an experimental plate which seemed to work, but the finish was not perfect – I shall use a lower voltage and colder solution and see how it comes out.  I’ve been reading an account of Cook’s voyages by William Kingston, published in about 1880 by the the Religious Track Society.  I find it mindblowing how arrogant the author was in regard to ‘converting the heathen’  , and  his objection to Cook’s complete omission of any ‘missionary’ activities.  Although the book is now 150 years old  I guess we still unfortunately see that sort of blinkered religious belief in parts of the world – and sometimes close to home…… One of the  (6) leaders of a  religious group present in the UK  ( I won’t name it!) is reported in today’s Times as saying that it was an offense under their religious law to report  child sexual abuse unless the victim was under 12 or 13!

25th August – a fun day filling a skip with rubbish!  I managed to get the cigar cutter trigger to work after silver soldering a couple of bits to it – I looked at ‘cigar cutter pistols’ on ebay – one for £185 and one for over £400. Probably  somewhat better than mine, but it does justify the time spent making a new trigger!  Perhaps I’ll sell it when its finished….

 

 

The bad joint is OK on the other side – just a bit wonky – quick job…

24th August – did a bit of work on a trigger for the cigar cutter – think I have filed off too much, may have to hard solder a bit back on!   I was looking at an antiques website that hosts sales from dealers across all sectors – the site claims to have done over 100 million pounds of business this year. Anyway I was looking at a pair of duelling pistols at some fairly high price, I can’t remember the details or the maker but that doesn’t matter as I’m not trying to shame anyone.  As always I was looking at the biggest photo I could get of the pair, and idly scanning for hints that the pistols had been restored – now dealers have one of three approaches to work done on antique firearms – be open about it, keep it quiet or not look too carefully! Or of course they may not have the experience to tell.  These pistols looked pretty genuine, and then I started looking in detail…………….  Its very common for top jaws and top jaw screws to be replaced – but its actually quite tricky to make a really authentic looking top jaw screw! – I had fun making one for the superimposed pistol below because the shape is quite critical to the eye – a few thou here and there can make all the difference.  Anyway this pair of pistols had top jaw screws that were subtly different in the washer bit that bears on the top jaw.  One had a fairly narrow collar that was slightly tapered, the other had a deeper collar that wasn’t tapered – my eye immediately called the second one into question – didn’t look right.  I don’t know if that was the replacement, but no decent gunmaker would sell a pair with that much difference.  Still its a common repair and not that important…. but you need to keep looking …. so then the rollers on the frizzen springs were different sizes – very noticably so.  Again no gunmaker would put out a pair with that difference.  This is a more serious sign as other bits must have been replaced for it to need the roller replaced, so you don’t know where it will end!  So these pistols have been ‘worked on’ – maybe even a reconversion to flint – maybe the dealer knows this, maybe not – but now you know and can walk away……………………………. happy hunting!

23rd August – Bit of garden tidying today!   The following is for UK viewers!  ………….. Browsing the web for something or other I came across a circular on the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 – this is the regulation that for the first time defined ‘antique’ in terms of firearms.  Most public comment in the gun business as about the removal of half a dozen cartidges from the list of Obselete Calibres, meaning that a number of interesting early revolvers  jump from being antiques to be prohibited weapons under Section 5 of the Firearms Act.  As a sweetener 41 cartridges are added to the Obselete Calibre list – mostly for long guns.  The argument for this is that these revolvers were occasionally used in crime by obtaining ammunition.  In truth that much was to be expected, if  a bit of an over-reaction since possessing the ammunition is itself an offence.  One small paragraph at the end did however cause me some alarm –  stuck on the end of the regulations was the extension of Section 126(3)  para 19 and 20 of the 1968 Firearms Act to include antique firearms – this is important to everyone who owns or handles any antique firearms for it means that under 19 it is now a criminal offence to have any antique firearm in a public place without a reasonable excuse despite it being perfectly legal to own, display, buy and sell ( but not to anyone with a crim. record!) them – another opportunity for the police to bother us if they are so minded.  Under  20 its now also a criminal offence to trespass with an antique, although its not a criminal offence to trespass in itself.

I also had a look at the Firearms Security Handbook 2020 – its quite interesting in the way its framed, implying that the details of security are up to the owner, but then piling on the suggested regulations, while leaving a lot of room for individual firearms officers to interpret them as they see fit. It does however suggest that all licensed muzzle loading firearms may be excluded from any counting exercise used to determine the security level demanded…   n.b any muzzle loading firearm made after Sept 1939 is NOT an antique and must be on either a Shotgun license or a Firearms certificate.

The transition period for getting rid of newly declared Sect 5 pistols etc under the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 end on 21st Sept 2021, so not long.

They can be found here;-

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/circular-0012021-antique-firearms/circular-0012021-antique-firearms-regulations-2021-and-the-policing-and-crime-act-2017-commencement-no11-and-transitional-provisions-regulations          or just Google search for ;- circular 001/2021 Antique Firearms

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/firearms-security-handbook  

Happy collecting – while we still can…………………………………

22nd August  – The little Rooke pistol I made a new trigger for was occasionally refusing to drop the trigger and cock, so I stripped it (again!) and found that the trigger was maybe 10 thou too short on the lumps that the cock moved to drop the trigger, and was jamming.  I had to weld  tiny blobs onto the tips of the trigger arms which are only about 1 mm x 1 1/2 mm – I managed it by switching my modified TIG welder on and off with the foot pedal for maybe 1/2 a second or less and wearing 2 pairs of specs, and managed to fettle it all up so it works – no room for error – I’d love a better welder!  Anyway that job seems to be done satisfactorily. I welded using piano wire as a filler rod  and the resultant blobs were so hard I could only shape them on the diamond hone – a file wouldn’t touch them.  Phew…   Reading ‘The Handgun’ by Geoffrey Boothroyd this evening I discoverd, re my earlier discussion about cock positions that allowd a cap to sit on the nipple without falling off, that Irish percussion pistols, particularly those made by Rigby, often had 3 bents in the tumbler for that purpose.  Always something new to learn………….

21st August I found a box that might do for the pair of pistols by Rooke if I don’t make one.  It had in it the parts of a small nickel plated ‘pistol’ that turned out to be a cigar cutter, rather badly bashed about.  I straigtened it out as best I could and put it back together – its missing a trigger, but otherwise seems to be OK and more or less works.  It is a rather fun thing, so I think I’ll restore for a bit of light amusement, which will involve making a trigger.  I assume from the chequering on the hammer and its shape that it was single action thumb cocked, so I’ll try to remove the hammer so I can check dimensions etc.  Another little distraction – I used to do nickel plating when I was a kid, but I didn’t keep the chemicals and can’t remember what salt to use – time to check the web!  I’ll file the trigger up out of brass – I have a suitable bar, just need to mill it down to the right thickness and maybe rough it out……  You put the mouth end of the cigar in the funnel shaped opening on top of the cylinder and the hammer cuts a V shaped notch in it.  I’ve posted a new Post on pocket pistols – not finished but some photos – I’ll do more as I get round to doing the video….

Little cigar cutter – the (fixed) ‘cylinder’ has ratchets for 5 chambers, but the face has 6 holes!

20th August I finished the trigger detent spring and hardened and tempered it and put the mechanical parts of the pistol together and it worked perfectly – the full and half cock were even it the right places!  I did a bit of patching on the butt where it joins the metal, and sorted the plate in the butt that carries the screw from the top strap – its a common weakness in these little pistols  -they have a small steel plate let in under the top of the butt that is tapped to take the screw and it isn’t visible from outside and never gets oiled or protected so it rusts.  As its usually let into a tight fitting recess in the wood, when it rusts it expands and forces the sides of the front of the butt apart, causing a split. One of the Rooke pistols had one, and this superimposed pistol does too, see photo.  I took the metal plate out – its held by a small woodscrew that sheared off, and cleaned up the metal plate and put it back with a drop of instant glue – it only needs to be held in place until the top strap is screwed on.  I clamped the split up as best I could and flooded the inside with more instant glue.  I’m now looking at doing some work on the silver inlay.  I have ordered some silver wire of 0.3 and 0.4 diameter and will experiment with making a draw plate to pull it through to flatten it. I also ordered some low viscosity instant glue to fix the inlay as I had run out.   I realised that I have repaired and restored a number of these little pistols and that I ought to do a video on how to take them apart and repair them – they are tricky little pistols, quite difficult to work on because they mostly haven’t had any attention and the screws tend to rust in and, being small are tricky to undo and prone to shearing off if  not treated carefully.  It’s a knack to take them apart and put them together again – I think it used to take me ages – and still does if the screws won’t obligue.  I only had one difficult screw on the superimposed pistol, one of the ones holding the top plate on and it eventually came out using the following treatment:  The secret of removing obstinate screws is a) clean any rust around the screw head carefully with a modelling knife and clean out the slot  b) soak them in penetrating oil for a couple of days – c) if you can get any movement in the parts that it holds together, move them. d) apply penetrating oil/acetone mix as it penetrates better.  e) Only use a perfectly fitting screwdriver – if necessary grind/sharpen it so its blade is sharp. f) work the screw in both directions – if it unscrews a bit and is tight, just keep working it back and forth, going a little further each time and making sure you have plenty of penetrating oil around. g) don’t over force it, even a minute amount of movement if  ‘worked’ should eventually get it out.  Heat may help, but too much can damage the finish, – it works better on screws that go into wood.  If those don’t help you are down to filing off the head/drilling it out and all the fuss that follows! …….. Oh, and another thing I realised about this pistol – the tap has a depression for a pan of its own, so if you prime it generously with the tap open to the bottom barrel and then close it, you trap a priming charge in the tap barrel, then when you have fired the front charge using the remains of the priming in the main pan, you open the tap and its ready primed for the breech end charge  …. crafty.

 

Looking much better! The inlay is odd – may be German silver and I can’t make out what the outlines are/were filled with, apart from muck = bit of a mystery!

T

These inserts are a pain – they rust and crack the butts!

19th August – I cleaned up the bits of the superimposed pistol and made a blank for the top jaw and filed it up, and made a top jaw screw.  I case hardened these parts, then decided to temper the top jaw to add a bit of colour, but not having the AGA I used a torch, and it came out a brilliant peacock blue, which isn’t quite authentic!  took it off with 0000 steel wool and  used a bit of slow brown, plus steam and it looks good.  I’ve now just got to make the little spring that retracts the folding trigger, and put it all together – I don’t even think I need to make any new screws, pins or nails for a change!  I had a look at the silver inlay on the butt – the strip that was used was about .15 mm thick  x 1.5 (?) mm and I can only get .3 mm thick x 3 mm – the right way to do it would be to get some wire of about .3 mm and run it through jewellers rolls, but I don’t have any – I could either make some, borrow some or try flattening wire in a press – to be decided!  first I need to get the wire – but I do have a draw plate.   In the photo of the top jaw you can see how I rough  sketch the parts I need on a card so I can take it into the machine shop – I keep the cards in case I need to refer back.  I have quite a pile!  Much of the shaping is done by eye in the end……

 

Jaw blank milled to rough thickness and card template glued on. Once the outline is filed, it will be cut off and glued to a block.

18th August – I’ve now stripped the current pistol and had a good look at how it works –  the barrel comes unscrewed in two places, the part next to the breech is removed using a ‘normal’ ring spanner with a notch to fit over a lump on the barrel, and the muzzle end is unscrewed using a star wrench into the bore.  SO obvioulsy you remove both bits, put powder in the breech, drop the ball in and put back the breech end barrel, then load that and put on the remaining bit of barrel – simple as!  I also realised that the touch hole going to the front charge (which must go through the removable breech section of barrel) is always open, the tap merely shuts off the touch hole to the rear charge.  Still seems to be nothing to stop you firing both barrels together – would be interesting to see what happened if you did (NO, I’m not going to fire it!).  Stripping the action revealed that indeed the head of the sear had broken off, and also the spring that acts to close the trigger had broken, leaving only a small part and the retaining screw.  I spent most of the day on the stripping and machined a blank for the sear and  new top jaw and filing the sear to fit – as I explained for the Rooke pistol, the trigger and sear have so many functions that need to be adjusted that it takes ages to fettle them to work. Anyway I think I have got the sear right so I hardened it – the sear edge is quite fragile as it has to fit tiny bents in the hammer.  I was a bit worried about heating it to red heat to harden it as the edge could overheat, but once coated in Blackleys colour case hardening powder it was somewhat protected – I had better temper it or it will break, which is tricky as the AGA is not on.

For scale, hole is 2 m.m. diameter

17th August  – I’ve now finished the Rooke pistols, and very nice they look too, although whether the impovement really justifies almost 6 days work is a mute point! Luckily I don’t have to pay myself….  I may get the urge to put them in a case – not because they would originally have been cased, but because it makes them easier to store, and I enjoy casemaking!  Below is a before and after.  I’m now starting on another job in the queue – even more unusual than the ‘cap guard’ (aka top  hat – not a good name) pistols. It is a flintlock pocket pistol, somewhat larger and has a tap action.  What makes it unusual is that there is only one (turnoff) barrel, so what does the tap do if it isn’t switching between two barrels – the answer is that its a superimposed load pistol – you load the barrel with one charge and ball, then put another charge and ball in front of it.  The tap controls two touch hole paths, one to the first charge loaded, and the other to the front, superimposed charge.  I haven’t stripped it down yet, but there doesn’t seem to be any mechanical means to stop the back charge being fired while the front charge is unfired, which would appear to be a bit of a defect!  I do have a French superimposed pistol of large bore by le Page, but that is percussion and does have separate cocks for each load and the trigger is cunningly controlled to make sure the front charge fires first.  I guess this smaller flint pocket pistol  only fires a small charge, so perhaps it isn’t such an issue if you fire the back charge and push out its ball plus the front load?  Still I guess it gives the firer a bit of a jolt, and can’t have much range – plus if the powder from the front charge ignites in the barrel or as it leaves it will be quite a firework! Anyway this little pistol has a broken action (I think the sear is broken – a very fiddly job to replace) and the top jaw is missing and the top jaw screw is broken off and rusted solid. Probably a couple of days work – maybe more if I try to replace the silver inlay in the butt.  I’ll strip it down and probably electolytically derust any screws etc that are badly rusted.  The rest will clean up with a fine Vertex  wire wheel on the grinder.  I have a problem with the wire wheel from time to time – they are very soft and so don’t hurt if you use your fingers to hold small parts, but are still effective at cleaning the parts of loose rust and reducing sharp burrs. My problem is that from time to time the wheel gets a grip on the part and takes it out of my fingers and it ping onto the floor and it takes ages to find.  I’ve now made a catcher to sit under the wheel and hopefully stop the part bouncing onto the floor.  It may still allow the parts to bounce out, in which case I’ll have to fill it with water!  At least having sorted the Rookes I’m up to speed on the mechanics of these posket pistols – they are all very similar inside and out….. and all very fiddly!  Its a bit of an art stripping them and assembling them, so I might do a video………………

 

 

 

 

16th August 2021  – you learn something new every day!  At the helice we were looking at an Egg single conversion from flint  and I noticed a screw head under the butt half way between the butt plate and the trigger guard that I hadn’t noticed before – I said it looked as if there had been a sling swivel there as for a rifle, but the friend viewing it with me said that it was more likely to be a spare side nail, and that a few guns had this.  Indeed when I got it home and had a well fitting turnscrew to hand it was a spare side nail, and fortunately not rusted except for round the head. There you are – another piece of gun lore from the blog!  On the subject of information my correpondent who is researching ‘cap guard’ pistols commented that I correctly hadn’t assumed that the Rooke pair were conversions from flint.  I have to admit that I hadn’t really examined one before, and the flip-up cap guard gave me a moments pause, although it soon became clear that they had been made as percussions for two reasons;  first, there was no trace of a pan ever having existed, and second that the whole pistol was ‘of a piece’ as antique experts might say.  He has identified 220 of these little ‘cap guard’ pistols by various makers – all were originally made as percussion.   My restoration continued… Ithe first pistol has enough of a nipple to fit a cap on and fire, but the second had a mashed up nipple, so I decided it deserved a new one. By design there seems to be nothing to get a wrench on, or any othere way of turning the nipple, and a thread extractor did nothing so I drilled it out, trying not to cut into the brass.  The resultant hole looked OK for a 1/4 inch tap and I was going to use the standard 1/4 BSF x26 t.p.i tap, but thought in the brass a finer thread would be better, so I opted for 1/4 BSEF x 32 t.p.i. which worked well and seemed to be the same as the original thread (?) (actually, to be honest, I couldn’t find a 1/4 BSF plug tap but did have a BSEF  – Extra Fine !).  So a new nipple was made and fitted.  I have now made the pivots and put the mechanical bits together, and finished repairing the butt.  Now just got to sort out the screws for the butt cap and to fix the body to the butt, and its done…  Another friend at the Helice was telling me he had double gun by Forsyth dated to 1822 (he was sure about that date) that had been made for percussion caps, not pellet lock conversion.  I was sceptical, as the earliest date for caps is generally taken to be 1823 and I didn’t expect Forsyth to be the first to use them.  Indeed D.H.L.Back’s book on Forsythe puts the earliest caplock made by Forsyth as about No 3327  in 1826.  Which make my friendd’s gun very important, or the date or details wrong. Sometimes a really good conversion done by the original maker not too long after manufacture will effectively be a rebuild with a new beech plug and a new lock and will be very hard to distinguish – and  may well have kept the original number.   There is seldom any absolute certainty in such cases – one of the attractions of the hobby is the detective work that collecting involves.

Spare side nail in stock of single barreled percussion converted from flint Durs Egg.

 

15th August  Helice yesterday at the Rugby ground sandwiched between the M1 and a windfarm.   I was shooting a gun I hadn’t really ever shot in ernest but I did hit 4 out of 20 – in case you think that is bad, half a dozen of the 25 odd  shooters did worse – I was reasonably satisfied!  Tom hadn’t handled a gun since 2018, and hadn’t shot that gun for 8 years and had only shot Helice once before but managed to hit 8 including a some of the very difficult ground hugging ones – he’s pretty quick, age on his side!  Anyway only half a dozen or so shot better than he did, so he was rightly pretty happy.  Anyway a good day was had by all.  I finished the escutcheon of the first little pistol – left me wondering what, if anything, I should engrave on it ?  I started to repair the butt of the other pistol – a bit of the wood had broken off rather messily.  I was going to try gluing it back on – which I know from past experience only works (sometimes) if the break is recent, new and clean, which this wasn’t – but I was saved the dilemma as I couldn’t find the piece anyway.  I found a bit of dark walnut from my scrap drawer and cut and glued it on with superglue and shaved and filed it to an approximate fit – it’s much better job and the wood matches pretty exactly.  I just have to finish the final shaping and recut the chequering onto the new piece, then make the screws and pivots for that pistol and put it together.  I thought someone might like to see what’s on my workbench when I’m working on the guns so I’ve included a photo.  There are a selection of tools including half a dozen screwdrivers (mostly watchmakers for such small pistols) and a couple of dozen files plus chisels and modelling knives etc.  Drills and machines and gas torches are elsewhere, I just use this bench for ‘fettling’ by hand – taps and dies are in the tray to go to the machine workshop.  Plastic trays from packaging get a second lease of life in the workshop!

 

Last job on the first pistol;- I need to fill the crack – I can’t close it without removing metal inserts inside.

Second pistol;- The two very faint red lines show where the joint is – the colour match is very good, not yet finally shaped.

I shudder to think how much I spent on the finer files – they can be up to £35 each.

13th August  Visit to the dentist to have  a tooth extracted – not too bad – I’m shooting the Helice at the Rugby Clay ground tomorrow with Tom, so I hope it has settled down by then!   I started to make the silver escutcheon for the completed Rooke pistol – I decided that it didn’t merit all the fuss of casting as I had a piece of silver sheet and am happy to epoxy glue it in place, so I made a former and am peining it into shape.  As I have only got a piece of silver just  big enough its difficult to shape it, so I will probably have to make the female part of the former to get it curved enough.     I made the replacement screws and filed the heads to profile – its quite tricky as you can’t file them in situu without damaging the  brass body of the pistol, and also because the slots have to end up fore and aft.  I then case hardened them and heated them to colour them a bit.  So the first one is all together and working – just waiting for the escutcheon.   I’m taking some of my spare pecussion doubles with me tomorrow on the offchance someone is in the market  –  they have all been restored and Ive tried them all – I’ll put them on the page on this site when I get a mo.

11th August  Still working on the little pistols.  I coloured up the top hat of No 1 and finished the hammer pivot and the top hat pivot.  I tried to make  a No 2 UNF screw ( 2.2 mm OD) to hold the spring on the top hat, but the metal I was using just would not let me cut such a fine thread – I ended up finding an old steel 10 BA pan head screw and  using that.  When I came to make the pivot for the top hat I found a short length of bar that had been a part of something or other that turned and threaded much better – I will keep it safe for small threads!  anyway that pistol is now mechanically complete and functional – it just needs the butt restored.  The screw holding the but cap was securely rusted in place, and the screw on the under tang had been beheaded but was still firmly embedded.  I  filed and drilled the butt cap screw to get the head off, then made a small coring drill 5.5 mm O.D. with a 4 mm hole in the middle and filed some teeth in the end and cored out the remains of the screws so that I can plug the holes for new screws – I had to take the butt cap off as it had loads of the white powder (brass polish??) under the edge so it didn’t fit flush.   Now got to sort out the chequering (very fine) and make some new screws – it really doesn’t work to use ordinary woodscrews, even old Nettlefolds slot headed screws, on guns, they never look right, for a start the slots are always too wide.  I usually turn up a short untapered screw  and cut a UNC or Whitworth thread on it and put a point on the end, which is how most gun screws were made anyway.  I am still prevaricating about the extent of any recutting of engraving to do.  I will touch im amy damaged engraving, and very gently go over the light lines that have disappeared – i.e. some of the serifs, so that the lettering can still be read.  Anything more will stand out unless I cut it deep and then polish it down, which will likely loose some of the original stuff  – you then get of a cycle of more recutting, polishing, more recutting etc… better not to start!

Arrows point to new bits-  mostly pivots and screws plus the ‘cap guard’ upstand.

9th August – Another day fixing up the little pistols, with a break for an eye test ( result – I need my cateracts done sometime – optician can’t quite understand why I can see as well as I can! ).  So back to the W & S Rooke pistols…… If I add up all the time I will have spent restoring them it will, in the end, come to at least five days, so its hardly a bargain.  Of course, profit  is not my motive, but a better return would be good!  The main time consuming part has been a replacement trigger – in these little folding trigger pistols it has a lot of interacting surfaces that have to do their job,  The trigger spindle also carries the sear that engages the bent in the hammer.  it has a stop against the trigger to lift the sear out of the bents when the trigger is pulled.  The hammer has a projection that has to hit the back of the trigger  when the pistol is cocked with the trigger retracted to open it, but the trigger must clear the hammer once it is extended.  The stud on the side of the trigger head engages with a small  spring that acts over-centre to retract the trigger into its recess and to spring it open – All quite complex on account of the whole firing mechanism only having 3 parts and 3 springs, and of course all the bits have to be quite accurately fitted.  Although the pistols are clearly a pair and match I was surprised to discover that there was a 2mm difference in the length of the triggers so it isn’t safe just to copy parts from one to the other.  Anyway the replacement trigger is now made and in so far as I can test it, works.  I’ve also made new hammer pivots.  Both pistols had the hammer pivots sheared inside on the left side of the hammer (Note that the hammer pivots and the knockout pins like the trigger pivot all go in from the left side as is usual on guns) – this meant that I had no means of extracting the bit through the hammer , and no way to strip it down further because almost the first step is to remove the hammer.  So the pivot had to be drilled out very accurately to avoid damaging the hole in the hammer or the right side of the body….. All very time consuming as I’m not familiar enough with the works of these pistols to sort things without a bit of messing about!      One little triumph today ;-  Dick and I both use very fine wire brushes on our grinders to clean up light rust and polish up steel parts without removing the patina – they are so soft that you can hold parts in your fingers without any problems.  When I moved my workshop back in January I couldn’t find the wheel, and worse, couldn’t find anything similar in the UK.  As I wanted to use one for this job I had another hunt on the web and found a company – I think called The Polishing Co or something similar, that sold exactly similar wheels – they go by the name of Vertex wheels and have wooden hubs and wires of 0.1 or 0.08 mm diameter ( 4 or 3 thou)  and cost around £25 and fit on taper screws – I got two and am now a happy bunny!   I feel the need to make another video soon – I was going to do one on restoring the little pistols, which would be interesting but doesn’t lend itself to  short films as its mostly tinkering.  I have a couple of unusual percussion shotguns with totally enclosed mechanisms – one by J R Cooper that I believe is the only example known, and one a Jones Patent – they would make a good youtube video.  Also the Satorius might make a video…  We shall see.   I was thinking about all the toools and machines I use, and wondering if I should do a post of suggestions for someone setting up to do the odd restoration – one constraint is that the most common job in any restoration is making screws, which really involves at least a small metalwork lathe of reasonable quality.  I am lucky in that I did quite a lot of prototype building as part of my instrument development company before I took to the restoration racket, and it funded all of my metal and wood working machine tools – there is no way restoration as a hobby would justify a £5000 lathe ( a fairly big Axminster Chinese lathe with digital readouts, not the smoothest but adequate!).

 

 

The arrow points to the sear that pivots independently on the trigger pivot (the long temporary rod)  Each of the surfaces on the trigger and sear has a precise function!

 

8th August – One of the nicest parts of running this website (when I have time!) are the contacts I make with other collectors and antique gun owners around the world.  Many contacts are requests for information or owners wanting restoration work or advice, but a number are from collectors adding information on guns I have featured,  often from people who have specialised in that particular class of antique and know much more about them than I do, which is always welcome.  I had a couple of those recently, one relating to my Satorius Carbine from a US collector who is making an inventory of all the Satorius patent guns he can find.  He has amassed quite a list – most are sporting guns not putative military weapons like mine.  The odd thing is that the serial numbers of the military types are spread over the complete distribution of numbers, implying that they were not produced as a batch for a single customer as I had assumed.  I’ll add the additional information to the Satorius post in due course when I have his consent.  Another email concerned the pair of percussion pistols I am currently working on.  He points out that the makers are W & S Rooke, not H & S as I misread it.  Blackmore says they were active in Birmingham from 1820 to 1837 and marked their guns London, but my old book by Merwyn Casey gives ” W & S Rooke [1770 to 1820] Under Royal Government contract made flintlock holster pistols with swivel ramrods, also cased flintlock coach pistols. Shop in London”  Obviously the little percussion pistols were made well after 1820 so I incline to believe Blackmore, but Casey is very specific, and Google images has a pair of fine flintlock duelling pistols (probably early 1800s) and a blunderbuss (attributed to the late 1770s) – looks like both could be more or less right although its doubtful if the same people ran the business for 67 years. De Witt Bailley and Nye don’t mention him among Birmingham gunmakers but Nigel Brown says “est 1810 Gun & Rifle makers Whitall St B’ham 1820 -21, Bath St 1822 – 1836, Samuel only 1837 – 392”  You pays your money and you takes your choice as the saying goes…….  My correspondent points out that the flipping bit that surrounds the nipple is meant to be down when the pistol is fired to stop shards of cap escaping, and it therefore doesn’t allow the pistol to be carried capped with the hammer resting on the ‘flipper.  He thinks that ‘cap guard’ is a better name for the hinged part, rather than the common ‘top hat’ and I agree – it is a much better description.  Anyway if he consents I’ll put all his information on the blog.   It is surprising that there are not more common ways of making a pistol safe to carry with a cap in place given the fiddle involved in capping it – if the half cock position is close enough to the nipple to stop the cap falling off it would be too close to allow the cap to be put on, and anyway it would still be unsafe as half cock can fail if the hammer is hit.  The only safe system I have come across is that on the Hanovarian conversions of the New Land Pistols taken back after the Napoleonic wars when the Austrian troops returned.  They use a bolt through the breech that intercepts the hammer just above the nipple – a very substantial stop (see the Post on this pistol on this website.  I did a bit more work on the little pistols – I’ve started to freshen up the wood and get rid of the remnants of brass polish that are all over the place, and am planning to make new escutcheons in silver – I’ll probably cast them, either in lost wax, which is a long and tedious job as it atakes all day to make the investment, or maybe in cuttlefish bone and clean them up afterwards – it will probably be a lot quicker, I just need a brass pattern !   I’ve started to make a new trigger for the second pistol – quite tricky!  I’ve got a chunk of steel in the milling machine so I can make a blank…

7 August – back at last!  Its been a busy month and I am sorry that the blog got left at the bottom of the queue!   The Pop-up Workshop went very well and the kids enjoyed it and we made a great boat – we built the boat – making most of the parts in the tent with my small CNC machine, and used the radio control systems I had programmed up to control it, Dave had programmed up a voice syntesizer so that the childern could write messages for broadcasting from the boat, and it happily sailed around my swimming pool making a string of announcements and siren noises.  Great fun and fortunately it worked first (and only) time they had to try it.  I (mis) spent a week afterwards trying to get the Microbits to work with a GPS module, but couldn’t get it to work well as there is not enough memory .  It was then time for our annual sailing holiday in Scotland, so off we all went to Oban to take over Pollyanna,  a Dufor 425, for 10 days or so.  The weather had been quite settled and we had hopes of making it to St Kilda as the trip 40 miles out into the Atlantic needs settled weather, but no sooner had we got out of the marina than things changed and it wasn’t clear what the weather was going to do.  In fact we had mostly very light winds and quite a bit of sun , which meant that we didn’t get much exciting sailing, but had several lazy, sunny sail/drift days.  We didn’t get as far North as usual, but went over to Eriskay and up South and North Uist as far as Loch Maddy, then across to the West coast of Skye and back via the Small Isles and the West coast of Mull.  All in all a good time was had!  Now I’m back and determined to get catch up on the gun restoration!  I had an email for John O’Sullivan (author of the Wogdon book)  saying nice things about my reconstructed Wogdon, and asking for some hi res photos, which I will send.   Anyway the first job on the list is to restore the pair of brass pistols (see diary for 2nd June).  I had got as far as to remove the butt of one and discover that the pivot screw for the flipping nipple guard was broken somewhere along its length and wouldn’t come out.  So after fiddling for half an hour to be certain I couldn’t get it out, I set the pistol in the machine vice of my milling machine using hardboard packing and gripping it tightly and very carefully lined up a small centre drill – I’d filed what was left of the screwhead flat so I could drill it more easily.  Using the mill is much better than using a drill press as the traverses let you line it up exactly. Just don’t try starting with a normal drill or it will surely wander – use a small  centre drill to start. Anyway I then drilled a 2mm hole through the shaft about 3/4 of the way through and then opened it up to 2.4 mm which allowed me to break the flipper out.  I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to put a drill right through as I didn’t think I could line it up well enough, so I have left a bit of the old screw in the far end, and I’ll screw a shorter screw into the head end = a bit of a fudge, but it should be OK.  The flipping nipple guard on that pistol had lost  the mock ‘steel’ bit that acts as a lever for opening the flip, so next job was to weld a new  bit to be filed into the right shape.  That went reasonably well, except that the battery on my welding mask was dead.  I changed it for a new one but it seemed far too dark and the mask has no adjustment –  I shaped the bit but I can’t finish that part of the job as  I need  some smaller taps and dies, so I ordered some UNF 2 and UNF 3 taps and dies from Tracy Tools – I guess I had not made such small screws before – I don’t even have metric taps and dies that small although I think somewhere I have a 10 B.A.  tap…..  I’ve stripped and cleaned that pistol and checked that things should work when it all goes together – I still have the stock to sort out.  The other pistol of the pair has a broken folding trigger with most of it missing so I’m going to have to make a new one.  That will be very fiddly as there is quite a lot of critical shaping – the top of the trigger has a slot into which pivots the sear, and a pin sticking out of the side that the trigger retaing spring bears on.  It also has an edge that presses on the sear to lift it from the cock to fire the pistol……………….. Not particularly easy to fabricate!    Here are some photos of last month;-

 

Hulls made from blue foam painted with Farrow and Ball emulsion in a tasteful shade, cabin cut from 1/16 ply on the cnc machine.

Here is my ‘patent’ motor mount for easy alignment – just pushed onto the 8mm diameter prop shaft tube, with a tension spring for a flexible coupling.

On a mooring in Loch Scressort, Rum.  Mostly we anchored – this was not a particularly comfortable place to be – a bit rolly at times

despite the fact that there was almost no wind – I should have anchored nearer the shore out of the fetch.

Bits ready to clean etc. The long rod in the centre is the drilled out pivot.

4th July – another month gone by and the weather pretty unsummery – our plastic bag swimming pool is not getting used as its pretty cold in there!  I have been working flat out getting my school project ready – its now called ‘The Fantastic Pop-up Workshop’ and today Marin and Claire came down and kindly brought me their 3m x 4m magic tent that they use for the MLAGB shoots at country fairs etc.  Looks fantastic and just right – its the first time they have put the sides on, its usually just a shelter.  I was going to have two tents but when I saw how big that was I decided we didn’t need the second on,  My fellow engineer Dave and I have been working away at getting the project sorted – I think I have now written all the G-Code for cutting out the hull interiors and the decks, hatches and cabin sides and windows, and built and programmed the control systems for motors and rudder.  I made a neat motor mount that clamps on the propeller tube and keeps it all lined up, and my own take on a flexible coupling using a section of compression spring filled with set silicone compound – hope it works, its very flexible!  Dave has written the draft code for the audio link – a second controller will send phrases to a speaker on the boat, and operate a blue flashing light and siren.  In all a fairly major task given my state of knowledge when I began. Anyway tomorrow is the start of the Pop Up Workshop, and the back of my Landcruiser is filled with boxes of materials and tools, my CNC milling machine, computers etc.  so we will see how the kids enjoy it.  I was talking to Martin about upcoming shoots – I really enjoy the Helice shoot in Rugby and Tom is keen to come.  My only problem is that I sort of decided only to shoot flintlock from now onwards (apart from the odd fun breech loader shoot – i.e. at clays with a bolt action .410 with 2 1/2 inch cartridges.  So I’m undecided whether to do the Helice with a flintlock or give up on my intentions and revert to percussion – very few people have done the helice with a flintlock – it requires quick shooting, but I’m usually not that good that it will make much difference!  Besides my favourite percussion gun (the H Nock) is now converted to flint. Thinking back over my comments on shooting clays and live quarry in the last post, I realised that you can break clays at much greater range than you can kill live quarry because 1 pellet can chip a clay and count as a kill, whereas one pellet is unlikely to drop a pheasant, so you need  to hit with, probably 4 or more pellits to stand a chance of a live quarry drop. Also the pellet energy (mass x velocity) and momentum (mass x velocity squared) are much less with a blackpowder gun that a with modern cartridges and you need more energy to penetrate the body of a pheasant than to break a normal clay.

24th June – A long time without posting here – I apologise!  I have been getting ready for a week long project at ‘my’ primary school where I have volunteered to run a project for a group of year 6 ( age 10) children who are not going on a course at the British Racing School involving ponies and riding, so have to be given an equivalent value activity at school! There are only 4 children involved so it can be quite intensive, and my STEM club partner Dave will be helping so we can be ambitious. My plan is to build a working model boat with radio control – the boat will largely be constructed on site by the children using parts that they will make on my small CNC milling machine out of XPS foam or 1.6mm ply (I have written the cutting programs in advance).  The radio control will be using BBC microbit computers that are programmed in Python to control the boat from a hand held microbit transmitter.  The children will help wire it all together and be involved in loading the program and putting together the final stages of the software from modules I have written, plus they will program a second radio system to operate lights and sound on the boat, and possibly get feedback from the boat.   So I’ve been writing the programs for cutting out the hulls and deck and cabin etc in ‘G’ Code, as well as learning to program in Python and writing all the control modules.  Since its about 15 years since I last wrote any computer code ( in ‘C’) it has been a steep learning curve!  Anyway I’ve made good progress, and I’ve arranged to borrow a couple of big tents to house it all in from Martin Crix, plus some tables so it is coming together – so I haven’t been wasting my time  – at least in my view!   I did go shooting with Bev and Pete today at CGC – I wanted to prove the Nock flint conversion, and in particular the re-welded frizzen that failed on my initial tests.  The three of us had a very enjoyable morning, and I managed to fire off 50 shots with only 4 or so misfires due to the flint being so worn it was not sparking at all and none that were ‘a flash in the pan’.  You can usually get away a couple of times re-working the edge of the flint in situ by tapping with a 1/2 inch brass rod, but eventually the edge of the flint gets too steep an angle on it and cannot be pursuaded to slice slivers of white hot metal from the frizzen.  I did  hit a few clays including a couple that evaded Bev and Pete on their first attempts,  Bev brought a range finder with him and we checked the ranges of some of the fixed points around the place to get an idea of the ranges to the clays. Our conclusion was that many (most?) of them were in excess of 40 yards, some we thought up to 60 or so yards.   Given that we were all shooting flintlock guns of over 200 years old it is amazing that the others managed to break most of the clays! I have said before that I think the shooting grounds have upped the difficulty of clays since I started some 8 to 10 years ago – I’m sure there were lots of clays that more or less landed in your lap! I’m not sure why that would be, maybe our shooting grounds are hosting more and better competitions and so need to compete at a higher level?   We agreed, I think, that we would not attempt to shoot game at some of the ranges that the clays were persented at – it being generally held to be unsporting to shoot at live quarry at much more than 40 yards with a cylinder bored barrel. Today certainly made me much more confident shooting my flintlock – although its easy with a couple of experts in attendance!  Oh, and my ebay selling of bits and pieces from the loft is going well – old (vintage!) computers go well but I have also got rid of a few bits and pieces left over from my electronics business – so far I’ve made enough to pay for a basic percussion gun, not that I need another! And anyway I’m spending the money, or some of it, on the school project…….. As an afterthought its sad to report that visits to this blog both direct and via search engines almost halve if I don’t post for this long – serves me right!

4th June More views on this blog than for a while – up from about 150 to 200 per day – must be because I’ve started a restoration project!  I did some more on the Rooke pistol I am working on – its quite a challenge!  The cock pivot that I mentioned had broken leaves behind half its length so you can’t remove the cock, and the bit left in is of course threaded into the brass – can’t be knocked out with a pin punch, don’t know what I was thinking yesterday!  I shifted my attention to the flipping top hat – the screw for the pivot turned about 30 degrees easily but is also broken somewhere along its length and the head section will not come out despite it turning its 30 degrees freely back and forth- not sure why at the moment.  So not a very productive day!  I can’t find my can of acetone – I’m now a firm believer in parallel universes – there must be one in which all the items from my workshop that I can’t find since using it as a temporary kitchen have migrated – some are key things like my very fine wire brush that can’t be bought anywhere on the internet in the UK!  I had to use model aircraft engine fuel as a penetrating oil but its not really up to much… I shall need to have a strategy for sorting out the broken / stuck screws – the key issue is not to damage the brass body of the pistol, the screws themselves are (fairly!) easily replaced – even if they come out, the heads are often messed up.  If the flip top hat didn’t need welding I’d not bother to take it apart, but clean it in situ, but I will need to remove it from the pistol and take off the spring before it can be welded  so as not to damage things. I’m reluctant to use heat here because I don’t want to have to retemper the spring  I’ll post some pics tomorrow……   Harking back a year to my Covid, I had a CT scan for other issues, but the radiologist reported that I had  lung damage consistent with Covid-19 – my consultant said maybe I was lucky to have survived  – I’m pretty glad I managed to sort out oxygen and so avoid hospital in the very early days of the pandemic – I think there is a story to be told there, but I guess it has been/will be buried.

3rd June – I couldn’t resist starting on one of the Rooke pistols below.  The finish on much of the steel is the original bluing, worn in places and with patches of rust, but still quite distinct from the finish you get from electrolytic derusting, which basically removes all oxides, including those responsible for the bluing.  So that means basically the rust has to be removed by hand in a way that only affects the rust patches.  My technique is to scrape the rust patches gently with the back edge of fine modelling knife held at shallow angle to the surface.  To make sure that I don’t put any scratches on the surrounding blued finish I hone the back edge of the blade on a static ceramic wheel with 0.5 micron diamond paste, and gently round off the corners slightly to reduce the risk of scratching. It is a surprisingly effective if laborious technique, it works because the bluing is basically harder than the rust.  It is a good idea to apply WD 40 or AC 90 as a lubricant.   I am working on one pistol first, I’ll do the second later, first step was to remove the wooden butt – as usual it is held by two screws, one at the top through the back strap, and one below through the tail of the bottom tang.  First step is to clean out the slots with the modelling knife – which gave me a warning – the slots are very deep and narrow, and go down as far as the shank of the screw.  The top screw came out easily enough with an accurately fitting screwdriver (it is tapped into a steel plate in the butt) but the bottom screw wouldn’t shift ( its a wood screw) even with a bit of low viscosity fluid with a drop of oil ( I had cellulose thinners to hand).  Before I could put any real force on it, the two sides of the head had started to open out, and one broke off leaving half a head.  Its not possible to get hold of the remaining half, so I ground it down a bit with the Dremel (equivalent) with a dental burr until I could get the remains of the head through the hole.  It came out but I’ll have to unscrew the bit of screw left in the butt before I can refix it.  Having got the wood out of the way I gave the metalwork a good spray with WD40 and left it for a few hours – much to my amazement the pistol cocked and fired without any more work – the only fault is that the hidden trigger doesn’t come out unaided when the gun is cocked – it’s a bit stiff and needs a hand.  I tried to remove the cock pivot but although half of it came out easily, half of it is stuck in the brass body on the right side of the pistol – it will probably come out with a light tap from a pin punch. I’ll finish stripping the lock and cleaning up the parts with my modelling knife, or possibly in the electrolytic tank if they are bad,  On this pistol the frizzen like protrusion on the ‘flip top hat’ that gives you something to use to open it with is broken, so I’ll have to make a replacement part and weld it on, or have a more expert welder do it, which would be a better idea as it is very fiddly.  The engraving is pretty worn so I have the usual dilemma – should I recut it or leave it?  My instinct is always to do the minimum in the way of intervention, so for the moment I’ll leave it.  The wood will take a fair bit of work to patch the missing corners, and I’ll probably freshen up the chequering a bit (not too much) as I’ll have to blend in the repairs anyway.  All in all my impression is that the pistols are really in good shape under a bit of rust and a build-up of brass polish, and won’t take too long to get back into good order

2nd June – Oh dear, quite a gap in the diary!  I have been trying to get my head round programming the BBC microbit in Python and building servo and motor drive circuits, as well as taking advantage of the hot weather to attack the fallen walnut tree with a 20 inch chain saw.   Hopefully that will change over the next few weeks as I had a visit from a friend and fellow collector.  I’d fixed a little double barreled pistol for him and he had found and bought a little pair of pistols that need A LOT of work – he bought them to pass on to me, so I could put the work on this blog, and kindly sold them to me for what he paid for them.  They were a decent and pretty pair of brass percussion muff or small ‘turn off’ pocket pistols signed H & S Rooke and engraved ‘London’ on the other side.  H & S Rooke were Birmingham gunmakers in business from 1810 to 1836 who were known to mark their pistols ‘London’ to increase their appeal (and value).  They have the flipping ‘top hat’ covers that hinge down to allow the pistols to be carried safely with caps in place and be ready for firing by cocking them and flipping the cover.  It  is a similar mechanism to the frizzens of little flintlocks and I suppose might lead one to believe they were conversions of flintlock pistols – I don’t believe these are, but as everything is seized solid with rust and gunk I can’t be certain.  Obviously they have been seriously neglected rather than heavily used, as where the rust hasn’t got at the barrels you can see a nicely blued surface.  The escutcheons on the butts have been picked out, so presumably they were gold.  It will be interesting to see how to go about the restoration – at the moment I haven’t really formed any plans – were they all steel I would remove the wood and chuck the whole lot in the electrolytic derusting tank so I could strip it down but I’m not sure how the brass would react to the process – maybe have to experiment first. They are also pretty bunged up with the residue of brass polish, including the chequering and there is some damage to the wood too….Obviously first job is the separate the wood from the metal!  My friend also bought an unusual pocket pistol, a bit larger – it looks like a typical bog standard flintlock pocket pistol with a turn-off barrel, until you notice the tap on the side and look in the pan. Its a superimposed load pistol, where you unscrew the barrel and load the breech end twice.  The tap diverts the flame to the charge nearest the muzzle first, then you operate the tap to feed the flame to the rear charge,  The rotating part beneath the pan allows a priming charge to be rotated with the tap and stored while the first charge is fired with the priming in the ‘open’ pan (closed by the frizzen).  These pistols normally used tiny charges, which is just as well because there doesn’t appear to be any interlock to prevent the back charge being fired first. ( for another example of a superimposed load pistol see the post on this blog) .The pistol is pretty much OK, but needs a top jaw and top jaw screw.  If I feel really daring, there is a bit of the silver inlay missing on the butt (I’ll post photos and a better description of this pistol later).   I think I will make a few videos of the restoration of the little brass  pistols on YouTube – I get quite a few views and subscribers – people who wouldn’t find cablesfarm.co.uk, and there are very few videos of work on real muzzle loading antiques – besides, I quite enjoy making them…..

The top pistol is missing the tab on the ‘flipping’ cover that look like a minature frizzen and is needed to flip it.

I think one cock may have a crack – mostly hidden.  Crack and some missing wood on the butt of the upper pistol.

 

one trigger is broken off and missing

 Posted by at 9:18 am
Mar 282022
 

My blog has lots of posts going back a number of years, mostly about restoring and engraving antique firearms.  They are about what I do, and are not meant as a guide for you to follow.  You are responsible for what you decide to do, and whether what you want to do is legal in your country.  Be aware that many antiques are of historic importance, and in many cases restoration may reduce their historic and financial value.  You should consider carefully what effect any restoration may have on the value, and take expert advice – the wrong restoration or too much, even well done, can drastically reduce the value of antiques.  We may own them, but we are actually custodians of them for future genertions to enjoy.

 

From the engraving on a Joseph Manton Tubelock

 

DIARY

14th February  Been busy battling with my Bambu 3D printer that is printing badly for some unknown reason – I’m trying to make an ergonomically designed windlass controller with a couple of push buttons that can be held and operated with one hand – I’ve got a good design but first I had problems with the parts warping ( I’m using ASA filament and its a known problem)  I fixed that but the filaments are not bonding as well as they should and in places it looks like knitting unravelling!   I am also trying to make a fitting to adapt a small pump to screw on to the top of 5 litre water bottles – again using my 3D printer, but it turns out the thread on the water bottles is a 3 start thread, so I am having to learn how to do that in Solidworks!  PLus today I finally got round to casting the breech block for the Warner Carbine of American Civvil War vintage.  It worked, but not perfectly – I had some shrinkage around its middle as I didn’t have an adequate reservoir of molten metal in the feed to make up for the shrinkage on cooling.  I am also a bit concerned that I didn’t get a clean burnout of the wax, so there are some marks in the surface.  Nevertheless it filed up to fit perfectly in the functional areas and I was able to drill it for the pivot and make a firing pin and drill its hole, so it would be functional if not very beautiful.  Clearly I’ll need to have another go before I pack up all the kit in the workshop until I have another casting job.  I’ve still got the breech block catch to cast too…..

 

 

4th February  Mostly doing a bit of gardening – Giles is getting married and the party is in our garden – its a mess!  So I was doing a bit of destruction and trying to prop up a bit of trellis – will need a new post…..  I did take an hour this morning to turn up a steel fitting for the mouth of the burner tube – the principle is supposed to be that if you have a fairly sudden increase in muzzle diameter the flame will make an eddy and this will tend to sustain the ignition,  which can be a bit ficcle at times.   I made the mouth so that it is constricted a bit for the last inch or so before opening out to an inch bigger siameter.   Maybe I get a better flame, but it is still fairly likely to go out when in the open air if the flow is faster or near the burn rate – but it seems more stable when its is in the furnace and near the furnace floor.  AT some point I’ll embark on the investment casting, but that is a whole long day’s activity as the investment takes hours to burn out at 730 C.  I might just try a sand casting as that should be much quicker – I  3D printed a pattern today wtih added draft so it could be lifted from the sand.  I moved a big chunk of this post to a BLOG UP TO 13 JAN 2023 post so that scrolling is a bit less tricky!

2nd February   Since I started on the preparations for casting the breech block, I thought I’d better carry on and sort out the furnace.  I looked at several burner designs on You Tube but didn’t feel like going hunting for obscure pipe fittings etc so I had a hunt around the various junk piles.  I found a perfect centrifugal fan,  just the right size for a forced air burner, and a suitable piece of old steel tube and a block of 25 mm brass rod, plus a bit of plastic flex pipe from a pool vacuusm cleaner and a plastic plumbing fitting that was the right size to join the flex pipe to the steel tube as a push fit – almost made already!  Quick 30 minute job designing an adaptor from the fan to the pipe and getting it printing, then turned a spiggot for the rubber gas pipe on one end of the brass and milled an aerodynamic bit on the other end to go through the tube wall as the nozzle.  Great fun drilling a 1 mm hole 10 mm deep in the brass for the gas nozzle inside the burner tube – I was amazed that my little milling machine chuck could hold a  1 mm drill and drill the hole without breaking the bit but it has a very slow manual feed option.  The shaped  brass nozzle is a tight push fit in the hole I cut in the steel tube, and is sealed in with heat resistant gasket cement ( although the heat doesn’t travel that far down the tube). By the time that lot was done the 3D printer had produced a smart adaptor with a mounting foot – the wonders of modern technology – it would have taken me a day to fudge up a solution in the past. Connected it all up with a simple voltage controller on the fan and poked it into my ‘furnace’ which is just a pile of refactory bricks and lit it – when I’d got the pressures right it melted a bit of brass in a crucible with a lot less effort than it took not to melt it yesterday!  Result.  Looking again on You Tube I think I might be able to make it a bit better by producing some turbulence in the tube – I’ve seen advocates for a right angle bend in the tube and a flare at the end – I might try, but it is usable now so I probably won’t bother.  There was only one cock-up – I didn’t notice that the convolutions on the flex pipe made a left handed thread and I put a right handed 5.5 mm pitch  in the fitting – but it seemed to fit anyway!

Nozzle projects into centre of tube

1 February – Oh dear, another month gone and I didnt manage to blog.  My excuses are as follows (in truth none are really sufficient to justify my sloth) – I changed my computer as I was getting a bit fired of the desktop and its foibles, so I bought a reconditioned laptop – a rather better one than I would have been able to afford new at 1/3 the new price and only two years old.  That took me a while to get set up – then there was the annual tax return that is always a pain, although this time the tax man owes me a bit.  Then I have been doing a You Tube video on health, ( Ageing Well No1 –  see on the CLL post) and also having the occasional clay shoot.  I haven’t forgotten the Warner breech block – I had some filament that is supposed to work for lost wax casting but it was supplied as a loose skein and it turned out to be very brittle so I couldn’t rewind it onto a spool to fit my printer. Anyway I bought a different make of looseable wax and have now printed up a wax with attached risers at about 1.6 % oversize to allow for the brass shrinkage when I cast it.  Today I ventured into the depths of my shed and recovered my electric kiln for baking out the investment to get rid of the wax and heat it ready for casting, and to my amazement it wotked immediately and got up to the required 760C  quickly.  The same can’t be said of my impromptu furnace, which failed to melt a trial pot of brass.  Looking at the design of the burner and checking out a few You Tubes I think I’ll heve to make a new burner tube,, so it will be a week or so before I get tound to casting.   Oh, and another thing I did,which was supposed to be a You Tube but hasn’t yet, was to test out a rust remover that I came across called Evapo-Rust, that  works by a chemical process called chelation, in which molecules of iron oxide are grabbed in a chemical embrace and removed from the surfaces while leacing the iron itself untouched.  It works very well, and is not a strong acid or alkali  so it is quite a gentle action while removing all the rust effectively – of course since it goes for the rust it also goes for any browning on the parts – in fact it strips browning veray quickly – 10 minutes of so – whereas it takes overnight to derust a really rusted part, if not longer.  It is much less vigorous than the electolytic derusting I used to use, which works by releasing active hydrogen on the surface of the rust, which turns the ferric rust to loose ferrous black oxide by grabbing one of the oxygen atoms from the rust.  Electrolytic derusting is risky for springs due to hydrogen embrittlement, and can delaminate bits if there are internal cracks, but it is better at loosening screws, which Evapo-Rust isn’t so good at as it doesn’t penetrate cracks so well.  The other disavantage of Elapo-Rust is that it doesn’t work if the metal is oilym whereas electolytic does as the electrolyte is caustic and removes oil.  ON balance its a lot less fuss than the electolytic process – so I’ll probablly use it in future – the fluid can be reused many times. (About £20 per litre from Toolstation – next day)

Wax for Warner lost wax casting

2nd January 2024  –  I stole a bit of time from Christmas family celebration and our traditional new Year Breakfast for 60 guests.  Putting away a few of the ‘junk’ guns littering the place I came across a Warner’s Patent  American Civil war carbine that I bought years ago minus its breech block. During and just before the Civil War there was a rush to design breech loading carbines to sell to the Union  Government – indeed the govenment bought some 40 (?) different carbines in quantities from a few dozen to hundreds of thousands, and of a confusing number of different designs and, more importantly, different bores and chamberings, as many used their own patterns of cartridge.  The Warner Patent was one of those that originally used its own special ammunition – the Warner .51 (?) rim fire cartridge  ( I think  all the cartridge carbines offered were  rimfire ?).  Warner had a factory that made his patent pistols, and got a contract from the govenment for 1000 carbines, and struggled to get a satifactory pattern arm for them, and was very late delivering and had problems getting the ammunition made.  He then got the Greene Rifle Works to take on the manufacture of the carbines and they secured an order for another 3000 which were converted and later made for to .56-.56 Spencer ammunition, since the Spencer carbine was being used in large numbers.  The Warner had various problems and not all the initial 1000 appear to have been issued, and none  of the Greene 3000.  After the war  all the unissued stocks were auctioned off and a large batch went eventually to France, but I think with the Warner cartridges although they were Spencer chambered!   A number were proofed in England and sold off – these were often chequered on the stock.  Mine is a UK proofed Greene model – not sure about the chambering, but probably Spencer.  Mine – No 2099 –  is missing the hinged breech block.  The action is all brass, including the missing breech block.  I had been playing with making a breech block years ago when I bought  it, and even cast up a rough lump of brass, but it got no further.  Anyway when I looked at it I figured  I could use my 3D printer to print a breech block and cast it as a sand casting, or try 3D printing in a wax filament that can be burnt out for lost wax casting.  The advantage of this is that I can get the shape right by printing plastic breech blocks til I get it right – each takes about 45 minutes to print – then when I have a design that fits perfectly I can use the computer to scale up the model to take account of the shrinkage of the final casting and make my block with minimal finishing.  So far I’ve made 3 plastic prototypes in PLA  and am getting very near to a perfect fit – its a bit of a fiddle as the original block wasn’t made to any exact geometric shapes so I’ve had to fudge it in Solidworks CAD. There is a good book – ‘Warner Civil War Cavalry Carbines’ by Col. J Alan Hassell, USAF (Ret.) and I did have a look at one some time ago in the restricted weapons archive in Leeds.

Photo from Col. J Alan Hassell’s book.

Breech block made of PLA plastic, not Gold !

 

 

25th December  – Happy Christmas to you all – and good shooting/collecting for next year.  I have been a bit busy sorting out bits of the ‘estate’ for the Christmas festivities but have had a couple of outings with the Westley Richards 11 bore percussion.  I  was shooting clays and on more or less the last stand I changed the way I looked at the clays and started to hit more – not sure quite what I had been doing, but somehow I seem to have got much better, touch wood.  I had a very pleasant shoot a couple of days ago with Tom double pegging.  We got pegs that didn’t see much activity but I managed to hit half a dozen for ten shots which is way better than I’ve ever managed before – the usual overall  average for shoots is about 3 1/2 shots per bird, falling to 4 or 4 1/2 if there is a strong wind.  On this shoot the wind was quite strong to begin with – 20 mph perhaps, falling later and then geting up a bit at the end.    Anyway hope to be back in the new year when we have got a big new year’s day party out of the way!  I was sorting out guns that were lying around the library to clear it out and came across an American  Civil War carbine – Warner’s patent – that is missing a breech block.  I suddenly realised that I could make one by 3D printing one slightly oversize in some filament I have that can be used as a mould in lost wax casting, so I might have a go at that in the new year.  Would be good to make the outerwise sad gun into somethng nice!

8th December = still clearing out old papers from the office – so far I’ve cleared  out 7 full box files and 5 big ring binders  and found a lost V5 for the big old Royale mobility scooter we have got to get rid of….. Know anyone who wants an oldish but almost unused one – still running?  Anyway I haavae at least reclaimed a bit of shelf space.

6th December – Its a bit cold in the workshop so I’ve been doing a bit of clearing out in the ‘office’  and catching up on some 3D printing I’ll need for sailing next year.  At the moment Im struggling with the printing of screw threads – if I print them vertically they print perfectly, but because the resultant layers are across the screw threads they are quite weak as the layer to layer bonding has the least strength, but printing them any other direction involves the printer putting in support structures as it can’t print overhangs, and they stick to the threads and spoil them – I’ll get there in the end.  I went to see my haematologist on Friday and was talking about doing a You Tube video on exercise and he thought it would help some of his other patients if I did one with my experience of CLL – so I did – its on the recent posts here.   I’m getting swept up in the usual pre Christmas panic  to get the house habitable and fit for parties, so I’m not sure how much longer I’ll have time to blog until January!  I was hoping to attack another gun restoration soon – I was thinking to restore my big rampart gun – it would be great to fire it – probably needs a quarter of a pound of shot!

3rd December  – almost gone into hybernation as its so cold in the house, except by the AGA or around the living room stove. I sometimes wonder if there is anything in this new-fangled central heating people talk about, but like anything invented after the muzzle loaders were replaced by breech loaders. I have yet to be convinced!    I  did have a really nice day out on Friday – sunny, pretty calm and quite frosty, but dressed up in multiple layers we shot for about 4 hours without getting cold.  I managed one of my good days – so obviously padded out like a parcel didn’t affect my shooting.   Cleaning my gun I had difficulty getting the right hand lock out because the sear spring tab had come out of its slot, and when I tried to get it together the little tab on the sear spring just wouldn’t stay in the slot cut in the back of the lockplate.  I cleaned out the slot with a flat graver, but that didn’t solve the problem.  The tab wasn’t well defined – I think it had given trouble before, so I filed around it and made the shoulders a bit sharper, and eventually got it to hold.  I hope that is now OK.  I realised that I now do all the small fiddly jobs under my microscope, and  would find it difficult to do them without – about time to get my cateracts done – my eyes are not bad enough for the NHS to do them, so I suppose I’ll have to pay!   Thinking about my most used tools, I reckon the vice ( see post somewhere on the website) I made for my microscope must be my most used home-made tool.  I recently found the ball vice I bought when I started – it got abandoned as it was too tall –  I ought to sell it, it worked well except that it raised the optics too high, there not being enough room between my knees and my eyes to fit in a bench and turntable, the ball vice, the objective distance of the lens, and the height of the microscope.  I’m currenty in a 3D printing phase – making bits for the boat next year, and trying to keep warm.

26th November – Slight problem with the Lancaster left lock – got it all working out of the gun, or so I thought, then put it in the gun and couldn’t get the cock to go down fully – took the cock off and dug a bit more out of the groove on the back, but then couldn’t get the sear to lift enough to clear the half cock bent – I was fitting the lock for the first time, so I wasn’t too surprised that the trigger plate wasn’t lifting the tail of the sear enough. So strip the lock (again – how many times?) and remove the sear, heat the arm to red heat and gently bend it in the right direction.  Usually the only thouble putting a lock together again is getting the sear/sear spring fixed – how and when you do it depends on the design of the lock mechanism and bridle arrangement.  The sear spring is almost always held at the top end by a screw about which it is free to pivot but is located by a tab on the top arm of the spring and a slot in the back of the lock plate.  Sometimes the design allows the sear spring to be removed with the bridle in place – in this case the spring passed under the bridle so has to go on before the bridle.  You then have 3 components to juggle before the fourth, the bridle, goes on. In this case the spring went on first, because its otherwise a fiddle to get its tab in the slot.  By holding the sear spring closed with long nosed pliers its possible to slip the sear in place, and then raise the sear against its spring sufficiently to introduse the tumbler, then put on the bridle  and finally the cock.  Anyway it took me two iterations to get enough bend in the sear arm to lift the sear enough.  Put that together and noticed that the barrel bolt was not held in, so had to put a little pin through the wood and the slot in the bolt ( cut off end of a safety pin & a dab of superglue to stop it falling out of the existing hole).  Quick wipe over with a slightly oily rag (only a little oil so as not to darken the wood next to any oiled  metal, and its back in its case and away off to storeage.  Pause now while I work out what to tackle next – I’ve got a few bits of an early long gun – stock and very long barrel, in pretty poor condition and no lock, but it does have  very fine engraved brass trigger guard – I have a flintlock plate that might fit with a bit of fiddling and a possible cock and frizzen – all  of which will need some parts making and a lot of welding – it wouldn’t amount to much if done, but would make a wall hanger – I’m tempted (a bit).  I also have the parts for the other Wogdon, but that’s a very long job to make the stock, make waxes and cast the silverware  and get into practice for some quite critical engraving – maybe I’ll leave that as I do want to get on with some bits for the boat – I need to design a new mount for the tablet near the steering position and a fixing for a stainless pipe extension so there is something to hold on to when it gets rough –  plus do some more Navigation software…. sounds like a busy winter – plus I did resolve to try to clear out a lot of the clutter round the house and workshops………

25th November – Bit more work on the second of the Lancaster locks – almost there – seems to fit together quite nicely and looks the part – the locks and safety catches work now.  I was scanning through the results of the recent Bonhams sale of the Gerry Penrose collection – or at least I think it was only part of his collection – I know Gerry and have looked at his collection several times and think there is more to come.  I was keen to see what prices the lots fetched, given that there were so many examples of lots of the gun and pistol types, so it was really a buyers’ market – from the prices realised and David Williams pre sale estimates I think with very few exceptions things didn’t go above the top estimate and, assuming that the estimates in the catalogue are hammer prices and the realised prices include buyers’ premium, then the average selling price was near the bottom of the estimates, and possibly below the bottom estimate in some cases.  I guess all the lots have to go somehow, sometime.  I was interested to see the Lorenzoni repeating flintlock carbine fetched £9000ish against an estimate of  less than half of that – I had been very tempted to go to the sale and I did fancy it at the low end of the estimate but not the realised price!  A couple of Colt revolvers sold OK, and the .44 rimfire Winchester  went well – all things I’d have looked at but almost certainly not bid on, and which have probably sold to the U.S.  None of the cased Adams type revolvers sold – I thought the estimates were a little on the high side although I do like those pistols.  In general the market for long guns isn’t dead, just resting! and the market for pistols is not brilliant but is always better than long guns as more people have room for them.  Pretty little cased pairs of travelling pistols etc. are sought after – they don’t take up much room, are usually in good condition and are nice to handle.  My comments on the overall prices are based on the catalogue descriptions as I have not seen them except on the wall in Gerry’s  gunroom, but I know some of them have had work done on them – I think I’d worked on one of the guns he had but I can’t remember what it was.

24th November – Sorting out the locks of the Lancaster i made in 2014 and didn’t finish!  Cut the half cock notch in the Left Hand lock tumbler – fiddly job as the bent requires that the sear is held even if the trigger is pulled, so it needs to be filed as a narrow angular cut, quite sharp.  Of course no needle files of the correct profile exist, so I have to take needle files and give them a dead edge running to a sharp angle using my diamond hone – I was wondering today what the most essential tool in my workshop was – I guess the hone comes pretty high!  As well as modified files I also hone hacksaw blades down So the teeth cut a V shaped groove – obviously they don’t cut brilliantly but are OK for starting the shape – I use them for starting the slots in screw heads too.   After the bent the next job was to fix the safety catch which works by engaging a groove cut in the back of the cock – when the gun is at half cock the safety can be slid in and locks the cock from being fully cocked or from being let down.  The safety has a springy tail with a pip on it that engages in one of two small pits on the face of the lock.  It’s incredibly fiddly – I’d made the safeties before, but when I came to fit them I found that one of the screws that secures them from the back of the lock had got lost, so had to make a replacement – its the smallest screw I’ve ever made, and I’m not sure I want to make any smaller.  I couldn’t remember what the thread in the safety was, but looking through my stock of taps and dies the only ones I had that were small enough were 9 B.A. so I must have used those – it fitted!  The safety catches were usually blued and so I found a place on the AGA hot plate that was around 300 C and popped the safety under a couple of folds of aluminium foil and shut the lid for 5 minutes – not perfect, but not bad!  Job done.

Fixing 9 B.A. thread is up through the knob – not much room there!

 

9 B.A. screw still attached to the stock- the squares are 1 mm.

Arrow shows fixing screw of safety catch

Finished new lock for restored s/n 3331

Lock from original Oval Bore Lancaster s/n 3076 made a few years earlier than the restored rifle.

I must have been better at engraving in those days – I’m quite out of practice now!

21st November – A thought struck me – assuming it takes a  goodly while for any lead ban law to be passed and then there is a 5 year delay on game shooting I’ll be almost 90 by the time it hits – so perhaps I shouldn’t worry from a personal point of view – anyway around then I plan to be sailing round the world single handed ( it’s on my bucket list) – about the only way to achieve a ‘First’ in that enterprise is to do it older than anyone else has!  I have a little problem with my Westley Richards percussion gun – one of the plugs by the nipples is looking a bit ragged, and I feel I ought to replace it – the other one has been plugged with steel.  The problem is, how are they fixed in, and what are they made of?   And why are they there?   They plug what must be the only way to bore through from the bottom of the nipple to the powder chamber in the breech.  Some breeches on double guns did have a hole from the opposite side that it hidden in the joint between the two breech plugs, but I think that relates to Nock’s patent breech , anyway I certainly haven’t ever seen it on single barreled guns.   The small hole through the plug was thought to reduce the recoil – there was a theory that small holes in the breech had that effect, but of course the only way it could affect the recoil is by allowing some of the explosive gas to escape, with the main effect being to reduce the muzzle velocity of the shot – although the hole in the plug is too small to have any significant effect.. It has also been suggested that by blowing some of the gas through from the chamber it might have had the effect of clearing fouling from the area – at least that probably doesn’t breach any principles of physics.  Another idea for the plugs is that they are a safety valve – blowing out before the breech pressure gets high enough to damage the barrel etc.  or blow out the nipple – but that is probably a bit advanced for the thinking of the period – or is it? Next problem – what are they made of  ?-  John(?) Manton had introduced platinum (Platina) in 1805 and I guess it wasn’t that expensive as it was used in touchholes and later for lining nipples – so it would have been in use by the time percussion guns were being made.  I guess alternatively it could have been silver, but that is maybe a bit soft for the job.   I can’t find any direct reference to the fixing of the plugs in any of my books but I’m told that they screw in – by Kevin who has replaced one.  That seems to be the only realistic way to fix them, although I did wonder if they could be spread into a recessed bore by tapping in with a hammer , but they would need an inner rim to support them.  To remove the bad one I’ll have to cut a slot in it or drill it out I don’t use thread extractors as they invariably expand the thread and lock it even tighter- they are more or less OK in hardened steel studs!    As I probably can’t lay my hands on enough platinum to turn up a stud,  I’ll have to make it out of some other material. I’m tempted to use titanium- which I’ve used for many years for making nipples without any trouble, but my experience of using it to make a touchhole was a disaster – it flamecut very badly after a few shots and would have blown out if I hadn’t checked it after the first time I used it.  I  think it would be OK as long as it didn’t have the hole through it, but I’ll probably resort to stainless steel to be on the safe side.   I’ve started to cut the half cock notch in the Lancaster tumbler – The old lock mechanism I fitted to my new lockplates was from a shotgun – Ive had to weld up the old half cock notch as its not in the right place, but the main problem is that as a rifle it would need a detent on the tumbler  preventing the sear from entering the half cock notch when it is fired by a gently squeeze – its not a problem with shotguns as the trigger pull is much firmer.  I don’t think my skills or patence is up to fitting detents to non dtented tumblers, so I guess I’ll leave it so it does go into half cock and full cock, but can’t be fired in the way it would as a rifle.

20th November –

THIS IS IMPORTANT!

If you shoot muzzle loading shotguns this may be your last chance to keep the sport alive act now – deadline 10 Dec!

The recommendations of the HSE Opinion on lead in ammunition have now been published and are, in summary a partial restriction is proposed on lead in ammunition for rifles and pistols of any calibre or type, breech or muzzle loading, as I understand it mainly for two reasons;- 1) For live quarry rifles it has not been shown that there is an adequate substitute that is equally effective  – using a less dense metal means the bullets have to be longer to retain kinetic energy and that affects their stability and the accuracy is impaired, so leading to less clean kills.  2) For most target shooting lead recovery is possible, indeed it is necesary to preserve the safety of sand bullet stops – there will be a ban on the use of lead in rifles and pistols in ranges that are not approved for the use of lead ammunition, but HSE expects that most ranges will be so approved – it will ban, at least in theory, checking your rifle at a target in the field to zero it.  Unfortunately there is no such luck for shotguns – a time limit of five years is proposed for live quarry, including game, shooting, and 3 years for clay shooting – there will be a derogation for shooters in international competitions where lead shot is required by the competition rules..  There is the statement that 22% or shotguns can fire steel, and no mention of muzzle loaders.   There is now a chance for us to have our say on the practical and social implications of a ban on lead in muzzle loading shotguns.  The survey closes on 10th December, and it is vital that every shooter of muzzle loading shotguns (specifically) replies to the survey as soon as possible.  Alternatives to lead for the antique muzzle loaders that many (or most?) of us use are not proven not to damage soft iron barrels, and in any event the muzzle velocities using black powder, and the breech pressures that these guns will stand will not let us achieve the high muzzle velocities that are necessary to give our  reasonable sizes of shot in alternative metals like bismuth sufficient  pellet energy to work at the ranges we need. We don’t have the option open to breech loaders of upping the charge!   Changing to larger shot sizes means much leaner shot patterns at range, resulting in more pricked birds.  There has been no research on the use of Bismuth in old barrels so there is no evidence that it is not going to damage guns that have survived for up to 200 years so far.   My own view is that I don’t really approve of game shooting with breech loaders – the bags are too large and its too easy to get trigger happy – I prefer the enforced slower pace of muzzle loaders!  My interest in clay shooting is partly as an adjunct to game shooting, and partly as because I enjoy all aspects of our great heritage of old guns – many still in fine condition, from restoration and repair to collecting and using – a gun is not a real historic artifact in my view if it can’t be fired, which is why I restore guns to working condition even if I’m actually never going to shoot them.  Clay shooting is almost invariably a social activity – you very occasionally see a lone shooter using the ‘delay’ button on the clay traps, but for the most part its two or more friends – my clay shooting friends  are an important part of my circle of friends with whom I share a common interest in old guns, not just in propelling spheres of lead towards disks of clay!   Many, but not all, of my fellow shooters are post retirement and it also a significant part of their social life – one of the things that impresses me is the support many give to any of us who become ill or find it difficult to join in.   If we do not succeed in getting a derogation for muzzle loaders it will kill off the sport overnight – there is no alternative – its up to us to make a strong case in response to the survey, and to enlist other muzzle loading shooters.  – it not an opportity for a general rant, however!   We acknowledge that it is actually a small number of people involved, but its a negligible contribution to the problem and almost certainly puts much less lead into the environment than the live quarry rifle shooting that will continue to use lead – but the individual impact on those people will be significant

Click on the links below ;-

HSE Opinion report  

HSE SURVEY

 

See also Martin Crix’s comments – better put than mine and in more detail!

Martin Crix comments etc

 

20th November as well! – I Finished cleaning up and putting together the little 7mm centre fire walking stick – the only problem was that before the trigger didn’t pop out when the sleve was rotated, and when I took it apart a small spring dropped out from somewhere, that I assumed was the spring that should have pushed out the trigger.  Anyway there was no proper mechanical way that I could see of fixing it, and I concludud in the end that it was slipped in between the wood and the inner metal sleeve, and just stayed there!  Well it seems to work, and there was no other way to fix it.   So that can be put to bed as restored.

16th November – Very pleasant shoot today, and the rain held off.  I had a bit of a problem getting to grips with the different gun but I got there in the end!   I discovered that the pegs that go with my cap dispensers are not really a tight enough fit and the dispensers can fall off the pegs, as they did for me a couple of times today, so I came home and modified the drawings and ran off a couple to check that they were better, and opened up the parcel I was about to send off and changed the ones in there.  I’ll now replace all my stock and print up more cappers – they seem to be quite popular at the moment!  If you have weak ones and want them replaced just email me.  I have been shown one that broke one of the arms, although none of the many I have used a lot have broken – I’ll see if I need to thicken the arms slightly. |Most of the other broken ones I’ve seen are one of the other types advertised on ebay, but I have happily replaced them with one of mine!  Easy changes  are the great benefit of 3D printing – it takes me less than half an hour to effect the changes and set a new lot printing, I get the prototypes in another half an hour  – imagine if they had to be injection moulded as in the pre 3D printing era – the cost of the mould would be  hundreds of pounds if not more.

15th November – I weakened, and redid the Cook’s Patent cane mechanism – I wanted to do a bit of TIG welding as I hadn’t touched it for a couple of years as I’d run out of Argon, and anyway I didn’t like the look of the piston shaft when I looked at the photo on the blog – I find that things always look worse in photos – I often deliberately take photos because it reveals faults that I don’t see in the flesh.  Anyway I managed to weld up the little bit without closing up the hole.  While I had it out I looked at the spring to see if I could sort out the cap firing – I decided that the spring was too short – when the piston hit the cap there was no tension left in the spring,  I didn’t want to use a longer spring of the same diameter wire as the initial tension would be too high, so I opted for a longer spring but a slightly thinner wire – 1.2mm instead of 1.6mm.  Anyway it all went together nicely and now works just fine, including firing the cap.  I decided that I wouldn’t do any restoration on the exterior as the original paint finish is, well, original – any attempt to refinish it would just look wrong in my book.   So job done…  Next up I got out my little 7 mm breech loading centre fire cane – I think these were used by naturalists and hobbyists with very fine shot or dust shot for collecting specimens  for taxidemy, or possibly with bulleted breech caps.  This one is very fine, very slim and encased in dark wood – you would never suspect it housed a gun – the only clue would be that the silver ring rotates and a trigger pops out.  There was a bit of a problem as the wood casing was rotating on the metalwork and opening and cocking it relies on rotating parts of it, so I stripped it down – probably just as well as the very thin barrel was quite rusted on the outside and could have split the wood if it rusted much more- also the trigger no longer popped out.  So far I’ve taken it all to pieces and cleaned up the outside of the barrel, then I had to stop to get ready for tomorrow’s shoot.  I realised that the overshot cards I had were slightly too small for the Westley Richards 11 bore and I didn’t have a card punch that was the right size.  After an abortive attempt to make one from a box spanner – I couldn’t harden it properly because I ran out of Propane, I knuckled down and turned up a proper one from a piece of EN8 bar – bit of a saga  as it was a large bar and so had to be reduced in diameter, so I got the suds pump working after some fuss, then it more or less flooded the whole tray of the lathe! Anyway (always lots of ‘anyways in this blog! ) I did get it done and bored and milled the side away to get the cards out.  In the chuck of my miller it bangs out cards in no time at all – using 2 thicknesses of card and a wooden fixed block I turned out several hundred  in ten minutes.  I ought to take the time to make a cutter that throws the cards out – I have to stop this one every 20 cards or so to unload it.

Proper job now!

Another walking stick – very graceful, unlike the previous two.  – 7 mm centrefire

11 bore  card cutter for overshot cards.

14 November – I finished the J R Cooper write up and its gone off the MLAGB to see if they want to publlish it – I hope it will draw forth some useful information if it get into print.  I got back to sorting the Cook Percussion cane that a correspondent to this blog had suggested a way of repairing.  I turned up a bit of bar, put flats on it and drilled a hole throught the middle and  put it back in the lath and turned tha pins down and parted it off and then filed a square in the hole – fitted fine and now cocks and the mechanism fires off but although it hits the caps it doesn’t do so with enough force to ignite them,  That could be because I replaced the spring with a somewhat less strong one as I thought the one that was in there had been too strong – it didn’t look as if it was original – and I thought it had resulted in the mechanism breaking. Or it could be that the sliding bit I made was too thick and just caught the end stop as the piston hit the cap – the cap has been hit lightly, but obviously not quite hard enough.  As with the J R Cooper I can’t make up my mind whether to pursue the issue or leave it since it does function and its unlikely that anyone will ever want to fire it in ernest – I certainly don’t intend to. I could take it apart again, although I did cheat and use a drop of instant glue on the cross pin in the damaged hole in the piston rod that I’d threaded into the piston shaft.  We shall see…  I  am on a shoot on Thursday – I may forsake my nice little Nock single 16 bore for my much meatier Westley Richards 11 bore double, although its obviously a bit more to lug about all day – still my weight exercises might with luck mean that I still have some muscle in my arms!   I guess the next gun on the agenda is the Lancaster Oval bore – I realised why it wasn”t finished while I was doing the restoration – I’d sent off the cocks of my proper original Lancaster to Blackleys to get copies cast for the restoration, and it took 2 years to get them, by which time I’d started something else!  Looking back at the post on this website for the Lancaster I realise it must be around 10 years since I started this blog and put up gun stuff – there was some house building stuff before that, not much!  Anyway I should celebate 10 years of gun blogging!  In that time I’ve had 4 million visits from half a million visitors in total !  The UK is the biggest single audience, but taken together there are a lot more overseas visitors than home visitors – mainly American, Russian and German visitors, but quite a few from China,  Australia and Canada plus a steady trickle from all over the world.  I get over 100 visits a day every day.  Really quite amazing the reach of the site!  I think it must be the biggest gun restoration site on the web in terms of  the range of subjects covered and the sheer volume of material – there are 2200 photos on the site and its about the maximum size for a University of Cambridge Thesis!  I’m not sure how much storage it takes up on the server – fortunately available storeage  on my ISP goes up with time as the size of my blog increases!  Anyway some photos of the Cook cane;-

I ought really to put a dab of weld on the end of the piston rod and use a better pin!

10th November – I’ve finished writing up the construction of my dinghy and I think I have enough photos for an article in Practical Boat Owner, so I’ll send that off shortly.  I have started to write an article on the J R Cooper for the Black Powder Mag of MLAGB but realised that most of the existing photos are terrible – I didn’t have a decent setup when I did the original ones, and the latest ones I just did for a record as I worked, so I’ll probably have to take it down again to photograph it properly.   Writing the article I mentioned the Jones Paternt that I have, so I got it out to have a look again.  Its a rather fine gun, made for Royalty somewhere in Germany to an 1833 patent.  Its a double barreled shotgun and meant to be a weatherproof action with enclosed hammers and nipples. It doesn’t have a magazine for caps like the Cooper so the top slide has to be opened to reload caps by sliding it backwards . Strangely the caps fit onto the noses of the hammers and had the percussion compound applid to the outside of the cap so that it fired when the hammer hit the nipple, which came out through the centre of the hooks in the breechblock, as in the Cooper.  Again you wonder what the real advantage was – if its raining you still have to open the slide and fiddle around capping the hammers and carry around caps that are not readily available, plus of course its still a muzzle loader with all that palaver  – I’m not convinced by it, I can see why it never caught on!  Here are some photos of the Jones Patent No 7610 serial No 169 of about 1833;-

9th November – I just realised that the J R Cooper is made of what was called Tutanag in the 19th century – I’d heard of it as used very occasionally for making pistol bodies etc  but never for long guns – I now know its the name used to describe alloys of about 50% (?) copper and variable amounts of tin and zinc, so I was right in my guess as to the general composition of the non ferrous parts of the Cooper,  I’d just never associated it with the old name for the alloy.  It clearly wasn’t a precise alloy of the components, just a nickel silver wasn’t a precise mixture of copper and nickel, whereas Britannia metal was a proprietory alloy of fixed composition.   So at least I can properly describe the gun now!   I spent today writing up the construction of my little dinghy as I want to publish the plans etc some time.  I also want to publish some 3D printing plans etc for boat parts.  I may have to start another website, or at least reclaim one of the other 10 I already have, as this one is banned on some business servers as it mentions firearms – even my Talk Talk mobile network by default stops me going on my own website!  I think I can get them to switch off the block – I must check it out before I go sailing again as I want to blog from the boat.   I’m wondering if its worth keeping on trying to get the Cooper to fire off caps – I hate to give up at this stage, but am not sure of the best way to proceed – it all seems to work except the caps don’t fire – maybe the piston isn’t hitting hard enough or doesn’t travel far enough – I can just insert a penknife blade between piston and nipple and there is certainly less force than I would expect – but I can’t see anything wrong with the mecahnism – obviously needs another examination…… My main lesson from the Cooper is that its too dangerous to have got anywhere in the 1840s – not knowing if there are caps in the magazine  and not being able easily to flush them, and not being able to see the state of the tumbler would not have appealed to the 19th century gentleman, any more than they do to me!

7th November – I tried out the capping on the J R Cooper – but my modified caps wouldn’t work – they transferred to the nipple OK but didn’t fire. I’m not sure if it is because the caps are old and faulty or not very sensitive, or quite possibly they need a bigger impact than the piston gives – you can see a slight imprint of the end of the nipple on the inside of the cap. the metal of the drawn caps was thicker and maybe they were more sensitive.  So the saga is not yet over…………  I got another spam call from ‘Bank Security’ yesterday – its a recorded message saying you have had two transaccions on your account and press 2 if they are not right – then you get to speak to someone who wants to know your name, date of birth and which bank!  So you give him some made up details and he then says you have to ring security at whatever bank you told him and gives you ‘their’ number which will be an 020 3289 XXXX number. I try to take as long as I can to keep him on the line while I go to look for a pencil, then to find some paper – the longer you keep him occupied the fewer innocent people will be bothered by him.  Ring off after telling him he is a bloody pain and a pretty incompetent scammer!  If you then google the number you will find on a website that there are lots of  020 3289 numbers that have been used by scammers for months. If you think about it, they must make money out of some pretty gullible people, which is despicable, or they wouldn’t do it.  It makes me very angry that this easily killed fraud is not stopped – given how easily the police can track phones when they want to, and how easily phone companies can disconnect lines, and how publically the information is about which lines are misused it must be because the authorities just don’t care.  Given that they mutter about how important it is to tackle low level crime, its pretty appalling – I am trying to start a campaign – I must have had about a dozen of these calls in the last 6 months…!

6th November – Had a bit of a problem with my super  Bambu 1X 3D printer as the filament broke in a couple of places inside the tubes and  extruder  and I had to partially strip it to clear the bits – its a beautifully engineered device but everything is so small that its very fiddly – the screws look a  bit like the tops of pins!  I don’t know what had happened to the filament, it seemed to be rather brittle when I tried to bend it so I’ll be careful when I next use that colour – trouble is its my standard colour for cappers and card dispensers – pine green.   Well, I wasn’t happy to leave the J R Cooper without knowing whether the cap system would work completely including voiding the caps after they had fired, or rather when the gun is moved to half cock – I didn’t hold out much hope of finding the right sized caps of the correct construction so I decided that I’d have to modify existing overlength caps.  That suits my favourite activity of toolmaking!  I made a jig to hold the caps at the right depth so I could just file off the excess length – I drilled a series of 3.4 mm holes in an 8 mm steel plate and opened up the top 4.6 mm to 4.8 mm diameter.  I can drop the caps in the holes firing side down and gently file off the skirt that protrudes above the plate, blow out the swarf, push a short tapered brass rod into the mouth of each cap to make sure its round and any burr is opened out, the GENTLY push the caps out with a matchstick through the 3.4mm hole.  I am of course very conscious of the nature of the caps, and wear safety glasses and work very carefully and gently making sure that I am never directly in the firing line if any cap were to fire.   Anyway it works and I now have around a dozen caps that seem to be the right dimensions so tomorrow I will repeat the multiple firing experiment – just the caps, every time I look closely at the ?brass, tin, zinc ? alloy and its cracks I doubt the gun would stand being fired.  I do like to shoot most of the guns I work on if sensible and legal, but not at the expense of damaging them!  Even if they are not shootable I do like them to be fully functional up to  that point.

Cap filing Jig   –  The top row of holes were  slightly too large, the lower row are  just right.

5th November – Gunpowder, treason and plot etc.   I set about cutting a new thread yesterday, and managed to have another saga of cock-ups – I caught the lathe tool on the boss  of the thread and slightly off-centered it – after I’d turned it down to finished size too. It wasn’t bad enough to spoil the job luckily, just slightly annoying !  Then I broke off a 2.5mm drill – but again luckily I got the bit out.  Anyway after a bit of messing about with the tipped tool that had a bit of movement in the tip, I got a good thread and was able to finish the job.  I was able to test the reservoir of the Blissett up to a couple of hundred p.s.i. and it seemed OK, but not surprisingly the old sealing valve didn’t seal at all , and as it is horn and I couldn’t get it off I decided it was best left as it is – then it’s no danger to anyone from trying to fire it as it won’t hold air!  I  did a bit more playing with the J.R.Cooper – I found that the length of the caps was pretty critical for the magazine as it is, anything over about 4.65 mm tall jams the drum and won’t load – I managed to find about 8 caps that were below this limit – it would be possible to file more of them down I guess, but at least I have enough to test out the feed.  Loading the caps through the hole in the cover is a bit tricky but OK, although you have to hold back the clock spring while you do it so its a fiddly two handed job.  The caps feed all the way round and arrive in the steel tumbler block. If the lock is on half cock or fired they are pushed against the side of the piston, then when the lock is cocked using the front trigger the caps all shuffle up one , and one sits in front of the piston.  Pull the trigger and it shoots forward – if the barrel is off it just projects forward fairly briskly, if the barrel is fitted it presumably lands on the nipple and fires – I haven’t tried that yet, but I have shot a few caps out of the lock so I know it does feed.  I made a repair to the break in the top tang – as it is made of some unknown alloy I soft soldered a piece of brass into a recess I’d filed in both parts.  It was just as well I didn’t try hard soldering as the metal swelled o one side of the joint and I had to file it down and recut the engraving and recolour the metal with brass/bronze browning from Blackleys – not a perfect repair by any means, but I thought it ought to be made as strong as reasonably possible in case it is ever fired.  I don’t intend to fire it because of the many other cracks in the mystery alloy, but I may fire off a few caps to test the mechanism.   I realised the serious  design flaw in  Coopers design – Once you load the caps through the slot in the cover there is no way of seeing how many are in the magazine, or of  getting them out without unscrewing the left side of the breech – 4 small screws – except by firing them, although if you take the barrel off you can ‘fire’ them through the hole on the false breech into the barrel groove  (see photo below) and recover them.  You can go from the lock being fired to half cock by partially pulling the cocking trigger, and half cock is safe in that the piston is sticking out into the place where the ‘ready to fire’ cap would be – thus there is no cap in play.  Going into full cock withdraws the piston , thus allowing the next cap to take up position in front of the piston ready to be fired.  The main problem is that there is no visible indication of the state of the gun – whether there are any caps in the magazine or not or what the state of the lock is – fired, half cock or full cock.  It is thus inherently unsafe, which may have been the reason it never got beyond a prototype, for that is what I believe this gun is.  The only indication on the  gun is ‘J R Cooper  Patentee’  – no patent number nor the word ‘patent’  – so perhaps the ‘Patentee’ was a bit of a con – after all he was a patentee of a number of patents, just not one relating to any of the features of this gun!   He did however take out a patent in 1838 for a single barreled gun with an enclosed lock, but that didn’t have a cap magazine, and did have a form of cock extending through the right side of the action body – so this might just have been a follow-on experiment.  I tried ‘firing’ caps without the barrel in place and the magazine works well – cock the gun using the cocking trigger, fire it and a cap is projected, cock it again and fire again and a second cap is projected….    I just tried the same with the barrel in place ( its Nov 5th)  and a nipple in the barrel – but without loading the barrel, and the first ‘shot’ goes off fine but the cap doesn’t come off the nipple, so the second cap hits the first one and partially over-rides it but doesn’t fire (see photo) .  I tried tapping the butt on the ground gently but couldn’t get the cap to drop off the nipple, although when I lifted it with tweezers it came off easily.  It is quite probable that Cooper would originally have used caps formed from a cruciform of copper rather than a drawn cup, in which case the caps would have opened out on the nipple and would more easily fall off as they tend to do with our modern caps – the other  old caps I have were mostly brittle copper bent from cruciform blanks, whereas the only ones I could find that were of the correct dimensions were ductile solid drawn copper.  Assuming that suitable caps existed, I think the gun would have worked as intended.  I am certain that the safety issues relating to the cap magazine and the lack of  any means of seeing the state of the firing mechanism and the difficulty of clearing the magazine would outweigh the convenience of not having to cap the gun for each shot = after all you still have to do all the muzzle loading stuff with powder, wads and shot anew for each sho, not to mention having to take the lock apart to clean it each time it is used or it will corrode horribly.  Next problem – find short, wide cruciform caps!  But basically that just about wraps up two jobs!

Looking down the barrel groove the cap is visible through the nipple hole in the false breech

 

The collision  problem with drawn caps – the first fired one didn’t fall off the nipple

despite being a loose fit, and even if the butt is tapped.

3rd November – More work on the I R Cooper cap reservoir and feed.  After going through all my boxes of old caps I found a box of caps that seem to be formed by drawing as cups, unlike the more normal caps that are made as a disk in the middle of a cross of thin sheet copper that is then bent up into the tube, so that when the cap fires the arms of the cross can spread and the cap fall off. They look very like cartridge primers but without an anvil, but the tin says percussion caps!  Anyway the tin had two sizes of caps in it, so when I’de sorted it out I had perhaps 40 caps of what appears to be the right size.  I could now try to sort out the feed mechanism and get the clock spring working, which involved a bit of adjustment with clearances etc.  Along the way I saw why the ‘pawl’ is fitted on the peg rather than being fixed to the spring drum – it actually follows the caps into the path in the steel firing block and will, I think, push the last cap into the way of the piston.  Fingers crossed it might all work – at least as well as it did originally.  I’ve tried various parts of the feed process, but haven’t yet put it all together, let alone fired off caps – but I am beginning to think that the system might work after all!   I got distracted by another job – I needed to cut an 17.5 mm x 16 t.p.i thread in stainless steel  on the lathe – now I haven’t done a lot of  thread cutting on my lathe so its always a bit of a struggle to get it set up – it has a set of change-wheels (gears) and an internal gearbox so there are a very large range of possible metric and imperial thread pitches that it will cut and a set of tables on the front telling you the settings – unfortunately I overlooked the ‘Z’ gear and cut a beautiful thread that was  48/44 times too coarse!  As that was my sole chunk of stainless ( working mostly on old guns I don’t normally stock stainless)  I’ll have to cut the thread on the other end and use the bad thread end for the small  pipe fitting.  It was a very slow job cutting the thread, so I guess I wasted half a day on that stupid mistake and will spend most of the weekend when I’m not doing domestic chores remaking the thread – unfortunately it started from 35mm diaameter bar so there is a lot of messing about getting it down to the required diameter as my coolant pump is not working, so I have to take quite small cuts.  and I think I chipped another lathe tool insert!

The clock spring is not yet fitted so there is no tension on the feed – if you tension it without the cover all the caps jump out! 

I’m not sure that the cap box label is for these caps.

Far Rt cap is sitting on the piston ready to be fired, note they are just about flush with the top of the block – ? enough clearance???

Piston is between half and full cock positions.  In half cock it exactly blocks the cap position

2nd November – Shooting clays today – the weather forecast was pretty dire, so CGC was very quiet – I think only our group shooting clays and a few people on the rifle range, but that meant that the 4 undercover stands were all available and we had a very enjoyable day – I shot the Spanish d/b 12 that was left with me – in very good condition, but I found the left hand trigger a bit light, and then it double fired on me, so I ended up shooting left barrel first, which avoids the problem – but makes pairs tricky as you have to move from the back trigger to the front.   I did a bit more on the J R Cooper last night – I had a good look at the break in the top strap and thougth it had a bit of greenish crystaline material, so I washed it and scrubbed it with a small brush and it looked suspiciously yellow – a quick once over with a magnet of all the body of the action proved that it was all non ferrous – The outside has a patinated finish that doesn’t give much of a clue, and the raw metal isn’t yellow enough to be a normal grade of brass, or bronze.  I guess it is a form of Nickel Siver – of at least some alloy of copper, zinc and nickel, or perhaps some tin?  Presumably that enabled the main action body to be a casting, although I can’t see any unworked cast surfaces.  The only part that is steel, apart from the moving parts and the pins, is the block that forms the firing mechanism – tumbler housing/ piston bore/ final cap guide.  Anyway that explains the cracks, and leaves the problem of how to repair the break.  It is possible to TIG weld brass and alloys but difficult as the zinc has very low melting point and vapourises, so I’ll avoid that.  I’m not even sure I want to silver solder it as I don’t know what the properties of the material are – especially the melting point – so I’ll probably file off a step in the back of the parts and soft solder a brass plate in.   Returning to the cap loading problem, I soldered on the new pin and filed it down so that the hob will rotate with the outer cover in place, now it all looks as if its a working system I have to find out if it does actually work – I played with some caps that just fitted in the scroll but they won’t go through the slot into the steel part where the piston operates – there is room for the cap waiting to be pushed forward on to the nipple and fired, plus one other .  The size of the caps is constrained by this part of the system – the diameter has to be such that the piston only picks up the intended cap and doesn’t get caught on the second in line although there is a bit of a chamfer on the piston on the side facing the 2nd cap so the cap can be a shade smaller  in diameter than the piston (?) but not much less than 5mm – minimum 4.9 anyway.  The front to back depth of this area constrains the length of the cap to about 4.8 mm.  I have a number of boxes of old Joyce and Eley caps – some of which are empty and some are unopened, so I ought to be able to find something that fits! Well so far I’ve managed to find just one old cap that is just about perfect, at least I think it is, only with just a single cap its difficult to try the feed properly – I think the cap is a Joyce F4 No 18 – I need to find a table of the sizes of the old caps.  The normal modern 1075s and N0 11s are too small in diameter and length  – the piston tries to pick up two caps and will I think jam.  Having got the caps that will feed onto the nipple, will they stay in the magazine while its being loaded without rotating?  Watch this space……………………………………

My collection of caps – some of the boxes are empty, most have some caps and a few are still unopened.

1st November – another month gone – soon be fireworks!  I carried on working on the J R Cooper – the cap feed was damaged – the inner drum that houses the clock spring should have a peg on the outside that has a ‘pawl’ put on it that pushes on the train of caps – I can’t quite see why the pawl has to be loosely fitted on a peg rather than fixed to the drum.  The tiny peg, with its flange that fits against the drum was broken off – it appeared to have been riveted onto the wall of the drum, but from the look of it there had been a previous attempt to rivet it and also an attempt to silver solder it on, so that was obviously a weak point. Anyway the existing peg didn’t have enough left of its flange to be usable so I filed one up in brass.  I was thinking of silver soldering it to the German silver drum but I am not confident that I can handle such tiny bits without overheating them and melting the parts themselves, which would be a disaster, so I’m going to soft solder them on with tin.  I nearly got that job done, but had to go off and get dinner!   The tang of the top strap had cracked right off so I’ll need to chamfer the joint on the back and put a dab or two of TIG weld on the joint – I don’t want the weld to be visible on the front – I’m not too bothered about the strength of the joint. Anyway I had to go out and get a refill of Argon for the TIG weld and a cylinder of oxygen for my Maxy Gas torch – I used all my oxygen when I had Covid in 2020!   I’m off shooting tomorrow if we can find a moment between showers – I was hoping it would be a flintlock day but that is only possible in settled weather so looks like it will be percussion if there are gaps in the weather, or I might take an old D/B 12 non ejector that I am sheltering for a friend just to see if I can shoot with a random gun.  I’ve been idly looking through the pile of old gun mags that I inherited from my father – one UK mag from 1993 is just full of full page ads for pistols – at least a couple of dozen dealers advertising a range of semi automatic (now called self loaders!) and revolvers in every calibre imaginable – I don’t know how many were destroyed in the 1997 ban, but judging by the ads there must have been tens or hundreds of thousands in circulation.  I’ll try to get the soldering done – I have a small hot air device for soldering surface mount circuit chips that is supposed to blow air at up to 450C – I shall see if it will do the job as I would prefer not to use a flame, and I don’t think a soldering iron will quite do – we shall see.  Here are some photos – cracks seem to be endemic on this gun – the top strap is cracked in several places, and the clock spring housing below had two or three cracks visible – one reason for being very careful with the soldering!

Remains of the original peg joints on the spring drum, what we in the trade call a ‘mess’

replacement peg in the making – keep things attached to a decent ‘handle’ as long as possible!

Ready to solder – held on by flux at the moment – will probably need something better although capilliary action might work.

31st October – Not content with the number of jobs I have on the go I started another!  Its been bugging me since I took the J R Cooper to the shoot to ask for info – I just had the feeling that I had to find out if it would ever have worked, and just how it was put together I so out came my collection of gunmaker’s screwdrivers ( much thinner blades than normal screwdrivers – mostly ground down by me ).  The way its put together is not like any other gun I’ve taken apart, and it was a bit of a mystery how one got into it.  The top plate comes off easily enough and reveals the top of the tumbler and the link and piston that does the firing, and the top of the block that the piston slides in.  The barrel comes out as per normal, except that it has a quite small and tapered nipple sticking straight out of the back of the breech block.   the Left side ide plate with the drum that holds the cap magazine comes off, but that just leaves an inner side integral with the ‘trigger plate’ and right side After that it wasn’t obvious where to begin.  The trigger plate is screwed through to the top tang and the top tang is screwed to the trigger plate – removing both screws releases the top tang and also the stock – leaving the trigger plate with the spring attached together with the integral  side plates and the lock mechanism. A bit of work with a Mole Wrench and a wrap of leather as a spring compressor removed the spring.   Two screws from the right side plate now release the block containing the tumbler and piston and piston guide plus the channel through which the caps have to travel to present themselves in front of the piston.  Its now possible to temove the tumbler pivot and get the tumbler out with the link for the spring and the bridle to engage with the cocking trigger – now almost there.  One problem remains, and I haven’t yet sorted it –  The trigger guard is fixed by screwing into the lock plate ahead of the cocking trigger but won’t rotate because the front, cocking trigger gets in the way, but the front trigger wont go through the hole in the trigger plate as it seems not to be large enough – impass!   I’m sure that is all a bit difficult to follow – I’ve taken loads of photos but I’m not sure they will really help that much – I’ll put some below.  Anyway I think I can see that it might work – it does look as if there is a bit of corrosion around the piston area so I guess it has been used, and the engraving looks quite worn – in fact I wonder if the mechanism within is actually a MK 2 or MK ?  version as the external wear is not quite compatible with the internal state.  Anyway the result of my stripping it is that I can see how the caps must have been fed to the piston, and can see that it needs the  original, larger old caps – of which I have plenty.  The nipple is really tiny, smaller than a modern 1075 or No 11 nipple, but then I guess the cap doesn’t have to stick on the nipple as its just thrown on by the piston in the process of firing and then has to fall off on its own account.  The larger caps fit well in the magazine too.  The magazine needs working on, the clock spring that drives the caps has come unattached and will need refixing, and the spur on the inner rotating drum has come off so there is nothing to drive the caps round.  I’ll have to sort that out.  The other problem is that the tail of the top tang was cracked and has now come off, so will need a dab of weld – only I have run out of Argon.  Enough excitement for one day!

Here are some photos – for a general view etc see my original post – look in recent posts…

The clock spring and hub have been removed here. The side visible is an integral part of the trigger plate

Gun is pointing right! the other pictures are pointing left – confusing eh?

Top view of the one part trigger plate/side plates with tumbler block removed

This block with tumbler comes out from between the side pieces of the trigger plate – this is a view from the front

There is evidence that its been fired during its life – so it must have worked!  A total pig to clean though!

30th October – I did get the bell engraved, and I didn’t loose any more tips although I did have to sharpen my graver a few times.  That took me most of the morning as holding a bell  rigidly and rotating it around under my microscope takes a bit of fiddling – still, one job out of the way.  I started gently clearing out my outside shed and came across my box of assorted small O rings, so it seemed like a good idea to stop clearing and see if I could find O rings to act as seals in the Blissett as one of the leather seals had disintegrated and I think another one or two were missing. Anyway I came up with ones that seemed to fit – I’m something of an O ring freak as most of the equipment I built for a living depended on O rings for its survival down to 4000 meters deep in the ocean  , and I got pretty fussy about exactly how they worked, and what the tolerances were.  I’m minded to test the ones I’ve put n the Blisset to see if I have lost the touch!   I did have one reasonable wholemeal sourdough loaf last night, and one that was like a brick….. more work to do there, I don’t want to give up just yet!  I took the J R Cooper single percussion gun (see post – currently near the top of the recent posts list to the right of this page ) to the shoot earlier this month as there were a couple of my friends who handle many more antique firearms than I do by way of their work, to see if they had ever seen anything like it – they hadn’t, the only thing they had seen vaguely similar was the Jones Patent weatherproof  gun, one of which I also have but which appears to be much later than the J R Cooper.  The Cooper has a cap magazine on the left side of the lock and a piston that sits between the hammer and the cap when the cap is on the nipple.  There are two mysteries, or maybe more – first is how do the caps get from the drum magazine with a watch spring drive onto the nipple, and then after firing, from the nipple to the exit port?  And what did the caps look like, were they just normal  Joyce caps as used on most percussion guns – the nipple, if I remember correctly, looks just like a normal nipple.  The gun is fully finished and engraved all over the totally enclosed lock housing, and looks as if it has been used a fair bit so presumably it did work – I have a box that has some of the bits of the cap drum that I was trying to mend, including the watch spring waiting for me to get round to the job – maybe that another one to add to the list – I have never stripped it right down, so I might do that – Having cleared out my ‘engraving/indoor’workshop and put up a fire alarm I can now light my woodburner, so its very tempting to find jobs to do in there!

Red arrow is a face seal, green is a piston seal – the piston seal is perhaps a shade too thin?

There didnt seem to be seals here before, but they would have been necessary to avoid leaks

There is a face seal at the bottom replacing a leather seal

29th October  – Work ckearing out the ‘engraving workshop’ continues, nearly done. Now need to move on to the outside workshop which if anything is in a worse state.   I started a new engraving job – putting a script inscription round a handbell that Penny is presenting to the College when she leaves – I got as far as the first letter and I’ve already broken the tips off two gravers – I hope its just bad luck as there are lots of letters still to do and there is no going back now!  I’ve been struggling to make sourdough bread these last few weeks – it started off well, but my early success didn’t last and I’m struggling to get things to work – an indication of how bad it’s got is the fact that I’ve actually taken to following the recipe in a proper bread making book fairly precisely!  The dough is just turning out too sticky and collapses – I have a couple of different sourdough starters so I think I’ll have to change back to the original.  Basically I am finding it is a very messy and wasteful business that takes ages and needs thinking about days in advance, whereas simple yeast bread I could make in about 4 hours  from start to finish, with probably only about 20 minutes actual work and 100% success.  I seem to have a whole list of jobs to do at the moment, and am struggling to get them under way – I did manage to put  my overshot card dispensers on ebay today and made more stock and ordered more springs, and sent off a packet of cappers that had been ordered.  I am trying to write an article on building a dinghy based on a design I came up with and built almost 50 years ago – prompted by a couple of people down at the North Fambridge marina this year  asking me where they could buy one  – its taking me longer than it should… Plus I need to make a part for the Cooks patent percussion cane, and wind up things with the Blissett- I’ll probably pressure test the reservoir, and do the stored energy calculation so I’ll probably have to make a pressure adaptor.   Plus the garden needs its pre winter going over and so on and so on!!   I did get round to putting my account of our delivery trip from the river Crouch up to Inverness on this blog – see recent posts – and on the boat subject, of course Ive still got a load of design and construction and software ready for  next season!    I fondly remember how leisurely it was when I had a job……. Oh, and I ought to get round to selling the C5…………………….

On the Caladonian Canal in Inverness at the end of our delivery trip. Peace at last!

26th October – Not only did I get the new No 5 UNF die, I also found the two I already had!   Anyway that job is now put to bed.  Re. the Blissett, I did a quick calculation of the probable safe working pressure of the reservoir, of course bearing in mind that I don’t know what steel its made of so I assumed it was a low grade mild steel – I also couldn’t measure the wall thickness properly – I could only tell that it was somewhat greater than the 2.7 mm I could measure at the outside end after the screw threaded ring, and  the internal diameter was about 27mm,  so the ratio of wall thickness to radius is about 5:1.  Calculating the ‘hoop stress’, which is the stress acting round the wall, and the principal stress it experiences, the maximum tensile stress should be about 5.5 times the internal pressure.  An intenal pressure of 500 p.s.i,  which I read in ‘Air-guns and Air Pistols’ by L Wesley was typical for air canes, would therefore result in a tensile hoop stress of  2750 p.s.i.   A relatively weak mild steel has a tensile strength of  around 40000 psi so there is a safety factor of x 14.   That would suggest that it could stand a higher internal pressure, even with a safety factor of x4 it should be safe up to 1500 psi – similar to the pressure used in modern air rifles? Of course its unlikely that the rest of the mechanism would stand that pressure, and I’m sure that in the times when these canes were in use it wasn’t possible to make convenient pumps that would work at that pressure – I notice that you can buy air gun pumps that claim to reach 6000 p.s.i on ebay – I shudder to think of an air rifle working at that pressure.  Anyway I have no intention of trying the Blissett out, I’m just curious about the technology as always !  I noticed on You Tube there were a number of (USA) videos on ‘dieselling’ spring air guns where you introduce a bit of oil into the piston chamber which is vaporised  by the motion of the piston and ignites with the compression and produces an extra pressure that increases the pellet velocity by around 40% ( strictly illegal in the UK if it pushes the  pellet energy above 12 J – or  does it become a firearm since it involves an explosion?) – I can remember when I was young we thought you had to keep oiling everything to stop rust,  including putting oil down the air path and I remember the smell and the thin smoke – I wonder if we were actually dieselling then!  One You Tube claimed that putting a small smear of Vaseline in the recess at the back of the pellet also worked and produced a 40% velocity increase, but I’m a bit sceptical on that one as I don’t see how it could vaporise. Enough of the Blisset et al…………   Maybe when I’ve got a bit further with the clearout of the workshop I’ll post some photos of it – I can then move on to clear out the outside workshop with my machine tools and woodworking machines which is an even bigger mess as I haven’t worked in there since I did stuff for the boat!

 

 

25th October I have started the massive job of sorting my gun workshop – I had boxes of electronics piled all over the woodburner so had to find homes for them all, and it was/is a mess!  The trouble is that its like archeology on a rapid scale – my interests change from time to time, which means putting a layer of some different technology on top of the last layer –  gun restoration, engraving, welding, cnc machining, electronics, school projects, computing and 3D printing.  Anyway I’m on a mission to rationalise and vacuum up the grot and get rid of stuff I’m never going to need.  History warns me about getting rid of stuff – I threw out a load of plastic parts for some equipment I’d made for a client ten years before, and the next day he rang to see if I had any spares – sadly the bin had already been collected!  That lost me several hundred pounds. On anther occasion I threw out two large boxes of printed patent specifications I’d been sent when I acted as expert witness many years ago, only to be asked for my opinion on a similar case shortly afterwards.  My policy now is only to get rid of stuff that I know I can readily buy again!  When I got bored with clearing out I went back to the Blissett air cane and made a tool to strip the valve assembly to see how it was made.  It is as it appeared from the outside, a spring loaded valve, probably horn, sealing in a conical steel surface, all in good condition.  I got to thinking about these early air weapons – they all shot quite hefty lead balls.  The heaviest .22 cal airgun pellet weights 1.5 grams with a maximum velocity of  less than 125 m/s  to be legal at 12 Joules although most pellets are much lighter ( .4 to .8 gm) and travel much faster. The balls for the air cane are 36 bore, so weigh 12 grams , which means that for a comparable muzzle energy they need a muzzle velocity of  just 44 m/sec, i.e. a reasonably fast car doing 100 mph could just outrun the bullet.  If you want to work it out –  kinetic energy (Joules) = 1/2 mass (Kg) x velocity squared (m/s squared). Or to put it another way, if fired from the shoulder standing,  parallel to the ground the bullet would have a job to travel more than about 25 – 30 meters before hitting the ground- so sighting would be a bit of a problem!  I got the No 5 UNF die to finish off the cock screw for the Lancaster so maybe I’ll do that tomorrow after I’ve been to the dentist. I think the post I did on the Lancaster restoration must have got lost when I had a website crisis a few years back, so maybe I’ll dig out the photos again….. Here is the Blissett valve assembly……

The internal thread is 11/16 x 16 t.p.i. – not very common but Tracy Tools has taps and dies

Blisset Air Cane valve assembly – tool still attached

Blisset Air Cane valve seat

23 October – I spent the weekend down in Wales sorting out father in law’s house to go on the market.  I made a couple of cock screws for the Lancaster today – I had a couple of failures as I sheared off the thread while turning the head – I drill a t hole in a bit of bar and tap it so I can hold the screw to turn the head, but I took too big a cut!  I also managed to break a 2.5 mm drill while making the hole in the bit of bar – not very clever all round – then I had to do one for the original Lancaster and had a bit of trouble sorting out a suitable thread – I think its 5 UNF but to my suprise, that is about the only die I don’t have for some odd reason – its missing from my set.   THe restoration project Lancaster is only missing the half cock notch on one lock, so the other will act as a guide.  I haven’t put detents on the tumblers, which as a rifle it should have, but that is probably a step too far at this stage.  Rifles need detents whereas shotguns don’t as the trigger is only pulled very lightly on a rifle – not enough to hold the sear out of the way of the half cock notch, whereas one gives a shotgun trigger a more solid pull that keeps the sear clear while the tumbler rotates.  In fact it is a normal reaction when shooting a shotgun for the trigger to be pulled a second time involuntarily – this makes the design of single trigger mechanisms on double guns quite complicated as it needs to ‘loose’ the second pull and not use it to fire the second barrel.  It is interesting that once the development of the ejector mechanism for double barreled shotguns had reached a plateau around 1885, the gunmakers were searching for something else to encourage users of their best guns ( which were very long lasting!) to keep on spending and the attention switched to single trigger mechanisms – there were 91 patents between 1894 and 1910 relating to single trigger mechanisms.  Most ‘ordinary’ guns now use pendulum systems based on recoil to avoid firing on the second pull – which occurs very quickly after the first pull while the recoil lasts considerably longer, so the pendulum is still in the recoil position during the second pull and only connects the trigger to the sear after the recoil.

19th October – I  had a very pleasant day’s shooting yesterday as the guest of a good friend,  mostly partridges but a few pheasants. Quite challenging for everyone as there was a strong wind and partridges doing 50 m.p.h. with the wind behind them!  I managed to find the way into the mechanism of the Blisset Air Cane – there was a collar on the muzzle, I could just make out the joint, when unscrewed the cover just slid off the mechanism (I’d already taken out the sights and lever of the loading shutter).  The mechanism was all very clean and rust free and as soon as I’d made a strong enough key to cock it from a hex key, it worked just fine.  The tumbler is wound directly by the key and the sear (shown above, removed) engages it.  When the button on the sear is pressed the tumbler is rotated by the hefty spring and flips the ‘hammer, that in turn drives the firing pin out.  The tumbler overshoots the ‘hammer’ which is then free to rotate, allowing the firing pin to retract under the rush of air from the resevoir, which then allows the chamber valve to close rapidly and stop the flow of air.  That is important because the resevoir holds enough air for many shots so the valve must shut off as soon as enough air has been released.  My book on air weapons says the pressure used was 500 p.s.i. and that its very tricky to replace the valve on the resevoir, which may originally have been horn. On the subject of horn the horn handle of the Blisset was badly cracked and had bit s missing so I filed down some horn dust and mixed it with Araldite and built up the missing parts – doesn’t  look too bad. I got to looking at a few of my long guns from my cabinet to make sure they were happy, and had a bit of a shock that I had left a couple that I’d worked on in an unfinished state.  My Lancaster Oval Bore rifle that I’d been restoring some years ago and thought I’d finished and put away in the case I fitted  out for it turned out not to have had the half cock notches cut in the tumblers, or cock screws made, or one of the little safety sliders made.  Also the complete one I used as a model was somehow missing both cock screws – I dont know what happened to them – it was complete when I got it so I must have taken them out as models for the restoration one – strange.  Anyway I started to make new ones as I’d just got a couple of new lengths of steel bar.  The nearest thread I could find for the cockscrew was M3, which of course can’t have been what it was, but UND 4 was too small and UNF 5 too big.   I also found the Venables that I’d tried to resolder the barrels of and had made a mess of soldering the bottom rib – I suppose Ill have to redo it, which is a shame because I got a lovely brown on the barrel.

16th October – Not much progress on anything in the last few days – except I suppose hacking down the overgrown grass in the front garden!  I’m waiting for a bar of EN1A steel to make the little slider that I need  for the Cook patent Air Cane – I did model the mechanism in Solidworks, which certainly helps to see how it goes together, and I think that the slider will work – at least I hope so.  I hoped to put some pictures from the Solidworks model on this blog but unfortunately it doesn’t seem to like the files Solidworks makes – not sure why as they look like normal .pdf files.   I’m off to a shoot on Wednesday – I seem to have collected 4 muzzle loading shoots this season, which is perfect – I might try to fix one more after Christmas, but probably not.  I am trying to finalise my drawings for my little dinghy so I can publish the plans, but today I realised that my drawing gives a part that is just biger than the sheet of ply its supposed to be cut from – that means more fiddling with the dimensions!    Looking through my collection of mostly slightly ropey guns I found it difficult to pick out some of my own repairs – I’d mostly forgotten what I’d done.   The more you look at antique firearms the more you see that have been restored or ‘restored’.  I do have a very few that are in fine condition and that I’m sure are totally original – but it actually rare that A barrel hasn’t been rebrowned or a bit of work done on the barrel engraving or the cock or cockscrew replaced.  I’m pretty sure that some of the guns that Ive had to replace the side nail on are indestinguishable from the original – I did one recently and the client couldn’t tell which was which so I guess that is a sucess.  Sorry, bit of a boring blog today!!!

13th October – Had a very pleasant day at the Derek’s clay Grouse shoot – it was good to see all the Muzzle Loading gang, but I’m happy to keep it as a fairly rare event!  I did hit a few clays, but only a few!  Looking at the weather forecast from today onwards I was forced to the conclusion that I couldn’t put off lighting the AGA another day – at least we got almost halfway through October and so far the kitchen has managed to stay above 20C all the time.  Before I could light it I had to service the burner – the old AGAs are wonderfully primitive – there is a small tank at the side of the cooker with a ball cock to keep the oil level constant, and an adjustable needle valve to control the flow out, and it then runs into a small pot that has channels running out to circular wicks that burn within concentric tubes.  Unfortunately the modern heating oil deposits carbon around the little pot and eventually blocks the oil inlet so every 3 months or less the burner has to be taken out and scraped clean and the pipe drilled out with a foot long drill.  Anyway that is now done, hopefully until Christmas.  My daughter gave me some sourdough starter, and I determined to get it to work this time – previous attempts at sourdough having been a dismal failure.  I think I understand enough about  sourdough yeasts and fermentation to have a go.  I am congenitally unable to follow detailed instructions – not sure why, just one of those things – so I always have to understand the principles behind what I’m trying to do, and then I can make it up from there.  Anyway I applied that principle to the sourdough and got a couple of really nice leaves with a good rise, so I’m pretty happy with that.  When I’ve made a few more I’ll put up a blog it.  I didn’t do any more to the canes, but yesterday one of the shooters said he had the barrel part of a Blisset cane he would give me – which might mean that I could manage to get inside one and get a working mechanism…..

11th October – I came to put away my little single barreled Nock percussion that I use for almost all of my shooting and found that the thread on the side nail wasn’t holding as the thread had worn.  The thread in the lock is 32 tpi but just a bit bigger than No 8 UNC in diameter.  I opened up a die as much as I dared and made a new side nail – it does hold, and since it doesn’t take any real strain I’ll go with it, but it really needs a slightly bigger diameter.  I’m off to Derek’s ‘Grouse Shoot’ at the grouse stand at Cambridge Gun Club tomorrow.  I haven’t been to a club shoot for a while – too much standing around for my liking, but once in a while I need to be sociable!  I need to get some more shot, so if anyone else is interested I’ll get 100Kg and pass it on.   Cambridge Gun Club now sells caps and black powder, so perhaps they might like to sell shot as well  and save me the bother.   I’m still contemplating the Cooke Patent percussion cane as even with the suggestions that have come from readers of this blog, I wasn’t really happy that I understood exactly how it worked.  My main thought was that even with the suggested sliding collar or other linking arrangements to allow the handle to close, the spring was far too strong to allow the very short handle to cock it.  Plus the spring is just a cut off bit of a spring wiithout the normal flat ends found on purpose made springs.  So I think the original spring broke, and someone replaced it with one that was far too strong, causing the toggle mechanism, whatever that was, to break when they tried to cock it, and parts to be lost.  Now that raised another issue for me!  The present spring is shorter than the available length when the piston is fired, which means that the cap is actually impacted (fired) by the inertia of the piston, and when a new cap is inserted and the cane isn’t cocked, the piston doesn’t press down on the cap and possibly fire it as the barrel is screwed in.  That is obviouly sensible.  I suppose that since the piston is only constrained by the friction of the sear on the square piston rod  in the fired position it is possible that a very heavy blow on the muzzle  end of the barrel might fire it, although the piston is not heavy.   I’m tempted to make a computer model of the mechanism in SOLIDWORKS  so I can see how it goes together – I am quite quick using it, but I don’t have a lot of experience at using it for animations – maybe I should really clear up my workshops instead of playing!   I  make most of our bread, and I’m about to verture into sourdough again – I didn’t have much luck before, but I found a book that explains the biochemistry of some of it, and I think I know why I never had any success – basically because I was too mean to chuck out half of the ‘mother’ every so often to refresh it, whereas you have to add  substantially more flour than there is mother or the bacteria outcompete the yeasts!  So unless you use or discard a lot, you will eventually be submerged by a sea or mountain of sourdough depending on whether you are using a liquid or dough like ‘mother’ .  I did have a strange happening last time I made ordinary half wholemeal bread – I made a batch of dough and shaped it into two identical loaves – both treated the same – one came out quite dense and one had a very good open texture throughout. I don’t like variables I can’t quantify!….. I didn’t fix the lights on the C5 because it was raining and I have to work on it outside.

10th October – Its good to be back – I realise what a lot of interesting and helpful people follow this blog!  For example Jorg suggested that there was probably a sliding block on the piston rod that is pulled by the handle pivoting and in turn pulls the pin that is through the piston rod – it is then free to slide back down the piston rod when the handle is shut, leaving the piston in the cocked position – which sounds right – I had a look at the bits and I think it is the only way the thing can work – so I’ll give it a try.    Much to my surprise I got the Sinclair C5 running today – first surprise was that I managed to get enough charge into the battery to test run it after the battery had sat there completely flat for 5 or 6 years, probably enough for 10 or 15 minutes of  motoring. Second surpise was that it ran at all, as I thought it had failed on me last time I used it.  Anyway I took it for a short 1/2 mile spin!  I wish it felt safer on the road – I would probably use it if we had decent cycle paths round here – it is after all only an electric tricycle.  Its now in original working order – bar the lights, which I will look at tomorrow.  Photo as promised – its a pretty clean example of these interesting relics of Clive Sinclair’s imagination!  The production designing was actaually done by Lotus cars so its really quite a clever example of designing down to a price.  The grey bodywork is a one piece injection moulding – possibly the largest single piece production moulding at that time.  Its surprisingly comfortable to ride/drive if you are only 5ft 8 ins .  It would be a totally different beast if it were designed now with Lithium batteries and the better motors and controllers that come with electric bikes.  For the record – a C5 held the world speed record for an electric vehicle of 150 m.p.h. for a while.  Apparently it handles very well up to 100 m.p.h., but after that it got a bit trixy! I would hazard a guess that there wasn’t much of the original C5 involved!  Its just a shame that going around with your nose at around the level of vehicle’s exhaust pipes is not more pleasant…..

 

9th October – Still haven’t had any inspiration as to how the Cooke percussion cane shown below could possibly work!  I am getting somewhere with the Blisset air cane – at least I have an idea.  It looks as if the outer sleeve of the barrel and action ought to come off at the muzzle end as it looks like a fairly thin metal tapered outer  tube covers everything – the only things obviously holding it in place are the back and fore sights and the lever that shuts the hole where you put the ball, which I have removed.  However, there is a dent in the sleeve that might be causing a problem and I can’t get it to shift – its probable that there is rust somewhere that is sticking things up.  I made a key to fit the square hole under the action part and although I can’t turn it more than a few degrees, it does make the trigger button move just a little.  I’ve tried spraying release oil generously around without any obvious benefit – I’m thinking that I may need to immerse the action end in the release oil to make sure it gets everywhere.  I think the visible bit of the barrel at the muzzle is brass, the action is certainly steel so its not clear if it will be possible to overcome any rust – assuming that my interpretation of how it comes apart is correct.   I did a car boot sale on Sunday to try to get rid of a load of junk from the loft that I can’t bring myself to throw out – I did  make £150, which was really not the main point of the endeavour, and I got rid of half a Land Cruiser’s load of stuff – I felt slightly guilty as I had put my prices very low to move things, and some of the other stalls were a bit miffed at me! In the end I was virtually giving stuff away.    My next little project, beside publishing plans for the little wooden dinghy is to get the Sinclair C5 (remember them?) that lives in the ‘black shed’ in a fit state to sell.  I acquired it about 12 years ago and the  boys had fun driving it around the recreation ground doing wheelies which eventually bust the front wheel.  I got a replacement and put in a new battery about 6 years ago and used it once or twice in the village but it failed going up the hill and I never got round to fixing it.  At that point they were worth about £400 – that seems now to have doubled, so its probably worth a bit of effort to get it going.  The tyres were all flat, and I can’t find a hand pump so I thought I’d take the wheels off and take them to the car and use my big 12V tyre pump – of course the wheel bearings were a bit corroded – so that was a couple of hours work to strip and clean them and polish up the surfaces = anyway the tyres pumped up fine – my tyre pump is sized for my big wheels so the C5 tyres inflated in seconds!   All the wiring and circuitry looks exactly like the stuff I was designing in 1970s – in fact obselete by the time Sinclair incorperated it in the 1985 design – but it does mean that I’ve probably got lots of suitable spare bits in the loft!  I did wonder if I might throw out the primitive electronics that only lets you control the speed by switching the power on and off, and program up a small Raspberry Pi to do the job, but that would probably spoil it from a collector’s point of view and reduce its value!  The battery has been sitting flat for many years so is probably dead, but leisure batteries for it are quite expensive just to get it going – if the worse comes to the worse I’ll buy a cheap small car battery just to get it going.  Its currently on ‘charge’. Photos tomorrow, I promise.    I went to see my heamatologist for my regular check up every 8 weeks  – he is involved in lots of research so we always get to discuss the latest findings –  in this case research linking poor outcomes with frailty in old age, and linking this to low protein intake and lack of muscle bulk  – something that I’ve been pretty aware of since having Covid badly very early in the pandemic.  Apparently the general medical view is that you can’t build muscle in old age, and they now think this may be wrong!   I did point out that I’d been doing just that on and off for the last 2 or 3 years – I loose muscle if I get lazy and don’t eat enough protein, and put it back on when I am active amd do a minimal bit of slow weight training for a few minutes a few times a week.

7 th October – I had a very pleasant clay shoot on Thursday – I was trying to emulate my success of the week before, but although I didn’t do too badly by my standards, i didn’t achieve the fluency I had the week before.  Anyway Ive been busy fettling my little wooden dinghy – I designed and made it over 40 years ago as a versatile, very light ply dinghy that was light enough for me to put it on the roof of my Landrover without too much effort and could be built quickly.  It had a fairly hard life for five years or so, but then sat in various sheds until last year when I took it down to North Fambridge to acces Sepiola which I was working on, and which was on a mooring – it was left out all winter but I now have no use for it as Sepiola is on a pontoon berth in Scotland where I hope to be sailing her next year.  Anyway while I was using it several boat owners offered to buy it as they couldn’t find anything similar and thought it was a good design, so it seemed to me to be a good idea to publish an article on how to build it with a sort of plan, which has meant reverse engineering the construction to draw up the plans for the sheets of ply, and at the same time sanding her down and revarnishing her, and I couldn’t resist putting on a few 3D printed parts since I now have a rather snazzy Bambu XI printer.   I haven’t given up on sorting the two walking stick guns – the Cooke Patent percussion gun still puzzles me and I can’t see how it could have worked – see photo below.  I have got somewhere with the Blisset air cane – Pete said it should have a small button for a trigger, and so it does – almost flush with the surface.  That leaves the small issue of how you cock it, but on close examination the small hole in the barrel part appears to have a square recess that would take a key, so I guess that winds up the firing mechanism that, when the button trigger is pressed releases the piston in the centre of the barrel end and pushes the valve in the reservoir and releases the air.  At the moment I can’t turn the square, although I havent tried very hard as I haven’t made a well fitting key yet, but I have soaked all that end of the barrel in release oil ans will see what happens.  I have yet to find a way into the mechanism if I can’t get it to work – there must be some way – it just isnt obvious yet – I will sort it in time!  It is a very heavy thing, and fires quite a heavy ball for an air weapon, and has sights on the barrel, so I don’t think it was intended to be used with the small horn handle (similar in shape and size to that on the Cooke), so I guess it had a detachable stock that was carried separately in a pocket.   A lot of similar air canes had the reservoir in the detachable stock. There was a period in history when serious air weapons where in use – The Austrian army armed soldiers with a very powerful rifle – by the way my Blisset cane is also rifled- which was considered ‘not the done thing’ by there enemies because they couldn’t locate the source of the bullets as there was no smoke and little noise.  Any soldiers captured with air weapons was executed, or so the story goes…..

3rd October – I thought I’d put up some of the photos Ive been taking of various of my guns, including the Kerr, but when I tried to download about a hundred photos I found that although they were taken on my usual camera with my usual micro USB card etc they are all unreadable!  Back to the drawing board – thats the best part of a day’s work wasted.  I did eventually get the Kerr back together after some difficulty working out the right assembly sequence, but its still not quite right= there just isn’t enough travel on the pawl to rotate the cylinder, and I can’t see what is stopping it – theere doesn’t appear to be anything wrong – anyway I’ve cleaned it and put it aside while I contemplate the next wreck!   Happen its an old percussion walking stick gun of about 16 bore – a heavy old thing painted to look like a cane, with a small horn handle at the top.  It didn’t seem to be working, so in my normal fashion I couldn’t leave it alone!  It consists of a barrel – the lower part of the walking stick, with a nipple in the centre at the top, onto which screws a section of tube about 3 inches long containing a piston and spring that fires the cap. the piston has a square rod that  has a notch (bent) that receives the sear to hold it in the cocked position.  The rod passes through a disk and has a hole through it for a pin that holds a stirrup attached to the handle.  The handle pivots near the bottom and when hinged open pulls the rod via the stirrup to cock the spring.   There is a joint in the square rod that is pinned and fixed and it does not allow for any rotations.  So far so good! the pin that passes through the stirrup and the end of the rod was bent and displaced and was a soft, useless replacement.  So – you pivot the handle and it pulls the stirrup which can pivot at both ends, and pulls the rod that cocks the gun.   But the rod is now protruding and holding the handle open via the stirrup so it is not possible to close the handle until after the gun is fired.  I am at a loss to see how it is supposed to work!  The joint in the rod is fixed, and anyway is in the wrong plane.  Working on the principle that it must have worked originally I’ll just have to ponder it some more.  The cane is marked Cooks Paternt.   And Ive got another cane, this time a hefty air cane of about 120 bore by Blissett  with a very heavy steel reservoir as part of the tube.  at the moment I’m at a loss as to how its fired – there doesn’t seem to be a trigger.  The barrel detaches and you can see what looks like the release valve in the reservoir and possibly a stud in the barrel end that might push on it to fire it, but so far I’ve got no further!   So I’d better go and find out what is wrong with the camera so I can put up some photos – drat!  You have my new smart watch to blame for this blog – the strap on my very cheap digital watch finally disintegrated so I bought a cheap smart watch as it lights up nicely to show the time in the dark just by shaking my wrist – anyway I was sitting on the sofa sort of snoozing after dinner when the watch buzzed and said ‘get up and do some exercise’  Bloody cheek if you ask me, but I did at least come into the library and do the blog!

30th September  – well its been a long time since I blogged here!   I spent most of the last year fixing up the Moody 37 yacht which I finally sailed from North Fambridge on the Crouch up to Inverness with Penny and two sons, Tom and Rory – not my favourite place to sail, the North Sea, but a lot quicker than going the other way round the coast and up the Irish Sea.  We left it to the owner’s family to take it through the Caledonian Canal to its new home in Oban.  Apart from lots of programming of navigation software and 3D printing of bits for the boat, there was quite a lot of sorting out of rigging and engine and anchor windlass that didn’t work – now I can look forward to some sailing next year around the Hebrides – we’ll have a bit more time as Penny is retiring, so we might even make it to St Kilda.   I know this is supposed to be a gun blog, but most of my work for clients dried up and I am afraid I lost confidence in my engraving so still haven’t finished Fred’s stuff.  I did carry on black powder shooting with Pete and Bev at Cambridge Gub Club from time to time, and I’ve had one game shoot so far this season – a lovely Partridge day on Foulness Island where I felt I’d done myself justice – I believe its greedy and not gentlemanly to get too many so a couple each drive suits me fine.  Tom and I had a good day last week with a couple of single barreled percussion guns and both of us were pretty please with how things went = particularly at the ‘grouse’ stand here I don’t usually hit more than one or two – this time using my usual gun I did much better.  The only difference I can see was that I shot each clay without having seen it before calling for it, whereas I normally try not to shoot at clays I havent watched otheres shoot.  I’ll have to try that in future!

When we got back I got out a couple of my mid 1800s revolvers – I’m quite fond of the Adams revolvers and all the variations that evolved from it – one day I’ll get round to putting one on my FAC and shooting one.  Anyway I got out one of my fathers old collection that looked rather tired and in need of a bit of TLC – I don’t know why I hadn’t done anything with it before, but I guess it looked a bit boring – anyway it was a Kerr’s Parent, a bit later than the straight Adams, made by the London Armoury Company.  It differs from the run of the mill Adams derived  revolvers in that it has a detachable lock like a long gun  back lock with the cock and mainspring and sear on it, and a trigger mounted in the frame as normal.  It looked as if it needed a bit of a rub with fine 0000 steel wool and oil to get rid of a bit of surface mess that was originally rust.. In handling the gun I decided that the action just wasn’t working – It has a trigger just like most of the trigger cocked  type revolvers with a wide curved trigger and long action but it didn’t  cock with the trigger – I though from the look and feel of it that the action must be at fault, so I decided to  strip it and look inside – plus the would give me the chance to get rid of any hidden corrosion.  All the lockwork looked OK and I couldn’t see anything amiss – so I did what I should have done before and picked up Taylerson et al. ‘The Rvolver 1818 – 1865’ and lo and behold the Kerr’s Patent was made by LAC in both trigger cocked and single action form – apparently outwardly indistinguishable although most of the late ones were trigger cocked.  This one is serial 10555 so must be late, but anyway, it will be all the better for a good clean and oiling.  I found that the 0000 and oil were not really doing much, so tried my very fine rotary wire brush  (.003 dia wire) on an inconspicuous prlace and it worked fine, so gave it a gently going over and it now looks much better – but not in any sense polished – just as it should have been if properly cared for in the past.  I’ll post some photos later – I am resolved to try and put a bit of stuff on this blog from time to time – even if it is not all gun struff!  I’ll be trying to go through all my old guns – I found a couple of little pistols that had been lying on a new duster had small rust spots where they touched the duster – nothing else had any problem – I’m sure it muct have been something in the new dusters – since washed!

 

 

 Posted by at 11:52 pm
Jan 162022
 

My (younger) brother died recently, and when I visited him a few weeks earlier he had been rambling about how there should be an APP that would encapsulate someone’s life – I think like a lot of old people he felt that when he died – he wasn’t expected to die soon although he had a progressive illness – he would like to leave a detailed account of his life.  Fortunately or unfortunately very few people do!  I’m not sure that anyone would be interested in my autobiography – but I think I would enjoy writing some of it down, so that I could relive the good bits when my mind starts to go – lets assume it hasn’t already gone too far.  I thought this blog was a good place to put it, because its stored off site, and it is accessible, and I conceitedly hope that there might be someone amongst the many thousands of people around the world who visit this site over the years who would be bored enough to find it more interesting than watching endless Youtube videos – well one can hope! Plus it’s  decent editor and I won’t loose it an an obscure folder on my computer.  It also has the possibility that it will be saved for posterity on ‘ The Wayback Machine’  – an online archive that stores copies of all websites at intervals and can be publically accessed.   I had cause to use it to prove that information I’d stored on a website in 1994 pre-dated someone’s later  patent claim.  Anyway, I’ll see how far I get in the coming months/years,  At least to begin with it will be about my technical/professional life, rather than strictly personal details, although I probably need to say that I was born during early WWII.

My first memory of any ‘technology’ was an experiment I did at the age of about  5 or 6 that involved connecting a torch bulb to a 240 V A.C. power socket with a couple of short pieces of rigid wire –  at the time power sockets in the UK were the unshuttered round pin sort – my mother never discovered why the fuses blew, and I never found the bulb – but I was completely unharmed – strange.   My next relevant technical memory was building a model aircraft at the age of 10 – a KeilKraft balsa  kit of a Fairy Gannet powered by a rubber band, perhaps the most unsuitable plane in the whole kit range for a beginner. I managed to build it but the tissue covering was all soggy with too much tissue paste when I tried to launch it, and it just fell to the ground in a heap of bits.  I can remember that we had a Hobbies fretsaw and fretsaw table that used to be clamped to the edge of the rather nice Queen Anne drop leaf table in the evenings for hobbies – at Christmas we used to produce plywood profiles of Scottie dogs that were painted in poster paints and had a calendar stuck on them as presents.  I am, with hindsight, sure that my mother’s encouragement to make things and total acceptance of all the mess and fuss were the main source of my lifelong urge to design and create – good old mum, Rest in peace.

At secondary school (more about that later!) I spent most of my spare time making and flying model aircraft – mostly control line models and 1/72nd scratch built  scale models, with one or two sidelines;- I used to make bits like model aircraft fuel tanks and sell them to my friends, I had a session of using a home made lathe to turn out ashtrays (haven’t seen one for ages) in commercial quantities, making explosives and firing cannon and killing all the grass on the lawn (again my poor longsuffering mother had no idea why a stripe of grass had died).  I had long periods off school with illness, during which time I never had any schoolwork, but my model making skills flourished.  I brewed a large quantity of rhubarb wine, but as I didn’t really drink and it was anyway pretty revolting I decided that it would be good to distill it, so I built a still out of Nescafe tins and a bit of copper pipe – it worked rather well and I ended up with a large bottle of rhubarb gin.  I couldn’t think what to do with it, until it occured to me that my mother had a bottle of Gordon’s gin in the sideboard that she occasionally sampled after we had gone to bed, and I found that topping it up from time to time went un-noticed.  In the end she must have been drinking almost neat rhubarb gin with just the scent of juniper (no, she didn’t go blind, the methyl alcohol scare is more or less a myth to deter people from running stills).  I did a bit of rather hairy electrics/electronics – I modified an old wind-up alarm clock to turn on my big valve radio beside the bed by sticking an open switch in the way of the alarm winder – the only downside was that when I reached up to silence the alarm I would get a 240V shock – but a quick way to really wake up.  As I got to be a  teenager I became aware of pop music and thought I should have a record player so that I could play records.  I had bought a few copies of Practical Wireless and one had a design for a record player that I built – I made a case for it out of 1/2 inch chipboard and covered it in Rexine – very smart – so I bought a record to supplement the household copy of Teddy Bear’s Picnic and Colonel Bogy – I got a Lonnie Donegan record (By the Light of the Silvery Moon)!  Well, I played it a couple of times but it didn’t do much for me, so I sold the record player and kept the now useless record.  I can remember watching the young chap who bought it for £15(?)  struggling down the road with it – it weighted a ton. I came across a design for a tape recorder that used a record deck as a tape transport, so I got a cheap deck and made a recording/playback head out of a bit of copper water pipe, a couple of transformer stampings and a length of fine wire and recorded The Archers from a socket on the back of the family radio – by sticking my ear right up against the speaker I was just able to replay it through the hum!  Ok, so that worked, move on….. A friend and I acquired a Red Panther 350 motor cycle – it had a broken selector fork in the gearbox that my friend got welded, but the magneto didn’t work so we set out to push it to a garage about 3 miles away – on the way we were coasting down a hill when a policeman stopped us for not having a license and being too young to ride a motorbike – our offer to accept the telling off if he could just start it to prove it was a motor bike got us nowhere.  We never collected the bike, so maybe its still in the garage.

My father, who I visited with my brother every holiday, was a firearms collector and used to shoot all his guns,  On a couple of occasions we had a major session casting bullets and took all the guns down to the Army  range at Tidworth where his friend was the Armourer – I think I fired all of them – from flintlock duelling pistols to Lugers and Mausers and Sten guns.  I can remember when Myxomatosis was infecting the many rabbits on the downs nearby I used to wander around with father with a .22 self loading pistol each, dispatching blind and dying rabbits.  Completely separately from him, pistols were quite easy to come by, and at one time I had a couple of .32 self loading pistols – a Savage and an FN.  I once travelled by train with them in a box on my lap, with a police officer sitting opposite, which made me a little nervous – I disposed of the pistols many years ago to my father who had them destroyed. Many summer days were spent wandering round the Wiltshire downs with a ferret snuggly in my anorak and a few rabbit nets and half a dozen snares – that’s how a childhood should be spent!

My Grammar School more or less kicked me out before the 6th form and I went to live with my father in Essex and went to the North East Essex technical College and School of Art – a fantastic establishment where I used to have loads of free time and virtually no rules – I spent a lot of the summers fruit and vegetable picking on nearby farms and loosing my earnings at poker –  I made up for it at parties when I took a bottle of gin and drank water, and from about 1 a.m. I could usually clean up – without cheating. Every Wednesday was Hitchhiking  Day when I and a female friend would meet in the morning at college with a shilling and a bar of chocolate and think of a place name, then hitchhike there and back in the day – I can remember Cantebury and Saxmundham as being good sounding names. I can remember we hitched to Alnick and back in 24 hours once – I used to travel that way often, it was a completely acceptable means for young people (mostly boys) to get around.  Between college and University I hitched all round France and Spain for 6 weeks – I think it cost me less than £50 all in.  Father used to keep and breed Ferrets and always had a menagerie of other animals – foxes, a mongoose, owls etc. all of which needed feeding, and I used to go out in the evenings when I got back from college and shoot pigeons out of the trees in a nearby wood with a Westley Richards Muzzle loading percussion gun ( the logic behind this was that at the time that was cheaper than using the 12 bore breech loader – sadly no longer true by quite a margin!)

Three years living with my father was quite enough for anyone, so going to University was a logical step – my primary selection tools for which to apply to were a map and a ruler – just get as far from him as possible!  I picked Manchester College of Science and Technology and did their  somewhat unusual physics degree.  As well as the usual physics subjects, with a heavy emphasis on Xray crystalography, we did a quick course in engineering drawing and machine shop practice and our practicals all involved thinking of a problem and making an apparatus to study it. As I was a bit older than the average student and much more practical, I ended up designing a lot of the other students apparatus.  I can remember one student’s experiment, – a wind tunnel to study airflow – we needed something to inject into the air to visualise the flow, and came up with a machine that smoked 4 cigarettes at a time to generate the necessary smoke  in the airstream.  The cigarettes lasted about a minute, so in the course of a term we got through rather a lot at the department’s expense, and of course quite a few didn’t make it to the machine.   I was there as transistors began to take over from valves for many purposes – they were all germanium transistors with rather poor radio frequency performance, although it ws just becoming possible to buy transistors that would work for FM radio – they were still very expensive so I used an ex radar acorn valve when I built a FM radio – it picked up the taxi radios too.  We had a visit to the GEC transistor factory at Stockport(?) and were given a handful of transistors to play with.  I bought a couple of complementary output transistors and built an audio amplifier of 3 Watts power – it had a massive chassis cum heat sink made of copper that must have weighted a kilogram.  I guess we got up to all the things students did in those days, but I still made things – I painstakingly ground a 4 inch concave telescope mirror, but couldn’t get the figure right – I still have it somewhere!   During term time one year the people in my hovel drove a minicab in shifts – it was an old Mini with the entire boot filled with a big valve radio for getting our jobs – the only problem was that the battery was not man enough for the radio, and if you stalled there was no power to restart, which made driving great fun and meant we had to refuel with the engine running and change drivers without stopping the engine.  None of us had a clue about the whereabouts of anywhere, but we had a map and the controller knew every street and  seemingly every door and bell in Manchester if we got too stuck, although there was a price to pay in battery power and you had to keep your foot on the gas while on the radio  or the engine died,   In the vacs I always worked as my father didn’t pay his share of my fees – the summers were the best – I started out as a bus conductor in Colchester, but as soon as I was 21 I worked a couple of summers as a bus driver in Clacton.  The company used to train a group of students in about 10 days, we would then take our Public Servise Vehicle exams in a double decker bus and off we went.  In training we had 6 of us and an instructor and spent all day driving the bus around Clacton learning all sorts of useful tricks like driving without using the clutch – the buses had crash gearboxes, but the engines were very slow running and had massive torque so you could start off by just touching the gears together and listenng to the click click and then slipping them in and the bus would move smoothly off. One of my party tricks was to turn a corner while making a hand signal and changing gear by wrappping my foot round the gear lever and  doing a clutchless gear change.  My first time on a service run found me in the only up to date bus in the fleet – I climbed up into the totally unfamiliar cab and looked for the key or starter switch – after an age of abortive searching I had to climb down and find a regular driver to ask – ‘oh, you just lift the accelerator pedal to start it,’ he said…..  The bus was a bit longer than all the others and had air brakes, which I wasn’t used to, so at the first stop the bus came to a very sudden stop and the passenges who were standing up all fell in a heap. I sat there waiting for them to sort themselves out and get off, but no one got off – a banging on the cab window gave me a clue – the bus had a pnumatic door, unlike all the other rear platform busses and I was in control of it.  When I got back to the depot I mentioned my trials and tribulations to a regular driver who informed me that all the regulars had had a half day induction course on the new bus as it was so different….  I could fill several pages with adventures as a but driver, I didn’t have any accidents – briefly held the speed record for a double decker bus on the Clacton Bypass and almost, but not quite, took the top deck off on a low bridge at Manningtree . Some of my fellow students were not so lucky – one managed to uproot a tree outside the Girl’s Grammar School, drove over a bank into a corn field, reversed out and carried on – back in the garage someone noticed water leaking from the radiator, and the front wheels were no longer pointing in the same direction . He wasn’t fired until, third time lucky, he put a single decker into a ditch and the passengers had to get out ot the emergency exit. One thing that I noticed – several of the regular conductors would sit in the canteen and empty their takings onto the table and divide them in two, pocketing one half – they managed this by damaging their ticket machines so they couldn’t issue tickets – the Inspectors were mostly having to drive so there were no checks!  That sort of petty crime was quite common in those days.

As the end of our 3 years at University approached we would all do the ‘milk round’ of suitable employers, and employers would come and make a pitch to the science and technology students.  Its difficult to believe how different things were then, with a massive shortage of technical and scientific graduates for the booming  industrial sector.  We would typically go for half a dozen interviews with major employers and would expect to get several offers – if you only got one or two you knew you were doing something wrong!  If you had a reasonable reference you could expect to get one or two rejections and be left with 4 or 5 choices. I remember going for interview at STC in Harlow and having to do a psycometric test with 30 0r 40 questions which I thought was a bit of an imposition! anyway I answered the first 5  rather crossly, and the sixth question appeared to me to be a rehash of the first question in a different form, similarly the seventh question seemed like a rehash of Q2, a quick check showed that Q11 was a rehash of Q1 & 6. I guessed that the same thing happened throughout so I just copied my first 5 selections repeatedly until I got to the end.  I then had an interview with the industrial psycologist, who started to tell me my character and failings – when I questioned some of his statements he looked at my results and said they must be right because I had an incredible score for the consistency check – in fact he had never seen one so high. I tossed up in my mind whether to confess, but decided against it! Anyway I got a job offer from them, which I didn’t take up.  I had an interview at Bracknell for a job working on the Blue Streak missile – then a hot development topic – I quite liked the idea, particularly as I had a family by then and it came with the offer of a council house in the new town.  I had an interview in Cambridge with Unicam Instruments – I took an instant dislike to the personnel manager who was a terrible snob – I had to turn my one experience of playing rugby into a love of the game to please him, and he told me that it just wasn’t done to live on the East side of the river Cam (which was where all the affordable houses were). They offered me a job at £800 p.a. –  £50 more than the Blue Streak job but it wasn’t enough to pursuade me so I wrote a nice letter saying that much as the job attracted me (which apart from him it did), there was no way I could afford to live on the West side of town on the salary they were offering.  I was bit taken aback when he rang me a couple of days later and offered a 35% increase – that was more than I could resist, so off to Cambridge I went.  Actually I had originally hoped to do a Physics PhD, and had a place at the new University of Essex at Colchester, but couldn’t make the sums add up.

So pack up the family in a hired van and off to a flat in Cambridge (E of the river!).  Unicam Instruments was the major British manufacturer of spectreophotometers used in chemical analysis – the other player was Perkin Elmer in the US.  My first task – a sort of trial I guess, was to modify their largest instrument so that it was calibrated in wavelength rather than the less useful wavenumber (the reciprocal of wavelength).  The spectrophotometers worked by passing light of a particular wavelength through a liquid sample in solution – they generated the monochrome light using a light source, a prism and a slit, and scanned the wavelength by rotating the prism using an arm following a cam – basically pretty simple.  My main task  involved calculating the shape of a new cam to rotate the prism using fairly simple trigonometry – the downside was that I had to calculate a new radius to a precison of 1/10th of a thou for each 1/10th of a degree of rotation of the cam.  Now it would take a few minutes of a P.C.  – then it took me about a month cranking away on a mechanical calculator using values from 6 figure trigonometric tables… and the another two weeks to verify the results.  Having passed my trial I was given a proper project with a technician and my own bay in the lab to design the next generation of U.V. spectrometer, the SP 1800.  We had a very good model shop that made the bits I designed, and as the design got to resemble an instrument, I had a draughtsman assigned to my project and we made good progress, producing a design that was easier to make and looked a lot more modern that anything else in the range – I’m still quite pleased with what I achieved fresh out of college!  One of the complications of these spectrophotometers was that the detectors measured the amount of light transmitted, but the user really wanted to know the absorbance of the sample, which is the logarithm of the transmission – various fudges were used to do the conversion – potentiometers with weird responses that were expensive and difficult to make and had limited range, or  shaped shutters that slid in and out of the beam.  I thought there must be a better way and invented an simple electronic log converter and built a prototype that worked much better than the fudges and was easier to make – I showed my immediate boss the result which impressed him and he disappeared with it and circuit diagrams.  I never heard any more about it, until after I left the company I discovered that they had patented it – in those days there was no legal requirement to name the inventor on patents.  I was anyway  rather disolutioned with the way in which my ideas would disappear ‘upstairs’ with no feedback, and when my father sent me a cutting form a Cambridge paper with a job advert In the Department of Geodesy and Geophysics I  wrote off for particulars, but decided that I wasn’t qualified as it mentioned a PhD so didn’t bother to apply.  So I was surprised a a month later to be invited to interview, which I nearly didn’t make as I was stopped by the Police in a roadside check , they found my handbrake to be ineffective and initially refused to let me drive on – I did manage to get away, and did make the interview, and got offered the job of Technical Officer.  When I told my Unicam boss he was very keen to raise my salary, but I’d had enough and said I was going… Actually he couldn’t have raised my salary as it was in the middle of Harold Wilson’s pay freeze, as he later admitted, and anyway the University was paying quite a bit more, surprisingly.  An incedent while at Unicam sparked my interst in sailing – my draughtsman and I were discussing details of the instrument when a colleague came by and offered us a fibreglass dinghy for £50 – my draughtsman  and I looked at each other and said we could build one for less – so we did, at least I built the boat and he built the rudder!  It was the most awful little sailing dingy imaginable – called the Goblin. Made of ply, the hull was shaped by placing a sheet of ply on the four legs of an upturned table and using  props down from the roof to bend it into something vaguely resembling a hull. We finished it and got sails and I used to sail it on the river Cam – it was a pig!*  in any wind at all it would tilt slightly and water would pour in over the gunwhale and it would sail serenely on getting lower and lower in the water until it was totally submerged.  Still it taught me a lot, trying to tack up a narrow river in a boat that doesn’t sail properly is good training. Oh, and I didn’t ever speak to the Personal Manager, but he did try to block my car in one day because he thought I was parking in his space – I extricated the car, and the next day returned the favour, only more effectively – I was not to be pushed around!

(* I may be being a tiny bit unfair to Percy Blanford who designed the Goblin – there is a website saying how good it was/is by people who think its great – my problems were probably partly down to my build – the hull was horribly ‘hogged’ (hollowed upward in the middle) although I still think a well built one would fill with water in a breeze unless one was very careful always to sail upright).

On my first day at G+G as it was affectionately known, I arrived at 9 a.m. as one might think was the thing to do, only to find the door locked – when someone arrived a few minutes later I mentioned that it had taken me a long time to get to work in the traffic (even then).  The reply was ‘ well, why don’t you just come later when the traffic is less bad?’ – Welcome to University logic!  My role was to take on the running of the electronics lab at the department, and would have normally included being in charge of the mechanical shop as well, but the chief tecnician Lesley Flavill was a mechanical genius and had been doing the job since the war, so we worked together, until his untimely death a few years after I jointed  when I took over running both workshops.  The normal way we worked was that the research students – studying for a PhD – would have a project for their 3 or more years.  About half of the projects involved some new geophysical measurement or other in the UK, abroad or at sea. These were pioneering days, and very little commercial euipment was available for the sort of work we were doing – so the students would come up with a project, design and build a piece of equipment, go out and do the experiment and spend a year analysing the results and writing their thesis.  Our (the workshop staff and I) role was to facilitate this by providing design help and advice, assistance with building apparatus and support in the field.

As soon as I got started I  the department took delivery of a new radio sonobuoy system – one of the few commercial systems we ever bought.  Sonobuoys were then a vital tool in investigating the deep structure of the sea floor – the buoys would be put out at sea in a line and the ship would steam away and drop explosive charges into the water at intervals up to 40 or 50 miles in total.  The sonobuoys would record the sound waves travelling through the water and through the rock layers underlying the sea, and the times various waves took to arrive could be used to estimate the depths of the layers and the speed of sound in them, which relates to the rock type – it was, and more or less still is in one form or another how we explore the sub-sea geology, and how we find oil and natural gas – the science is called seismology and this particular technique is called Refraction Seismics, because the sound waves are refracted in the rock layers..  Anyway the new Sonobuoys had radios that transmitted the waves they received back to the ship, where they were recorded, like some of our older ones, but hopefully much better.  So I had to get the darn things working, despite having no knowledge of radio transmitters to speak of.  A French oil exploration company were interested in the buoys and offered us the use of their ship for a trial  in the English Channel – so within a few weeks of arriving I went off to sea on a ship, my first work voyage and a radio virgin!  I struggled to get the buoys to work – we just could not get any sensible radio range from them. Whenever I worked on them I would be surrounded by a semi-circle of Frenchmen all asking what was wrong – I hadn’t a clue, but that wasn’t something I wanted to confess.  When I wasn’t working things were better – lunch took about 2 hours minimum and involved wine (I didn’t touch a drop as alcohol and any kind of meaningful activity don’t mix for me) and I had a cabin with a real  bath – the first and only time I’ve seen one on a ship – it was quite an experience lying in a bath while the ship rolled and pitched – decidedly sea-sick making.  We had another instrument for a student to to test as well as the sonobuoys, a seismic recorder that dropped to the seabed and released after a hopefully predicatable interval when a magnesium link fizzed away.  It released, as might be  expected, at an unpredicted time and we couldn’t find it.  The ship was eventually contacted by a French fishing boat that had found it floating on the surface.  Score;-  work 0/10  food 9/10.  We later found that the makers of the buoys had most carefully insulated the electronics from the seawater, so there was no sea connection for an earth plane  for the radio antenna – a bit of a cock-up on their part, but had I known a bit more about radio transmitters I might have spotted it in time for the trial. I still don’t really understand radio transmitters!

In the early days at G+G I was closely involved in a number of different projects, mostly to do with seismics, but also Earth Strain – expansions and contractions of the earth’s crust due to tectonic movement, ultimately driven by the motion of the Earth’s plates.  At that time it was thought that measuring  Earth strain in earthquake prone areas might let you detect the build-up of tension in the crust that could be a predictor of a future earthquake, or could indicate areas along a fault between two plates where ‘aseismic slip occured – that is, the fault slipped smoothly instead of storing up its energy in deformation around it, and then suddenly releasing it when the stress became too much for the rocks. * We had a project to build a laser interferometer for very sensitive measurements of ground movement, which was built in the disused Queensbury railway tunnel – one of the longest tunnels in the UK – I worked there occasionally, and it was a spooky place.  Old railway tunnels are completely dark away from the entrances because the soot from the steam engines lines everything and is absolutely dead black and a very porous surface. The investigator decided that it would be a good idea to lighten the 20m. section we used as a base in the middle of the tunnel by firing a detonator in a 5 gallon can of white paint – the paint disappeared with absolutely no change in the overall blackness, just a small patch of  grey on the ground.  The laser was highly sensitive and showed the daily expansion and contraction of the Earth caused by the pull of the moon and sun – just like the tides move the seas – so the Earth itself moves, but obviously much less – about 1 part in 1000000000 or so.  We also developed a simple instrument with much less sensitivity using a stretched wire, but it would still detect the buildup or release of tectonic stress.  We had a project to place these in Eastern Iran after the 1968(?) Das’t a Bayaz earthquake.  In ancient times the Iranians, and other middle eastern societies built complex irrigation system by piping water from the areas adjacent to mountains out into the surrounding desert to irrigate crops and for domestic water through a system of underground tunnels called Qanats which were dug and maintained by specialists among the villagers. These underground tunnels ran for tens of kilometers and sometimes when a earthquake occured the fault would cut the Qanat and the villagers would dig a bypass – so there were dead sections of tunnel left near active faults – ideal places to look for ground movement, and for a number of years we ran an array of wire strainmeters in these redundant tunnels, with the help of the local miners.  The instruments were meant to run for a year without attention and get an annual visit – I took part in a number of expeditions to install, check and service the instruments. On one such visit the local miner took us to a disused section of Qanat about 10 meters deep.  As usual we asked him to descent and check for bad air etc. he returned to the surface and said there was a red and green snake at the bottem of the shaft leading down to the tunnel.  Our student interpreter said that there were no red and green snakes in Iran, and the miner must be making it up to get more money. After a bit of a discussion I volunteered to go and have a look, so I climbed down the ladder with a very dim carbide miner’s lamp on my head – the ladder didn’t reach the bottom of the shaft by about 4 feet, so I got as far down as I could and had a good look round – nothing, so I thought I’d better drop off the end of the ladder to have a better look around  – I was just shouting up that I couldn’t see anything when I spotted a coiled snake about 2ft from my face – my shout tailed off about 2 octaves higher and I made a leap for the ladder and exited fairly briskly. There followed a long discussion – we had never encounterd snakes in the tunnels before and we couldn’t think how to get rid of this one from an otherwise useful site.  In the end we decided that for our future wellbeing we should find out what sort of snake it was likely to be, and what we should do if we encountered one, so we set off for the nearest Hospital, which involved back tracking across the tracks and river beds to the nearest road – about 3 hours, and a road journey of an hour.  At the hospital we found a French doctor and in schoolboy French explained our quest.  I was able to sketch the pattern of the snake on the back of a cigarette packet – ‘Ah’  he said ‘that is a horned viper – if you are bitten by that snake you have 20 minutes to inject 80 ml of antivenum serum or you are dead!’  He gave us a couple of vials of serum and said ‘keep them in a fridge’ – some hope!  Anyway we found another section of unused Qanat without snake.  I went back a couple of years later on my own with just a driver who didn’t speak any English, and I only had a few words of  Farsi, mostly to do with food, so going alone down the Qanats was probably foolish, but I’m not easily put off.  Anyway if you were bitten down in a Qanat it would be very difficult for someone, even a colleague, to get down and inject you, even if the serum was still good after being in the Iranian heat for a week or two. That whole experiment ended with the Iranian revolution and was abandoned – there are probably rotting strainmeters down  Qanats to this day.

* It turned out that single measurements often only sample a small and unrepresentative motion, and that predicting earthquakes is more difficult than we thought at the time – plate and local motions are now mostly done using GPS.

Following on from the sonobuoy tests, I did several test ‘cruises’ as we called any voyage on a ship.  Several were day trips on an old fishing boat of about 50ft. from Lowestoft, The Meggies.  – like all old fishing boats it smelt of fish and diesel and I used to get seasick at the sight of it.  We also did a coupleof test cruised on  Sarcia – the Plymouth Marine Labs old trawler.  All I remember is that it had bags of coal stowed on the aft deck for the galley range for cooking and my cabin.  Sarcia was typical old trawler and rolled like a pig in any kind of seaway – Unfortunately I had a bunk that ran athwartships – that is from side to side of the ship so first my head would crash into one end of the bunk, then my feet into the other, and so on – I ended up sleeping  curled up on floor, freeezing.  It wasn’t too long after joining that NERC, the funding body Natural Environmental Research Council acquired a modern trawler from the Whitefish Authority who, for reasons that will become clear, didn’t want it.  The ship spent the best part of a year in refit to convert to a small research ship, and the officers were on standby on shore for months while it was completed.  Sea trials had to be abandoned because it failed fire safety inspection, so our sheduled trip out into the English channel from Plymouth was the first trip the ship had made under NERC ownership, and the first time the officers had been to sea for months.  The ‘fun’ started as we left millbay docks – it rapidly transpired that the ship’s variable pitch propeller had not been serviced, and the ship could not go from ahead to astern by this usual method – the alternative was to stop the main engine and engage a manual gear.  Doing this while going astern rapidly into Drake’s Island had eveyone in a panic, but we survived, although when the main engine was stopped the power dropped out and all the lights with it.  As we were leaving Plymouth Harbour the captain realised that there was something that they had forgotten to put on board (reputedly the duty free cigarettes) so decided to anchor. With the booty on board it was time to raise the anchor.  The first attempt failed because there wasn’t enough room in the chain locker for all the chain, so it had to be paid out again and a man bribed to go down into the chain locker and manually stow the chain as it came in – a truly horrid job, only he never had to finish it because the anchor snagged on something on the seabed – probably an old mooring chain – and couldn’t be freed, so was  cut and buoyed off and the spare anchor put on what remained of the chain.  Off we set, only for the engine to fail some time later – a couple of hours wallowing around managed to find a bit of old rag left in the fuel pipe!  I don’t know if anyone had bothered to check the weather forcast, but it blew up to force 10 as we neared Ushant.  I mentioned that none of the officers had been to sea for months, so they were all pretty seasick – I had always suffered from seasickness up to that point and was determined that I would drug myself up with Dramamine and not be sick – it did work ( I was never significantly seasick at sea again) but the drug itself makes you feel less that perfect! Anyway I was up and about to watch the  pandemonium. The captain was slumped in a chair on the bridge wanting to die and the bosun was driving the ship – the VHF was constantly giving out distress calls for cargo ships with shifted cargoes etc and it was pretty hairy.  We had brought some chunks of railway line to act as ballast for the seabed experiment we were supposed to be doing, but at the height of the storm they came loose on the aft deck and just crashed from side to side with the rolls – I was a bit concerned at the damage they might cause, but it was far too dangerous to venture on deck – apart from the motion, the rails would have taken one’s leg off. We eventually made it to the entrance to Brest  and called the pilot to come out and bring the ship in as is normal. The pilot cutter came alongside but to loose speed the ship had to stop the engine and put it in astern, which dropped out all the lights, which must have puzzled the pilot!  Anyway we made it to anchor off Brest and all fell into our bunks and slept.   The ship, The John Murray, was about the most uncomfortable sea keeping boat any of the crew had encountered – hence the Whitefish Authority wisely flogging it to a gullible NERC…..

I went to sea regularly during my time at G+G and later when it became the Bullard Laboratories of the Earth Sciences Department after the amalgamation of the three departments of  Geodesy and Geophysics, Geology and Mineralogy and Petrology – it was quite usual for me to spend more than two months at sea a year on various research ships, mostly those belonging to NERC but sometimes on  research ships of other countries on joint cruises.  NERC had a number of vessels over the years, all bigger than John Murray.  All the NERC ships were designated RRS – Royal Research Ship – and had official status as being an arm of the British government.  NERC ships were all run in a similar fashion with a similarly configured crew.  The crew consisted of the regular ship’s company and the scientific party made up of the University team or teams plus one or two technicians from the NERC marine base who maintained and ran the ship’s scientific systems like compressors, or ran the firing of explosive charges for seismics. On the larges research ships, like RRS Discovery, RRS Shackleton and later RRS Charles Darwin the total number of people on board might be from 40 to 50.  Life on board NERC ships was quite formal and well regulated – The Deck Officers – Captain, 1st, 2nd and 3rd mates, and  the Chief Engineer, Radio Officer if there was one and occasionally when on board, the ship’s Doctor constituted the ship’s officers and  the Scientific party were all counted as officers and ate in the officer’s mess in a formal setting with service at the tables in the older ships – there was always a white cloth on the tables, in moderately rough weather it was wetted so that things didn’t slide, and in rough weather fiddles (wooden fences) were put up round the tables to stop things falling off if they did slide.  Officers and Scientists was expected to attend meals at the specified times and to be wearing clean clothes rather than dirty work gear – the Ship’s officers always  wore clean white chirts etc. There was a small Dirty Mess on most ships for scientists who were in the middle of dirty jobs or were rushed.  The rest of the ship’s crew were ‘the crew’ consisting of the Bosun who ran the deck jobs, and the ABs – short for Able Bodied Seamen – who did the deck work and the maintanance work, the stewards and catering staff .  The Catering officer lived in no-mans land and was often an alcoholic!  There was a pretty strict defacto division between officers and crew – officers had a bar where beer and spirits could be bought – spirits were incredibly cheap – cheaper than the mixers, and the bar was usually comfortable and well funrnished whereas the crew were not permitted spirits and had a limited beer ration per day and had a much less nice mess and bar. All these distinctions were taken as normal, and things usually ran very smoothly.  Officers had their own cabins, and the Chief Scientist  had a larger cabin with desk etc as did the captain and Chief engineer.  On some ships scientists shared double cabins, but in later ships the cabins were singles.  In the early days on RRS John Murray one would be woken up by the steward with a cup of tea if one was in onr of the two single cabins on main deck level.  This wasn’t quite the treat you might be thinking – you would be asleep, there would be a knock on the door, the steward would enter without waiting for a response and thrust a large and brimming mug of scalding tea made with tinned milk into your hand, and there was no-where to put it down – that was guarenteed to get you to your senses in double quick time – wake up – struggle out of bed and decant half of the tea down the basin – the other half would be pretty revolting on account of the tinned milk.  The other two double cabins were in the depths of the ship with no portholes, one was right against the generator engine and was very noisy. Both had a bottom and a top bunk – the top bunk was close under the deckhead and had an air conditioning duct running across it so there wasn’t room to sit up – it was the most claustrophobic place I’ve ever slept.  I got to know the John Murray very well in the early days at G+G – at one point I had spent more time on her than any other scientist and knew most of the crews that manned her – not always the same crew.  Each of the NERC ships had a different character, and each of the ship’s Captains had a different attitude to the science that they were there to facilitate – most were, as one would hope and expect, fully committed to supporting the Chief Scientist and getting the work done, but occationall one or two could be a little difficult – since they were in absolute charge of the ship there was not much one could do except complain.  I remeber one cruise where we lost instruments because the captian refused to pick up equipment from the sea in conditions that we knew from past experience were safe to work in – the Chief Scientist  put in a formal complaint afterwards, but the captain is god and if he says the conditions are too bad then by definition they are!

Fairly early on in my time at G+G we were involved in developing and using equipment for seismic reflection profiling – this technique was complementary to the Refraction Seismics, at that time using sonobuoys. Whereas the refraction technique had the explosive source and the receiving buoy separated by distances that were long compared to the water depth – which might typically be 4 km, the reflection technique had a source and receiver, or multiple receivers much closer together and relied on waves reflected from the layers rather than travelling alon within them.  Because the ranges were much shorter explosive charges wee not needed, and an ‘air gun’ that discharged a  bubble of high pressure air beneath the sea surface provided the sound source.  The receiver was a ‘streamer’  a 20m long tube with sound detectors (hydrophones) spaced along it.  Before I joined the lab, it had developed a small air gun of 30 cubic inches capacity – microscopic by modern standards, but still the same principle, and was experimenting with streamers before eventually buying some from IFREMER,  a French Institute. The streamer would be towed behind the ship at a steady 5 or 6 knots ( it got too noisy at normal ship speeds of say 10 to 14 knots) and the air gun would be run from a compressor and fired about every 30 seconds to 1 minute. The signal from the streamer was displayed on a paper chart by a scanning system that syncronised with the firing of the air gun, thus generating a very clear raster picture of the section through the seabed down to a few kilometers beneath the ocean floor (later systems gave much greater penetration.  One of the ships we used for reflection seismic surveys in the Mediteranean was MV Researcher, a converted Norwegian ferry that had been used in and out of the fjiords on the coast of Norway – it was chartered to NERC by Gardline, who ran the ship and provided the crew. On my first cruise on this ship, we left from, I think, Plymouth where at the time the NERC base was situated at that time, and headed to Gibralter, and then on to Naples, doing surverys at points on the way.  Researcher had a rounded stern, and the aft cabin area had been the day passenger space but was now the laboratory area where our equipment was located and where we worked.  The ship had a big old engine turning a single propeller and at certain engine speeds would vibrate so badly that the screws in our equipment undid themselves – on later cruises we put sheets of   thick ply on inflated wheelbarrow inner tubes as worktops to partially cure the problem.  The crew, including the officers had been recruited in the Orkneys or somewhere similar, and the Captain, as well as being somewhat deaf, was really only used to his local accent.  The ship’s equipment was more or less as it had been in Norway – there was no autopilot so someone had to steer the ship the whole time, and communication between lab and bridge was via old fashioned speaking tube.  One of the problems was trying to stop the ship from running the engine at 220 revs per minute, which was a critical resonance, so we would constantly be calling up the bridge and asking them to run the engine at some other speed, say 240 r.p.m. – the problem was getting the captain to understand, and on more than one occasion he turned the ship onto a course of 240 degrees in the middle of a survey line in response to our call.  This was before the general availability of satelite navigation and the ship had no radio navigation aids and was dependent on sextant sights by the captain.  We had an Omega long radio navigation  system we had hired as part of our scientific equipment so we could inddependently keep our track plots up to date, and ever day just before noon the captain would get the 1st mate to set his sextant at the approximate angle the captain thought would be the sun’s altitude, and  then the captain would take the noon sight.  At about half past noon, when he had spent half an our calculating our position from his sextant sight, he would come down to the lab with the back of a cigarrette packet ( amazing how often these appeared it those days !) held secretively in his had and say to the scientist keeping the plot ‘what do you make our position?’  On being told, he would invariably nod and say ‘yes, I got the same’ – I did try to get the scientist to give him a position near the North pole to see what he said, but they were far too responsible, so I have no idea whether he could use a sextant or not.  I think the crew had rarely if ever sailed out of  home waters – a belief confirmed for two of the crew when we docked in Naples and they didn’t have passports or Seamen’s Discharge Books, the universal marine document – they were not allowed ashore but had to paint the hull, but unfortunately were so drunk that they fell into Naples Harbour, which is almost like a cesspit .  One very pleasant feature occured after we docked in Gibraltar  – there was a drama getting in, as the only VHF radio wasn’t working and one of the scientific crew had to signal to the Naval Port Authority in morse using an Aldis lamp.  The Steward/cook had been disgrunteled as he thought the provisioning of the ship in the UK was inadequate, so he went ashore to get supples with a small army of helpers.  I was standing with the Chief Scientists at the rail when the army returned carrying food –  a couple were carrying long frozen fillets of beef over their shoulders like guns and the Chief Scientist muttered to me ‘ I’ll be paying for this, I know I will’ in a doomed sort of voice.  Later in the cruise I found a frozen fillet being used to prop open the fridge door.  Anyway the up side was that if you wanted a snack of an evening you could go and cut off a steak and cook it on the top of the old range in the galley – 2 minutes per side max. – perfect. There was a young lad acting as galley hand, and one of his jobs was to make toast at breakfast in a domestic toaster – inevitably one day the toast caught fire and he just stared at the machine – the Steward,  rightly being aware of the danger of fire in ships, shouted at him ‘put it out’ whereupon he opened a porthole and threw the toaster out – end of breakfast toast.  Several of us scientists got our steering tickets as we were used, when not otherwise engaged, in steering the ship  to give the bridge a rest.   Drama aside, I enjoyed life on Researcher – I don’t know what she would have been like in rough weather, but I don’t remember ever having an uncomfortable time on her.

Another of the early NERC ships was the RRS Shackleton,  like John Murray a ‘repurposed’ vessel, but quite comfortable in roughish weather.  All ships of the size of our research ships roll and pitch when the seas get up, and even if its not possible to work on deck, life in the labs goes on.  There are almost always a series of measurements that are made continuously while the ship is in the survey area, even if the seismic work is not taking place.  The basic underway instruments would likely include a towed proton magnetometer, a deep water echosounder and often a gravimeter, plus keeing a log of ship’s position, usually every 5 or ten minutes. There would also be equipment to be got ready for launching, or being serviced or repaired, and occasionally being finished if there wasn’t time in the lab before the cruise!  These activities took place whatever the weather, unless the ship hove too in a gale.  It was often challenging to work when the ship was rolling – in rough weather she would roll 20 to 30 degrees each way, and on one occasion I saw a tall stool flip over 180 degrees on one roll and back again on the opposite roll.  The magnetometer was an important tool – it was towed behind the ship to get it out of the ship’s magnetic field, and measured the total field – the magnetic signature that was recorded as the ship proceeded was due to the magnetisation of the rock layers under the seabed – The Earth’s magnetic field has reversed every few hundred thousand  years (but not regularly) and when magma spills out of volcanos on the ocean ridges it takes on the current magnisation direction as it cools.  If you record the magnetic field across the ridge you will see peaks and troughs corresponding to the changing magnetisation of the earth’s crust generated as the sea floor spreads over time from the ridge.   Its really just like a giant tape recorder, and its how we were able to prove conclusively that the oceanic plates spread outwards from the ocean ridges – a discovery that was made at G+G  shortly before I joined.  I did many voyages on Shackleton, for a few years we would take her to the Eastern Mediteranean to do reflection profiling and refraction seismics – it was a difficult area to use these techniques as the Mediteranean has a layer of ‘evaporites’, basically salts, that were deposited  millions of years ago when the Med was a closed sea and it dried up periodically – the evaporites have a lower seismic velocity than the rocks on top which messes up the propogation of seismic waves and makes it very difficult to get refractions beneathe the evaporite layer.  One year I did a spell as Chief Scientist on Shackleton with a Captain who liked his drink, and who thought my job was to drink with him through the night – I am usually pretty abstemious on board ship as there is always work to be done, and I was often the only person who could fix bits of kit. I learned a whole lot of ways to avoid drinking without appearing rude.  One of the chores abourd was keeping the 30 cu. inch air gun running when we were using it for seismic profiling – it was a somewhat complicated beast, but basically it was pumped up to about a hundred atmosspheres pressure, and then triggered so a shuttle slammed open and released the bubble of air, it fired about once every minute, and sometime around 30  hours the PTFE seal on the shuttle would fail and it would stop.  The scientific watchkeeper would eventually notice it, then call out the AB who was on watch to work the winch, and me to fix the gun – by the time the gun was back in the water we would have lost at least half an hour’s record.  I had a real job to pursuade the Chief Scientist that if we did planned maintainance at 24 hourly intervals we could have everything ready, stop the gun, service it and have it back in the water in ten minuutes – I did eventually prevail – it meant that I no longer got woken up at night to fix that particular job.

Around 1980 (?) NERC commissioned a new research ship RRS Charles Darwin to replace Shackleton.  They canvassed all the Chief Scientists who had used their ships and staged a massive consultation to finesse the design of the ship. While a lot of details could be sorted out that way, it really wasn’t a particularly good way of sorting out lab space as many disciplines with very different requirements used the NERC ships. One thing that seemed to get general approval from these scientists was to position a large scientific plot (working office for watchkeeping and underway instrument readouts) directly behind the bridge on the upper deck to allow good communications between scientists and the bridge – never mind that it was two decks up and several doors away from where the rest of the scientists would be working.  Despite the fact that the Darwin was equipped with a form of water stabilisation – a tank of on either side of the ship passed water back and forth as the ship rolled, but slowed so that in theory it opposed the roll to some extent, Darwin  rolled quite badly, and each end of the roll ended in a little flick back. This wasn’t too bad in the cabins which were below the main deck, or on the main deck where the labs were, but up in the wonderful scientific plot it was horrendous due to the height above the hull.  I guess the bridge crew got used to it if they were at sea for long periods, but the scas reducing the stability slows the roll)ientists didn’t, and the plot was rarely used.  I think after a couple of years someone discovered that one of the baffles between the two stabiliasing tanks was missing, and they also  added more weight  above decks as reducing the stability slows the roll, and it was said to be better. I did a number of trips on Darwin –  I guess it was the best ship I worked on for science facilities

I did a few trips on non NERC ships – one on MV Theta from Halifax, Nova Scotia that was the firing ship for a 2 ship seismic experiment – she was loaded with around 50 tons of Ammonium Nitrate in big cans like oil barrels, fired with a 1/2 lb high explosive primer charge, which was fired by a normal detonator.  The Captain was from Newfoundland and objected to my long hair – as I was on the bridge every day doing radio communications with the other ship I stopped shaving just to annoy him – I’ve kept the beard ever since.  I got pretty used to being on ships with a lot of explosives, and didn’t worry too much as the shot firers were always pretty well  trained and safe, although we did have one scare on Charles Darwin – the big charges of Geophex (Gelignite mixed with rice husks to stabilise it) were made by banding together a number of smaller charges in cardboard tubes – this was done on a tipping table over the stern.  Two detonators with slow burning fuses were then inserted into two of the tubes, the fuses lit with an electrical hot wire, and the table tipped up so the charge gently slipped off the table and into the water.  Only on one occasion the shot firers made a mistake and banded the charges to the table, inserted the dets and fuses and lit them and then tipped the table – but the charge didn’t move and the fuse continued to burn…………………!   As a precaution they always had a knife handy, and cut the slow burning fuse – panic over, but a bit of a tense moment.  My job on shot firing days was often to sit on the after deck with a radio and count down the charges so that a recorder in the lab could be started to record the precise instant of the shot.  W normally had tons of explosive on board, so it didn’t matter how near the explosives you were, because the whole ship would have gone up in one big bang.

The longest time I spent at sea without a port stop was on a cruise on the US ship Maurice Ewing with Scripps Institute of Oceanography scientists to the East Pacific Rise – a sea floor spreading centre in the Eastern Pacific which lasted ( I think ) 37 days.  We were doing a combined reflection and refraction seismic survey around the spreading ridge towing very long seismic streamers with multiple hydrophones (underwater microphones) and  a set of sea bed seismic recorders that I had designed and was responsible for, plus a set provided by Scripps.  rather than use explosives as the source of the sound waves, we were using a number of very big air guns towed close behind the ship.  My instruments hadn’t been used in that form before, so it was a bit nerve wracking to have to deploy them for about 3 weeks without knowing if they were working – it was always thus with our marine instruments – it was as complex and expensive to do a proper test as to go and get some scientific results, so we always did the latter!   You find out pretty quickly if the instruments have worked when you recover them  – on this occasion the first two recovered didn’t work and then it was time for our shift to end and the Scripps team to take over, so I remember going to bed feeling a little aprehensive to say the least.  By unlucky chance those two were the only instruments that didn’t work, so just as well I didn’t jump overboard in the night.  Had they not worked our entire participation would have been negated and I would have felt a bit bad about it. Both Scripps and Cambridge had teams of scientists on board who assisted with the instruments, and while the instruments were on the seabed they did the scientific watchkeeping and kept things running, including frequently changing the tapes that recorded the output of the streamers.  I was excused watchkeeping, partly because I am a lousy watchkeeper as they all knew – my mind always gets distracted into working out how the whole activity could be streamlined and automated – I start out with the best of intentions to do the 5 minute checks and write very neatly in the log book etc, but then after about half an hour I realise that I was miles away and just missed a set of readings and it goes downhill from there.   Anyway on this cruise I spent the working time designing a new recording circuit for Scripps with their engineer – I afterwards discovered that they paid their design engineer $2000 per day – so I felt they had about $40,000’s worth of my time.  Life on board the Ewing was very different from the ships I was used to – and not just because they were ‘dry’ – no alcohol…. The officers and crew all messed together, including a lot of the crew in work gear, so the mess had the furnishings and feel of a large 1950s English transport cafe that I used to frequent when hitchhiking up the A1 road.  There were no bars or lounges, although there was a large room where truly awful films were played back to back. So there was no-where to go to relax or socialise except a bit of deck behind the bridge when the weather was being kind (not often) , when you could sometimes find a group of Cambridge people with large tea mugs drinking what looked like rather pale tea without milk, but in smaller quantities.  I had prepared for something like this by buying a ship model kit of a 16th century sailing ship and taking all the tools necessry.  As the hull was planked with individual planks and everything was similarly detailed it filled most of my spare time for the whole cruise, and I still didn’t manage to finish the rigging – its still sits on the overmantle in the drawing room in the same state today – I WILL finish it one day.

The instruments we built to work on the seabed were mostly intended to work in the deep ocean, which can be anywhere from about 3000 to (exceptioanlly in ocean trenches) 9000 meters deep, although in general we built instruments to work down to   6000 meters, which is as deep as the normal ocean floor gets – in fact I think most of our deployments were at or less than about 4000m.  At that sort of depth the pressure is enormous, and a very strong pressure vessel/ container is necessary to put electronics and batteries in.  In addition, the pressure will find any leaks and flood your instrument – even a small scratch across a sealing surface can be sufficient to allow a very sloe leak.  However, with careful design you can make seals etc so that the pressure actually compresses the seals and for the most part eliminates the risk of leaks.  One of the strange things about the seabed pressure housings is that it was not uncommon for the instrument to return to the surface with about an eggcup full of (salt) water inside, irrespective of how long it had been deployed for. which would splash about inside the container as it was handled in recovery from the surface of the ocean, causing damage to electonics.  Our solution to this problem, having failed to find a universal solution to the leak problem, was to put a baby’s disposable nappy (diaper) in the bottom of the instrument to absorb the water – problem solved!  We pretty quickly surmised that the leaks were occuring as the instrument fell and rose through the near surface layers, before the pressure was sufficient to press sealing surfaces together firmly enough to seal – hence the leaks were a more or less constant volume.  The pressure at 6000m is such that design and choice of materials is quite limited – a spherical shell is the most efficient shape as the stress is shared equally in all directions of the shell, whereas a cylindrical shell (tube) needs to be twice as thick to take the same stress.  Surprisingly the strongest material we had available was glass – its stronger that steel or titanium when its in uniform compression, as it is in a spherical shell, and this means that you can make a pressure vessel thin enough that it floats in water, whereas the pressure vessels we made out of high strength aluminium tube had to have glass spheres attached to provide the buoyancy to let them float to the surface after they had been commanded to drop their anchor weights.

Away from marine seismics, another G+G activity I got involved with was the Earthquake Aftershock Study group – this was a small group of G+G / Bullard academics and students who were set up to go immediately to regions were there had been a major earthquake with a set of  seismic recorders to record the aftershock waves at locations around the site of the earthquake.  There were two reasons for doing this, firstly because the location of the major shock was by the international network of seismic observatories and was not very precise, so recording aftershocks locally as well as on the international network would retrospectivey calibrate the crustal structure round the area and allow refinement of the original location, and secondly because it would allow the mapping of residual stress left after the main shock as it was subsequently relieved in minor quakes.  I only did one of these aftershock expeditions, to Georgia, wheich involved flying to Moscow and then going by Soviet military plane to Tiblisi and then to a field camp run by the Russian military.  We put out our stations in or near villages, having a Russian military jeep and driver as transport.  The camp was pretty dire, and the food terrible!  I used to wander out into the town and the Georgians were fantastically hospitable – I would be invited into houses and be plied with food and wine despite not having a single word in common, unfortunately when the Russians got wind of my fraternising with the locals we were all banned form venturing out – there being no love lost between the two nations. One of the perils of this trip was that the villagers were also hospitable when we went to check our instruments and as we returned to our jeep would ambush us with a tray of Georgian vodka and glasses and engage in a toasting match which usually resulted in us returning to the camp somewhat the worse for wear = I have to say that the  good thing about the Russian drivers was that they never touched a drop of alcohol, I think it must have been an instant dismissal offense.  We did one trip in a Russian military helicopter – I wish I hadn’t looked in the cockpit and seen the wires hanging out of one of the instrument boxes – or for that matter looked out of the window and seen the other helicopter upside down in a nearby valley!  But we did get back safely, so it was an interesting trip…  I had taken a large wad of cash in USD with me in case I had to evacuate the team in an emergency, and on one occasion I was sitting at a table with a Russian professor, with my cash in my moneybelt, when he told me what his salary was – discovering that I could have paid his salary for more than 5 years made me rather jumpy about carrying the money about!  Because we were on a Royal Society/ Russian Acadamy joint project the Russians paid us a daily allowance, just as the Royal Society did to visiting Russians. We were handed a fistful of Roubles while we were in Moscow waiting to return to the UK, and Russian student who had been interpreting for us took us round Moscow, ostensibly to spend our Roubles.  The only problem was that there was absolutely nothing to spend it on, all the shops wanted US dollars only – I did manage to buy a small wooden bird decoration, and my colleague managed to buy a second hand tennis racket that needed restringing, and a pair of worn jeans.  Our interpreter saw a shop with some shoes in the window and went running across in great excitement, but came back looking crestfallen, because they only had size 13s, a whole shopfull!  He said sometimes they had his size, but the last time it had only been right shoes*, not pairs.  I desperately wanted a drink and asked him if there was anywhere we could get something to eat and drink – he looked puzzled as if such places didn’t exist, but asked a shopkeeper who when pressed directed us to a small cafe selling tea that appeared to be exclusively for the shopkeepers in the arcade. I tried to give away my Roubles to him at the airport as there was a big notice saying, in effect, you would be shot if you tried to take Roubles out of the country, but he would not take them – in the end I pursuaded him that if I put them in the rubbish bin he was to take them out, which he did – it was probably a couple of months living for him so no wonder he was embarrassed!  Goodbye Russia – and it was true what they used to say – if you stay in a Russian hotel, take your own bathplug……

* or it might have been left shoes, I can’t remember exactly.

I had a project running in California for several years in connection with our work on Earth Strain – one of the PhD students had designed and built a very simple and clever instrument for measuring tectionic tilt – the microscopic tilts that occur in tectonically active areas in response to movements of  faults. It consisted of a 1 kilometer pipe with a pot of liquid at each end, and a very sensitive diaphram in the centre that moved as liquid levels in the two ends changed, and its position was measured with great accuracy and recorded on a paper chart recorder.  He had built the instrument at an observatory site called Pinion Flats in the mountains above Palm Desert, East of Los Angeles, funded by the US Geological Survey – I took over the project as the USGS wanted it to continue, and I had a friend who was just taking up a Post Doctoral job for a year in UCLA (University of Calafornia in Los Angeles) and this provided a paid excuse to visit her a couple of times a year.  Running the instrument was pretty straightforward so I had plenty of time for other things.  On one occasion I drove up the inland route to San Fransisco up Owen’s valley – in the evening as it got near to time to stop I found all the motels were full, but one off the main road had vacancies so I drove up to it, it seemed a bit run down and scruffy but I got a room which turned out to have an old iron bedstead and mice running around – by the morning I realised that I’d checked into a low end brothel…. I survived intact.  On another occasion I flew into San Fransisco with another friend to drive down Highway 1 to L.A.  At the car rental desk I asked for a one way to L.A. and they were delighted that I could take a ‘really nice limo’ back to L.A. for them – knowing what was in store for it on the dirt roads of the Pinion Flat site I tried my best to disuade them, and to get them to give me a compact  but to no avail.  The limo was one of those massive aspirational cars – all mouth and no trousers as they say. Instead of having a wheel at each corner like any self respecting car, it had massive overhangs front and back, so over any  kind of bump, and there were a lot in the mountains and at Pinion Flat, it pitched violently until the front (almost?) touched the dirt.  Part of servicing the instrument required repeatedly going from end to end of the 1 km. instrument as quickly as possible  – I usually found the little cars I normally hired occasionally took off , but this one was impossible – besides, for some reason the inside was lined with fur – presumably fake – but not improved by carting equipment back and forth and the perpetual sand and dust.  I did my best to clean it out before taking it back, but boy, I felt bad about it!  Each year I had to submit an application for the nest year’s funding, and my applications got briefer and briefer as I could see that, really, the measurements coming out of our instrument were not going to answer any great questions – it was again a case of not knowing how representative that 1 km was of any tilt on a wider scale.  But it was a good experience – even the flights were occasionally fun – unbelievably in those days it was possible to chat up the cabin staff and ask to go on the flight deck, they would ask the Captain and I would usually be invited up on the flight deck – imagine that now!  On one occasion flying back from L.A. I was on the flight deck chatting to the Captain and he asked if I’d like to see the recently erupted Mt. St Helen, and diverted his route for me to look at the smoke rising from the vent.  To my global warming shame, I once flew to L.A. for the weekend – I probably did at least three or four overseas trips a year, and usually managed to fit in a bit of tourism at the end of the cruise or work – I can think of less than half a dozen occasions in my life when I’ve paid for a flight out of my own pocket.  Teddy ( Sir Edward Bullard FRS, Head of the G+G  in my early days there) used to boast that he had never even travelled out of Cambridge unless someone else was paying.   I miss the travel, but one thing I’ve learnt is that it is much more satisfying to be in a foreign country when you have a purpose to be there, than when you are a mere tourist – it gives you a much better connection to the local population and you get much more respect.

Another cruise I did was on an Italian research ship that had been an American WWII tug and had been given to the Italians after the war.  Like all tug type boats it was grossly overpowered for normal sailing, but this enabled the crew to drive it like a Ferrari, complete with the marine equivalent of wheel spin.  We were deploying a number of sea bed seismometers as, I think, the only activity of the cruise apart from the normal data recording.  The deep water echo sounder, operating at around 10KHz rather than the 50KHz of the normal shallow water ones, required a rather large transmitter to send the acoustic signal and receive the reflection, and the ship didn’t have a built in hull transducer, so a ‘fish’ containing the transducer had to be towed from the side of the ship, but not too close to the hull or there was too much noise generated by the water passing over the ship’s hull. The crew decided to tow the transducer from a fixed  boom about 10 meters long over the side of the ship.  There was a very excited discussion on deck as to how to rig the fish, with quite a lot of arm waving involving most of the crew. Not speaking any Italian I wasn’t a party to the eventual deployment method, but I wasn’t at all surprised to see a similar ‘discussion’ when it came to time to take the fish back on board as the end of the experiment, because it rapidly became obvious that recovery hadn’t been part of the plan –  I watched in horror as a seaman attempted to crawl out along the round pole over the sea (without a lifejacket) – recovery was eventually effected after much shouting.  Everything on board happened in the same chaotic way.  At one point we had all 8 of our instruments out on the sea bed and were about to begin recovery when the Captain decided that he would prefer to leave the instruments and go into port.  I had discovered that every ‘discussion’ had to be accompanied by lots of arm waving and shouting – so I put up a very theatrical defense of the original plan, made more difficult because the Captain wore large mirror sun glasses and all I could see was my reflection – but it worked and we did get the instruments back.  For all the histrionics, the food was the best of any ship I’ve been on – whenever the ship stopped for even a few minutes the crew would come on deck in their slippers with fishing rods and catch supper.  Dinner began with a pile of half a dozen plates in front of each person, which were filled in turn with fantastic food – brilliant.

There were plenty more cruises with stories to tell, but perhaps its time to say something about what we got up in the lab  when not at sea or on land expeditions, which was generally about three quarters of our time.  When I joined the Departmentin 1966  all the technical work was done in a separate building named  ‘Pendulum House’ because one of the principal activities of the lab was operating pendulum gravity meters – at that time the only  portable  instrument with which  the earth’s gravitational field could be accurately measured.  The instrument consisted of a pair of pendula of very precise construction and very stable length independently of temperature that swung in a vacuum and were timed by light beams that reflected off mirrors attached to the pendula against radio time signals.  They were relative instruments, in that you needed to calibrate them at a base station  before you tookl them to wherever you wanted to measure gravity, and then you would set that place up as a sub base station etc.  Gravity measurements were important because they tell you the density of rocks deep in the earth and allow you to find deep geplogical features, and when I joined there was a burst of interest in the measurements because they were vital for calculating the orbits of the emerging sattelites.  Pendulum House was our own base station from which many measurements were made around the world, including on submarines at sea.  Pendulum House was mainly a mechanical workshop with Leslie and two technicians – Roger and Klem.  Roger had been in the workshop for a few years – he was a quiet man and made very precise mechanical bits and pieces, although at times he got the dimensions very percisely wrong, and there would be a pile of tell tale  bits in the bin.

An interuption – one more cruise springs to mind that was, in its way, as odd as the Italian cruise.  I and a student were asked to provide some seabed seismic instruments for a survey line the British Geological Survey  (BGS) wanted to shoot from offshore in the Tyne area and onto land.  The plan was to fire a total of 2 tons of explosives.  We had two ships, both were Navy salvage ships run by civilian crews – they were used for recovering aircraft that had ditched in the North Sea, or any other heavy lifting which they did in an ingenious was – they had a couple of big horns sticking out from the bows with a large pulley between them for  the cable and a winch.  The winch wasn’t powerful enough for the strain of freeing things from the suction of the mud, so they had a very large water tank at the bows and stern, pumped water into the front tank and tightened the cable, then pumped the water to the stern tank which generated the necessary lift.  Our seabed instruments were, on this occasion, moored to large doughnut buoys with a tripod on top for an antenna and light.  When deploying the buoys the crew, working without hard hats or safety boots, used a steel pin weighting about 5Kg as a slip pin to release the buoy after lifting it on the crane overside.  On a couple of occasions the pin fell from about 10 ft high onto the deck, narrowly missing a crewman, who seemed unconcerned and carried on as before, replacing the pin at height… On recovery they brought the ship alongside the buoy and a seaman climbed down the side of the ship onto the doughnut  which was dancing around and banging on the ship’s side, in order to hook the crane onto the buoy – all without a lifejacket in sight!  I’d been careful in my original agreement to make sure that I wasn’t on the ship with explosives, a view that was reinforced by watching these examples of stupid and unsafe working, so when the chief scientist announced that they were going to transfer the explosives to our ship, I insisted that we be put ashore beforehand, citing the agreement.  Luckily it didn’t come to that as they reinstated the original plan, but I will always remember  my horror as seeing crew acting like that.    I did another cruise in the same area on an Oil Rig guard boat – all I can remember about that cruise is that I had to stay in contact with the lab and so hired a very early mobile phone. which was the size of two bricks and cost about £100 to hire for a week or so – but being relatively low frequency, its range was out to about 30 miles offshore, probably better than a modern mobile!

So, back to the Pendulum House – I was principally appointed to provide electronics expertise, and the lab had just appointed an electronics technician, who was having a detached retina sorted when I arrived, but on his return we set up an electronics lab in a separate building -The Crombie Lab – which had been built as a seismic observatory for training operators for stations to monitor possible Russian nuclear tests, with a pleasant recording room with lots of windows, and an underground vault for the  seismometers.  It was a shame that the site for the observatory was about as bad as could be found anywhere for recording seismics as it sat on a deep bed of gravel that attenuated any signals and rendered it totally unfit for purpose, so it was never really used.  It made a fine laboratory for Mel and I, and we did the necessary modifications to suit ourselves and started to equip our electronics laboratory.  We were not the first to do electronics design and building at G+G as Leslie and others had built radio equipment for seismics, and also proton magnetometers.  The proton magnetormeter that was designed by Teddy Bullard was a clever design – it measured the total magnetic field by measuring the frequency with which  molecules of a hydrocarbon precessed when they were first aligned in a strong magnetic field which was then switched off to allow them to precess in the earth’s field.  The clever bit was in the coil used to provide the strong field that had to be very uniform – Teddy designed a spherical coil with the right properties that the lab turned up out of the newly discovered Araldite.  He always said that the idea for the spherical coils came from a suggestion in a letter  sent to him by a schoolgirl.

I think the first thing we built  with a student was a set of amplifiers for land seismics – we were by now in the world of transistors, and integrated circuits were just becoming usable for simple applications like amplifiers and simple logic chips. In some instruments we were still using the logic functions were realised on printed circuit boards housed in plastic moxes with a modular plug in system – a box contining a decade counter, for example would be housed in a box about the size of a couple of matchboxes.  I had played around with making printed circuits at Unicam – very crude – by painting the patterns on the copper and then etching it, and we did the first circuit boards a G+G in the sme way, although we quickly set up a darkroom and did simple contact printing of circuits cut out of red film by hand and etched in ferric chloride.  This terribly impressed Teddy, who would tell visitors proudly that ‘we makeour own printed circuit boards’ while Mel and I cringed.  We helped a lot of research students with their projects, and developed a set of modular boards in a standard format so that they could quickly make up instruments.  Shortly after I started the department appointed an academic who more or less moved into my electonics lab and tried to take over, which didn’t please us, particularly as he chain smoked in the lab.   I had a quick chat with Teddy Bullard, who had a great sense of fairness, who resolved the issue promptly, and we got on in our own way setting up the lab.  In those days we didn’t seem to have much difficulty in getting money for projects or for basic lab equipment – for many years it was the proud boast of the head of the Marine Group, Drum Matthews, that he had never had a grant application rejected, and he had a number of rolling grants.  Sadly that all came to an end towards the end of my time in the lab.  I remember one one occasion we were informed that the government was promoting the British machine tool industry by giving large grants to Universities to buy machines – we were told that we could have more or less anything we wanted but we had to order it within a couple of days as the other departments hadn’t responded – we didn’t have a lot of space in the workshop for more machines, but we manage to fit in a massive new lathe – used a lot, a horizontal milling machine that I think was only ever used a couple of times and just took up space, and a number of smaller machines. That reminds me of a story that Teddy told of when he was Director of the National Physical Laboratory before coming to Cambridge – the accountant came to him on the morning of the last day of the financial year and said he had discovered a significant sum of money that had to be spent by noon – Teddy signed a blank order and sent his workshop head out to buy something useful that came to the available amount, and he duly arrived back at 5 minutes to 12 driving a large and shiny fork lift truck.  It wasn’t just equipment – in 1967 (? – I’m not good on dates) the Woolfson  Foundation (money source: Great Universal Stores) gave the Department money to build a new lab building, and I spent a fair bit of time over two years with the architects/builders fiddling with the design of the building and its fittings, and then equipping it with furniture.   I had almost weekly meetings with the builders – it was a fixed price design and build contract – at which each week they would come in and say how much money they needed to save, and we would argue about just how many power points each lab needed (at the level of individual sockets!), or whether we needed 2 sets of drawers under this or that lab bench.  It was a reasonable space and we got an adequate number of usable labs and workshops, but it was all pretty utilitarian – the internal walls were all block walls just sprayed with some speckeldy paint and of course, it being then, glazed with large single glazed windows.  The building had a flat roof  of precast beams overlaid with some form of sparse insulation and then a bituminous layer all within a parapet.  Almost immediatley bituminous stained water began to drip from the beams above the suspended ceiling and cause brown stains – for a long time the builders maintained that this was water that had been in the insulation when it was laid, and there ‘couldn’t possibly be any leaks in that construction’!   When it became clear that rather more water had come through than the total volume of insulation they grudgingly admitted that there was a leak problem ( I think via the parapet walls) and came up with an ingenious solution  – a series of ‘draining boards’ under the ceiling beams all plumbed into the rainwater drain that ran down the middle of the ceiling cavity to catch the leaks.  This sort of worked, except that at some point we had prolonged torrrential rain and the drains backed up, causing the draining boards to act as a source of water rather than a sink – it was all quite spectacular as there was an 8 ft fountain of water  from a 4 inch pipe by the back door and water pouring through the ceilings.  I didn’t like flat roofs then, and I still don’t.  Anyway Mel and I set up our nice new electronics workshop in the Woolfson Building, and quite soon found we had chosen too small a space, and moved to a bigger space with adjoining labs where a number of students could work on their projects.

One of the really nice features of my early life at G+G, and one that now seems distinctly unusual, was the seamless boundary between work,  our own projects and home life for the research students and the younger staff. Visits to the Churchill College bar were just as often taken up with discussing work as philosophy or politics, and there seemed to be similar gatherings in peoples rooms, flats or houses. The workshops and labs usually had one or two people working in them over the weekends, again either for urgent work or some hobby and in the early days there was nothing to stop students using some of the machines in the workshop at weekends.  Cars were  frequent  projects for us  – One student rebuilt a complete sports coupe from an old car and a new body shell, and I had a small fleet of derelict BMW 1600 and 2000s that used to get canibalised to keep my main 1600 going – in the end I sold it to a fellow employee and it  finally gave up the ghost with 250000 miles on the clock.  The workshops included a space for a woodwork shop, although we didn’t have much in the way of machinery, and no-one used it, so it was taken over as a car parts workshop and saw several engine and gearbox jobs.  Several cars got resprayed at the lab, and I welded up a lot of boat fittings when I was converting a Reedling hull into a small cruiser, and also welded up a trailer for it with metal from a scrapyard and wheels and suspension units that were salvaged from old 3 wheel invalid carriages.  It was all done perfectly openly, and Teddy Bullard used to take a pride in our extramural activities – what a fantastic leader.   A lot of the relaxed atmosphere resulted from the fact that most of us spent time doing fieldwork or on ships together, where of course you were cheek by jowl with your fellows for most of the time, and often even shared a two berth cabin.

I wrote my first computer for a mainframe computer in around 1968, when an IBM XXX was installed in the Institute of Astronomy, another Woolfson funded building, just 50 yards down the drive from the labs. In those days you typed your Fortran program onto punched cards in a card punch, each card holding one line of the program.  Even a small program would result in a pile of cards several inches high, and a large program  might run to several feet of cards.  The unfortunate feature of this system was that the pile of cards wasn’t indexed, so to get the program to run properly the cards, and hence the instructions, had to be in the right order,  If you dropped the pile of cards you had effectively lost your program.  My program was a very simple one for calculating how a weight on the end of a wire would tow behind the ship at various speeds.  This was important because we needed to get the airgun to a particular depth to get the best signal. I was amazed when I left the department around 2000 I looked at the much changed and upgraded towing programs then in use and discovered that the arbitrary names I’d given to important variables were still there, although almost everything else had changed except my basic algorith.   Computers gradually  became a  bigger and bigger part of a student’s work in getting a PhD, so the time they had in their 3 years for building instruments was reduced, and in consequence more and more was done by the lab staff, until the students effectively became operators of them.

Most of my work over all the years I was at the lab were connected one way or another with seismics, mostly marine seismics and latterly sea bed seismics, where I made something of a speciality of looking at the coupling of the geophone sensors to the sea bed – its a quite complex problem, and important for interpreting the sound waves ( = vibrations) that arrive a the sensor.  The deep sea bottom is almost everywhere fairly soft mud like material – the accumulation of millions of years of fine sediment falling to the bottom, its only rocky where there have been recent undersea earthquakes or where fast sea bed currents have scoured the bottom.  The seismic waves travel in the deep rock layers and propogate  upwards as the go, arriving at the sensor at an almost vertical angle.  There are actually two distinct kinds of wave that travel in solids – one where the particles within the solid are displaced backwards and forwards in the direction the wave is going – the p wave, and one where the particles move at right angles to the direction the wave is going – the s wave.  The problem is that the sensor has to be quite heavy in order to sit securely on the sea bed, but the soft mud acts as a springy mattress would and so the sensor is not moved as the mud would if the sensor was not there – any way, that will give you a brief idea of the problem – we’ll come back to it later….

Another area I was involved with was measuring the heat flow out through the earth’s crust.  The earth’s  core is still hot from the time of its formation roughly 4 1/2 billion years ago, and also the decay of radioactive material in the core and mantle produces heat that has to escape through the earth’s crust.  These two sources are about equal  and drive the convection in the mantle, which is then responsible for the movement of the lithospheric plates and the transport of heat to the underside of the plates.  These plates acts as a blanket, but also to some extent have there own internal radioactivity, so the amount of heat coming out of the surface of the earth at any point tells you quite a lot about  how thick the blanket is and the rocks.  The ocean plates are thin – typically around 5 km as they are all pretty young aand have very little rinternal radioactivity – maybe 2% of their heatflow, being continuously created and subducted, whereas the contintal plate are the accumulation of  thousands of millions of ‘scum’ and are typically around 30 km thick, although mountains have much deeper roots – up to 100km deep – they do have more radioactivity, so there is not as much difference in the heat flow as you would expect from the thickness.  So its an important tool for studying the crustal thickness.  It’s quite a small amount of heat that comes through the surface, typically around 400 Wattts per hectare so not a useful amount – almost all the surface temperature comes from solar radiation – heat flow contributes around .03% to global warming!  Teddy Bullard did the first heat flow recordings well before I joined the lab, and Leslie built a beautiful mechanical recording heat flow meter, but in the late 1970’s a student decided he wanted to do heat flow measurements in various bits of the ocean, so we set out to build a new digital instrument, and it was going to use a micro-computer.  All the instruments we built in the lab were for use in the field, and almost always had very limited power available, so the  early  micro processors like the Intel 8080 and the associated memory chips  as used in the ZX80 from sinclair etc were not usable because they needed too much power for the available batteries to provide – batteries were also much less efficient then so the power issues were actually a dominant constrain right through my time in the lab.  The breakthrough came with the RCA1802, a very low powered CMOS microprocessor that fitted our power budget, and a few memory chips that also didn’t need large amounts of power.  The Heat Flow we built using the RCA 1802 looks unbelievable when seen from the 21st  century – it stored its program in a tiny memory of just 256 bytes that had to be loaded each time it was used and had to be written in machine code and entered manually via a simple programmer – a similar program nowadays might run to about between 1000 and 10000 times bigger – that program did all the measurements of 16 sensors and recorded them to a digital tape recorder as well as timing the measurement and  controlling a heater.   The heater was an essential part of the measurement – to go back to the blanket, if we want to calculate how thick the blanket (crust)  was from the amount of heat escaping, we also need to know how insulating the blanket was – it could be thin but a very effective insulator, or thick and a poor insulator, so in order to measure its insulation properties we give the probe a quick burst of an exact amount of heat, and measured how long it took to cool down – the probe, by the way, was a 3 meter long steel bar with a thin tube stretched alongside it containing the 16 sensors and the heater.  The steel bar had to be incredibly strong because you couldn’t guarentee that the ship would be directly above the probe when you pulled it out, so it might have to stand a very strong sideways pull.  So the proceedure was to lower the probe on a steel wire of perhaps 1.5cm diameter until it was 10 meters above the seabed, then let it fall suddenly so it sticks in deep, leave it there for maybe 5 minutes to let the frictional heat dissipate and the actual crustal temperature to stabilise, then fire off the heater for about 30 seconds and record the following temperature decay, then pull it all back up again.  In order to get the probe to penetrate 3 meters into the seabed the whole apparatus had to weigh around half a ton, but that was a ‘normal’ sort of weight for a bit of marine gear and could be handled on board a large research ship without difficulty. The thin tube containing the sensors and heater was about 7mm diameter, and the construction of the string of sensors to put into  the tube was a work of art – fortunately the student involved was an expert fly tier with lots of experience fly fishing in Scotland – I would probably not have had the patience to make such a beautiful job. One of the parameters that we had to record along with the temperatures was the angle that the probe ended up in the bottom – If it was too far from vertical the measurement was not going to be any use, and if it was off by more than a few degrees the measurementss needed to be corrected to take acount of the angle.  We had very limited capacity for data storage, and  needed a sensor that gave an output that could be used to determine the tilt from the vertical. I couldn’t find any small, low powered commercial tiltmeters, so designed a cylindrical  cell with a separate conductive  top and bottom with an insulated layer between and a central cconducting cylinder, filled up to the level of the inulator with a dense flourocarbon (MFL18) that turned the cell into a capacitance bridge – it worked rather well, and I used the design in a number of seabed devices.

I did a few research cruises with the heat flow equipment, and one non cruise – the student and I, plus the rest of our marine party flew out to Rio Janero for a mixed heat flow and seismic cruise,  then flew on to Belem to join the ship.  We had a couple of days in Belem before the ship sailed, and came across a Portugese guide who  offered to take us round the locality to see some Voodoo ‘services’ – an opportunity not to be missed, so the student and I plus two hefty rugger playing technicians squeezed into the guide’s VW Beetle and set off for the seamier areas of Belem – it soon became obvious that the guide was quite nervous about being in those areas, and on a couple of occasions he did a very quick about turn and exited smartly, sweating heavily.  We then found a ‘session’ going on, so the guide went in and asked if they minded us watching – the hall had a strange mixture of pagan and catholic icons, and the ‘priest’ sat in a large chair smoking, with an acolite on either side , one giving him a  cigarette every time he finished one, and the other lighting it for him.  Meanwhile members of the congregation were engaged in Dervish dances and speaking in voices and becoming trance like – quite impressive, and we just quietly observed.  After that one, we drove on and found another -church’ (I’m sure I’ve got the names wrong, and perhaps at the time I knew what they were called) = the guide went in and came out again and said there was no service going on, but the ‘priest/witch doctor’ would be delighted to meet us, so we went upstairs to a very large and, for the locality, plush office with the witch doctor sitting behind an enormous desk watching a gigantic television, at least at the time it seemed enormous to us, I guess now it would be quite modest.  Through the guide he greeted us and we explained briefly what we were about to do, after which he offered to ‘read the bones’ for each of us.  After looking at one of us he shook a large basket containing bones, feathers and other odds and ends and studied the result, then repeated for the rest.  He then gave a summary of our individual characters which had us all gobsmacked – we were all pretty smart cookies, and well used to the idea of  generalised predictions, but we could have clearly recognised each other by his analysis.  Our scientific training precludes a belief in the occult, so we were left with his ability to read character in a few minutes across a cultural gap of almost half the world – I still think of it as the cleverest bit of people reading I’ve ever come across.   Anyway after a trip up the river Belem, a tributary of the Amazon to see cocoa pods being gathered in the forest (probably a regular tourist activity!), we were ready to sail – having lunch in the Officers’ mess,  when there was a loud bang – five minutes later the Chief Engineer came in and said that one of the generators had blown up, and that would mean we couldn’t use the main winch (for the heat flow).  The student and I looked at each other and said as one ‘ no point in us staying then’, and caught the next flight back to Rio and then home – my shortest ever time on board a research ship.

Another heat flow cruise was on a Dutch research ship Snelius, a converted cattle carrier with all the labs in containers on the dack.  The deck below was where the cattle were carried – it must have been  thousands of them, because the whole deck was completely open.  We sailed from Ambon in Indonesia and it was a pretty dreary cruise – hot and humid in our container and the food didn’t really inspire us although the Dutch scientists seemed to think it was wonderful.  The only saving grace was that the crew rigged up a small ‘swimming’ pool using old pallets and a big rubber sheet that was regularly refilled from the sea, so if things got too fetid one could cool off.  There must have been a few other heat flow cruises – but I don’t remember them!  Our heat flow design was highly sucessful, and we eventually made several for our use and one for a Canadian group. I still think of those heat flow electronics as No 3 in my best efforts – it combined a number of inovative elements and worked well.

Fairly early on in my time at the lab we hired another electronics technician, Mike, who was fairly untrained in electronics but very good at coming up with crafty, if somewhat complex circuits – probably his ultimate triumph was the Seismic  Jet Pen – I had been working on the design of a recorder that would produce a raster type display to record the repeated traces from the seismic reflections  from the airgun – each time the gun fired the pen would traverse actross the chart drawing a trace corresponding to the incoming reflections, then fly back in time for the next gun pulse so that the reflections from layers under the seabed lined up on the recorder and formed a view as if it was a slice through the seabed.  At the time all the commercial recorders had limitations, and we needed a high quality record.  The recorder was based on a very igenious commercial unit – the Jet Pen – very simple in concept, it had a very fine glass tube  with a magnet round it, bent at right angles at the end. a coil round the magnet caused the tube to twist back and forth when a signal was applied, thus pointing the bent bit from side to side. A high pressure pump sent ink through the tube, which the drew a line that wiggled from side to side with the signal – the incredible thing about the device was that it would do this up  to 10000 times a second!    Our recorder moved the Jet Pen back and forth across the paper in syncronisation with the firing of the gun to produce a raster display (like an old TV picture).  Our design problem was that the pen was quite heavy and we had to accelerate it rapidly, move it  at an exact speed across the paper, stop it quickly, and get it back to the beginning again at exactly the same rate every time.  Now one could program the whole thing into a microcomputer in a day, then Mike spend months designing acceleration and decceleration  circuits using logic chips, and all the control logic and option controls – a tour de force of electronic design and a very sucessful recorder – the best display by far at that time – we made a couple for other groups.  I’m sure Mike wouldn’t mind me telling a couple of good stories about him!  He had lost a leg in an accident as a young man, but you would never have known – in fact we really never did know until one day on board ship a very heavy weight fell on his foot and he didn’t flinch!  On another occasion on board the Charles Darwin we were discussing our cabins and how to get into the top bunks in a lively sea, and Mike said, quite calmly, that it often took him three or four goes to throw himself up there.  Going through customs in, I think, Rio, he was asked to open his suitcase – to reveal his lifelike spare leg – I’ve never seen a customs officer shut a case so fast!  I was next, and had some lollipops in my top pocket – the customs officer asked what they were, so I said I’d give her one if she didn’t open my case – she took the lolly.  Customs officers are strange beasts – going into the Canaries I had a very heavy case with a large bit of equipment that only just fitted in the case, around which I had packed my few clothes.  The porter signalled to the Customs Officer that the case was heavy, so he asked what was in it – I couldn’t think of an inoccent answer, so he suggested books – OK! He then proceeded to do what I can only describe as a mock search – he went all round the case, and appeared to be searching but carefully never lifted the shirt on top that would have revealed the equipment!  I did get done over fairly thoroughly leaving Cyprus on a ferry for Turkey once – to the extent of squeezing my toothpaste tube, opening match boxes and wanting to know what was under my shirt – I started to take it off but they thought that wasn’t on in the public hall. I was made to wait while they went to the office and checked files for an age and obviously thought that I was engaged in smuggling antiquities out of Cyprus, to the extent that they had someone follow me on the ferry  and watch me on the way across – must have been a case of mistaken identity.

Like all organisations there was always some politics going on somewhere, and shortly after I joined there was a move by the Professor of Geology, Harry Whittington, to investigate the possibility of amalgamating the three departments of Geology, Geodesy and Geophysics and Mineralogy so he set up a series of meetings of all the  academic staff of the three departments to discuss the possibility.  This was many years before the amalcgamation actually took place without such  democratic concern!  I went to the first meeting in a lecture theatre in Geology, but because I’d never set foot in the place it took me a while to find the theatre, so I came in late, Prof Whittington was chairing the crowded meeting, saw me looking for a seat and pointed to a space next to him, which I took.  He then needed to appoint a secretary to the meeting, and picked me as I was sitting next to him – thus I became the secretary of the Amalgamation Meeting.  Afterwards he asked me what College I belonged to – as I wasn’t a Cambridge graduate and didn’t have a fellowship, I said none – to which he replied that ‘We must do something about that’, and subsequently got me dining rights in Churchill, which I very much enjoyed throughout my working life as it meant that I had the company of many bright people every lunchtime, and there was always someone who knew the answers to obscure questions of science, history, politics or finance.  The Amalgamation Meetings didn’t get anywhere as there wasn’t a consensus, although there was a general feeling that somehow it ought to be a good idea.  The experience points out an interesting feature of  some of the old grandees of the academic world like Harry and Teddy, that they had a strong view of the importance of the young and junior staff  compared to more recent holders of those posts.  It used to be said of Teddy that if he was talking to a senior academic and a student knocked on his door he would  ask the academic to wait while he dealt with the student – he certainly always made junior staff feel important.

I had another political involvement in University life fairly early on –  I’d had casual commercial enterprises from time to time before I joined the University as I’ll explain later, but at some point the General Board of the University decided that Technical Officers, which is what I was, would have to ask permission of the General Board before they could earn any money in addition to their salaries.  This was completely unworkable requirement as the General Board was the top management for the whole University, and anyway it was totally discriminatory since many other academics had lucrative consultancies, and no University medic could survive without his private patients.   But there were not many Technical Officers – a hundred or so  – so it was quite possible that it would pass unopposed . So I had to learn how to navigate the University systems in double quick time.  The first thing I had to do was to call for a Discussion in the Senate House by submitting a ‘fly sheet’ to be circulated in the University Reporter, which I seem to think required a few signatures – I began to circulate all the other Technical Officers to get them to respond, and we did get a Discussion in the Senate House, at which as well as the general issues, I asked the General Board if they really wished to be involved if I offered to cut my neighbour’s lawn for a pound.  Going downstairs after the discussion I heard a couple of the GB members say to each other ‘who do these people think they are’! of me and the Technical Officers in general.  Anyway following the discussion the GB revised the proposed requirement and removed themselves from the permissioning and passing it to heads of Departments, so my point had been taken. The next step was a vote by the Regent House – that is all the academic staff of the University – in order to vote you had to go in person to the Senate House wearing your academic gown!   I continued to lobby and in the end the proposal was rejected by several hundred to 13,  by coincidence the exact number of academics on the General Board!  That was fortunately my only brush with the Universitiy’s arcane democracy, and the issue never surfaced again except occasionally in an informal,  half hearted way at Department level.

As I alluded to above, I have always been driven to commercialise my interests in a gentle way, not I think from any great desire to make money, for I’ve never had that as a prime objective, but because it validates what I do by giving it an external use.  I think it was encouraged when I was young, I can remember at about 14 having a Wolf Cub electric drill with a faceplate and making a stand for it and turning up dozens of wooden ashtrays and selling them at a Girl Guide bazaar – I remember because it burnt out the drill, and the money I made just covered the cost of the replacement! I guess that probably set the pattern of just about covering my costs with my enterprises!  I think the first real commerical enterprise when I was an adult involved a friend who had just set up on his own making and selling temperature measuring devices – his first was a nifty device for vets – a thermistor that you could put near/up an anaesthatised animal’s nose and converted the temperature of their breath to varying tones, so the vet was able to monitor their respiration without loosing attention from an operation.  He rang me one day and said that he had just signed an agreement to manufacture and sell a device for measuring transpiration from plant leaves in situu – a potentially important agricultural research measurement, and would I cast my eye over the prototype that the academic who developed it  had made and that he was going to produce.  I did, and I had to tell him that there was no way the digital circuits and display using the then power hungry devices could be field portable – worn hanging on the chest as he envisaged it – as at the very least you would have to lug a large car battery around with you.  I offered to ‘have a look’ at the problem – he had no money left for paying me so I offered to do it for a 5% royalty.  I threw out all the digital electronics and the electronic digital display and came up with a simple analogue circuit – I got round the digital display problem with what was then called a ‘Post Office Counter’ – an electric click counter with a display like a car odometer, and which ony used power when it was actually counting or resetting.  The whole circuit was very economical of power, worked at least as well as the original and could be powered off a rechargeable battery and worn on a neck strap – a very neat piece of retro design, even if I say it myself.  The device, called a porometer, really set his business up, and sold very well, so the extent that after a few years we both got embarrased at the royalty cheques (he was a friend, remember) so I halved the royalty.  Eventually he hired an electronic engineer for his business and by that time digital electronics was less power hungry so a MK II version made mine obselete.- end of royalties.

When I joined G+G we built several bits of kit for ourselves that other groups wanted, so I used to copy it for them – with the encouragement of Teddy Bullard – and so started my electronics manufacturing  business that I ran as a sideline throughout my working life and as a full time consultancy when I retired from the lab in 2001.  One of the early jobs was indirectly for the Gentral Electricity Generating Board – a sub contractor had received a regular order for banks of amplifiers to condition the signals from vibration sensors on turbine generators.  The specification had been based on a commercially available integrated circuit, but the CEGB had pushed the specifications up so that the integrated circuit would no longer pass inspection, which I was told was rigorous.  I designed and built a number of units that all passes their tests, but it turned out that in fact the equipment was no longer in use and the units were just tested and then put on a shelf and had been for almost all the contract- nevertheless I got paid!  Actually in the life of my business I did several jobs that came to nothing, because the client hadn’t thought through what they were about, and overall spent many months on such red herrings – I always got paid, except once when I had to fight for it with one of the largest civil engineering companies in the country.  There was a time when there were a number of occurences of subsidence in the midlands due to the collapse of old underground limestone workings, and the company was trying to get a contract to measure ground tilt as a pre-cursor to subsistence.  We at that time had some highly precise tilt measurement techniques so they approached me to come up with an urgent design for a unit that they could present to the appropriate government ministry for funding for a major survey.  I did some work on a possible design and a couple of executives came up to my office and looked over my design – I could see that they didn’t like it, and when pressed said that they had already presented a preliminary document and that my design didn’t match the presentation they had submitted!   I was a little amused that they thought they knew more about the design that I did, but ever helpful I said I would come up with a design that matched their visualisation, on the principle that it pays to act as if the client knows best.  So I bought a large steel box section for the tiltmeter, and was about to make the prototype when I got a phone call saying that the project was cancelled, so I stopped, and sent in an invoice for my time and the box section – about a  thousand pounds or so in all.  I got a snotty letter from the finance officer saying that I’d been working on spec and had no order for the work, so no money. Its true that I hadn’t had an order but had been told by a senior executive that it was urgent and an order would follow, but not to wait.  I couldn’t shift the finance officer, and me against one of the biggest civil engineering firms in the World seemed a bit one sided, but I don’t give up easily!  I had been engaged with a number of senior engineers in the company during the project, and knew they wouldn’t approve, so I rang each one’s P.A. and found out when they were in the UK and when they were abroad – it wasn’t difficult to extract the information, so I wrote to the finance officer and proposed we  had a meeting with the engineers on a particular date when they were all in the UK, detailing where they were beforehand etc.  The cheque arrived two days later.  The large steel box section followed me round for ten or twenty  years and I built it in as an RSJ when I rebuilt a chimney in this house 20 years ago – waste nothing, and thanks Ove Arup and Partners for that!

One of the annoying difficulties with my very small enterprise was that quite a lot of the jobs that came my way were via a subcontractor to the main customer, which meant that I could never interact with the end user as the sub contractor wasn’t about to let on that he had sublet the job.  It was particularly annoying on one job – the main customer wanted to monitor the oxygen content of the outflow from the Wash in Lincolnshire using  half a dozen measuring stations spaced along the channel. The sub contractor had previously had someone design a remote recording system, and they had got as far as to build the mechanical bits for the proposed design which didn’t leave me much scope for redesign.  The problem was that I could see that the systems weren’t going to achieve the results, however well I finished them.  The basic idea was to place an instrument in a cylindrical housing on the bottom of the channel and every hour a pair of ‘petals’ would open and admit water to the sensor for a reading to be made, then the petals would close again and squirt a dose of  disinfectant into the closed volume to stop things growing on the sensors.  Then every couple of days someone would go out in a boat and pull up the instrument and take it back to the lab and recover the data and clean and recharge it.  They also planned to build a gantry with a winch for one sensor position.  My thoughts were that this was a very complex system for a limited data set, with a pretty high chance of failure, given the mud and silt it would be sitting in.  I didn’t have the chance to view the proposed deployment sites, but my feeling was that as the experiment was only intended to run for a couple of months there were probably easier ways to get samples of the river water – for some of the sites I thought that a weighted hose with a pump on shore that could be visited periodically would be possible.  Anyway I kept to my contract and developed the electronic control and recording system for the instruments, and I had finished the prototype when I got the message that the project had been called off because it was too complex and they didn’t think it would work –  my response to this was that I’d stop work there and then and give them a 5% discount, or carry on and finish them.  I was relived that they accepted the 5% discount as its disheartening making things that you know won’t be used, and it probably saved me 50% of the work and cost

Without wishing to sound as if all my jobs were aborted – in fact I think only 3 were, here is last one as its quite amusing:-   Some years ago there was an earthquake – not a big one on the world scale, but it was felt over quite an area, so significant by British standards  ( there has only been one recorded death in an earthquake in the UK – in Wivenhoe in the 19th century).  Anyway the  significance of this quake was that it occured on a fault that ran through the site of a  nuclear power station. Although not in that part, it excited the operators as it raised the possiblity that there could be an earthquake near the site – there concern was heightened by the fact that the construction of the reactor building was not properly documented, so it was impossible to do a full analysis of the effect of a local earthquake of similar magnitude.  Their solution was to set up a monitoring network of seismic sensors around the site to see how much activity there was normally, and look for unusual activity.  They gave the task to a sub contractor, who approached me to build the seismic instruments, transmission system and recording system, which was to be a large paper drum recorder as was often used for seismic monitoring.  The network was to be connected by dedicated telephone lines around 10 km long  on poles back to the lab site on the site.  The seimis sensors and electronics were to be situated in manholes at the base of the last telephone pole and fed by power over the lines as is normal with telephones (at least until about 2025 when power will be withdrawn).  Because it was using telephone lines and going via normal telephone circuits the electronics had to pass the Post Office specifications, which are pretty stringent, and gave me a lot of satisfaction to design the transmission system and go to the Post Office lab and have them tested and to pass.  I’d got all the electronics designed and  prototypes built, and was looking at the skeleton of the massive recorder I’d had made, and wondering how on earth I was going to get it to work.  I decided that at this stage before I built the actual equiment I needed to go  and look at all the seismic sites and get an idea of where it was all going.  When I asked, the sub contractor stalled repeatedly, and I pressed as I know that it is important to get an overall impression before proceeding.  Eventually I was told that one of the farmers on whose land one seismic station was to be sited was insisting that we needed planning permission to build a manhole and put up a telephone pole. This of course presented the powers that be with a problem, because in applying for planning permission they would have to reveal what they were doing, and hence that there was a risk to the power station from an earthquake – so instead of finding another station they called off the whole project.  Another 5% discount job, which was quite a relief because I could forget about the recorder, and not have to build all the equipment – I did though, have to give them all the expensive seismometers I’d purchased for the job, but I suppose that was fair!

Just in case you get the impression that everything I did was aborted, I made a lot of systems for the Scott Pilar research Institute in Cambridge for use in measuring Ice properties  – we made a number of short, 1m long strainmeters to bolt to the ice to measure strain in glaciers in Antarctica, and at one point on a large floating iceberg.  These of course had to work down to pretty cold tempreatures.  I built a series for BP to instrument an artificial island they were constructing in the Arctic to house a drilling rig, for which the spec was that the electronics had to work down to -18 C.  This presented a bit of a problem as commercial chips and transistors are not specified at those temperatures, and even  military spec devices I could get only go down to about -10C.  I realised that they were all basically the same devices, so the difference was just the  mil. spec ones were tested at low temperature so I bought a supply of the commercial ones and built a simple test rig and put them in an environmental test chamber that I had access to, and checked ;them at -20C  They all worked – although some were a bit low in gain so I discarded those, and built the equipment from the ones that were OK – when I tested the equipment it all worked at -20, just as well I did as the first thing BP did was to test them at low temperatures.  Several of the devices I built for use on the Ice had data loggers, and for some years I developed a range of very low powered data loggers baded on the RCA 1805 microprocessor – the sucessor to the 1802 that I had first used in the heat flow equipment.

At about the time I retired from the labs I got involved with the Geotechnics section of the Engineering Department at Cambridge, who were needing some better data loggers to run on their experimental centrifuges………………..

 

 

 

 

 

 

 Posted by at 6:46 pm
Aug 212021
 

One class of antique firearms misses out on attention – little pocket pistols!  Apart from the ‘Queen Anne’ pistols, which were mostly not pocket sized, the bog standard boxlock flintlock and percussion socket pistols are held in scant regard by most collectors, and I’ve yet to find a book dedicated to them.  They were, however, probably among the most widely produced and owned firarms of the period – if not the most used.  They evolved from the Queen Anne pistol, which had a turn-off barrel screwed onto a breech which was made integral with the lock plate on the right hand side and the floor plate, making a three sided box , with the cock and frizzen spring on the outside of the lock plate side and the trigger pivoting in the floor plate.  This arrangement meant that there was still the need for a tumbler on the inside of the lock plate.    The box lock came about when it was realised that by moving the cock inside to the centre line, the tumbler could be dispensed with, thus simplifying the design.  To support the pivot for the cock another side could be added on the left, and then a slotted top plate to cover the mechanism When used with a conventional trigger, the sear could become part of the trigger, and the bents could be cut in the cock breast, thus reducing the basic lock parts count to cock, trigger, trigger spring and mainspring.  the pan had of course moved to the top of the barrel and the frizzen could be mounted directly over the breech.   The butt at the back completed the sixth side of the box and enclosed the mainspring. A safety catch was added to anything but the very cheapest boxlocks, either by a sliding trigger guard that locked the trigger(?) or a slider on top of the top plate that both intersected the mainspring and inserted a pin through into the pan cover to prevent it opening. These pistols probably made their appearance around the middle of the 18th century or a bit later. They gained in popularity in cities where street violence was fairly common, including large parts of London during the last quarter of the 18th and first quarter of the 19th centuries.  For the most part they were a utilitarian pistol and would have  been cheap to make and cheap to buy – almost certainly the vast majority of the more utilitarian – bog standard- pistols would have been turned out in their hundreds by Birmingham gunmakers and engraved, probably as part of the manufacture, with the names of the eventual retailer.  It is as unusual to see on engraved ‘Birmingham’ as it is to find one engraved ‘London’ that was actually made in London! Even those that were made in London were probably made from rough forgings made in Birmingham.  You will find the names of famous gunmakers engraved on these basic little pistols – some may have been retailed by those makers or given away with their expensive guns,  but more often it was just put on by the maker to sell more, mostly when the named maker had left the trade..   Here its important to note the way that the Birmingham gunmaking trade was organised as a whole raft of separate independent craftsmen, each making one or two parts of the pistol and nothing else – the ‘gunmaker was the name given to the organiser of the enterprise who may or may not have had a role in physically making the pistol, but probably not. As a result of the volumes produced, the raw forgings and manufactured parts from Birmingham were usually much cheaper than could be produced in London.

There were variations on the boxlock pocket pistol design, and they came in a variety of sizes and qualities , including some good quality ones that may have been fitted up by good gunmakers, and a few presentation pieces or quality items sold as a cased graniture with other pistols.  One early variation was the folding trigger, which reduced the bulk of the pistol considerably and made it more suitable to carry in a pocket or purse at the expense of adding two more parts – a sear that shared the pivot with the trigger, and a spring that acted to close the trigger into the recess in the bottom.  Functional variations included ways of adding additional barrels to give better defence capabilities – the most common variety being double barreled pocket pistols with vertically stacked barrels and a tap action to shut off ignition to the bottom barrel while the top barrel was being fired.  Extending the number of barrels to three or four by various ingenious means again increase the defensive capability.  A further variation combined the tap action with a superimposed charge in a single barrel – the barrel was made in two parts corresponding to the double charge, see below.

 

Basic functional flintlock turnoff flintlock with the name ‘H Nock’ on the side – Birmingham proof marks. Butt wood a fancy replacement

Superimposed load tap action pistol

Neat decent quality small pocket pistols of the ‘cap guard’ variety, sometimes called ‘top hat pistols – W & S Rooke

 

About as basic as it gets!

Still pretty basic but omewhat better quality – probably typical of the bulk of Birmingham’s output of pocket pistols. by(?)  John Bates

 

A bit bigger,  and a bit better quality too – ( retailed) by Boby of Newmarket

 

Probably a bit big for a pocket, they have a belt clip, so count as belt pistols – but nice quality by Salmond of Perth

 Posted by at 11:14 pm
Mar 072021
 

23rd Jan.  Just had a delivery of logs, so I’ll be OK in the workshop for a while!   Here is the method of checking the strike angle of flints on frizzens, taken from an old copy of Muzzle Blasts.  It clearly assumes that the cock is right for your lock so that the flint hits the frizzen somewhere near the top – usually between about 3/4 of the way up although the  article doesn’t cover that aspect.  You can either do the drawing on a  good photo of your flintlock, or on a blank piece of paper  – to do a paper drawing you need a school compass – draw a line and mark point A, measure of the distance between the cock screw and the frizzen pivot using the compass and mark on your line as point B. Use your compass to measure from the top of the frizzen face to the frizzen pivot and draw a bit of a circle on your diagram.  repeat from the centre of the cock screw. where the circles cross is the position of the top of the frizzen – label that point C.  Do the same for the base of the frizzen face – label the crossing point D.  You now have all the information relating to your gun that you need.  You will need a protractor or a 60 degree and 30 degree template, which you can make easily by cutting the corner off a square piece of card such that one side is 60 mm long and the other is 104 mm long.  ( Tan-1 of 104/60 being 60 degrees). Now you can do the rest of the construction following the instructions on the photo.  If you have lost your school compasses (careless, you’ll get a detention!)) then first draw in the 60 degree line, then mark along it a distance equal to the distance AD using a scrap of paper – that’s E.  Job done…. ( detention: copy out one of the posts on this website in longhand, hand it in by Wednesday)

19th Jan   Had a few days of going through the last year’s papers and trying to make sense of my tax return!  Each day I reward myself if I make it to 16oo hrs with a cup of tea and an hour or so in the workshop.  My project was to make a tool for unscrewing the Nock touch-hole – basically two tungsten pins in an EN 8 steel tool, mounted in a wooden ( Indian Ebony) handle with a brass ferrule.  I made the first attempt, but the cheap digital readout on my little milling machine played up and I got the spacing of the pins wrong, so I had to make it again.  I did find one other problem with the first one – I wanted to put the pins in with epoxy glue, but there was no way for the air in the holes to escape, so the pins kept coming out until I put it in a vice.  So on the second try I was very careful to set the spacing of the holes right, and I drilled a small hole through the side joining the bottoms of the holes to let the air out.  The shaft, brass ferrule and handle were of a classic 19th century design, but held together with a modern epoxy glue.  Job done – I’ll put a few coats of Osma Top Oil on the finished wood – its a rather good oil finish that I used for all the worktops in the kitchen – it goes on as 3 or 4 very thin coats and dries as hard as iron ( well, nearly).

14th Jan  Almost done all I can to the Nock until I can get out and shoot it – I hardened the steel, as the upright part of the frizzen is, or was, called but I still can’t get a spark – I will have to dig out a better flint.  I may yet have to put a face on the steel.  I made a touch hole today – I really only meant to do a trial run as I’m not very confident about screwcutting on my lathe and the thread isn’t anything you can buy a die for, being 9 mm diameter and 22 t.p.i – both pretty precisely.  Anyway I fiddled about with the gearbox and gears and sorted out directions of travel etc. and chucked a piece of 10 mm titanium rod and did a test pass of a 55 degree tool – OK – it is 22 t.p.i, which is a good start!   I started off  putting a taper on the internal face with a centre drill, and drilling a 4 mm hole about 6 mm deep followed by a 1.7 mm drill in excess of the required length of the touch hole.   Fortunately the thread I have to cut doesn’t have a shoulder so I didn’t have to start the thread abruptly, making it much easier  as I could keep the leadscrew engaged all the time.  I did a few passes cutting a bit deeper each time until it looked about right.  If I had a collet set I could take the rod out of the lathe to test the fit and be sure to get it back exactly, but my chuck is not fantastic, so I took a chance and stopped the cutting.  The thread was a tight fit in the barrel, but as the breech block was dead hard I didn’t mind using a bit of force to screw it in, and it seemed to go as far as the drum it was replacing had gone.  Once I’d got it well in, I filed it off flush with the breech block and drilled a couple of 1.7 mm holes for pins to screw and unscrew it.  I hope it works – the good news is that the touchhole finished up with the 4 mm drill ending about 1 1/5 mm back from the face – pretty well ideal.  It fits the gun well, perhaps 1/2 a mm high in relation to the pan, but I hope nothing serious….  I guess a titanium touch hole is good?  I’ve never had problems with titanium nipples so it should be OK, and I do love working with titanium!   I now have to make a tool for unscrewing and screwing the touchhole – at the moment I’m using 2 TIG welding electrodes of tungsten – 1.6 mm diameter held in a pair of pliers!

It looks as if the peaks of the thread were the tight bit – old threads were much more rounded in thread profile.

11 th Jan – One of those days when things don’t go to plan!    I found I had to move the hole for the sear pivot in the lockplate by about .75 mm as I couldn’t get things to work. moving a tapped  hole by a small amount is tricky, so I dropped a 5 mm end mill onto the new position and made a tight fitting plug with a slight taper and tapped it in from the outside and filed it flush on the inside so I could run a weld round the joint.  My welder has a home made pedal controller on the current and it chose that moment for the potentiometer to go open circit and deliver 130 Amps when I touched the pedal with pretty dramatic consequences to both sides of the lock tail!  I swapped back to the internal control and recovered the mess with a judicious bit of welding and a file!   The I managed to break off a No 4 UNF tap in a hole – luckily I was able to extract the end of it!  Then I drilled the hole for the peg on the mainspring and got it in the wrong place so had to plug it, weld over the back and drill a new hole.   Last job of the day was to file the square in the cock – its a tricky job because there is not much tolerance on the angle of the square, or you get the cock positions in the wrong place, or the mainspring hangs below the edge of the lockplate when the cock is on its stop – there are fudges to put things right ( see other posts) but its nice to get it right first  time.  Its also tricky to get a good fit on the tumbler square and takes a lot of careful work with a square file. Anyway for once the square in the cock is dead right!   If its a straightforward fitting of a cock onto a tumbler then I usually get it near and press fit them in a vice to form a tight fit, but in this case I want the tumbler to be usable with the percussion lock parts, so don’t want to deform it.  I did have one other annoying problem in putting it together – I had very carefully marked the positions of the bridle, tumbler, sear pivot and sear spring using a steel jig but when I came to fit the sear spring I found that the lower spring blade was too long and hit the radius part round the pivot – I did grind a bit off on the grounds that it would still work with the percussion parts!    I still have a little tidying up to do as the tail of the lockplate doesn’t fit snugly into the wood – the lockplate is a bit bent in the wrong way – not sure how I’ll tackle that as any bending of the lockplate will throw all the alignments off, but we’ll see..  I also have to make the touch hole – I’ll turn it out of titanium with a 22 t.p.i thread  – I don’t think I can put any sort of head on it as I can’t/don’t want to touch the breech block (Its dead hard, and fits the nipple barrel for the percussion use).  Anyway the lock fires well, the cock hits the frizzen and the frizzen flies open – I don’t get any sparks as the frizzen doesn’t have a hard enough surface and the flint is no good, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t spark well – there is lots of snap in the mainspring, and the frizzen flip point is just right…. we shall see…  Altogether it has been an interesting project – given that I was just copying an existing percussion lock and using the internals you would think that it would all go together easily if you just copied the positions of the holes exactly – but for some reason, perhaps due to minor discrepancies or slight curvature of the plate, it was a real pig to get things to work! ( Of course the pan and frizzen and frizzen spring were items from the ‘spares ‘ box)

Half cock.

Full cock.

9th Jan  – Started on the ‘works’ for the lock – I decided to begin by trasferring the parts from the original lock to my lockplate – I can replace them with new later.   I made a spring steel jig from the original lock by making bits of steel rod into punches that exactly fitted the screw holes in the lock and marking and drilling the holes, then transferring the plate to the new lock and marking and drilling the holes in the lock plate.  Unfortunately there is not a handy thread size to match the original screws – they are 3.05 diameter and 40 t.p.i. – between UNF 4 and 5, so I settled on 4 (2.85 OD) as it has to pass through 3.05 mm. holes – bit of a fiddle as the shanks are now slightly bigger than the threads so another diameter to turn…  Anyway I made the 4 screws necessary and it all fits together – I probably need to remake the sear pivot screw as the shank is a bit slack, but that can wait. One of the things I find really tricky is getting the slots in the heads of screws exactly in the centre – I put the slots in by hand using a bit of hacksaw blade ground down to a tapered edge – I have a number of different degrees of grinding for different slot widths.   Now I have to make the hole in the lockplate for the tumbler.  Despite my very careful jig making I am not absolutely certain that the pilot hole in the lockplate aligns perfectly with the back bearing in the bridle – I realise I should not have put in a pilot hole, but left it til the bridle was in place and then drilled the lockplate through the bridle, but I’ll sort it – I may have to do a bit of adjustment of the hole position as I enlarge it to 7 mm for the tumbler ( I think it can only be 1/4 of a mm out.).  Still its getting there!  I will need to find my knife gravers to make the slot for the tab on the sear spring – everything got spread around when I vacated my workshop to be the kitchen!

Jig is clamped and held by running instant glue round the edge.

I was quite pleased with the slots in the heads, I don’t usually get them that central! They are a bit too fine.

 

8th Jan – I retraced my screw making steps of yesterday!  I managed to remove the bit of screw from the outboard frizzen pivot support by heating it with a tiny flame and cutting a minute slot and unscrewing it. I made the new frizzen spring fixing screw bigger, UNF 5 as the boss was big enough to accomodate it and it does take a lot of strain.  Frizzen springs are attached at the lock plate face, but the force on them is where the frizzen heel touches the roller – i.e. outboard, so there is a force rotating the frizzen spring away from the lock – you often see it on flintlocks, not usually bad enough to worry.  Anyway its all working nicely now.  The spring closes almost completely when the pan opens – if I were making the lock again with the bebefit of hindsight I would have tilted the pan casting up  at the front of the lock so as to leave a bit more room, but it seems to work.  I’m still puzzled as to how the screws got to be so hard!  I tempered the bit of the frizzen pivot up to 300C for a good 15 minutes but it still snapped when I tried to bend it. at a rather low level of force.  I didn’t harden or temper the new screws!  I ordered a selection of EN8 round bar so I have a stock of known material in future.  I tried silver steel but its a pig to get a good finish when turning so I used the previous material.  I reckon I can just get away with the cock in the same place as in the original lock – that will mean that I can copy all the internals ( or I suppose, use them interchangably between the two locks if I’m feeling lazy).  Looking at the photos I’d say the cock was a bit big for the lock, but its not so obvious when looking at the real thing – I often see things when I come to put photos on the website that I miss in the flesh.  Its good to have the photos on the blog – so often one (I) takes dozens of photos and never looks at them.  Reminds me of the joke about some foreigh visitors – husband says “look at this fantastic view'”, wife says “just take a photo and I’ll look when we are back home”.

The frizzen spring doesn’t have a lot of room, but is just OK!

 

Initial contact may be a little high, we’ll see how it works when finished.

7th Jan. – Its getting near to the time when I have to do my Tax for the year – but for the moment I can afford to play!  Todays jobs went OK .  I drilled and tapped the frizzen pivot hole and turned a pin with a UNF4 thread tapped into the outboard support. The inside hole was very close to the edge of the ‘bolster’ so it has a minimal head.  I fettled up the frizzen spring and centered and drilled the hole through the boss and turned up a UNF4 pin with a countersink head to fit the outside of the frizzen spring boss ( an unusual arrangement) and turned up a small roller to bear on the toe of the frizzen pivot.  The Frizzen pivot is quite low down on the lock plate and by the time the spring has a roller mounted there is not a lot of room for the spring to open and close.  I closed the spring up in the vice so that its natural opening was a bit bigger than it would be with the frizzen open, but not excessively so – a bit of a guess!  I  heated the spring up to red heat with my oxy-gas torch (the one that supplied my Covid oxygen!) as my regular butane torch wasn’t hot enough when I brought it in from the freezing shed to properly vaporise the gas and dumped it in water, then polished it on the buffing wheel and found a spot on the AGA hotplate that was about 305 degrees (using a radiation thermometer) and put the spring down, covered with 3 layers of aluminium foil and closed the lid for 10 minutes to temper it.  The screws and the roller were hardened using Blackleys colour case hardening powder  – I stupidly tried the frizzen pivot screw without tempering it and broke off a bit of the threaded end in the hole – fortunately leaving enough to work, although it may give trouble in use.  I just didn’t appreciate how hard/brittle EN8 could be!  The tricky part was getting the holes to mount the frizzen spring in the right place so the bump on teh frizzen pivot goes through the null point at about 30 degrees opening and thereafter throws the frizzen back covincingly – I did manage to get that right although the spring might benefit from opening a bit to give a bit more snap – we’ll see when it sll together and we have the cock and mainspring etc working.  Bother – I was sitting there opening and closing the frizzen when the frizen fixing screw  sheared off – even after I had tempered it to 280 degrees, not sure what is going on – will sort out tomorrow and get some photos!

 

6th Jan  Since we are now in lockdown I couldn’t go and get Jason our expert welder to weld in the pan, so I did it myself – it made a bit of a mess of the lockplate but it has cleaned up reasonably well given that the pan section didn’t have much of a margin and was thinner than the lockplate.  It will work…  Next job was to sort the frizzen – the nearest casting I had didn’t quite fit – it was either right for the pivot hole and wrong for the pan, or vice versa.  I araldited the frizzen into the correct place for the pivot and drilled a 2.4 mm hole for a pin – just as I started to drill I saw that it wasn’t quite right, so had to pop the lock in the AGA to soften the araldite and start again. Having got a good pivot hole in the lock and frizzen, I cut the frizzen halfway between the pivot and the pan and filed the joint so that I could glue the pivot and the pan in place and tack weld the frizzen back together – that worked rather well, and even cleaned up reasonably – my only doubt is whether it will be strong enough in use.  I filed up a rather large top jaw casting to fit – although why I didn’t just start from a bit of 6 mm plate as I usually do, is a mystery… Anyway that is done so I set up the cock and ran an end mill down the back of the top to clear the cock screw and tapped it No 12 UNC – I’d have preferred UNF but I don’t have a die for that size. I turned a matching top jawscrew from a scrap of EN8 16 mm round bar.   With a bit of judicious filing on the back of the frizzen it now fits perfectly and holds a flint nicely, although I need to raise a few spikes on the gripping surfaces.   Now I can see how the flint hits the frizzen and decide where to put the tumbler hole.  I had a look at the lock of my John Manton double flint gun which has a similar shaped pan but a cock with a ‘spur’ – semi French ? –  I have a very similar cock that I was thinking of using, but the spur cock would need the tumbler nearer the flash shield so it could act as a stop.  I did some measuring – the arm on tumblers that carries the link to the mainspring defines the leverage and tends to be more or less the same length on all similar sized locks.  This arm has to clear the ‘bolster, whose rearward extent is fixed by the poition of the side nail – this means that the distance between the side nail and the tumbler axis  needs to be more or less constant.  In my Manton the side nail is quite a lot closer to the touch hole than on my Nock lock, so the tumbler axis can be nearer the pan, hence the spur cock will fit.  If you didn’t follow that, never mind, its another example of the inter-relationship between all the different bits of the lock – its no wonder that the designs stayed the same for long periods.  With the frizzen in place if I put the cock on the original tumbler position the flint strikes the frizzen a little near the top, although I think it would work OK ( I seem too remember about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up is usual – however, I’ve just had a look at the Manton and it strikes at exactly the same place on the frizzen as mine, so I won’t worry and will keep the same tumbler centre.   Next job is to make the proper frizzen screw  –  The screw obviously passes through the frizzen as a plain shaft but can either be tapped into the outboard end of the frizzen support, or into the lockplate end.  The Manton has the screw head on the outside and the thread in the lock plate, but I think its more usual to have the screwhead on the inside of the lock and the tapped thread on the support arm.  I think I’ve also seen the scewhead on the inside of the lock, and a tapped larger thread in the lockplate so the end in the support arm is plain. I will probably copy the Manton.  The screw that holds the frizzen spring  can similarly either be tapped into the spring itself with the screwhead on the inside ( the more common arrangement ) or screwed in from the outside with the head visible.  I have little choice as the spring casting I’ve got is intended to have the screwhead outside and I’m not sure there is enough metal to file it into the other pattern..  After that its the inside ‘works’.

I did a bit more filing before welding  but you get the idea….!

Cock is in the position is in the original Nock lock  – I think it is OK…

I rather wanted to use this spurred cock as on the John Manton but it won’t fit!

4th Jan   I bit the bullet and engraved the name on the lock – more or less OK!  I made the hook on the toe of the lock to go under the screwhead that retains the front of the lock – the lock plate is slightly curved so that the lock can be fed under the screw – I hadn’t noticed that before.  My technique for the hook is to build up a pile of weld, then file it to shape  – it ended up with a curved back as that is what the weld did – it works perfectly!   I tacked the pan into the lock plate – it was a bit of a mess as I made a few mistakes that I had to weld over, but it turned out OK in the end – I have just left the critical joint under the pan on the front of the lock – I’ll need to be feeling confident to do that – my TIG welding is not very expert and I’m a bit out of practice.  It all looks as if it is coming together – I need to make a top jaw and top jaw screw so that I can see exactly how the cock falls on the frizzen before I drill the tumbler hole, and put in the pivot for the frizzen.  I’m not sure if there is enough metal in the frizzen in the right place for the pivot.  I’ll araldite the frizzen to the pan and drill a small hole through the support bracket, frizzen and lockplate to see how they align.  I’ll need to do a bit of sorting on the tail of the frizzen to get the lump that engages the frizzen spring to go through the slot cut in the pan support – another complication……  Makes you realise how complex and inter related all  these bits are!  And that still leaves all the internals and the frizzen spring……….

 

Photos not up to my usual standard, not sure what happened – sorry!

3rd Jan  Still quite a lot of messing around finding all the bits of my old workshop that got moved out when it was a temporary kitchen, and putting them back.  I had tmy engraving microscope, but not the hone that I need by it for sharpening gravers.  I put the TIG welder and Argon back but then had to find the rinder to sharpen electrodes, and so it goes on!  I filed the bevel/chamfer on the lock plate – more or less Ok, and did a bit of practice engraving on EN 8 to make sure I could cut the border lines well enough – I decided I could, so they are on the lockplate too.  I cleaned up the cock so I could see how it fitted – I want to keep the same tumbler position as in the original Nock lock as it enables me to copy the shapes of all the internal components.  I can’t, for instance, move the tumbler towards the pan as that would not leave room for the arm on the tumbler that carries the link to the mainspring, and shortening the arm would call for a stronger spring…. Its all interconnected!  if I were just making a flint lock for display or a an ‘antique’ it probably wouldn’t matter too much, but my aim is to make a gun that shoots, and that has implications for the internal mechanism etc.  The main issue for me is that some flintlocks fire really fast and are good to shoot, while others don’t seem t obe amenable to tuning for fast ignition – and it would seem that this is more art than science – indeed a black art!

2nd Jan – Dry fitted the pan into the lock plate, which took a lot of filing and trying – Its important to get the pan positioned correctly in relation to the touch hole – which is a little tricky as the touch hole itself hasn’t been made yet and the hole for it is 9 mm diameter.  Its important that the touch hole is slightly above the pan because for fast ignition its the flash from the burning powder that ignites the main charge via the touch hole – the flash travels much faster than the burn rate through powder, so if you pile up powder over the touch hole you may get more reliable ignition but it will be slower than flashed ignition.  my double Manton has little ‘shutters’ on the frizzens that cover the touch holes and push any priming powder  away from the touch hole.  The shutters have a small hole to allow air to escape but will (probably) keep any powder from the main charge from entering the pan.  It was a Manton patent but never caught on.  Anyway the pan is now ready to weld, but I think before I do that I’ll file the chamfers on the lock.  I did try a cut with a graver on the lock material, but the EN8 seems harder than I remember, or else its so long since I engraved anything that I’ve forgotten what it feels like! (I probably need to anneal it! what a pain)  I’ll probably put my name on the lock if I can cut it as I am not trying to pass it off as the work of Henry Nock!

 

 

1st Jan. 2021 – HAppy New Year – lets hope it improves rapidly, although the signs are not particularly good at the moment.  Just hoping we don’t all go the way of Essex!   I spent a few more hours filing and fettling on the Nock Lock – first core was to take a blank of 8 mm x 50 mm EN 8 steel ( this is moderately hardenable – ? about 1/2% carbon)  and mill out the lock plate 3.5 mm thick leaving the bolster, then cut it out with an angle grinder and 1 mm disk.  I clamped it on the bed of the milling machine and nibbled away some of the edges, then filed it to fit – have to be careful to work slowly and avoid damaging the edges of the lock pocket with burrs thrown up on the metal.  Once profiled I put it back on the miller and thinned the tail down to about 1.6 mm and filed a concave step to match the original (its a common feature).  So we now have a fitting lock plate with stepped tail and bolster in the correct place to receive the pan.  At this stage its worth marking a centre punch for the side nail, as that will fix the plate relative to the gun – an easy way to do this accurately is to grind the blank end of a drill that just fits the hole in the stock and use it as a centre punch – it will not make a particularly good mark as its probably too soft, but you can see it clearly.  At this point I could see that the bolster plus plate is the correct thickness and is  touching the breech block – the breech block is slightly domed around the tapped hole for the barrel  so I may need to recess the bolster to match as I can’t touch the breech block its – too hard.  I eventually selected a pan casting that had already been cut down, and I’ve go a couple of frizzens that will probably fit, plus a couple of cocks.  The net step will be to cut the lock plate to receive the pan casting – I may need to juggle the bolster and casting in the region of the  frizzen pivot to make sure the pin is secure and works properly – the casting has been cut a bit close to the hole..   Having cut the plate for the casting I’ll clean up the plate properly and put a chamfer round the edge and do any engraving that is needed – its easier to do that before the pan is fixed in – I hate trying to engrave/re-engrave complete flintlocks as the pans always get in the way.  Once the pan is welded in, or at least tack welded, I can finally sort out the frizzen, and then I’ll be in a position to select a cock – I have two possible ones, I think one is a little on the small size and the other may be a smidgin too big, but once the pan and frizzen are installed it will be easier to choose.  It may be possible to open up the small one.  Then I’ll be able to see where to put the tumbler hole – I have marked the original location from my card template but it can be altered slightly, although it can’t be pushed too far towards the tail of the lock or there isn’t room for the sear spring.  There are so many variables to be sorted, and with a limited range of parts  at my disposal, and  only having made a couple of flint locks before it is a challenge – still that is why one does these things!

Possible parts – when the pan is in it should be easier to choose to best fit.

30th December – OK, its the new flint lock for my little Henry Nock – the pistols can wait!  I got out my drawers of bits and pieces and had a rummage – I have 4 or 5 pan castings that Blackleys make for reconverting percussion back to flint from full lock sets, and several frizzens and cocks.  Its a matter of sorting out which are most suitable period wise, and which are near enough in dimensions to fit – The original lock on the Nock looks as if it had a semi rainproof pan, not one of the very tiny pans that went with French cocks – I do have a set of castings for a late Mc Knight double with tiny pans and French cocks ( I don’t want to break up the set) – the cocks are tiny compared to earlier ones. I also have a pan section taken from the same lock and a somewhat larger flintcock with a spur that might do with the Mc Knight pan, and a frizzen that can be made to fit.  Since I want the gun to be interchangeable between the new flintlock and the percussion lock, I dont want to modify the lock pocket or any of the woodwork, certainly not the opening.  This means that the main defining dimension of a pan section is the overall thickness, as the pan needs to touch the breech accurately to avoid sparks getting iside the lock, while the outside of the pan casting lock face needs to be flush with the level of the existing lock face.  I also have a pan casting that has been cut down ready to weld into a lock, but I’m not sure about it as the cut is quite close to the pan etc and I’m not sure if I can weld it neatly enough – I suppose I could get Jason in Haverhill to do it, but I’m trying to stay away form people while the pandemic rages!  I guess that as I want the flintlock to shoot and am not trying to fake it back to flint, function is more important than looks!

 

Strightforward drum and nipple conversion so not too difficult to make it into a flintlock that I can shoot.

These are the parts I picked out that might work for the Nock.

 Posted by at 12:25 am
Mar 062021
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This as an illustration from about 1714

This is a memorial of about 1704

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

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

 

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

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

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

Original nose for Imperial caps.

 

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

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

Not sure what happened to the colour balance here!

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

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

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

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

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

Secured for milling the holes.

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

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

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

6th December – Oh, I just remembered its my brother’s birthday!!   I finished o