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, even well done, can drastically reduce the value of antiques.

 

From the engraving on a Joseph Manton Tubelock

 

DIARY

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.      https://youtu.be/rTFfx7-J-7w

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

 

 

 

e – it has a series of Birmingham proof marks and a private mark on a visible part of the barrel so that limits the extent I can file it down.  The LONDON on the barrel was quite deep, and I’ve recut it lightly,  It will look good, I hope!  I’m busy patching the wood – I put the first piece on with Instant glue and was moving it when it went off, leaving it in  not quite the right place, so I’m putting a patch on to cover  the missing bit and to get rid of a couple of repaired glue lines – We’ll see how it goes……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

Cock mouth edge rests on nipple.

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

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

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

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

 

Mismatched cocks!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

Never be without self amalgamating / self vulcanising tape!

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

 

 

 

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

 

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

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

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 11:48 am
Dec 212020
 

December 21st 2020 – The new kitchen is more or less finished and about to be occupied, just in time for Christmas……..

 

 

This is probably the last time it will be so uncluttered!

 

At the beginning of the year I planned to redo our old kitchen – I had done a bit of work on it over the years, replacing the old coal fired range with an oil fired AGA and putting down another layer of vinyl floor over the deteriorating black and red tiles laid on a few dabs of lime mortar directly on to the earth and then coated in self levelling compound about 30 years ago before we bought Cables Farm.  I had also patched a large hole in the old lath and plaster ceiling that fell down when Penny slammed the back door,covering everything in a thick layer of gritty dust. Oh and the main sink unit was looking very tired when we moved in 26 years ago and was looking even tireder now, despite my best efforts at trompe d’oile!    I got Covid in early March, a week before the lockdown, which laid me out for about 5 weeks and took another 3 months before I was fit enough to do anything useful.  I was just about fit for our sailing trip to the Hebrides in late July, and on return I figured that I had better resume ‘normal’ activities – time to start on the kitchen…   A bit of planning and I figured I’d make units out of oak with wooden worktops, and of course the ceiling would have to be entirely re- plastered at the very least as quite a lot of it looked as if it would follow the example of the fallen chunk (which I had rather neatly patched!)  Obviously the damp and uneven floor would have to be tackled – old buildings don’t work well with any form of concrete slab as they need to breath to prevent the moisture in the ground being diverted to the walls, so a bit of research was called for into breathable floors, obviously incorporating a decent level of insulation.  Having got a few basic ideas I started gently on building the unit to hold the sink and a built in oven and gas hob ( I’ve always longed for a gas hob as electric hobs seem too uncontrollable). Having ‘got my hand in’ I decided it was time to get serious, so I recruited Matthew, my son from a previous incarnation, who had been a joiner and worked around buildings for many years.  We started on September 7th – Here is the story….

About the design:  The basic arrangement of the kitchen is more or less defined by the position of the Aga and the door to the larder and the window on the North wall, so any major rearrangement would be very difficult to imagine – plus it more or less worked, so there was only limited room for change – in the end amounting to moving the water softener from one end of the working area to the other.  The ceiling was very low – uncomfortably so both physically and aesthetically so, but without taking the AGA out and lowering it ( a massive job)  I reckoned that the best we could do was to lower the floor by about 30 mm.  We had always speculated on whether the ceiling beams would be good enough to expose – its a ‘normal’ conundrum in old houses like this – but without having a good look at a number of joists its impossible to guess.  We initally thought that it they might not be good enough, and expected to leave them covered – see below  but it became clear that they had originally been exposed.  We had a vinyl  that represented pale square floor tiles and we rather liked the look of it, plus  pale yellow tiles and bricks  are made using a local clay – Burwell whites.  We should probably have got floor tiles from the Burwell Brick company, but when I looked at them some time ago they were too small and too rustic for a kitchen floor so we went with the Norfolk Pamments tiles.  There is quite a lot in the room that won’t change with the work – the two leaded windows and the door to the utility room ( elm boards – hand sawn and 19th century or earlier) and the larder door ( pine boards with an old apotopical ‘witch’ mark inscribed by compass – maybe 18th century?) and bread oven (Victorian) that give the room its ‘period charm(!) but we didn’t want to add to the old-worldiness by putting in faux old features, so the furniture and fittings we added were designed to be comfortable to live with and not too ‘kitcheny’ since its a room we spend a lot of time in.  Kitchens  inevitably get cluttered but we have a decent utility room and a large larder so the intention is to keep things clear, particularly above the level of the worktops.   I’m happy that we pretty much achieved our goals – there isn’t much I’d change if I did it again, possibly a smaller, less dominant gas hob, but otherwise I’m very happy with the outcome, and the apparent  and real improvement in headroom is welcome.

Ceiling : First job after clearing everything out was to take the plaster off the old split lathes so I could replaster.  The original ceiling was quite low and the lathes were nailed onto the floor joists above, with the main cross beams exposed below ceiling level.  We got all the plaster off, and took out a few laths so we could clean the backs and see what was there.  In one corner we exposed a couple of older panels of lath and plaster fixed directly under the floor above and plastered and painted brown.  From what we could see, the joists looked in pretty good condition, some being squared and chamfered  (so must once have been exposed) and some pretty wavy and rustic.  After some discussion we opted to remove all the laths, clean off the joists and attach 1 1/2 inch battens alongside the tops of them and fix short laths to the battens and plaster between the beams, so as to maximise the ceiling height and create an interesting feature.  Fixing the laths under the batten edges was accomplished using an electric stapler, although it was still a very slow job re-using the old split laths, cutting them to fit between the joists and stapling each end a couple of times – a job I left to Matthew while I got on with fixing in the wiring for new lighting and getting rid of the old wiring.   I then plastered the strips between the joists using  lime putty plaster – one coat of ‘coarse stuff’ – sharp sand and lime putty with some chalk and goat hair mixed in – laid on so it extruded between the laths and the extruded bits bent over and held the plaster in place, the hair giving the wet plaster enough strength to stay in place (mostly!)  The second coat used plastering sand, lime putty and chalk with no hair and was laid on to form as level a surface as possible.  A very thin skim coat of chalk and lime putty was used to level up the second coat plaster when it had almost dried.   For the most part the finish worked although in places the surface cracked and needed a further skim to hide the cracks.  The plastered ceiling was given 3 or 4 coats of white limewash – water and lime putty to the consistence of milk (it covers a multitude of sins!).   Matthew then waxed the joists as they looked a bit dusty.  I was a bit skeptical about making them too shiny but they turned out perfect.

 

Two original ceiling panels from a previous ceiling on the undersides of the original floorboards – before 1850???

Matthew fixing reused split laths

Quite challenging plastering without getting plaster all over the beams! They look to me to be around 250 to 300 years old.

The Floor:  Having more or less finished the ceiling and the falling mess/plaster/limewash it was time to tackle the floor – there are a couple of firms specialising in flooring for old houses that use lime instead of cement based concrete – its called limecrete and isn’t as strong as concrete but is adequate for floor slabs laid on a firm foundation.  Two firms specialise in the materials, Mike Wye and Tyn Mawr.  We used Mike Wye although they are both similar.  The basic floor insulation is provided by foamed glass (Geocel) supplied  broken into chunks about 30 mm mesh and tamped down with a whacker plate to a depth of 150 to 200 mm, followed by a limecrete screed of 80 mm , followed by the tiles.  We wanted to drop the final floor level by 30mm from its original level so we ended up digging out the old floor to a depth of around 350 mm – generating 4 trailer loads of spoil – kindly taken away by our farmer neighbour  after being shovelled and barrowed out by Matthew – probably more than 10 tonnes judging by how much sand went into the limecrete!   Having dug out the floor to something approaching a level – all very compacted earth – we laid a patch of wine bottles in the centre as supplementary insulation, blinded them with sand, laid down plastic conduit for cable runs and put down a permeable membrane to receive the Geocel foam glass.  We had very little joy with the hired whacker plate as the Geocel won’t bond and just kept moving around – in the end we put a another membrane on top and ran the plate over that, which did improve things a bit.  We had been intending to put electric heating wires onto the Geocel layer, but this was clearly not practical, so we laid the first limecrete screed of about 75 to 80 mm thick, levelled from a laser datum.  We left that for a couple of weeks to dry, then laid out the in-screed 105 metres of electrical heating wire fixed into plastic strips precariously bonded to the very friable limecrete surface with fix-all. The heating was calculated to give around 140 watts per sq m.  We laid 2 inch battens on edge on the first screed as a guide for leveling the second screed – which was therefore laid to about 50mm and finished pretty level – probably to within +/- 2 mm over the floor.  This took an age to dry – 2 to 3 weeks while we got on with leveling the walls and decorating , fixing services and a long list of odd jobs, including Matthew laying a French drain along the outside North wall.  I ordered the clay pamments in February from Norfolk Pamments Ltd – hand made by a small mother and daughter business in Norfolk in a very pale white/yellow clay 12 x 12 inches by about 24 mm thick.  They are somewhat uneven in size and some are a bit convex underneath as we discovered later.   In order to keep the floor permeable we had to avoid cement (OPC) in fixing the tiles (modern tile adhesive is  impermeable and so not suitable)  and so we used a lime/kiln dried sand mix with a bit of lime putty for workability.  Our main problem was that the dry floor and the very permeable pamments sucked the water out of the mortar almost instantly, making adjusting the position of tiles very difficult after a few seconds.  We soaked the floor and wetted the pamments but only towards the end did we hose down the pamments repeatedly before bringing them into the kitchen.   Once dried I carefully walked on all the tiles, and discovered about 10 where the tile was so convex that it sat on a mortar pad in the centre and rocked – these were taken up and less bent tiles relaid.   We decided that, once dry, we could afford to use a modern grout, even if it wasn’t permeable as it only accounted for a small area.  During drying the tiles went through a nice range of colours, pink, deep yellow and back to pale yellow/white.  Suffice to say that when finished the floor looks fantastic!  Before grouting, and again afterwards I sealed the tiles with a natural, breathable seal – Natural Finish Stone Sealer from Eco Protec.  Since we started using the kitchen I’ve noticed how much warmer the floor is because of the Geocel insulation – I tested the underfloor heating, and it raises the temperature measured in the slab at a rate of about 1 degree an hour, with the surface temperature rising with a bit of a delay, and the slab seems to loose heat quite slowly – the heat input to the approx. 12 sq meters  covered by the heater is only 1.6 KWatts so I think it will work perfectly as a storage heater charging overnight on cheap electricity – although given the additional insulation in the floor, the AGA does a pretty good job of keeping the room warm.

Part of the 10 tons of earth removed from the floor.

Wine bottles for extra insulation !

First screed laid.

Underfloor heating cable plus battens for levelling next screed

Penny says the Norfolk Pamments look just like the vinyl that used to be on the floor!

The Walls:  The walls were not straight or flat and had texture on them where a previous finish had been partially removed – however I had put a number of coats of limewash on years ago and it had made a very hard and stable layer that was almost impossible to remove.  The wall I wanted to tile had to be straight and level so that was leveled up using a modern lime based plaster called R50 that turned out to stick to almost any surface and was easy to use to level the tiled area and also repair some dodgy bits of wall that had been hidden behind the sink unit and were wet and crumbling.   I had to replaster some areas of exposed lath using lime plaster, and on the ‘textured’ plaster walls I used a very thin skim of fine filler to hide the texture – not more than about 1/2 to 1 mm maximum.  The walls were then given half a dozen coats of limewash that I tinted using acrylic artist’s paint (cobalt blue, yellow ocre and phalos green) – its vital to mix the pigments thoroughly in tap water before adding to the limewash as the alkali in the lime prevents the pigment from disersing as it reacts with the paint medium, causing specs of pigment to come out in the brush strokes.   As a guide I generally mix pigments in quantities of 5 to 10 grams to add to 4 litres of limewash, its always possible to add more (dissolved) pigment but if you are not careful you will end up adding more limewash and have enough to paint the Forth Bridge.  Limewash is a vastly under-rated finish and costs almost nothing – a £10,  25 Kg tub of lime putty will make  at least 100 litres of limewash!   At one point Matthew put on rather a lot of lime in his limewash (my fault) and so the final finish is a bit streaky, which I rather like so I haven’t tried to rectify it.  I spent a long time messing around to get the right white for the bits of woodwork – window cills and wooden corner strips, and eventually settled on Farrow and Ball Shaded White, although I think maybe a bit more black in it would be better!

The problem with the walls was mostly due to previous patching with gypsum plaster or strong cement – both WRONG!

The Services;-  The lighting in the kitchen was horrible – basically a striplight in the centre of the room – so something had to be done – choosing light fittings for such a low ceiling is difficult as you need a good spread of light in the working areas.  After a bit of thought and hours looking at unsuitable fittings, I came across some fittings in IKEA that had 3 G10 spotlight bulbs in each fitting that could be controlled by the IKEA remote system.  I have to admit that the price of the TROSS  fittings (£7 each) was an added attraction and the sample I bought was so well made that I ended up buying 9 fittings and putting them around the kitchen – using 5 W LED bulbs that is 145 Watts of LED light!  The plan, so far not fully implemented, is to use a combination of static 120 degree bulbs and 30 degree remote controlled bulbs so that the lighting can be adjusted by remotes but the wiring is kept very simple – all the lights are on one circuit.  The power circuits were half on one consumer unit and half on a very old original one, so they were rationalised onto the newer one and circuits added for underfloor heating.

The plumbing was similarly chaotic, and the new plan involved moving the water softener (essential as we have a heatstore cylinder) so that was redone for the softener and sink – I enjoy a bit of plumbing!

The extractor fan was challenging as there was barely enough height to meet the regulation height above the work surface – in the end the hole through the wall is touching the floorboards above – just fits!  I went for a cheap Electriq extractor from Appliance Direct as all the possible models were exactly the same  dimensions and noise levels, so I guessed they all had the same components inside, even fairly expensive ones. The first one arrived with the glass broken, and they didn’t want the rest back so I now have a set of spares!

The gas hob necessitated a couple of  propane cylinders and a changeover switch outside and a 15 mm copper pipe through the floor screed. I have yet to get it finally connected and build a box outside for it.

And it all worked!

The furniture;-  I wanted to avoid kitchen units made of MDF in some monotonous tone, so decided that it would be nice to make them out of oak, with  slightly darker tops of black walnut ( which we had used in Giles’s kitchen).  I had a store of various old oak salvaged from goodness knows what bits of furniture, and my friend Richard, a local carpenter/joiner had a large stock of very good quality 18 mm ply in large offcuts left over from job.  So my basic design involved a carcass of 18 mm ply – massively heavy – with  oak framing and oak doors and drawer fronts.  I had to buy a couple of 200 x 50 x 3.4m  kiln dried oak boards for the framing and legs (£217 – but I’ve got half of one left over) but the rest is all reused wood.  When I came to make the door under the sink I planed up what I thought was a nice bit of oak for the door panel, only to discover that it was elm, with a beautiful figure. ( it had been a draining board in a darkroom in the Geodesy and Geophysics Department at the University – I had acquired it when the building it was in was demolished in the 1960s) .  I made the handles out of bog oak, a typical fenland wood from trees that have laid for thousands of years in fenland bogs – I had a few bits I had bought at a sale of timber 20 years ago.   Later on I got Matthew to build a more or less matching sideboard for the other side of the room, similarly out of reused wood and we wanted to put elm panels in all 3 doors – since Dutch Elm Disease killed all the trees its very difficult to get elm and I got laughed at by several timber merchants for asking.  I eventually sourced a beautiful old plank of elm on Ebay for £85 that made 3 panels with perfect grain patterns – its lighter than the surrounding oak frames but looks fantastic. All the timber for the drawer carcasses came from an enormous hoard of cherry shelving recovered from the refurbishement of Homerton College library, which also made some of the panelling under the worktop.  The window cill of 1 1/2 inch oak came from some table tops salvaged from an Oxford college  some 35 years ago, and the back Matthew put in the top of the antique dresser came from the back of an old cupboard from the Zoology Department –  all of which has run down my stock of salvaged timber to a sadly low level.  My old second hand radial arm saw and planer thicknesser earned their keep on this job as always!

 

The Bottom Line:-  Penny and I didn’t have a firm budget for the job as the priority was to make something that we were happy with – we’re not extravagant by nature so it is a fairly safe technique!   The overall cost of  the materials, wood, appliances and sundries  was a smidgen over £10K  although I am prepared to accept that I might have missed off a few expenses I can’t trace.  The biggest area of expense was the flooring materials, pamments (£2433.00), grout and tile sealant and heating cable, in total about 45% of the direct cost.  The solid wood worktops and table top accounted for around 15%, as  did the appliances.  The remaining 25% covered ceiling materials,  plumbing and electrics and lighting and everything else, including loads of small Screwfix bills for bits and pieces. The materials for the furniture apart from the worktops was almost all reused from old oak furniture  I had salvaged over the last 30 years  and 18 mm ply offcuts my friend Richard gave us and cut to size  and biscuit jointed for us – total spent on (new) wood was less than £300.  The whole job, minus the building of the sink unit that I did before Matthew started on the project, took the two of us 15 weeks from start to finish, We each had a couple of days off – Matthew worked a 5 day week, I worked 5 or 6 days a week if there was stuff I needed to do to prepare for the next week.  Given the Covid situation Matthew and I tried to work separately, at least at opposite ends of the room with a through air current between us, or with one of us working inside while the other worked outside.  It’s difficult to pinpoint where the most time was spent, but the floor took a long time to dry at each stage so it spread over a large part of the project.  Not surprisingly the ceiling was also a long job.   If you assume that Matthew and I together would have charged around £300 a day if we were being paid ( pretty much the standard trade rate for a similar two man team round here) then the labour would have cost around £25K, making it a £40K  minimum kitchen revamp at commercial rates!

 Posted by at 11:28 pm
Aug 072020
 

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

Pollyanna from Alba Sailing.

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

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

Apr 022020
 

25 April 2022  A year and a bit on from my last comments here, and now two years since I had Covid so I thought an update was due.  The somewhat milder symptoms of Omicron for most people means life is getting back to normal although more people have Covid at any one time than ever before – it seems the dread has gone out of it and we’ve gone from a situation where there were no treatments available to a range of very effective ones, and although ventilators are still occasionally necessry its mostly handled by the pressure fed oxygen masks if oxygen levels fall, and there are now something like 30000 unused ventilators in store – it was always going to be impossible to find enough staff to staff them, but I suppose it was a blind reaction.  Going back to 2020, I pursuaded Penny, my wife, that she should get an antibody test as she had been looking after me and didn’t appear to have had Covid.  The pharmasist who gave her the test was puzzled because she only had faint lines and said he had only seen that once before,  which turned out to be me, although at the time he didn’t know we were associated.  So she must have had it asymtotically and at a very low dose?     I seem to have made a pretty good recovery, although when I had a CT scan for my CLL review the radiologist said that I had characteristic Covid lung damage – not a lot but noticable on the scans, so I guess my lung function is less good than it was.   I’m really a bit unsure about how vulnerable I am if I get it again – I have had 3 jabs and the booster, and have the Lateral Flow test standing by to get me a rapid antibody infusion if I do get it, but I feel that at my age every year/month/day is too valuable to spend in a sort of dread and isolation, so I’m relaxing a bit, although I do avoid crowded spaces and big gatherings and try to keep my distance.  I am going back to running my STEM club at the primary school, which will inevitably carry a risk, but hey, I need to do things!   I’m reassured by my Oncologist who tells me he has 5 CLL cancer patients with Covid, and the antibody jabs they give the over 70s are working for them, and none are seriously ill with Covid.   My CLL is now being treated with Acalabrutinib – a rather expensive wonder drug that has no side effects for me – I’m grateful for medical science twice every day when I pop a £100 pill.  I am incredibly lucky with my CLL, because apart from swelling of my lymph nodes (now normal)  I’ve had no noticeable symptoms from the CLL or the treatment.  My Oncologist is frustrated because he is trying to run a trial on his patients to see if after a few years on Acalabrutinib they could stop taking it, with the option of restarting it if symptims reappear – however he is up against a problem, because NICE won’t let the NHS give Aalabrutinib to anyone who has had it before and stopped, so none of his NHS patients dare stop taking it, so his trial can only involve private patiens who are not so restricted.  Daft, as the NHS could save a lot of money if it was possible to stop and restart if that turns out to work.

28th December 2020  – I found a website that explains the gut feeling I had about the early medical response to Covid in the UK on STATNEWS.COM  – google “Ventilators are overused for Covid-19 patients, doctors say”

With ventilators running out, doctors say the machines are overused for Covid-19

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

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

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

29th May  I think I can now safely say I’m finished with Covid.  Its a pretty nasty new virus and it seems to have taken  few weeks/months for the doctors to get a handle on it.  In the beginning they didn’t understand the effect Covid was having on Saturated Oxygen levels, and bunged people on ventilators willy nilly, and are now suggesting that this may have been wrong in some cases.  They now give Oxygen earlier and keep the ventilators as a last resort. ( people put on Ventilators have a chance of dying that is a quarter of what it was at the beginning of the pandemic, which suggests a change in outcomes whatever other factors may be involved)  In previous uses the average time on a ventilator was 7 days, whereas with Covid it was/is 7 weeks –  7 weeks with strong sedation is itself pretty dramatic.  When I got the Oxygen generator I bought a pulse oximeter to measure my Sat. Oxygen level –  to begin with it was often below 95%, but oxygen pushed it up to around 97 or 98 % – a more healthy level.  I’m not sure the Oxygen was essential for my recovery, but it certainly made thing more acceptable and reduced my anxiety level, but I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have got it from the NHS  – there was (is?)  no halfway house between being ‘on your own’ and being in hospital and on the treatment conveyer belt that all too often put people on Ventilators. ( In ‘normal’ respiratory disease a Saturated Oxygen level of 93 is taken as an indication that a ventilator may be necessary).

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 3:57 pm
Jan 082020
 

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

 Posted by at 10:44 pm
Nov 222019
 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

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

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

 

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

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

 Posted by at 10:02 pm
Oct 042019
 

 

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

The gun I bought is a Westley Richards percussion double 11 bore – I had left a bid above the bottom estimate, but got it for £380 Hammer price – just below the bottom estimate, so good!  There were a couple of expensive Westley Richards guns for sale that went for what I thought were fairly high prices given their condition, which frankly wasn’t wonderful, but I bought this one as I thought it would make a good shooter.  It is a bit of a dog’s dinner, and I havent yet quite worked it out fully.  The barrel is very good externally with pretty fair bores – its genuine Westley Richards with his barrel maker’s stamp, signature ( very clear and unworn and looks genuine but unusually read from muzzle to breech ) ‘Westley Richards & Co  23 Conduit Street London’ and Birmingham proof marks V & BPC which were used 1868 to 1925.  The problem is the address – it was only occupied by WR & Co  from 1917.  The barrels are numbered 1019 as are the locks – all looking like they are original numbers.  The numbers, according to Nigel Brown’s book, should be for 1843 ish.  The gun has a rounded or semi-pistol  stock which was quite a late style.  There are a number of things that are notably odd – the stock at the breech isn’t deep enough to cover the sides of the false breech by about a mm or so.  The forend pipe and trigger finial don’t quite fit the cutouts suggesting that they are replacements.  The forend ramrod pipe has somewhat abbreviated engraving, the trigger guard finial very abbreviated but of classic shape.  The trigger guard has no engraving and is blued, the butt cap is full steel and similarly plain and blued.   The barrel looks much less worn than the lock plates which are signed Westley Richards and numbered 1019 on the insides – the cocks are poor replacement castings.  The nipples are loose – the holes are too big for 1/4 BSF and too small for 9/32 BSF so I’ll see if borrowing oversize 1/4 BSF taps will work.  The screw holding the locks in has been replaced with a round headed brass screw with the head filed down.  There is no ramrod.

What would I speculate about the gun?  one guess is that there was an 11 bore percussion gun made in 1843 ( the locks are signed Westley Richards, not ‘& Co’, and are fairly worn).  The gun was then rebarreled by WR & Co post 1917 (I know it sounds unlikely?).  The stock is not original to the 1843 gun but is later,  possibly reused from something else, but fairly unworn and certainly not 1843 style – possibly dating from the rebarrelling.  The good news is that WR still exists, and their historian may be able to help with the puzzle.

 

I borrowed a set of oversize taps to fix the nipple holes on the Westley Richards, but even the 15 thou oversize one was still a bit loose, and they are UNF  which is 28 t.p.i. ( 1/4 and 9/32 BSF are 26 t.p.i. and 1/4 is what is used on most later English percussion nipples) which means that in 1/4 deep hole you are almost half a thread out by the bottom.  So I tapped them out  9/32 BSF, which is 30 thou bigger than 1/4 BSF, and that worked fine.  I made a couple of titanium nipples, but one didn’t start the die properly, and doesn’t have a very good thread so I’ll remake it before I try to use the gun.  The photo shows the back of the die, which I have ground on the 5 inch grindwheel so that it can cut the thread right up to the shoulder of the nipple – use the unmodified side first.   Here are a few shots of the WR markings etc….  The gun is 11 bore, weighs 7 1/4 lbs and has a pull of 14 1/4 inches – about 1/4 inch of cast off.

Bottom of die recessed on grindwheel.

Serial number appropriate for about 1843 on barrels (above) and inside lock plates

Address occupied by WR from 1917….

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

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

 Posted by at 3:27 pm