Oct 042019


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

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

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


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

Bottom of die recessed on grindwheel.

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

Address occupied by WR from 1917….

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

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

 Posted by at 3:27 pm
Aug 152019

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

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


Oak – dark, for early cases

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

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


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

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

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


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


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

Fabric covering;-

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


to be continued!

 Posted by at 11:55 pm
Jul 212019



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

  from  Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..

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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.

24th September – A day at the Kentwell Hall Elizabethan Re-enactment with ‘my’ class of 9/10 year olds and their teachers.  The reconstruction was set in the year 1588, which was a momentous year – in July the Spanish Armada arrived off Plymouth giving rise to the apocryphal(?) story of Drake and the game of bowls.  The English fleet harried the Spanish but would not close engage, denying the heavily soldiered ships of Phillip the opportunity for hand to hand combat.  The Spanish needed to rendezvous with  the Duke of Parma  in Calais to pick up the main body of the invading army, but the wind was unfavourable and blew them into the harbour, which enabled the English to send in fireships and cause havoc.  Most of the surviving Spanish cut their anchors and fled north, eventually going round the north of Scotland and into the Irish sea, most being wrecked on the way.  Only the gentry talked of the great sea victory on our visit.  The whole of that period was one of religious upheaval following Henry VIII’s break with Rome, Mary’s Catholic revival and Elizabeth’s return to Protestantism all pursued in a  mightily brutal fashion.  The rise of Puritanism was smouldering around 1588 with the satirical Martin Tracts, although Elizabeth succeeded in keeping the lid on it during her reign, but of course it burst forth during Cromwell’s Commonwealth and then petered out. The Clopton family of Kentwell Hall were, one presumes, safe Protestants, so the Hall presumably has no priest holes for recusants!   The children had a great time and two small boys left the Alchemist’s demonstration hell bent on making gunpowder.  I found it difficult to discourage them as that is exactly what I did at that age – and I’m still playing with the stuff – mysteriously I still have all my fingers, eyes, hair etc although I might once or twice have had rather singed eyebrows.  Wonderful time was had by all – they are a lovely bunch of kids.  My only reservation was that the woodmen were cutting up Sycamore, although it had only been introduced into England in the last hundred years of so as a park tree.

22nd September – Another few days of hectic activity – a couple of days interviewing job candidates and a fantastic shoot on Saturday down on the Essex coast after Partridges.  We were expecting lots of English but in the end the bag was almost entirely Frenchies.  The whole shoot was on dead flat terrain and there was a steady breeze of around 15 m.p.h or so and all the drives were downwind so the birds were going at a fair speed – there were some massive flushes – with that wind its  difficult to pick and stick to one target when there are several nearby, and I find it almost impossible to pick up and hold a second bird by the time they are on top of me.  Anyway it was a great first of the year.  I always live in fear of accidentally shooting a pheasant  before  the season for pheasants opens, but this was not natural pheasant country and I only saw one in the whole of the shoot.  Ours was the first muzzle loading shoot on that estate – an experiment that I hope will be repeated.  Things should calm down next week – just the start of my STEM club at school and I put myself down for the school trip to Kentwell Manor, where the children will be taking part in an Elizabethan activity day – the only condition is that I go in some sort of period costume – I’m working on it but I don’t think I’ll be putting a photo on the webside!

17th September – Spent the day talking to a dozen groups of 14 year olds about seismics – its great fun and they are, for the most part, engaged and interested although I did have one group that was so badly behaved that I threatened to throw them out – and the ‘teacher’ sat there and did nothing… Its the first time in 20 years I’ve had to do that!   I’ve got another day of it tomorrow and then a couple of days of interviews, so no time to even think about guns, although Friday night I’ll have to get ready for a partridge shoot on Saturday ( 6:45 a:m start).   I did manage to get fine semolina from ‘Daily Bread’, a wholelfood supplier in Cambridge – at £1:87 per Kg. it is a lot cheaper than wads so I’ll see how it works some time.

15th  September – There is still a large pile of sailing stuff in the living room and I didn’t want to put it back in the bedroom that I have to renovate soon, so I spent most of the day making a cupboard in a void over the stairs to put it in – now  got to make doors etc…..  I went to Dick’s yesterday and brought back a strange percussion over and under pistol that he has been renovating as it needed a couple of bits of engraving 0n the tang of the breech and on the tang of the trigger guard – the breech one I can do easily but I hate trying to put lines on a very curved trigger guard tang as I can never get sufficient room to maneuver the tool. anyway it’s done – the rest of the engraving is very poor – its a low value job so I did mine to match rather than go over the whole thing and tart it up.  I have to confess I used the Gravemaster to do it.  I failed to find fine Semolina in Waitrose today………………..

14th September – While we were sailing I asked Giles’s friend, a metallurgist, about brass and how to make a pale brass as used in 18th & 19th century guns.  Brass is basically an alloy of copper and zinc,  in different ratios for different purposes, with a melting point of 930 degrees C plus or minus 20 degrees depending on composition.  It is relatively easy to heat brass to melting point for casting but changing the composition is not so straightforward.  Copper melts at 1084 C so you need to get the brass to that temperature in order to up the copper content and make it a redder  brass – I tried this but couldn’t get the temperature high enough and the copper stayed in clumps within the brass.  Going the other way and trying to add zinc is much more difficult for although the zinc melts at 419 C, well below brass, it unfortunately has a boiling point of 913 C  so dropping zinc into molten brass just boils off the zinc at great hazard to anyone near.  One suggestion was to add tin rather than zinc, which would make a form of bronze (a tin/copper alloy) – tin has a very low melting point  of 232 C but doesn’t boil until 2720 C so adding it to molten brass should be OK, but I’m not sure what that would do for the colour.  There are a number of alloys of copper, zinc and tin – its the basis of Admiralty or Naval brass.  Nickel was also suggested but that melts at 1455 C so is beyond my furnace. Perhaps just melting old brass is the answer! 

13th September – I bought back a’rat tailed’ pistol from Sandringham to be repaired- its quite an elaborate, well made brass bodied Miquelet pistol, almost certainly of Albanian origin, that would go to half and full cock but wouldn’t release by pulling the trigger.  I stripped out the lock to see what was wrong, and as I expected it was simply a bit of wear on the trigger where it contacted the sear, so a dab of weld along the edge of the top hung trigger fixed it – a quick and easy job.  The lock was in reasonable condition so I just gently wire brushed its exposed parts and oiled it rather than a more thorough derusting which would have disturbed the patina.   One of the hot topics at Sandringham was Semolina – yes,  the stuff you used to get for pudding at school?  But not in the pudding context here, more serious use!  Our team shooting in Hungary had discovered that some Hungarian team members were using fine ground semolina instead of wads between powder and shot – just put the powder in, then a scoop of semolina, then the shot, then the overshot card.  It sounds improbable but if people were using it in International competition they must be pretty confident it works.  Some of our shooters tried it a Sandringham and couldn’t tell the difference.  I wondered if the fouling would be worse and cleaning more difficult because there was no lubrication from the wad, but was told that if anything the barrels were easier to clean out after semolina.  So there is a thing.  I can see it being a convenient technique at clays, but I’m not sure about using it on a game shoot or in a strong wind, although perhaps if made up into paper packets it might work.  Something to try….. Oh, & it does need to be the fine ground semolina – I think the stuff we endured at school was coarse – and you must omit the jam  in guns…………………………

The red arrow points to the blade on the cock, the green arrow points to a button that pops out under spring pressure. it has a notch to capture the blade.  The full cock detent is a flat plate hidden above the button.  Both plate and button are pulled back against the spring when the trigger is pulled.

The red arrow points to the sear spring, the green arrow to the sear and the purple arrow to the arm of the sear that is towards you. When the top hung trigger is pressed the sear arm moves backwards and tilts the sear and withdraws the button and blade. The sear pivots on its rear edge and is located by the tongue that is  through it.

2th September – A chance I might get things under control again and find a bit of time for the blog!  I had a couple of weeks sailing round the Hebrides in a Jeanneau 419 during which time our home part of the UK was in a heatwave, while Scotland was wet and windy – it was ever thus!  A fair amount of motoring as the wind was always ‘on the nose’ and we had a series of drop offs and pick-ups planned that didn’t leave much leeway for waiting for the wind to change.  I got back from that and the next day set off for the Sandringham Game fair where I did an engraving display/demonstration to almost nobody!  The MLAGB stand that I’m part of was located in a backwater well out of any passing trade, so although the dedicated muzzle loader shooters found it, they were only interested in that.  Still I picked up a couple of small jobs – a ‘rat-tailed flintlock from ?Turkey? that wouldn’t fire when cocked, and an old double percussion gun that will probably clean up into something presentable.  Back from that on Sunday evening and off on Monday morning with the older children from ‘my’ school for their adventure camp in Norfolk – as the school has no male staff I go in charge of the boy’s dorm – I had 15 boys and the two staff had 5 girls between them!  Anyway I  I should have a few days before I do a couple of days at the Cavendish Labs in the University talking to groups of 14 & 15 year old would -be scientists – 12 groups a day  – come October things should have settled down a bit, although I’m threatened with having to finish and replaster a bedroom that has been used as a junk store for 20 years – it was lathe and plaster but has had the plaster stripped off so I have to make good the lathes and then do it out in lime plaster – easier than gypsum plaster as its setting time is hours not minutes!   All this with the shooting season starting…………………………………..

Rather nice charter boat, new this year.


Martin Crix and a very pleased young shot, Molly, at Sandringham.

21st August – Things have got a bit manic on the commercial work front so I have had to put off any more playing guns for a bit, but I hope to get a day or two off sometime to play!  Maybe I ought to retire. I do have to get in trim for my engraving demonstration at Sandringham – I can’t do engraving ‘cold’, I need to get my hand/eye in for a day or two beforehand.  Oh and I made a discovery today watching a YouTube of making a Holland and Holland gun – their engravers use chasing, ie hammering chisels, or much to my horror, pneumatic gravers, probably GRS Gravermax like the one I have but hardly use.  There goes my illusion that they did it by push engraving……….

19th August – The last two days have been spent struggling with my internet – one or two devices were loosing the internet while still having connections to the local network while others are perfectly OK.  I got a new router but I am minded to send it back – the cord from the power adaptor is just over a meter and the LAN cable supplied is 2 feet long  – not sure why they think that it is a good idea to require users to rewire their houses to accommodate the router!  Anyway work in progress.   Following my visit to the Open prison, I’m pleased to tell you that my name has been put down for a rather nice room should I need it!  I did sneak a moment to do a few little jobs on the Fishenden to keep myself sane – I cut up a piece of 2 m.m spring steel for a turnscrew and found a chunk of ebony for the handle and turned up a brass ferule – The handle was turned and then flattened each side on the big disk sander – doesn’t look bad and fits the intended compartment perfectly – needs more coats of sanding sealer……  I ‘economised’ and used a bit of Indian Ebony instead of my real black Ebony so it isn’t quite as dark and has a much more open grain but I didn’t want to cut 4 inches off my ramrod stock length.  I also made a brass ring for the lid – it is probably the ‘right’ thing, although maybe my boss shape is wrong?  The wire could be a bit thicker but there was nothing between 1 m.m and 1.6 m.m on offer.

I think maybe the knurled ring is a bit prominent – I don’t have a straight knurling tool so its skewed

Needs holding down tighter – how I got a 1.2 m.m. hole through the centre is a mystery!


The only thing wrong is that the bullet mould is 30 bore and the pistol is 16 bore – I have to look out for one the right size.

One might almost think it all fitted together by design!


15th August – Day out today on a visit to an Open Prison – since my time as an Independent Prison Monitor I’ve been interested in what goes on in prisons – I have to say that this catagory 4 prison is a pretty good place – 300 acres of estate, massive greenhouses and immaculate gardens and lots of the prisoners working in the voluntary sector and commercially outside the prison, and many of the rest working within the prison – all working towards release and rehabilitiation.   Although I’m not planning to commit an offence in the near future I can think of worse places to be – like the old people’s home my father ended up in, about which I still have nightmares!   I did crack Fusion 360’s toolpath generation but still haven’t cracked is zero reference positioning so although I can make the miller follow the correct path  its still displaced about 5 mm  from where I think it should, so it partially misses the piece of brass I’m trying to shape – I WILL crack it…………………….

14th August – Busy with clearing out another space..  But I did spend a little while on the Fishenden case – I had made a case label in A4 size on the assumption that by the time I had reduced it any imperfections wouldn’t show.  I was wrong! So this morning I had another go at drawing one in A4 but being a lot more precise.  I photographed it and printed it out and it looks much better than the first effort, although I probably ought to steer clear of script …..  I had a bit of trouble getting the exposure right as most of it is white, and in the end it came out slightly shaded, which doesn’t look bad.  Note that this isn’t a fake label, its for information, and has my name in small letters on the corner.

This is about the size I’ll use it.

13th August – More clearing out – generated the best part of a full load for the dump!   In the course of clearing out I’ve generated at least another car boot sales worth!  I just bought a derelict Mortimer duelling pistol in need of some serious restoration that will become an autumn project, after finishing the pinfire double 12 bore and a client’s percussion pistol……  And put the finishing touches to the Fishenden case – Each time I pass it I rub on another coat of sanding sealer with a touch of  darkish brown spirit dye to tone down the colour a bit.  I have been trying to pursuade my cnc miller to profile out an escutcheon with scalloped corners for it, but so far I haven’t mastered the Fusion 360 software toolpath generation – it is the most awkward piece of software ever written, but its very powerful and free for startups.  Went climbing tonight- did manage a few good climbs – a bit tired after an hour of it……….

12th August -Clearing out the attics today – very dusty, although I only got about 1/4 done – I’ll have to go to the dump tomorrow!  I collected the pinfire that Dick has tightened up for me – it is now very good in the bite and and ‘on the face’ – I guess there is now no excuse for not getting on with it, except that I have a lot of  ‘serious’ work on over the next month or so, so my playing with guns will be curtailed, as will my postings on this blog – I’m afraid a Non Disclosure Agreement  prevents me from revealing what I’m doing – I’ll try to find time for a few gun bits on the blog, and I do want to wrap up a youtube video I’m trying to do on making springs – always too many things to do,……….. and I thought retirement would be restful, although I suppose in all honesty I don’t really want it that way!.  I hope to fit in a climbing session tomorrow evening – I am getting a bit rusty.

11th August – Did a car boot sale this morning to get rid of some junk – fairly successful but still have too much.  I  was selling a couple of brass candesticks, and realised that one pair was a somewhat paler brass than the other – the pale pair looking genuine and the others obviously being  modernish (Indian?) repros.  That got me thinking about ‘lemon brass’ for old gun parts, and wondering if most 18th/early 19th century brass was paler than modern brass.  I made an escutcheon for the Fishended box from modern ‘engravers’ brass’ and then found one stripped from an old box with a genuine Chippendale handle that was a whole lot paler – you can see in the photo, even though the surface of the original is pretty rough.  Checking out details of modern brasses, I can’t find any reference to the colour of the resulting brass – I’d like to get hold of  a couple of feet or so of 1/2 inch ‘lemon brass’  for making ramrod fittings.  I’ll have to consult Kevin Blackley as I know he uses it for antique brass castings.  I presume it is high in zinc, does it also have nickel ( which takes it Towards being German silver)?  I might have to sacrifice my candlesticks to cast a rod!  Maybe a helpful correspondent can help?  One such did enlighten me about the hole in the bottom of  patch boxes (blog passim) – its to push out the patches, especially if they are oiled or greased.  I’ll have to see if I can put a hole in the bottom – I keep learning from this blog! Anyway thanks – see comment….

The photo is taken in reflected white (LED) light on a white background!

9th August – My making treat for today was a quick box for the Fishenden for 1 1/2 inch patches – occasionally found in pistol and rifle cases, Keith Neil and Back say that the ones for patches had a hole in the bottom (why?) but the ones -later – for percussion caps obviously didn’t.  Anyway the thing to make boxes out of is clearly Box (the wood) – and I happen to have a branch of rather manky Box just big enough so I cut off a 6 inch length some distance from the split end and chucked it and rough turned it until it was a full cylinder, which fortunately turned out to be just big enough to make the box with about 51 m..m outside diameter.  I turned a bevel on the end to rechuck it the other way round with better grip and marked out the lid and body parts.  I filled the small crack that ran along one side with instant glue and activated it.  I cheated on this box – normally I would put a bevel on both ends of the blank so that I could work on the hollowed sides of lid and box so as to keep the body and lid as one continuous grain so the lid grain matched the body grain ( except for the bit missing from the overlap of lid and body).  In this case I was a bit short of length so I made the lid on the same blank as the body – meaning that the grain doesn’t match up across the joint – the lid being effectively reversed – but box has very little figure so it doesn’t show.  The top of the lid was turned by pushing it onto the finished box while that was still chucked (with a bit of tape to make it tight).  Anyway here it is – looks very good in the box, but I found I’d made the loading rod too long to share the space – luckily I had only pushed the knob on the rod, so I could redo the end 20 mm shorter – still long enough to load but now fits!  I bit the bullet and cut a bit of decent mahogany for the compartment lid and planed it down to about 5 m.m.  Its a bit fraught as you push the bit of wood into the thicknesser and then put a strip of ply in to drive it through – it worked although I did get a bit of a groove on what is now the underside of the lid.  I had a 25 m.m. scrap of fake ivory that was going to make a knob for the lid, but its made of polyester and if you don’t turn it right it starts to chip out big concoidal fractures – so I destroyed it pretty thoroughly – Ive just ordered some more (£2.99 for a 150 m.m. length of 25 m.m bar) so it will be a day of two before that is done.  (too many boxes in that paragraph!)

The Box box – 1 1/2 inch patches are a perfect fit.

The top right compartment might just a take a turnscrew with a ‘flag’ on the side for the cock screw – we shall see!


I picked up a couple of branches of Box during a walk along the Devil’s Dyke – someone had planted some bushes years ago. Woodturning is a good way of producing waste – you start with a decent sized piece of log and end with a little box!

As shown its chucked on the log, which is not particularly good as it can’t be put back true  and it needs the tailstock centre – the bevel on the tailstock end will let it be chucked and rechucked if necessary. The body and lid were parted off near the chuck and chucked on the beveled end- the lid hollowed and parted off, then the box hollowed and finished and the lid put on and taped in place while its top was turned and rings marked.

8th August – Most of today I was clearing out the rubbish from various glory holes about the house – a mere 5 bags of rubbish and a half a Land Cruiser full of recyclables plus a couple of boxes for stuff for a car boot sale.  I was clearing my tools from the casemaking and happened to look in the oil soaked instruction book that came with the aforementioned Record No 50 plane and saw that it could be used to plane  dowels with its fancy cutters – well I had to try it out on a loading rod for the Fishenden – as I had a roughly correct sized ebony square already the plane didn’t turn out to be ideal, but I ran the square a few times through the thicknesser to get it the right size and got some way with the No 50, then reverted to a small low angle plane and eye.  Then it went in the lathe for 10 minutes treatment with hard  80 grit paper and it came out perfect – a few minutes with finer grade papers, burnish with a handful of shavings and a quick once over with friction polish and it looked perfect so I had to turn up a knob from figured walnut and a brass end with screw.  I am very suspicious of the highly tapered screws that are used in ramrods etc when used for ball as the expand the ball against the barrel walls as they are driven in, making it harder to get it out.  Anyway my loading rod wasn’t meant to be a fake so I sorted out a modern woodscrew with a vicious point and not much taper.  I do have a number of ramrod ends, but none suitable for a pistol loading rod.   I mentioned yesterday that I’d made the case with the pistol the unconventional way round – I did check ‘The Book’ and knew which way round it should be, but when I drew out the partitions on a sheet of card in the case I forgot to mark front and back, and it just got made the ‘wrong’ way.  I think I would probably have done it this way if I’d thought about it anyway as the main function of the case is to display the gun, and it does that much better this way round!

7th August – Almost there with the case –  internal lid and escutcheon and a few more coats of oil/shellac  on the outside still to do but it is OK for the time being.  I anguished about the finish –  in fact I still am.  I got the ‘Dark Brown’ suede dye but it gave a bright ginger colour. I tried the traditional colourant for mahogany – a solution of potasium permanganate  – it looks violent purple but soon goes dark brown, but I didn’t really like it.  In the end I put on a coat of diluted ‘Slacum’ (linseed, beeswax and turps) – it will probably go darker with time.    I was going to make a lid for the triangular compartment but the thin mahogany I had was too light and open grained ( it was a piece of a punt).  I am very mean with nice wood and reducing stuff to 5 mm thickness is wasteful as my thicknesser likes quite big bits of wood or they don’t come out of the other side!  I will find something better in time, probably by sacrificing larger pieces of  better mahogany.

I can see a couple of bits that need attention – one see things in photos that escape the naked eye!  Case experts will immediately recognise that I’ve made this one the unconventional way round – normally the top of the pistol is nearest to the front of the case – i.e. the whole thing 180 degrees rotated.  It is normal to case single barreled pistols and guns with the lock up and I guess if the pistol is the conventional way round you can open the case and pick up the pistol with your right hand in a ‘shooting’ grip.  Having said that I have seen a number that break the rule.

Its crying out for a loading rod, a round  box for wads and a pan brush, plus some spare flints in a leather pouch.

6th August – one of the mysteries of this blog is who looks at it – every day it gets between about 120 and 180 visitors, and only very occasionally gets to either limit – given there must be many tens of thousands of people round the world who might be interested, why does the number not fluctuate in a more random way?  Or are most of them regular viewers?  Between 20 and 45 each day come via a search engine, still not a lot of random variation.  I suppose I could put software on the site that would tell me how many returning visitors there are each day, but given the GDPR regulations that might be difficult.  Incidentally almost half the visitors are from the US, twice as many as from the UK.  Africa and Greenland are poorly represented!

The case making occupied most of the day – AGAIN!  We used to have a motto at the lab when things got complex or our equipment had to be fixed in zero time on board ship with 50 crew waiting – ‘ Had I known what was involved I wouldn’t have started!’   – that probably applies to this case.  If you decide to make a case, start with a nice simple one all one depth and with fabric over the dividers – it is much easier.  Having said that, it is looking quite fancy, and coming together fairly well – I will prefabricate the compartments and part cover them before fixing them in place – I’m still waiting for the suede dye before I can finally put it together, but I did hinge the lid on today – at which point I discovered that the two hinges I had salvaged from a box were of different widths ( back to front).  I had already made cutouts on the assumption that both hinges were the same and couldn’t remember which I’d used as a template – but a bit of jiggling and a bit of screw hole filling got it there in the end…  …I’m having second thoughts about the escutcheon with the running leaf border – watch this space.

I had planned to use the red baise, but when I made up some sample partitions it didn’t contrast enough and the paler green that we had initially rejected came out as favourite.  The upper left compartment will have a lid, the upper right is for a brush that I will have to make!  The rectangular one is for the flask – its a bit big.  All the rest of the junk will go in the lower compartment.  Compartments not fixed.

5th August – still playing with the case – made a small brass escutcheon for the keyhole and inlet it, fitted the lock and cutouts for hinges and made up some of the partitions.  The Fishenden double pistol is very wide so the case has to be around 100mm deep to accomodate the widest part but that makes the rest of it far to deep to be practical so most of it will have to have the base raised with packing by around 40 mm.  I found a box of pieces of balsa wood that we had bought for making things years ago – lots of different thicknesses, so that will be ideal for packing as it won’t add significantly to the weight – I guess there is some merit in not throwing anything away!  I made an escutcheon to put on the lid and felt like doing some engraving so I put a ‘running leaf’ border as on 1800 locks round it.  I might just feel the need to put a ‘stand of arms’ engraving in the middle there is one on the tails of the locks of the pistol. I’m now waiting for Amazon to deliver a bottle of dark brown suede shoe dye  – it is by far the best way to colour wood if you want to go for a significantly darker colour – my bottle is almost empty.

Probably ought to be mounted the other way up?


4th August – Bit more work on the case – preparing stock for the partitions – I decided that as its not meant to be a ‘fake’ old box I could do what I liked, so I’ve started to make partitions that show a strip of mahogany at the top rather than fold the cloth over the top – more work but more fun.  I have 4 different biases for lining cases – all dyed in original military colours from Bernie the Bolt – I got Penny to help me decide which went best – to be revealed later….

3rd August –  Got the basics of the box done – the ‘lining’ round the inside of the box that stands proud of the base to form a lip is a tricky machining job – the outside needs to be chamfered at about 15 degrees so the lid closes.  I managed to do that on my table router. The inside surface is less easy – the biase only comes up to the level of the sides of the box and ends in a recess that needs to be tapered  – I spent a long time trying to work out how to do it with a router, before I realised that I had a very fancy old Record plane that did all sorts of ploughing jobs somewhere in a box – I tend to forget that often hand tools are much easier for some jobs than trying to fudge things with machine tools.  In a similar vein I made the traditional bead round the bottom of the lid using a simple scratch plane with a blade I filed up for the job.  Anyway it is now looking like a box – a few more jobs to do – fit hinges, make internal partitions, make keyhole escutcheon, make lid escutcheon/handle, plus all the finishing – colour it down, sanding seal it, varnish//wax it and line it  etc etc.  In the end it will represent almost a week’s work – no way an economic proposition but I’ve wanted to have a go at casemaking for some time, and I can rest on my laurels when that is finished.   I didn’t put hooks on the front as I wasn’t confident I’d get them right, so presumably I should not really put a handle on the top – I do have a lock for it, but no key  If I were doing it again I’d try to get my cnc machine to make the pockets for the hooks before I assembled the box, and also get it to machine the hooks themselves from brass.  Maybe I’ll fit hooks after all – by hand…………

Thinking about the typical construction of cases, I reckon that the bead round the edge of the lid (sometimes round the box instead)  is there to hide any misalignment in the two parts, which it does rather well!

2nd August – Bit more work on the pistol box for the Fishenden and on discovering how the cnc software and hardware interact – I could be getting there but I can’t get the hang of the z axis – the tool raising and lowering – I think I have got it sorted, and then it goes and digs a hole in the piece of wood I’ve put on the bed to protect it from just such events – I will get to understand what it thinks it is doing – at least with computers I’ve learnt that everything that goes wrong does so for a reason – almost always human error or misunderstanding. One little quirk of the free software I am using is that every time something goes a bit wrong I have to restart the whole shooting match.  I went over to Dicks – he has just fitted new frizzens on a pair of locks that had lost theirs, and they really look as if they have always been there – he also found a perfect matching top jaw in his box of old parts – great to have a workshop absolutely packed with the pickings of 30 years in the game!  Dick is now sorting out the Sturman pinfire – tightening up the action and getting it back on the face – that involves putting a bit of weld on the breech hook to move the barrels back a bit, and putting some on the rotary catch to pull them down onto the action flat.  I probably ought to learn to weld properly as our specialist has now started charging a high price for his expertise!  I did manage to weld a pin on the side of a small mainspring for the Harding pistol so maybe there is hope for me yet!

31st July – Trapped at home waiting for a delivery that didn’t come so a repeat tomorrow!  I was going over to Dick’s to see  how he is getting on with pair of locks that he is conjuring up frizzens for – I need to take the Sturman to get him to tighten the action – too modern for me.  I also need to sift through his collection of percussion cocks to see if I can find a better pair for a double barreled pistol I’m restoring for another client – both cocks are replacements and don’t match, one doesn’t strike the nipple and neither are anywhere near the right half and full cock positions.  When I think about it at least half of the antique guns that pass through my workshop have had the cocks replaced – flint as well as percussion.  Most are modern replacements – by modern I mean in the last hundred years – I had one replacement flint cock that was dated 1969 on the back  – I think people, including Blackleys, have been selling casting since the 1950s.  It would appear that quite often replacement percussion cocks are recycled old ones, maybe from the recoversion of percussion to flint, and they often have their squares in the wrong alignment.  Actually gunmakers from about 1830 ish seem to have had a standard square alignment that many followed, especially for sporting guns.  I have been able to swap cocks with perfect alignment  – in one example I put John Manton cocks on a Samuel Nock double gun and the were perfect – they were even a decent tight fit.  I’m still using them regularly!

My ‘playing’ today took the form of making a case for my double flint coach pistol by Fishenden.  There are two photos of cases in the Keith Niel and Back Case book , and I am  more or less copying the one for a John Manton pistol as the pistol looks similar.  My first task was serious timber conversion to get enough strips of 10mm wide mahogany for the sides, and a sheet 8 mm thick for the top.  I’ve done the dovetails and glued up the bottom of the case – I made the sides 10mm tahick but I had a bit of a job chasing round to find a small enough lock and hinges.  Hinges for gun cases can be a problem as gun always had ‘stop hinges’ that allowed the lid to be opened just over the right angle.   Stop hinges are difficult to buy and can be horribly expensive if you can find any.  They do come oon old boxes from time to time, but take some tracking down.  The best proper antique stop hinges were made from solid brass but I’ve found two alternative constructions – cheap stop hinges made of folded brass sheet are like normal cheap hinges, except that the brass is folded back from the ‘inside’ edge of the hinge and carried back under the hinge to protrude at the back and form the stop.  The other ‘cheat’ is very useful – just cut a piece of  brass sheet to go under each side of the hinge and let it stick out the back and file bevels to act as the stop – they are drilled to match the hinge and could be soldered on for added security – that means you can turn any cheap hinges into stop hinges.

I was trying to look at some adverts for guns on Gunstar to see if it was worth putting any on there.  The thing that struck me most was how awful a lot of the photos are – it may be that Gunstar cuts the resolution down to save space although that would be both silly and unnecessary.  I think it is that in spite of mobile phones being perfectly adequate cameras, people just point them in the general direction of the chosen gun and never look at the result – failing to notice that the framing was all over the place so it doesn’t show what they want, the lighting is terrible and the focus is like looking through thin soup!  Some of the correspondents to this site send me similarly awful phots – some are OK, a few good, but mostly its difficult to say anything constructive about a brown blurr, or worse, half a dozen brown blurrs.  I do take a lot of trouble to get good photos for this blog, although sometimes I can’t get the optimal lighting and occasionally I  don’t remember to manually focus perfectly – I probably take 6 photos for every one that gets on the blog.  I am awaiting delivery of another Canon lens for my M50 – I managed to find a good second hand one with a year’s guarantee for half the price of a new one – lenses are far and away the most expensive part of serious photo kit.

 Sturman;-  Recut engraving – first iteration.  The barrel will be ‘struck off’ ready for browning and I’ll then go back over any lettering that has disappeared and recut as necessary.

30th July – I got a coarse diamond disk for my hone and tried grinding flints with a view to reusing worn ones – it works to an extent, in that it does grind down the flint, but the grinding chips off the edge in a way that doesn’t leave a sharp edge – so you need to grind down to a suitable angle and then tap along it as you would to refresh a blunt flint, and take off a series of very small chips – the flints then spark well.  I managed to make a mini flint for the Harding pistol by putting a larger flint in the lead covered jaws of my 4 inch vice and using a pin punch and a tack hammer to take off the back and edge and then grind down the thickness a bit – works and looks OK.  I spent this evening recutting the engraving on the Sturman pinfire barrel  – it is presumably an 1860s gun so its quite old – it has a fairly simple single bite action  of the early form – well back from the action face- the action flat is signed EMME – as with most of those early single bite actions this one is quite loose and ‘off the face’ so I’ll get Dick to tighten it up when the barrel is done.  Pinfires had a very short period of popularity before Daw’s centrefire rendered them old fashioned, although they went on being used for many years.  Anyway it is now ready to be struck off and then re-browned.  I came across an article in a 1995 copy of Gun Review (There used to be lots of mags for us then!) about a magic gun cleaning solution – so I checked it out on the ‘interweb’ as its known locally. Found a firm selling it for lab purposes and had a chat with their technical people, and I have a sample on its way – I will report back when/if I get it…..   Oh and I read the Home Office consultation on firearms licensing and filled in the online questionnaire  _ I’m afraid we are moving towards a more tightly controlled system, but the arrangements for medical checks are very dodgy and may make it very hard for some people to who have uncooperative GPs to get licenses – plus undefined fees for the medical records check.  The main problem is the discretion it gives to Chief Constables to make decisions about the significance of mental health issues and ‘intemperate behavior’  while the aim is OK we are putting far too much power in the hands of the police – which mostly they don’t abuse but there are enough cases where they do for it to be a matter of concern..  I heard of one case where a person was refused because they went to the pub regularly – irrespective of what they consumed there. Find the survey here;- 


For the guidance here;-


29th July – Now that the Harding pistols are done and dispatched I had a chance to get rid of some of the clutter from the workshop and take it to the loft ( or in the case of a depressingly small amount, bin it).  In the process I found my little cnc machine that had been moldering for 4 years since I bent the spindle shaft – so I thought I’d better replace it and try again to use it as I want to make the stocks for a pair of duelling pistols and it would just be big  and powerful enough – watch this space. I also uncovered 20 gravers waiting to be sharpened – so I’m some way through that.  Before I get distracted into doing any other projects though, I must finish off  the video on making a mainspring, including  film of the flaming tempering.   I have at the back of my mind the fact that I am scheduled to take my engraving demonstration to the Sandringham Country Fair at the beginning of September and, this being the summer and distractions many, I ought to think about what I’ll need to take – to that end I took the dramatic step of ordering business cards instead of endlessly printing them and cutting them up myself with pretty second rate results – you get 250 cards for £25, which seems OK compared with the time it would take me to make that many, and the ink for my printer isn’t free either – people seem keen to take them when I’m doing demonsrations.  It was a day of extravagance on account of getting paid for a job – I found a good cheap secondhand 18 -135 lens for my Canon M50 so I don’t have to carry round the big old EF-S 18 – 135 lens and adapter from my old 760D!  Spent out now so I can rest. Out of curiosity I was searching the web for pictures of other similar Harding Post Office pistols – they are certainly rare – I located one that was sold in an American auction, and one in the UK Postal Museum in poor condition, plus Dom Garth Vincent sold a very similar pair by Mortimer that were supposed to be the design patterns for Harding when he got the PO contract. Anyway the Postal Museum specimen is a bit rusty and missing the top jaw and screw, so I offered to fix it up for them, pro bono. 

 28th July – Most of the Harding stuff is now on its own post.  I finished the Harding – pinned the brass ‘bolt’ to the slider with a piece of 0.8 mm diameter rod tapered slightly  and driven in and hardened the tumbler and sear, so now its finished!  I had made a spare spring blank so I thought I’d replace the spring in the first (PO) Harding that had a cut down main from something else.  I was doing a video of bending the spring, and got so carried away that I bent it the wrong way, so the tab for the pin was on the wrong side.  I didn’t fancy straightening it and starting again so I filed off the tab and welded a small pip for the peg on the correct side – I managed to get a blob of the right size in the right place and it filed down into a 1.8mm peg perfectly.  I hardened the spring in oil and the used the traditional method of tempering springs in burning oil – I made a video of that too.  Anyway that seemed to work – at least the spring is in and working and hasn’t gone ‘ping’ yet.  The spring and the metal container I fired it in are both pretty black! The process looked a bit like a firework display – I thought it was because of the  light rain but it persisted when I held a slate over the top.   Anyway both Harding pistols are now done and look fantastic, especially when compared to the starting point.  They are quite special – I might even make a box for them one day, its a shame they are not an exact pair!  Anyway its now time to move on to the next project!  Nick suggested the pinfire I got from him might make a good project – so I’ll see what I can do!  My first job was to get rid of the absurdly highly polished finish to the case which looked completely over the top.  It would appear to be French polish as fine wire wool and meths ( alcohol) broke the surface.  here are some photos – the main jobs are:-  tighten the underlever catch and put the breeches firmly ‘on the face’ ( a job for Dick),  recut the engraving on the barrel and strike it down and rebrown SLOWLY.  Engrave  the right hand cock which is s replacement.  get the dings out of the stock. recut the chequering, inlet the barrel bolt escutcheons as they are proud of the old chequering.  Make a new horn bit for the foreend.  Then sell it! Perhaps keep the case as it would do for the Venables, which deserves a good case!  Talking of which I need to sort out the barrel again(!) as the ramrod pipes came off!

Before: What a depressing sight!

I’m really pleased with the way they have turned out – it almost justifies what I paid for the bits.

And the next project;-

27th July – bit cooler and wetter today!  Had a visit from a regular client to collect some pistols – I swapped some work for a little 1860s pistol case and a cased double pinfire 12 by Geo Sturman that need a little tidying – the barrel needs striking up and rebrowning – I need to have another go at browning as I am keen to improve my technique – basically slow it all down…  I did a bit more fiddly work on the sliding safety of the second Harding pistol  – this one turns out to be a bit different in its internals from the first, which was conventional.  here there wasn’t a lot of space so I modified the mechanism so that the slider itself actually bolted the tumbler, the slider being retained by a small brass ‘bolt’ that had the ramp on its tail that engaged with a pip on a small spring retained by the sear spring screw.  I found that this time the bridle had a slot that aligned with the slider, so I left a pip on the slider to engage in the slot  – actually that’s not true – I’d already filed off the slider when I realised that the slot lined up, so  I had to weld a tiny  blob in the right place…..

Slider and its brass retainer  – ramp on the tail,  plus sear and slider springs –  slider spring has dimple to engage ramp.  ( bridle removed)  All very fiddly as its a very small pistol.


25th July  Predictably the pool got a lot of use today from friends and neighbours -seemed to be full of children all  day!   I sheltered from the heat in my ‘machine shop’ which keeps a reasonable temperature, so I was able to finish a couple of jobs on the Harding –  I glued up a piece of dowel with a turned end into a horn blank – Araldite went off rapidly in the heat, and turned it all down together – looks fine and fits perfectly. I also turned up a side screw – I was going to cut off the thread portion and weld on a new head but found that an M3.5 thread would just do, so made a new screw – I had a very cheap non adjustable die for M 3.5 which worked well enough.  I filed up the slider for the safety catch from the blank I machined yesterday – it must be one of the fiddliest jobs – especially for such a small pistol – anyway its almost done.  Not quite sure how to do the mechanism inside – there is precious little room for the bolt to intersect the tumbler so I might just make a slot in the tumbler to take the blade of the slider, then make a dummy bolt to stop the slider falling out…. I’ll see what is possible. I gather we have a small group for the ‘Have a go’ tomorrow, and I’ll take a breech loader for some lazy shooting afterwards – not sure which – I’m not sure the Beretta I bought fits terribly well, so I might take something else.

24th July – rather warm today – when I got in my car to go to Dick’s it said 38 degrees (C) – that went down to 33 when I was moving!  By 4 oclock I was ready for a swim in the giant bag of water – I reckon I’m up to 700m a session and am aiming for I km – that’s a lot of turning as its only 10m long- I think I’m going to have to make something to keep track of how many lengths I swim!. A good day on the tinkering front – I machined blanks for the top jaw and slide safety, and turned a top jaw screw and a better cock screw, and filed up the top jaw and gave them a once over with Blackley’s case hardening powder to colour them down a bit – they actually look quite good now.  I ‘spiked up’ the bottom of the top jaw with a 45 degree graver without the heels, mounted in a metal rod and tapped with a small hammer – it throws up really vicious little hooks that are just like the originals must have been – its always a give away that a cock has been replaced by a casting as very few people bother to file off the cast ‘teeth’ and replace them with nice sharp ones.  It only takes a few minutes!  Anyway the little pistol is beginning to look really good – the photo has a nasty bit of flint I broke off a larger on as I don’t have any micro flints in stock – it does actually spark up although probably not reliable enough to set off priming consistently – anyway better than a repro Scottish Pistol I was looking at with Dick that would not spark except very occasionally one feeble little spark.  I didn’t have any perfect flints with me – most had been used but you can usually persuade a few sparks out of the lock if you tap a new edge on the flint.  It was sold as a working repro with proof marks so presumably was intended to shoot but I think its going to need some work on the frizzen, either some heat treatment or facing with a bit of old saw blade or whatever – I’ve never had any problems using Blackley’s frizzen  casting – they spark OK – and I’ve never worn a frizzen to the point when it needed refacing.  I don’t shoot flintlock that much – I have enough of a job hitting things with a percussion!  Having said that I’m doing another corporate ‘have a go with a muzzle loader day’ on Friday for Cambridge Gun Club and I have to take both a flintlock and a percussion.


Slide safety and ramrod to do and it can join its ‘almost’ pair, the P.O. pistol


23rd July – I went into ‘my’ school for the ‘Leaver’s Assembly’ to say goodbye  to the year 6 pupils who are moving on to secondary school – a few tears amonst them, but they will do well – their teachers have been so caring.  More tinkering with the Harding – I used a chunk of thick tubing as a heat reservoir to temper the spring and it worked just fine with the radiant thermometer and got a good uniform blue towards the bright end of he spectrum – the spring fits, so I adjusted the full cock bent on the tumbler – very carefully in stages as I didn’t want to loose any more cock swing than necessary.  Once that was done I case hardened the tumbler – it was made out of mild steel – and made a ‘cut price’  sear spring from a bit of spring steel sheet – works fine but looks a bit naff!  might have to revisit.  Anyway so far so good, the lock fits, the spring, trigger and sear work fine – I’ve filed up the cock to a slightly better shape and put a bit of engraving on it – I now need to tap the hole for the cock screw that holds the top jaw, and make a top jaw, plus the safety slider and internal bits – I realise that I case hardened the tumbler and haven’t put in the notch for the safety bolt, but I’m sure I can file through the case. I reckon the restoration of this pistol has already cost far more than it could possibly be worth and it isn’t finished yet – a true labour of love – but at least it all goes on the blog!


Thick tube as heat sink for tempering springs etc.  Bean can holds wood ash insulation so parts cool slowly to avoid hardening them.

22nd July  – Went into Cambridge to do some work on the Bullard Archive but ended up towing a giant skip with my Landcruiser and sorting some junk.  I made one of the springs for the Harding pistols.  This one looks a bit more convincing than the last one.  I’ve hardened it with an oil quenching and its now glass hard so I’m being very careful not to break it – I suspect dropping it on a hard surface might even do it.  Now I have to decide how to temper it, since I screwed up on that stage last time.  I normally find a spot on the hotplate of the AGA which is the right temperature, using a remote temp probe and pop it on there with a couple of layers of aluminium foil over it and shut the lid down for ten minutes, but the AGA is out for the summer.  The traditional method is to put the spring in a pool of oil in a tobacco tin (now a historic item!) and burn it off, after which the spring will have got to the right temper as if by magic.  There is always a discussion about what oil to use – used engine oil is often quoted, but whether its the engine oil or the used bit that’s critical isn’t revealed.  I think I’ll probably heat a thick walled tube in my furnace to 300C, check it with the radiant thermometer  and then pop the spring in and leave it to cool down.  – a lot more trouble than the burning oil, but at least measurable!  As I wrote yesterday, the spring feels different now its fully hard, even when its just resting in my hand – mysterious or imaginary?

I can never decide if the two arms should touch along the joint – I think most original springs don’t so I’ve left this one slightly open – you can get a piece of thin card in the joint.  I think this spring is a better shape than the last one.  We shall see!

21st July – What a lovely day sailing in the dinghy on the Orwell! Yesterday I made a couple of blanks for new springs – This time I did the thicknessing of the blank on my medium soft  grindwheel (after flattening it with a diamond tool) rather than the linisher and it worked much better.  I had a look at the broken spring – it was fairly clear that I hadn’t tempered it sufficiently as I could barely mark it with a file – a spring properly tempered should just  be fileable.  Thinking about hardening, I sometimes think when I handle the occasional metal component that I can tell if they are soft or fully hard just by the feel of them – and not by trying to flex them either.  It sounds pretty improbably, but I guess the elastic properties are quite different and maybe this affects the internal damping of vibrations so they do feel different?  Or maybe its just a vivid imagination……. 


19th July – Tragedy  – my new spring broke when I tried to put it in the pistol!  I had hardened it and tried to temper it in my furnace, the AGA being out for the summer, but its not good at controlling temperatures as low as 300 C and I don’t think it was taken to spring temper.  Anyway it seemed a bit strong, and pinged when I compressed it – I think maybe it should have been thinned a bit more, and I need to be more careful to compress it at the ends to allow more of the spring to flex.  Anyway its busted, so I can have the excitement of making another one – I’ll probably make two whle I’m about it as the other little pistol has a fudged spring…. Oh well, I’m going sailing on Sunday and will be busy tomorrow so it will just have to wait – at least I should be much quicker this time.

18th July – yet more tinkering with the little pistol!  I worked on the tumbler and spring to get the combination working – its an iterative process – check, file, check as you converge on what looks like a satisfactory arrangement.  I filed a square on the tumbler shaft and drilled and filed a matching hole in the cock so that I could see how that fitted at the same time.  It all went together quite well as far as I can test at the moment.  I found a sear that will probably do although I might have to bend the arm a bit as it threatens to foul the edge of the lock pocket – so now I’ll need to file the bents in the tumbler for half and full cock – the half cock is more difficult as it has to resist firing by letting the sear nose enter a slot.  I’ll have to make a cock screw to keep the cock in place – although its not loose it still comes off, and also a screw for the sear pivot.  The cock  screw is 5 UNC ( I made the tumbler) but the sear pivot seems to accept an  M2.5 thread, and I don’t have a die for that one – for the moment I can use an existing screw.  That just leaves making hardening and tempering the spring and any other bits, and making the sliding safety catch and spring, oh and the sear spring…. not much to do then!

The shape of the end of the spring, the ‘spur of the tumbler and the orientation of the cock on its square all have to be right – its a slow job if you haven’t done it very often.

17th July  Bit more tinkering with the little pistol – I made a new mainspring and also made a video of the operation – difficult to concentrate on two things at once – tryiing to bend the spring into a ‘hairpin’ while juggling an oxy/gas torch and talking to the camera is fun.  I can’t put it down without turning it off, by which time the spring is cold. I got it in the end  though. Anyway it is almost there – just got to alter the bend a little to make it more even and slightly less open, and shape the end that bears on teh tumbler.   Very satisfying making springs!  Much more so than struggleing with editing documents in Word – I’ll have grey hair if I have to do it much more – making springs etc is a doddle compared to struggling with Bill Gates’s constructions.  I think I got the bridle to fit as well, so progress!

The bend has a face with a slight angle so it looks dark – its fine!

16th July I did some work on a gun case – I bought a set of ‘furniture pens and crayons’ from Amazon for a few pounds – they are meant for touching in scratches on furniture but they might be useful on guns and cases – I’ve aleady deployed the mahogany one – it helps but I really need darker shades.  In my ‘spare’ time I’m still tinkering with the little Harding pistol.  I put the proto tumbler in the miller and got a bit more metal off it, and have now filed it to an approximate shape.  I found a sear that looks as if it will fit so I’ll  have to sort out the bridle and fixing screws  – I think I can use the bridle out of the box of bits if I weld up the hole for the tumbler extension shaft and re-drill it in the right place.  Then its just a case of making the mainspring, the sear spring, and the sliding safety catch, bolt and spring – nothing really!!!!!

Part way there with the tumbler. not sure about the sear?

15th July – Looking through my Manton book yesterday I realised that whoever botched the single NOCK barrel to have a recessed breach didn’t need to recess the side opposite the lock – Joseph never did on single guns….

I bought back a pair of continental locks sans frizzens to see if we could find replacements for the owner – and indeed we found a pair of matching frizzens with pan lids exactly the right size – the tails need extending to reach the pivot position but that can be done…. a result.

My ‘office’ table is now covered with nautical charts as we begin to plan our summer trip to the NW of Scotland – we have a new charter yacht from Skye and will head out to the Outer Hebrides – we are a bit light on crew this year, so a bit more work for me, although the boat has in-mast reefing on the mainsail so not so much deck work needed  – its 43 ft long so it will be interesting to see how we get on with just 3 of us.     It’s the coming alongside in marinas that’s tricky, although we don’t do that very often. The last few years we’ve had the same boat so I knew how it handled under power – its going astern that is always tricky – most boats just won’t steer until they are moving so you never know quite how they will set off backwards so there will be a learning curve with this one.

The table is  also covered with the bits of a pistol case that I am remaking – fortunately was just held together with animal glue – or indeed no glue at all!  Anyway its all in pieces now.

I’ve had a couple of conversations with experts on gun browning in the last few days – one, supposed to be the best in England says it can take up to a month to get a good browning on some barrels, and he stops if the weather gets too hot.  The other friend says he reckons up to 16 days and thinks that if you brown them faster than one rusting a day the browning wears off very quickly – so maybe I need to slow down as I had been aiming to get at least two brownings a day……..

14th July  – Holts shoot at Cambridge Gun Club.  Not my best day – but I did manage to hit one of every different clay except one – at least that shows something!   Derek brought the owner of the Joseph Manton 22 bore featured in the posts and the gun for Nick Holt to have a look at – I was able to assist him in unravelling the gun as I’d done a blog on it.  He was shown another gun that was a bit of a mystery – a very late Jo Manton flint lock on a single barreled gun  signed H Nock on the barrel – its difficult to appraise a gun without my list of dates and references etc, but  the gun had the patent Jo Manton recessed breech C1810(?), while the barrel and trigger guard looked older. My suspicions were confirmed when I noticed that the breech blocks had been machined down from a normal width to the recessed width to take the late lock, and not particularly carefully.  The lock fitted quite well. Nothing on the bottom of the barrel made a lot of sense – no HN maker’s stamp as I would expect, or a number (Henry Nock was amonst the first to number his guns around 1790). In the absence of any further info I thought it was maybe a Nock gun of maybe 1790ish with the ‘wrong’ lock. Possibly a spuriously engraved NOCK?   The left side of the breech plug had also been recessed – I didn’t see if the stock had had a bit glued on to fill the gap where the barrel was milled away. If not I’d have to suspect that it had been restocked – the lock was very well inletted so a possibility. I’m afraid the jury is out on that one! I was hoping for a valuation on the Post Office pistol – I know what its worth as a little pistol but not what the rarity value of the P.O. connection is – but it wasn’t fair to expect Nick to guess that.  I actually found a reference to one similar being sold at Bonhams in 2015 for $2800 – so obviously some rarity value there….

13th July  – bit more tinkering with the pistol below – I had to make a replacement screw ( I had to grind it out) for the tang of the trigger guard – I don’t like just using a woodscrew as the heads are never right and in this case they don’t work well into the endgrain of the plug I had to glue in,  so I turned up a countersunk screw with a No 5 UNC thread and an extra false head.  I slotted the false head and screwed it in, then marked the fore and aft line, cut off the false head, put in the aligned slot  and filed it to conform to the curved shape, then engraved a few lines on it and used Blackley’s case hardening powder to colour it down (and incidentally harden it).  Jobs left include all the works of the lock, some reshaping of the cock casting I have, to reduce the prominent breast it has and scale down the spur, and make a ramrod.  Tomorrow is the Holts Shoot at the Cambridge Gun Club – I am, of course, going and will hope to exceed my 50% target – I didn’t quite make it at the Helice shoot – I was on target but missed all of the last 4 ‘easy’ birds!  I’ve finished a batch of de-cappers to take to CGC – they make good engraving practice so I did a little stand of arms, and a stand of music and a sunburst and a scroll plus some borders.  Quite interestingly (at least for me!), the strip I was using that I said was as soft as butter turned out to be pretty tough down the other end – just goes to show what cold rolling does to the grain structure near the surface.

11th July   I more or less finished the woodwork for the second Harding pistol, at least in so far as anything is ever finished in this game!  I’ve given it an initial coat of stain to darken it down and match the wood repairs in – a coat of Van Dyke solution first, that didn’t do much, then a coat of Jacobean Oak stain. The problem with stains that are supposed to be black is that there is no effective black stain – so they mostly contain black solids, which in this case I had to rub off, which leaves a decent dark brown colour that matches the original colour pretty well.  The various joints are still visible but not too bad – I’ll work on them a bit as I apply finish – probable a couple of coats of sanding sealer, then alkonet root coloured oil finish to give a deep rich colour and finish off with a very hard wax finish.  Any recalcitrant joints will probably get blended in with a black Sharpie pen and smeared with a finger!  – it works a treat.  One trick that does help if you want to disappear a joint is to take a very sharp modelling knife and create some ‘grain’ across the joint matching that around it – do this early on in the process so they get treated the same as real grain!  Oh dear, maybe I shouldn’t reveal trade secrets here but anything that is continuous across the joint hides it from attention!  On this pistol the main joint runs with the grain, so that technique is of marginal benefit!

10th July – I seem to have got landed with compiling a document for the school governors – I am thinking of enrolling for ‘Say No‘ lessons!  It rather got in the way of my gun activities.  I finished the blank for the tumbler for the Harding pistol and unglued it (heat) and then glued it onto a piece of scrap plate to put it centered on the turntable in my miller so I could reduce the diameter over most of the circumference – I did get some way, but the strain was too much for the glue, so I’ll have to finish it by hand.  I’m made some progress on with the woodwork – I now have sundry bits of wood stuck onto the pistol and tonight I managed to inlet the barrel – I think its now just a matter of filing/sanding everything to shape and inletting the lock.  I put some oxalic aid on the existing wood which got rid of most of the black stains – I should have done it before selecting the wood for the repairs as its now a bit darker than the original – but the other little Harding pistol is almost black so I can colour this one down – it will help to hide the repairs too.  In the course of sanding down blocks of wood for the repairs I managed to sand the end of my thumb on the 12 inch disk sander – painfull still!

Tumbler blank on a scrap plate – the glue failed!

Clingfilm on a dowel to locate the repair in place – self amalgamating tape as an elastic binder. see earlier photo for the ‘before’ state.

9th July – several jobs on the go, which is handy when there is adhesive setting time involved.  I started the new tumbler for the little pistol  – I turned  the axle that bears in the lockplate plus a bit for the square and tapped it No 4 UNC, and faced a 22mm diameter disk to make the actual tumbler out of,  I then parted off the disk and axle, leaving a bit for the bearing in the bridle, faced off the bar left in the lathe and drilled a hole that is a good fit on the lock axle and Araldited the proto tumbler to the bar so I could finish the other side of the tumbler – its still in the lathe hardening off.   I milled some of the broken wood from the pistol lock area and glued in a piece of walnut – there is still quite a lot of wood to be fitted in, but its starting to look less bad.  I also decided to make another batch of de-cappers in case I get orders from the Holt’s shoot participants – I know Martin is keen for everyone to have one on safety grounds. And I got the new screen for my PC so that had to be set up…….

8th July – I got a request for a couple of my personalised decappers – I had run out of my original supply of metal and bought some 15m.m wide strip but it is a bit wide to fit round the nipples of some guns, so I picked up a length of scrap 1/2 x 1/8 from my old lab and made two decappers – when I came to engrave the names etc on them it was a bit of a revelation – they cut like butter, and it made me realise how horrible most of the metal I engrave is!  I guess the scrap was mild steel but it didn’t have the cold rolled crust that most mild steel strip has.  Anyway a pleasure to work with.  I did some more on teh little pistol woodwork.  It was fairly riddles with cracks as well as having chunks of wood missing, – the first job is to find all the cracks and see which move if you gently flex the wood.  If they are wide or full of muck they need clearing out with the back of  a modelling knife blade – these I fill with liquid epoxy, mixing in a bit of walnut dust to fill the surface.  As you put the epoxy in, flex the wood to open the joint more and suck the glue in.  You may need to clamp or bind the wood to close up cracks while the epoxy sets – I find self amlgamating tape is ideal for quick elastic binding of parts while glue sets – a couple of turns and it will stick to itself and hold things in place.   For small cracks I use an instant isocyanate glue and again work the joint to get the glue in – I keep a spray can of activator handy to start the polymerisation.  I also put walnut dust in the top of these cracks and drop a little instant glue on it and set it with the activator. I’ve done all that for the Harding pistol and the next step is to work out how to do the replacements and what needs milling out, and find a bit of matching walnut from my offcut box, or go over to Dick’s as he has a much bigger box of offcuts.

7th July – I started to strip the little Harding pistol so that I could sort the woodwork, but the woodscrew holding the tail of the triggerguard proved to be a major problem – first, the slot had got worn into a ramp and wouldn’t shift even with heat, then it turned out to be dead hard and I couldn’t drill it with any of my drills.  I ended up grinding off the head and digging out bits of it with the GRS graver – that released the guard.  That left the stub of the screw very firmly embedded – I tried cutting a slot in it with a small disk but the screw broke when I put a screwdriver on it!   Only solution was to core out the remains of the screw so I made a corer from 8 mm silver steel with a 4 mm hole in the centre and a 5.5 mm outside diameter and filed up some teeth and hardened it – at least that got it out and I could glue in a wooden plug for the next screw!   A lot of work to get one screw out – lucky I enjoy making tools!  I derusted the lock and the barrel, which is in good condition – I lightly recut the barrel engraving.  I will have to make a new tumbler as the one with the pistol is completely wrong, but I might get away with the existing bridle – I think it might have been the right one, but it had been broken and rewelded with the parts not quite aligned – I will make the tumbler and see if the sear is right before I decide whether to make a new bridle or fudge that one.

Corer for removing headless screw.

A bit of pitting but not too bad!

6th July – Dick got the pair of hammer gun hammers welded and filed up – they are a pretty good match in shape, but without the gun to try them on its difficult to be certain.  Photo below.   I was looking round for another project to do – apart from the documents I offered to edit for the School – I decided it was time to tackle the wrecked Harding flintlock pistol.  I bought a box of junk that purported to contain two rare small post office pistols by Harding. I paid good money for them, heaven knows why. Anyway one was actually stamped for the Post Office and was more or less complete so I’ve done that one up (see diary past) and it is a very pretty little pistol even if a bit corroded on the barrel.  The second set of parts is more problematical as these photos will show – the wood is badly broken with large missing bits and cracks, it has no mainspring , no cock or topjaw or screws, the bridle is a bit wrong, the tumbler is completely wrong, I’m not sure about the sear either, and so on….   I will strip it down and derust it (for a short while so as not to disintegrate any faulty metal) then mill away the broken wood so I can match in new wood to clean flat surfaces -As you can see, there is quite a lot of work in reshaping the inserted wood to match –  I usually leave such woodwork to Dick, but I will do this one – I need to up my woodwork skills – I can make a reasonable job of it but Dick usually manages to find better matching wood and grain, and make tighter joints.

There are slight differences in the overall shape of the cocks – the one on the left has a less rounded breast.  possibly one was a replacement, or more likely they never matched fully.

Pistol has very nice brass furniture

The barrel, lockplate, frizzen and frizzen spring and barrel bolt are the only parts of the original pistol – the tumbler,bridle and  sear don’t fit and will need replacing.

4th July – I tried out the CZ120 brass to see how good it was for engraving – its a ‘free cutting’ brass with about 2% lead, 60% copper and the rest zinc.  Its better than most brass that one comes across for hand engraving, but still not as ‘steady’ as copper, silver, gold or well prepared steel.  I did a quick trial freehand to see what it was like – I’m sure if I used it for any length of time I’d adapt my technique to work better, possibly even sharpen my tools differently.  I found it more difficult than steel to cut long straight lines of uniform width – it was more difficult to maintain a uniform depth and the resistance of the metal seemed to be more variable.  I found it had two modes of cutting –  in one it cut in a series of small jerks that were visible in the cuts under the microscope,  in the other mode it cut smoothly – it wasn’t always easy to predict which would prevail.  I did get a couple of skids, and the tool had a tendency to dive deep and it wasn’t easy to drive the cut back up – cutting ‘O’ s I had to stop half way through the down loop and come back from the bottom.   The $64,000 question – would I recommend someone learns hand encraving using CZ120 brass?  It requires a good deal less force to cut than steel and is much kinder on the gravers, both of which are advantages for the beginner.  Its not a pushover so you’ll learn most of the basic skills, although it will take you a while to adapt to steel if you ultimately want to be able to do that. On the other hand if you have reasonably strong hands I’d probably say go straight in with the steel.  Here is my test piece, skids and all….

The brass is 22 m.m.high – a very quick & dirty test….

4th July – bit the bullet and bent the 38 bore  Adams spring – I’d filed up both ends while it was flat, so the bend had to go in the right place – difficult to change if you get it wrong!  Anyway it all bent & went together just fine, I haven’t hardened and tempered it yet, but it all works  and I suppose I could just leave it – the thought is tempting as the cock tension is just about OK and it all functions as it should and it was a bit of a b***** to assemble………  It even looks the same shape as the original although the bend is not quite as tight – there is no point in stressing the metal any more than necessary!  I really enjoy making springs although I have had my share of failures!

The Adams patent is a very simple self cocking mechanism.

3rd July – more work on repairing the Adams revolver – Tom has now left for St Andrews so I have to do my own filing!  I never served a proper workshop apprenticeship so my filing is not so hot.  Anyway I finished off the link and started making the new spring from a piece of 15 mm x 2.5 m.m. spring steel.  I first annealed the steel at 950C for half an hour  and cooled it over an hour or so as it was a bit hard to file.  First job was to build a ridge of weld  across one end so I could file the claws that hold the link when the rest of the spring was shaped. ( I should have done that before annealing the metal, as I had to anneal the weld anyway.)   There was quite a lot of thickness reduction to do – the business end of the original spring was 1 mm thick, tapering to around 1.4 at the other end – most of the removal was done on the linisher, both flat on the platform and over the end roller, but eventually I got there.  The width had been roughly cut with a 1 mm cutting disk, and I filed up the claw to fit the link  – the next problem is bending the spring to shape and hardening it.

Link and flat spring without the slot to hold it to the frame

A lot of people ask me about engraving and want to start off engraving brass.  Most brass is a pain to engrave because its very hard and the tool chips rather than cuts cleanly – its very prone to slip etc. I checked a couple of websites and found the spec of  engraver’s brass, which is what its name implies. Brass is the usual copper /zinc mixture but some had lead added to soften it up – engraver’s brass should have between 1 and 3 % lead and around 60% – the type numbers seem to be CZ120 or CW612N or C35600 – all thses are classed as engravers brass.  I have ordered a sample of CZ120 to try out and will keep you posted with how I get on.                            

Here is a summary of the countries that visit the site most often over the last three years;-

Rank Flag Country Visitor Count
1   United States 70,644
2   United Kingdom 48,099
3   China 27,032
4   Germany 14,004
5   Canada 13,931
6   France 12,545
7   Russian Federation 11,212
8   India 7,121
9   Ukraine 6,330
10   Australia 5,828

2nd July – In the end I milled the blank for the link as it was easy to make several in case they went wrong.  Luckily I left the ‘pins’ oversize as I did have a problem matching the milling on the top and bottom in spite of having a clear index hole.  Tom has done the bulk of the filing and it is looking good – a little finishing at the spring end, and then its making a new spring……….

part filed link and blank for a spare.

1st July again…  A small problem – Tom was looking at my Adams 38 bore revolver and was testing the action when the mainspring stopped functioning – I don’t think he did anything wrong as its difficult to see what that could have been, but it seems the link broke and the mainspring then broke as it ‘dry fired’.  So that has to be fixed!  We have drawn up the link and one possibility is to turn up a blank from which to cut the link  – the plan is to turn up a disk with one pin at the centre and a rim that will yield the other pin, then part it off and glue it onto a boss and repeat on the other side. Its rather a longwinded method but I have done it before.  An alternative would be to mill the shape with square pins – but turning it over to mill the back and ensure register would be a little difficult, although I guess it too could be glued into registered holes.  not sure there is much in it! The easiest way to measure such things is to photograph them with a ruler and print it out A4 and scale from there – you need a good mm ruler graduated in 1/2 mm as in this pic, and a micrometer to check the pin diameters.  Anyway its another job to keep me busy….

The break is just visible at the arrow tip.

1st July – half way through the year!  Here is the promised pic of the finished trophy – off to cut the hedge now…..

beautiful piece of old stock and offcut for base – but not very good photo!


Jul 112019


30th June – Shooting Helice at Rugby yesterday – boy was it hot!   Its a difficult form of clays and great fun – I wasn’t the worst there by any means – lets leave it at that!  I don’t know who won as I left after my last shot ( knowing it wasn’t me!) to have dinner with the family.  I jumped in the swimming pool aka large plastic bag of water and when I got out sons pointed out that I had a spectacular bruise on my shoulder in the shape of a gun stock.  I was shooting in shirtsleeves with my  14 bore – weight 6.4 lbs – using 2 1/2 drams of Swiss No 2 and ( it turned out when I checked the flask) 1 1/4 oz of  shot, which I suppose is a fairly heavy load for the gun, although its what I usually shoot without feeling anything special in the way of recoil – in fact I had been using 2 3/4 drams and the same shot load  – I probably ought to put a bit of sheet metal in the flask neck to get it down to 1 oz.  The only thing that bothered me is that the trigger guard makes a mess of my second finger – I smoothed it down, which stopped it cutting my finger but it still pummels it into gory submission.  I realised afterwards that the trigger guard has a rear loop as in rifles and If I grasp the wrist of the gun in my normal shotgun way there is only just room for three fingers on the guard so my second finger is already pressed on the guard.  You don’t often see those guards on shotguns – thinking about it, I shoot shotguns with a full grip using the joint of my finger on the trigger whereas I hold rifles so that I use the middle of the first joint of my finger on the trigger to get more feel, in which case there would be a lesser grip and more room in the guard.  Maybe that accounts for the different guards in shotgun and rifles.  Not sure what to do about it – it was suggested that its because the stock is too short, but it measures up OK and is longer than many guns I shoot without problems.   I more or less finished the Trophy (see past diary) today – cutting and milling the old stock and making a base – wood courtesy of Chris Hobbs.  Looks quite good now – I’ll post some photos when I get a moment! 

The effect of 20 shots – 2 1/2 oz of Swiss 2 and 1 1/4 oz of shot in a 14 bore weighing 6  1/4 lbs – strangely I didn’t feel it as particularly savage.

Quite limited gap for 3 fingers!

28th June – Shooting yesterday – seem to have lost my previous form!  Obviously not a good idea to change guns…. Off to the Helice shoot at Rugby so I’ll shoot my regular percussion gun for that…..   I had a a cock off a hammer gun sent to me to have welded as the spur had broken off, so I asked for both to be sent so that I could be sure the spur got put back on at the matching angle.  When I looked at the ‘good’ cock I noticed that it had a bit of a kink in the line of the spur (see arrow)  – A closer inspection showed a whole lot of small cracks across the back of the spur at the bottom, indicating that it too was not far from breaking.  There is a popular misconception that the spurs (and cocks of flintlocks) break because of the force of cocking them – but the actuality is that they break due to the sudden stop when the cock connects with whatever halts its progress  and the part ‘outboard’ of the stop carries on under interia.- in the case of a hammer gun probably the cock hitting the surround of the firing pin if the firing pin doesn’t offer enough resistance to slow the cock –  this might happen e.g. if the gun is dry fired without a snap cap, or a flintlock is fired with the frizzen open – or just through inadequate design or poor materials..

Arrow shows slight kink in the line of the spur – dents on the back of the cock show where it had been tightened up on the square.

Very clear cracking on the back of the ‘good’ cock show its not far from breaking – there is a slight compression crease forming on the front of the cock!  It will get welded along with the broken one.  The weld needs to be deep to put some strength back, and use a reasonably high carbon steel rod.


26 th June – I cleaned up the lock of the Pistoia pistol – my electrolytic deruster ran out of steam as the iron positive electrode had got so rusted  (the rust is stripped from the negative electrode and forms on the positive where the active oxygen is released.  I cleaned off the positive electrode but decided to electrolytically derust it properly by putting a sacrificial chunk of mild steel as the positive.  I left it for about an hour at about 2 1/2 amps and the result was quite impressive, at least in terms of the rust on my chunk of steel –

I needed a ramrod for the 11 bore Westley Richards – its a ‘working gun’ so it doesn’t need to be fantastic, so I spared the ebony and used a 10 m.m. ash dowel I bought at a re-enactment fair as an arrow blank – I selected all his straight ones!  I wrapped masking tape round one end so it fitted in the chuck of my woodturning lathe – the other end just rested inside the hollow tailstock.  Using 80 grade sandpaper I tapered the rod to 8.5 m.m at the end, and smoothed it down.  I have had problems staining the wood to match ebony – the ash is not very absorbent and its difficult to get a deep enough colour – I did think of ‘ebonising’ it with a blowtorch but wasn’t sure if it would work.  In the end I got a black felt pen of the sort that marks on everything and ran it down the rod while the lathe turned slowly so as to cover the entire surface – result a fantastic deep black – a couple of coats of water based satin varnish rubbed in with a tissue and its a very convincing ebony rod!  I decided to make a proper screw end as they are sometimes handy if I forget my unloading rod.  I has a 1/4 x 32 tap and die (Model Engineer threads) for the cap thread, and cut off a 5 m.m. hardened zinc plated screw – getting rid of enough of the tread to solder into the brass body was done by putting the screw point first in a drill and running it against the grindwheel.   A 5.4 mm hole up the cap end cleared the screw and was right for tapping the 1/4 x 32 thread.  The head was turned freehand – not perfect but OK – result a perfectly acceptable substitute for the real thing – NOT a fake – you can tell because I Araldited the ends on and didn’t put ‘fake’ pins through!  Note for future efforts – be more careful to size the rod and ends to the same diameter and make sure the reduced diameter on teh rod is concentric.

The zinc plated screw was blacked with TIFOO instant gun black.

It really should be lemon coloured brass, but it will still work!

I think I soldered the screw in slightly crooked so its pushing the cap out of true – I’ll fix it sometime! (or just get used to it).  The brass has been toned down a bit with dilute Blackley’s brass browning solution.

25th June. Thinking to put the Westley Richards on my certificate to shoot it so I had a look for wads and cards – I decided that it would just about work with hard 12 bore wads soaked in oil/wax but Pete says he has some I can use.  I decided to make a wad punch for cards anyway, but couldn’t find any suitable metal in the workshop short of turning down a bar of 2 inch steel – then I remembered a set of box spanners that I had and didn’t use – the biggest, 20/22 mm had a section of tube in the middle that was just about the right size.  It turned out to be quite hard and my parting tool didn’t want to cut it so I cut it with a hacksaw (it finished the blade!) leaving one spanner with a short stem, and the other with a long stem – I bored the end of the long tube with a carbide tool &  turned the outside taper with a carbide tipped tool and got a good  edge – it works very well – the only disadvantage is that I was too lazy to cut a hole in the side for the cards/wads to escape, so they have to be pushed out with a rod.  The size was about right – .770.   I started to clean up the Pistoia pistol – see that post.   I’ve been finishing a pair of duelling pistols for a client – we had a discussion about what the appropriate finish was.  The arguments revolve around whether it should be varnish or oil finish.  Most of the originals were probably varnished, but it is a very unforgiving finish and needs almost perfect woodwork or it shows up every ripple and unevenness – these pistols have less than perfect wood so I think a high shine oil finish would be better – they also have potentially uneven colouration that has been toned down – varnish needs an almost perfect substrate.  We shall see how it turns out……  I did a bit more research into the P53 type gun – Looks like after the failed Indian Mutiny of 1857 when the British Government took over the administration of India from the East India Company there were effectively 3 Indian armies officered by the British for three provinces – I presume that this gun was issued at some point to one of the armies.  I can’t quite identify the proof marks on the barrel – I don’t think its Liege, but it is not in my book as a London or Birmingham proof for anthing like 1868.

24th June.  I picked up my purchases from the local auction – I missed out on the nice little flintlock pocket pistol (picture below) because someone had put in the same top bid before me.  Anyway I got a pretty little continental(?) pistol and a percussion Enfield style musket that I’d like some help from visitors to this site to pin down.   It has a P53 type lock externally marked LSA Co and 1868 with a strange pattern just visible in front of the cock – the lock is pretty pitted on the outside, but the inside is shiny &  good quality and carries a broad arrow mark and the name Barnett plus the stamp J.C. –  Barnett & Co made locks and barrels for the British Government  from about 1854(?)  It is missing its bridle (holes exist).  The barrel appears to be a musket barrel of about .630 bore (not the .656 that was used when Enfields were made in smoothbore), of length 33 inches, giving the gun an overall length of 48 1/2 inches (weight 7 1/2 lbs)  The barrel carries the stamped name  ‘MANTON & CO CALCUTTA’ as one stamp, followed by ‘& LONDON’ made of individual letter stamps.  It carries Liege proof marks. There is a bayonet boss in the usual place, and a foresight but no rear sight or any sign that one was ever fitted.   The trigger guard is stamped with the number 35110 and the butt (LH side) has 88 in one place and 77 in another.  The stock looks fairly like a normal P53 stock, although I’m not really familiar with them.  It has three old style barrel bands (before Badderley) – the sling swivel is on the muzzle one, the other swivel is on the rear trigger guard screw.   The ramrod is steel, and has a somewhat squared end with a slotted jag – no bulge – I can’t see a retaining spring in the stock.  Overall it looks ‘of a piece’ and not mucked about with in recent times.  The British were at pains to equip the Indian troops with guns that looked like Enfields but were not effective against their own weapons – this gun may have been made up by Manton Calcutta (at that time run by Wallis) using old British Enfield locks, or maybe old stock complete guns, with the barrels replaced by new Liege smoothbore barrels to ensure inferior performance.  It would seem that this gun must be one of many that were issued, hence the 35110 stamped on the trigger guard.  Any thoughts gratefully received. 

I am also contemplating the two pistols below – rather pretty little Continental pistols, the top German, the bottom has a possibly Italian barrel with a gold PISTOIA stamp and a lion stamp( or might be a a fake Italian barrel?) one – any ideas??  New poston this too – Continental Pistols.

See new post ‘Indian Enfield’ for the bulk of the photos.


22nd June – Yesterday I went to look at the guns in the Willingham Auction and was amazed at how random the cataloguing was! There was an obvious repro blunderbuss that might or might not have been Section 2 catalogued as an antique with ‘loss of patina’ to the stock!  I emailed them to warn them and I’m glad to say it was withdrawn.  There was a ‘percussion pocket pistol with bayonet under the barrel’ that, on a cursory glance was actually a diecast toy pistol – I should have warned them but it wasn’t a matter of law so I didn’t.  It sold for £120 – I just hope the buyer throws it back!  I got the only 3 guns that hadn’t been messed about and were not relics – a little turnoff flintlock pocket pistol, a pretty ?French pistol and a P53 type rifle by Manton of Calcutta.  I’m off the Birmingham Arms Fair tomorrow with a couple of guns for David Stroud to put on his stand – I need to recoup some money to fund  my recent purchases.  The P53 will get some TLC and appear on this site – I’ll probably keep the French pistol, and I might or might not keep the little pocket pistol (photo below) – I am tempted to make a box for it – I know they didn’t come in boxes, but they look nice and I don’t think its a terrible sin to sell people a pretty little boxed pistol!   I tracked down the problem with my screen colours – it got a technical review as having the worst contrast of any that the reviewer had ever seen – I should have read the reviews before I bought it – my stupid fault.

It’s all there – needs the action fixing, which is a nice exercise!

21st June – Going through the photos I took in Norfolk – which was difficult because I brought a completely useless monitor with my new computer – I came across a detail I hadn’t seen when I looked at the gun.  On a good quality brass blunderbuss of mid 18th century by Barbar I found one part of the lock engraving that had been (partly ?)  chased with a hammer and chisels – the rest of the lock and cock and all the brass seemed to have been engraved by ‘push’ engraving – I think that is the first time I’ve noticed chasing on old English guns.  I found a similar age blunderbuss by Turvey that definitely had the steel engraving on the lock done by push engraving.

Blunderbuss by Barbar – classic early engraving

Click on the photo and you will see the serrations on the lines of the foliage – at least you should if your monitor is not as bad as mine (its going back- I’ll have to replace it with a more expensive one though!)

This all looks like bona fide push engraving!

20th June – Back from Norfolk, where I have been photographing guns from a friend’s extensive collection – I’m adding to my library of early gun English engraving as my own own limited collection is mostly late 18th and 19th century sporting guns.  He has some nice engraved blunderbusses and pistols from early and mid 18th century that have the characteristic shapes of that period, and I’m planning a series of plates showing the different styles at different periods. Photos will follow!

18th June  – Edited another part of the trophy engraving series – Engraving the Thistle, which I have now put on Youtube.

17th June – AT a school meeting all day!  I did manage to make another nipple for the Westley Richards, so I’ll be able to try it sometime – the stock is very heavy, so I think it must be weighted, or at least a specially dense wood! The Bonham’s auction crept up on me un-noticed so I haven’t viewed it – just a quick glance through the catalogue.  Nothing that excites me – the Adam’s revolvers were nothing special, a good lot of American stuff, but that’s not really my scene.  There were an interesting assortment of percussion shotguns – maybe somewhere among them there is a bargain!  No flintlock rifles, which is my next ‘want’ – its about the only long gun I haven’t got, apart from a blunderbuss.  I put a new Video showing engraving of a Stand of Arms on the site, see VIDEOS at the top.

16th June – three parties in 2 days left me a bit dazed…  Anyway it was out annual Recession shoot at Cottenham today – we ‘invented’ the competition in the bad old days to be shot with 1/2 oz of shot only – muzzle loaders of coarse – it is amazing how little difference it makes halving the shot load.  I left before the final tally, but our group contained its share of the top M/L shooters  – top score in our group was 21 out of 30 – I was very pleased to hit 18 – my aim is to do a little better each shoot, but strictly keeping to the game shooting technique and not shooting ‘gun up’ like most of the people who bettered me!  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

Address occupied by WR from 1917….

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

14th June – I got the gun I wanted at Southams, but not the two miscellaneous lots  – someone else must have spotted the Blackley flintlock castings in the box of junk as the lot went for £110 Hammer price, as did the oak case I was after – both just a bit more than my limit.  I did buy a flintlock pistol by Kruchenreuter that is nice although it needs a bit of tlc.  The gun I bought is a Westley Richards percussion double 11 bore – I had left a bid well 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.  The good news is that WR records still exist and I should be able to track the gun down from the serial number.  Photos of my purchases tomorrow.  I am also working on an engraving video or two to put on Youtube based on the trophy engraving – I have something like 60 GBytes of videos to edit down to about 5 Gb!

11th June – I went to Southam’s Antique firearms etc auction viewing in the big new Auction Centre outside Bedford – a pretty impressive place and quite an expansion in the volume of stuff that Southams had gathered (I was going to say ‘raked up’ but that would be a little unfair!) for the sale compared to their previous sales – they now have their sights on Bonhams and Holts but will somehow have to pursuade the vendors of quality antique arms that they can achieve top prices – their big selling point as far as buyers are concerned is the 17 1/2% commission as against 27 1/2 elsewhere..  I guess they are more like Holts in that they clearly take everything anyone wants to sell, and had all those delicious boxes of junk that mirror what we all have in our workshops!  There were one or two good antiques, but I didn’t find anything in the way of English 1850s revolvers that excited me- most were just not good enough to make it into my collection – I found a couple of hidden treasures in the junk listed for a song, and one possible gun for restoration, but I’m not going to give anything away at this point! I did a bit of sleuthing for a friend so he will have a couple of bids.  Not sure if I’ll watch the auction on line, I might be tempted to bid on other things…..    I still think I will redo the Trophy, although people tell me its fine – here are some of the things I think are wrong with it….

10th June – I fixed the element back in my furnace and finished ‘normalising’ the steel test plates.  Cleaning off the anti-scale paint is a pain, but having done that, the metal seems to be much better to cut, although I only did a small bit on the edge.  Surprisingly the plates have distorted very slightly so that a sheet of 1200 grit on a flat plate doesn’t abrade the whole surface – the surface is probably out of true by about 1/10th  of a mm in a smooth curve, not enough to matter for my purposes, but in future I’ll  ‘regularise’ the metal BEFORE I get it ground flat!  Obviously some stress relief took place.  Looking at my Trophy engraving, I think I’ll have another go at it – there are a few details I’m not happy with, and I wasn’t careful enough with the lettering spacing – it is one of the problems of engraving using a microscope, that your field of view is small – only a few letters – so you can ‘drift’ away from your chosen spacing – I mark out the lettering, then when I come to cut it I adjust somewhat as I go along, and then find its not all evenly spaced.  Anyway I’ll have another go, and make sure that I get the gold inlay right this time. I could do with more practice!  I’m about to start on the wheellock video, but got held up because the hard drive on my computer is almost full (it takes ages to do anything) and all my SD cards for the camera are full.  An upgrade of my computer system is on the way  – I can go about 5 years before the system gets too slow and clogged up,  at which point I get fed up and replace it – by then it will have earned its retirement!  My new system will have 6 terabytes of hard disk – which should see me OK for a few more years, although its only enough space for about 1000 videos.

9th June – a Pleasant party today making Elderflower wine with friends.  I had a chance to ask Giles’s girlfriend, who is a doing a PhD in materials science, about my struggles with mild steel blanks.  I had thought that as they are more or less pure iron with very little carbon they wouldn’t suffer from hardening, although it was clear from experience that they did.  Anyway I now understand what happens, more or less.  Its all to do with the grain boundaries and the stresses within the grains and between grains which are generated by the cold rolling process, essentially work hardening – so the answer is to anneal the blanks – I thought I’d tried that without a great deal of success, but apparently I should take the metal to around 80% of melting temperature for a good long soak.  That means going to  around 1000C for a couple of hours, which I should be able to do in my furnace, but when I tried tonight I got it up to about 950 but after half an hour the element in the furnace came out of its groove and tripped the supply by shorting to the metal load, so I’ve left it to cool to see whether it managed to anneal or not.  The tedious part is the preparations you have to make to prevent scale forming on the plates – I have some antiscale paint (it is difficult to remove after heating) and also some stainless/titanium foil that you can make packages from that you seal by folding over the edges  to exclude air- its vicious stuff as its thin, hard and sharp as a razor.  I used both tonight.  The trophy engraving is now complete – there are a number of slips and bits I would do better a second time, but it is not too bad!  I wouldn’t want to do it again with the metal in that state – I must have sharpened my gravers over 100 times in the course of engraving it – about half because I snapped the points off, which is mainly down to my lack of practice with hard metal , and half wore down and were ploughing through the metal rather than cutting it cleanly as they should – they wore much more quickly than they should.  My previous test plates were EN8 steel with a bit of carbon but I had 1/2 mm ground off the surface which got rid of some of the work hardened layer.

8th June – a bit more work on the trophy engraving, starting with sharpening about 20 gravers!  I also made a key for the wheellock so I could wind it up properly and see how/if it worked. The answer is that sear is worn and won’t hold the wheel against the mainspring, which is pretty strong.  Also the cam action that is supposed to open the pan as the wheel starts is worn. but overall it seems to be complete and potentially working.  but I have yet to work out how the trigger operates the sear  – the tail of the sear has a small spring catch that could be a safety catch.  I haven’t yet stripped the lock down so I can’t see all the works, but its in good condition with almost no rust except around the pan where it has been fired, although the wheel is perfect.  As soon as I’ve done a bit more exploration I’ll make a video.   I was hoping to make a video of the engraving of the trophy, and I have got quite a lot of bits of the engraving etc, but the job has taken maybe 12 hours, and its difficult to attend to the camera and the enraving – when I look at the camera its often run out of battery ( rather poor capacity for videos) or the card is full or its got knocked and the focus is off….. so I’m not sure I’m really keen on the job of editing it all down to a manageable length!  Anyway here is the key I made for the wheellock…..

Filing the square hole up the middle was a tedious job – luckily I had a square file just the right size.

7th June – I spent today on my tropy engraving,  the metal is somewhat challenging and I spent ages sharpening gravers that had worn blunt – I have a pile with the points broken off, but they will have to wait til another time…  I finished the pictorial stuff (excpt for a couple of bits I only just remembered) and started to think about inlaying a gold ‘1’ in the centre of the shield – I did a practice on a scrap plate and it worked reasonably well – I made the upright wide enough to take two pieces of 0.5mm gold wire side by side.  When I cut the final one I made the recess too deep so that 2 wires didn’t fill it but I couldn’t get a third piece of wire to stick in the middle as it didn’t have any undercuts to grip.  Despair for a moment! I pulled all the gold I had got fixed out – it was pretty firmly in the undercuts.  Anyway I have some silver sheet so I cut a strip the width of my cutout and ‘hammered’ that in using a polished rod in the GRS gravermax as a ‘Kango Hammer’  – it actually worked very well and stands proud in a nice convex surface that catches the eye.  It  should be gold, but that is for another time when I’m feeling rich!

I rushed the lettering so the spacing is a bit erratic!

5th June – back from a trip to London, which gave me an opportunity to pick up the bits I’d bought at Bonhams at the last auction.  I was particularly interested to see the little pocket pistol I’d bought – signed BOBY NEWMARKET on the barrel – I bid for it sight unseen as I hadn’t noticed it when I went to the viewing, but I am inclined to trust David Williams who does the Bonhams valuations, especially for ‘run of the mill’ things like that,  Anyway it was a pleasant surprise as its middle quality pistol in fair condition, its only fault is a few marks on the barrel corners near the breech where someone has used a wrench to unscrew the barrel.  It raises the usual question of just how far to go with any work on it.  It does need a quick going over to remove surface dirt and maybe a little cleaning out of the barrel engraving.  Its probably good enough  for it to be better to keep the barrel finish as is, and put up with the wrench marks than to strike up the barrel and rebrown or blue it.  The chequering on the butt is very fine and in pretty much mint condition, and the butt fits well – somewhat unusually for these basically cheap little pistols.  The wheel lock is a very fine piece and I’m pleased I got it.  It has the stamp of Jacob Schachtner of INSPRUGG  (Innsbruck) who worked from 1709 to 1778 and looks genuine – it has certainly been fired a few times.  I  guess it probably dates from around 1740 or later as Jacob wouldn’t have put his stamp on locks until he was at least in his mid twenties (?). You can see why the mechanism wasn’t much used in England at that time – its so much more complicated than a simple snaphaunch or flintlock.  Anyway its in very good condition and I think it will work, although I have to make of find a key to wind it up.  I wanted it for a video on the development of firearms, but I think I’ll have to do one on stripping the wheellock to show how it works…..

Nice clean pistol with a bit of rust and a few marks, but still well preserved.

There is a lot of work in this lock – the German gunsmiths were not deterred by the complexity and the wheellock hung on there long after it was abandoned elsewhere.

2nd June – busy day.  Penny decided it was time to put up the ‘plastic bag’ swimming pool – it is a pretty large pool, about 30 ft x 10 ft and holds 30 tons of water – We’ve had it for 12 years and its given good service – it only has one small repair. Anyway I had to do some shifting of earth to level the site again but its now filling up happily.   I did a bit more on my Trophy – I’ve got a more or less final design and started to cut the outlines.  Unfotunately I  slipped and sat on one of my cameras ( the 760D fortunately) and broke off the folding screen – it sort of works but occasionally complains that it has an error and I have to take out the battery and start again.  Anyway I managed to do a long video of the basic engraving that will need editing extensively.   I almost forgot I was supposed to be filming it!  Here is the final sketch and most of the outlines – just the thistles to outline and then its into the detail.  The scale of the stand of arms is a lot bigger than anything you’d get on a gun, so lots of opportunity for careful detail!

Getting the letter spacing is much more difficult when you are constrained by a fixed length – mostly on guns its either short words or unterminated space – it will take a bit of playing about to get this right – you can measure and count letters but it’s basically trial and error..  Its easier if you have big spaces at the ends – I don’t!

Here is a first sketch for my MAXWELL Scottish Nationals Trophy;-

Just about actual size – 50 x 120 mm

1st June – the last post was really 31st…   Fiddly job this morning, Penny’s expensive spectacles broke again – crazy design with a tiny plastic bobbin that is the hinge pin – this is the second one I’ve had to replace with a brass one – I am not a watchmaker so making a bobbin 3.4 mm diameter by 3 mm hight with parallel  grooves top and bottom is challenging!  Especially when I dropped it on the floor – it took me 10 minutes to find it but that’s a lot less than making another one!

Spectacle frames are a rip-off – look at the hinge of a £200 frame!

That’s my replacement brass bobbin – original was plastic and broke.

1st  June – Not much to report!  I spent a boring couple of hours sharpening 20 gravers that I’d used at the Northern Shooting Show and hadn’t got round to sharpening.  When dealing with that many I sort them into lots according to how worn/chipped they are so they only get as much grinding as they need – you can’t really see if you have done enough without going back to the microscope.  At each stage they get checked under the microscope to make sure the faces are all even.   I had a bit of a go at undercutting simple letters for filling with gold – didn’t get very far as its very easy to cut where you didn’t mean to, or to break the tip of the knife tool used for the undercutting – I’d like to watch a ‘proper’ engraver doing inlay on letters – I’ve seen inlay of areas of gold but that seems a lot easier, although still difficult enough!

30th May – finished off the case for the Beaumont Adams 54 bore revolver – the lids for the compartments are made from mahogany salvaged from a St John’s College punt – quite a lot of ‘conversion’ to get from a 16 ft punt to a bit of wood 1/4 inch thick but it looks the part. The knobs are better than they look in the photo as they are ridged on top – they are made from faux ivory as I happened to have a small chunk.  The box looks right for the pistol, although it is mahogany and most were oak – the construction is identical to the original boxes I have.  The advantage of using the dark baise is that it already looks somewhat dirty! – a quick run over bits with a disposable ‘ladies’ razor helps a bit too.   It is not my intention to pass the box lining off as original (anyone who knew these revolvers would see it as a slightly oddly refitted case immediately) – just to look in keeping with the state of wear of the pistol.  It is interesting that all these Adams based pistols have the pistol on the side away from the hinges  – I guess because its easier for a right handed person to pick it out that way round and it shows the right side that usually has the patent etc on it. I’ve been discussing what makes an ‘authentic’ case for a pair of duelling pistols – I think I know and then I see one that claims to be original that has all the marks I had just decided mark  cases out as adapted boxes, usually cutlery boxes.  I tend to be suspicious of fancy escutcheons on the lid without a  handle , brass corners and baise carried over the inside lip, but I’ve seen all three on a late Mortimer box claiming to be original  – I suppose its perfectly possible that a gunmaker or later a client went to a cutlery box maker for a box!

I need an oil bottle and a turnscrew, plus a round box for spare nipples.

29th May – Had a day at Cambridge Gun Club with Bev and Pete – not sure that my shooting was up to my standard in Scotland, but maybe the Cambridge clays are more difficult!  Anyway the Beretta worked OK after Pete discovered that to hit the driven clays you actually had to shoot directly at them with no lead – I tried and got a full house – I don’t think its how I usually shoot them but it worked.  I have finished relining the original box for my Beaumont Adams revolver in maroon biase – which I know is not the correct colour for that date, but it looks good.  I used the traditional rabbit skin glue, which is actually better for the job than any modern glue – it sets quite quickly and you can soften it with a bit of heat or steam.  I’ll post a photo tomorrow.  I have a project to engrave a plate for a tropy for the Scottish National comp next year – will post details in due course.

27th May – Back from the Scottish Nationals M/L shoot at Leuchars – a 10 hour drive there on Friday and 8 back on Sunday – but a very enjoyable shoot although the afternoon ( black powder hammer guns so not too bad) was shot a ‘Scotch mist’.  I had a good day, and if I hadn’t changed guns between the M/L single and double competitions I might have done better – it took me a few stands to get my eye in each time I changed guns.  I almost made third place in the double percussion but lost out in the shoot off – we both got 4, then my opponent missed one and I missed two – end of story.  Shame as that was the only medal that didn’t come back to the Anglian Muzzle loaders!   Martin was shooting in his usual consistent way and Clare had  a good shoot. Bev said he had a ‘curates egg’ of a day and had trouble finding form, but he still beat me convincingly.  I was pretty pleased on the whole, as on some not so easy stands I managed  good scores – enough to keep my enthusiasm to improve going……   I decided to resist the temptation to shoot ‘gun up’ – i.e. with the gun in the shoulder when you call for the clay, which a lot of the better shots do, as it is liable to restrict my vision and mean I don’t see the clay coming, and on slower clays it gives me too much time to wave the gun in the air! plus it isn’t possible in game shooting.  I was tempted to use gun up on one fast clay that came  from the left, passed very fast close in front and quatered away right but held my nerve and, as Martin said, started with my gun sticking up in the air – managed to hit it several times..

Me, single barrel M/L comp.

It looks as if Bev is worried about his barrels coming off!

He did, however, win some medals , which is more than I did!

I got back my bits of steel that Allan Wellings had kindly ground off for me – a perfect finish for engraving test plates or making locks – I can’t wait to start on a project.  I may have a couple of  bits spare if anyone wants a 50 x 140 x 6 mm mild steel blank – email me.

23rd May  – I’m sorry for the gap here, but things got a bit hectic and I had to make several trips to London, one to the Bonham’s viewing.  There were a couple of things I thought it might be nice to have, always with the proviso that they looked like reasonable value.  I had my eye on a detached wheellock, a box of flasks and a cased Beaumont Adams pistol that had been completely refinished in a very dramatic way – as far as I was concerned completely ruining it as a collector’s piece.  I wanted it as I have a fairly decent one and was planning to swap it into the case and use the refinished one for shooting – I was niavely expecting it to go at the estimate (£500) on account of the abuse it had suffered, but there are obviously people out there who are not put off by refinishing because it made £1200 hammer price ( around £1650 to pay)- not much different from the price of a decent one.  I did get my wheel lock, not quite as cheaply as I hoped, but still OK at only 2 bids above the bottom estimate,  I had a couple of pokes at small pistols in passing, but they all escaped my clutches – on balance most guns  made somewhere in the range of the estimates, although a lot of the swords went below estimate. There were not many really nice pistols in good condition.   The box of flasks, of course, made almost twice the top estimate.  I did see a cased pair of  Mortimer pistols with the nastiest re-browning I’ve ever seen – a sort of salmon pink colour – glinting through was the most extreme and un- sympatetic recutting of engraving I’ve seen for a long time – fortunately I didn’t have a magnifying glass with me so I was spared the worst of the horrors (and they made £10K!!!!)  There is no accounting for people, as my Mum used to say….  (If you bought them, I didn’t mean it).  Tomorrow I’m off to Scotland to shoot in the national M/L competition.  I’m hoping that my improved form means I won’t be the worst shot there!  Some hope…..

18th – started to make the small jigs for sharpening the heels of gravers – it involved milling 3 mm wide grooves across a stainless steel bar,  Unfortunately my miller has too much play in the slides and the metal is on the tough side, so the cutter didn’t survive beyond the first one.  In my usual bodging way I found it was pretty quick to cut the slot roughly with a 1 m.m. disk in an angle grinder and then file it out, but it took me all the time I had available to make two.  It would be a simple and cheap job to put them out to someone with a cnc machine, but the turnover is not really enough to justify the setup costs, so I suppose I will just have to struggle on!

I tried to make up some rabbit skin glue to stick the lining on my pistol case, but put too much water with it, so will have to start again!  Next week is the Bonham’s Arms and Armour sale on Thursday – there are a number of possible interests, as I’m looking to extend my collection backwards in time.  I’m in London on Tuesday so I’ll go to the viewing in the afternoon, and see if its worth going for the auction, or whether to bid by phone, or just sit on my hands!   There is the rest of the enormous collection of Winchester lever action rifles for sale – you could probably pick up a good repro for a song…………

16th May – SATS exams are over – last one this morning – much to the relief of the children (and me, as it means I can have my mornings back).  I always seem to have several jobs on the go at once, partly because I like to leave them on the side to ‘mature’ and come back to them later with a fresh eye!  At the moment my engraving bench is occupied by the 4 bore Tolley Barrel, and I am part way through refitting a case for the Baumont Adams revolver.  I had to spend  today making up some graver sharpening jigs as I have a couple of orders pending – I made a few of the simplified 45 degree jigs, and tomorrow I’ll make a few of the 15 degree ones, which should be a little easier.  The 45 degree ones are a bore as I have to machine a 90 degree V slot in the top of a piece of hex bar, which involves tilting the head of the miller and  fiddling to get the cut in the right place – my miller is a feeble and rickety device so it is always touch and go whether things will turn out right – in this case not too bad, only one hiccough.

Today’s jobs in progress!

15th May  – More exams in school – I did the KS2 SATS first maths papers this morning – Arithmetic and Maths Reasoning – more tomorrow…..  I got a barrel re-engraving job to do while at the Northern Shooting Show – a 4 bore double Tolley  – the barrel is a little rusted in patches and is going to be struck off and re-browned when I return it.  I have tried to get a reasonably deep re-cut as its going to loose some metal on striking off – ideally when I’m re-browning them myself  I like to lightly recut the engraving before its struck off, then recut it again while in the white before re-browning – that way I can judge the finished effect.  In this case I’ve recut a little deeper as I can see some metal will have to come off.  If necessary I’ll have the barrels back in the white. Unusually for barrel lettering, the existing lettering made extensive use of a flat graver, and so isn’t as deep as that done with a 90 degree one – as usual ther first stage of the ‘re-cutting’ was actually cleaning out the rust, but this didn’t restore things completely as it sometimes does.   I will have to make a few more engraving tool sharpening jigs soon as I keep getting the odd order, and sharpening is a really difficult thing for beginners to master.   I’m busy refitting a nice original oak pistol case that will be perfect for my Beaumaont Adams 54 bore revolver – all the inside has been stripped out in the past, so I have a clean slate to work on.  I’m doing it in deep maroon baize as I have some nice very thin stuff from ‘Bernie the Bolt’, supplier of fabrics to re-enactors.  At the moment I’m considering what glue to use to stick the lining in with.  The quick and dirty way is to use spray photo mount if you can mask it well enough, but traditionally it should be an animal glue – I do have a jar of rabbit skin glue, so maybe I’ll do the job in the traditional way and use that…..  After that I fancy making a mahogany case for my Fishenden double carriage pistol – it will require a quite small but deep box.

13th May – back from Harrogate, where I had a very busy Northern Shooting Show.  It made me realise how integral the shooting sports are to the North of England compared to our namby pamby Southern counties!  It is a huge show and very popular – crowds surge in at 8 a.m. and it is busy all day until about 4 p.m.  I met lots of interesting people, including a number of friends who I only know at the show from past years.  Saturday was better than Sunday as people stopped to look and talk – Sunday seemed like a constant procession of people spending a few seconds and moving on.  I engrave screw heads as its easy and doesn’t require concentration, and give them to any children that show a decent level of interest – on Saturday I was giving them away as fast as I was doing them but on Sunday hardly any child qualified for one and I ended up with a stock for next time.  Today I was in school invidulating the SATS exams – it was an English paper and contained one bad mistake – treating ‘team’ as a plural, when it is clearly singular! tut tut – comes to something when an English exam contains gramatical mistakes…………………………………

8th May – I made a couple of Youtube videos today on stripping and assembling a flint lock – mostly because I felt guilty about all the equipment I’d bought to make videos and hadn’t really used – so the Great British Youtube watching public will just have to suffer!  (see a link on VIDEOS at the top of the page)  Talking of suffering, a friend rang me up in distress as he is quite ill, and asked me to pick up his gun tomorrow and get rid of it for him as he will never use it again –  I guess it comes to all of us in time.  I’ll put it on my license for a while and sort it out later.   I’m off on Friday and have a pretty full day tomorrow so I ought to be sorting all my engraving stuff to take to the Northern Shooting Show on Friday – at least I did manage to make 4 new gravers in case anyone wants to buy one.  I am optimistic that I’ll get it all sorted in time…………………………………..!

7th May again – I decided to start my case making by fitting out an original pistol case from about 1855 ish that is right for an Adams style revolver.  The case has been partially stripped out, so I just had to get rid of the remnants of the internal lining – stuck on with the usual animal glue so it is relatively easy to steam it and scrape it out – horrid sticky mess though.  The bit I find difficult with fitting/refitting cases is making the partitions – they are thin strips of wood (around 4mm thick x 45mm wide) that need to be chamfered to a fine 1mm edge at the top to wrap the fabric over.  I have yet to find a satisfactory way of putting the bevels on – using a low angle hand plane doesn’t get a very even result so I tried to set up my router table to do the job, but that didn’t do a very even job either.  Maybe I’ll try sanding the bevel on tomorrow – at least its covered by fabric!  When I come to making a new box there is also the problem of the lining strip that goes round the inside of the box – they have a slight chamfer at the top on the outside, and a steeper one on the inside and also a slight recess about 8mm down from the top on the inside that takes the top edge of the fabric.  The lining strips are very conspicuous as the wood shows above the fabric, and need to be made quite cleanly with sharp angles etc. so can’t be fudged.  Not sure how I’ll make them, especially the outside chamfer of maybe 5 degrees which is there to clear the opening of the lid.  I may try using my surface planer in some way with a jig, but handling thin strips of wood is very tricky, it might be better to clamp the wood down and use a hand router with an angled baseplate – maybe stick a soleplate on at an angle  and fix up some guides – I need to think about it!  I can at least temporarily screw the strips to a bearer as the holes can be filled and will be covered by the fabric………

7th May – Sunday morning AML shoot was good – I managed to hit half the clays, which was my target, as they are now quite challenging, although there was one ‘teal’  coming straight towards the muzzle of the gun that I think only one person managed to miss, and only once at that.   I have to correct my ‘tool porn’ post –  I said that there were over a dozen models of the expensive planes – actually when I counted it was 36!  And some hand saws at over £200 each – equipping your ‘tool porn’ workshop with fancy hand tools is going to cost you the price of quite a decent car – which I suppose is fair enough if you like that sort of thing!   I’m doing well filling the skip, and can now get to my woodworking machines – I’ve planed up some 3/8th thick oak to make a pistol box this morning, and fixed my big router back in its table with a car jack under it for height adjustment, so I’m now ready to start!  Now I need to decide what I’m going to box up!

4th May – I can now tell you with some authority that trying to load a flintlock in a hailstorm is no fun.  Its really difficult fishing the hailstones out of the pan before they wet the priming powder!  Apart from that, the ‘Have A Go’ day was good and the participants had fun – fortunately we had just about done the first session when the hail arrived, so we could retire for a cup of tea, and we had similarly just about reached the end of the second session when the lashing rain and howling wind overtook us and lunch beckoned.  My Manton flintlock was going off well – just one ‘flash in the pan’ and a couple of misfires as one flint was on its last legs ( my fault for being famously mean with flints), and one noticeably slow discharge.  We’ve got our regular 40 bird competition tomorrow so I’ll take a percussion double, maybe  the Venables. I should be spending time clearing things out at home as I have a 10 yard skip parked in the drive waiting to be filled with rubbish from my sheds and the house – so far its half full of stuff from the yard and one shed – it would be a pity not to use up all the expensive space…..

I had a look in the Axminster catalogue for a fine saw for making the dovetails – their catalogue always amuses me, I’m afraid I call it ‘tool porn’ for all the ridiculaously expensive cult tools, especially planes – you can pay up to about £470 for a plane, and then you can buy special fancy screwdrivers for working on it for about £25 each – you’ll probably need a set of eight to cover all the screws – oh and if you want the two alternative blocks to give you very slightly different blade angles they will set you back over £100. Now there are of course over a dozen different planes in the series, so you are heading for quite an expensive hobby, even without all the other fancy hand tools you will be needing – and I think you can even buy special bags to keep each of them in – truly tool porn!  Me, I’ll stick to my old slightly rusty Record plane (or more probably the old planer-thicknesser that I had to get the rust off the beds when I finally fought my way through to it yesterday), but they do have a basic saw for £13 that will probably do for the joints…………

3rd May – I seem to have been rather busy with school etc the last few days and the change of month passed me by!  I decided that it would be fun to try my hand at making reproduction pistol cases, particularly for revolvers as they are rather easier to make – they were mostly oak and the tops were often screwed on with small brass screws.  They also have a simple escutcheon on the lid that is not too hard to make as its circular.  The only problem is getting suitable stop hinges that only open to about 95 degrees.  You can buy them but they are expensive – I do have one pair on a rather boring cutlery box so I’ll use those.   I was going to try using a router and a jig for cutting the dovetails but the originals have very small wedges, smaller than any router bits. Anyway I watched a couple of Youtube videos of cutting dovetails and came to the conclusion that it wasn’t really such a big deal making them by hand, and they would be more authentic.  It struck me that there were two very different approaches to getting to be able to make passable joints – one can either start out very carefully doing everything as well as possible, aiming for a perfect result and taking a long time about it so that the first one eventually and with luck turns out right, or one can go at it fast, without worrying too much about getting perfection, but doing it in a fraction of the time of the first method, and then just doing it again several times, keeping the speed but getting better each time.  The second method suits my personality, and means that it doesn’t mattter if you make a mistake – you will have learnt for the next one.  Anyway my second and third attempts are shown below.   Tomorrow I’m helping run a ‘Have a Go ‘ day at Cambridge Gun Club – we will be giving each person 8 percussion shots and two flint shots – I think w’ll have 8 ‘customers’ each so thats 80 shots which is quite a lot with a muzzle loader.  I’ll use my Sam Nock percussion as it takes the same wads etc as my flint Manton.  Should be a busy day.  Then on Sunday we have our monthly shoot at Cambridge so its going to be a very black powder bank holiday w/e.  Its getting near to the Northern Shooting Show – I’ll be packing my kit into the Land Cruiser and heading North to set up my stand in a week- with luck it won’t be too cold as I shall be camping in it when the geat is out. Most of the MLAGB gang camp so we have a bit of a party on Saturday night.  If you come to the show, make sure you look me out in the ‘Artisans’ area.

The wood on the top one (third attempt) is a bit thick for a box so it looks wrong.  The bottom box is a real one that will have my Beaumont Adams in it when I’ve done the inside.

28th April – I’m sure I posted on here a couple of days ago, but must have forgotten to press the ‘publish’ button!  Put it down to age…..  I had a pleasant trip to deepest Norfolk to see a friend who has a nice collection.  I have been invited to go and photograph some of his guns for the blog, so as soon as I can find a couple of days free I’ll go.  The O/U is now finished – I reshaped the ramrod end as it didn’t rest easy against the barrel and rib, and it now looks comfortable!  I was looking through ‘The Price Guide to Antique Guns and Pistols’ by Peter Hawkins – its of course massively out of date (1977) so the prices are of historic interest only, but it has over 1000 illustrations and useful comments – Peter Hawkins was the Christies gun man before they gave up selling guns, so his observations are still valid.  I am amused by some of his comments on the aesthetics of  some lesser pistols!   I had a session of making cloth covers for any gun or pistol cases that don’t already have them, as they are handy if you pile up cases and try to pull ones out of the middle of the pile!  I need to shift some more of my collection to make room for new acquisitions – I am putting a cased pair of Liege pistols that Dick restored some time ago on the For Sale page.  Email me if you are interested.  I was looking out some locks for a YouTube video on lock mechanisms and found these three as a nice size contrast;-The biggest is from an East India Company wall gun of 1793, its 9 1/4 inches long.  The second is (probably) a bog standard India pattern type Musket lock, probably of the Napoleaonic war period ( I don’t have the musket it came off) and the little lock is from a fine silver mounted horse pistol by Barbar of about 1760.  All have in common a mainspring without a link, a frizzen without roller  and a frizzen spring held by an external screw.

24th April – I went into school as The Black Knight this morning, having put my suit of armour in the classroom under wraps yesterday – great fun with the year 1 & 2 kids (5/6/7).    I spent another few hours sorting the O/U pistol first bending the left cock to match the right, and then inumerable goes at filing a bit off the sear and putting it back and checking to see if the full and half cock poisitions of the cocks lined up.  I had made the new sear as a careful copy of the old one ( which was a bit bent and not working) but in the end had to file the nose down 1 1/2 mm to get the cocks to line up – ergo the damaged sear could not have been the right one?  Anyway I got them lined up to a pretty good tolerance – I then found when I put the locks in the pistol ( I’d been doing the lining up in a jig) that the new sear arm needed slightly bending to give a bit of clearance on the trigger blade. Once done the sear was hardened and then tempered at about 225 degrees C to take the brittleness out of it.   I just need to decide if I need to modify the ramrod, and we are done.  I had a look at the remaining Harding little pistol parts – the stock is in need on pretty major surgery – its one of those jobs where you think it might almost be easier to restock it rather than struggel to repair, but that is almost never a good option as any value in the pistol is much reduced compared to a careful repair.  I cleaned off the wood with paint stripper to see what was there and discovered that there were old repairs using panel pins – I need to get the furniture off and have a good look, but in the meantime here is a photo;-

22nd April – yet more lovely weather!  I sorted out the boat from yesterday and then remade the ramrod for the O/U pistol as it had been badly damaged – I bought a nice length of straight grained ebony about 30 mm square some time ago and cut some lengths into 12 x 12 mm for ramrods so I cut a bit off a long length for the pistol and turned it in the woodturning lathe – it was quite short, so no problem with whip – actually I was amazed at how strong the ebony was, I turned a bit down to about 1 mm diameter to separate it and it was quite difficult to break!  Anyway its all coming together now – I realised that before I can finish the sear to give the exact positions I need to bend one of the cocks slightly as it was at some time dropped on it, the bend is no problem as its only a few mm but it will make a difference to the sear.  I will heat it up before bending in case that turns out to be problematic too.  I was going to try to soften the little screw that is sheared off in the lockplate by playing a very fine flame on it – I have the perfect torch – a Turbogas 90 – that I had for lead welding, it can use a hypodermic syringe of 18 gauge for a nozzle so has an extremely fine flame.  Unfortunately it has run out of Oxygen, so I’ll have to wait while some comes care of ebay!  Oh, and I did manage to fit in an hour and a half of climbing (bouldering) this afternoon, so I should sleep well tonight! They are making all the climbs more difficult, or I am getting worse, I prefer the former explanation.

Here is the browned O/U barrel with the new ramrod.

21st April – another lovely day here! Took the dinghy to Wolverston and had a decent sail on the Orwell – extremely pleasant, just an adequate breeze for 4 in the dinghy without any gymnastics,   I didn’t have any time for anything else, but I was thinking about the problems with the internal lock parts of the O/U pistol – when I got it to sort there were a couple of bits of the bridles broken where they were thin round the screws, even though they shouldn’t come under any great stress.  I asked a materials scientist friend of Giles who was sailing with us about possible causes, and she offered to take a sample and polish it and look at it under a Scanning Electron Micaroscope to see what the structure is and look for any possible problems.   There is always someone in Cambridge who can provide expert advice on technical problems if you can find them!  I think all the bits of the pistol works have been hardened to an inch of their lives – one of  the screws was broken off in the lock plate and as there was nothing to get hold of,  I tried to drill a small hole through the embedded screw – my brand new HSS drills wouldn’t even mark it.  Screws are not usually that hard as it makes them too brittle, so I’m not sure what is going on.  I don’t know if I dare to put the whole lot in a furnace and temper them to dark blue to get rid of any brittleness.


20 th April  I spent a happy 4 hours on the replacement sear for the O/U pistol, as well as getting the boat ready for a sail tomorrow – take advantage of the weather while you can!  For the sear, I milled a strip of spring steel to fix the main shape and then filed it – I am now at the stage of very cautiously filing the nose of the sear to set the full cock position – since the pistol has a lock on each side, its critical that the cocks are aligned at half and full cock or it looks like poor workmanship or a bodged repair.  The sear probably needs to be filed and honed after hardening and tempering to within 1/10 th of a mm.  I had a couple of problems with getting clearance for the sliding safety that was catching on the sear, until I discovered a drip of araldite on the safety from some crude previous repair!  I always leave small parts attached to the bulk of the metal until the last moment as it makes life much easier – After shaping the sear I welded the arm on and tidied it up.  It would all be so much easier if I had a working cnc miller!

New and old stacked – not a bad fit!

Final fitting and tidying up  to do, but more or less there, thank goodness!

19th April  I put the O/U pistol together and the right hand lock would not cock – on taking it out the sear fell out – half the bearing had broken off – this was the sear that had been welded in the past, and had a folded over tip I had to straighten out.  Not sure what happened to the metal here, but it clean broke off the thin bit of the bearing.  I guess I could get Jason to pile a bit of weld on it, or do it myself, but the nose of the sear is still a source of concern after it was straightened out, so I think its a case of making a new sear.  I’ve photgraphed the sear against a rule so I can work out the necessary two hole centres, one for the bearing and the other for the curve that fits against the tumbler – if I get those right and drill/mill my blank it should  fit when I attack the rest of the outline.  Its a job I could do without, but I don’t think there is any sensible alternative.   It won’t happen for a few days as the weather is so nice that I’m getting the dinghy ready to go sailing on Sunday on the Stour.

There is a small crack from the bottom just to the right of the bearing hole so definitely not worth trying to repair!

The arm was already repaired – I guess its just a bad piece of metal!

18th April  I finished the browning of the O/U pistol barrel – a nice even figure.  I have cleaned out the chequering a little, not recut it, just got rid of the ingrained dirt that always obscures it.  I also renewed the escutchon as the oniginal had dents and scratches that I couldn’t get out.  It is looking good.  I ordered some old Nettlefold woodscrews from ebay to engrave at the Northern Shooting Show where I’ll be doing my regular engraving demonstrations – I give engraved screws to children who show interest.  The seller, Tony,  rang me to say he hadn’t got the size I’d specified but as the length isn’t important he had others suitable.  We had a very interesting discussion about the uses of pre war woodscrews – he has a brisk business selling old stock to all sorts of restoration projects and reenactment makers – I’m his first screw-head engraver!  Anyway as I give them away to children he kindly upped the quentities he was sending – so I probably have a lifetime’s supply now.  I will engrave a couple for him – he said he will make a donation to a charity that makes prostheses for children  without any official funding  – have a look at http://www.teamunlimbited.org and donate if you feel inspired.  I’ll make a donation in return for all those extra screws too.   I finished the tumbler/sear/sear spring bits of the dog lock – enough to demonstrate how the horizontal sear works.  Shame I haven’t got the mainspring casting for it – maybe I’ll make one some day. ( the nail pivot for the sear is so that I can easily remove it to show the workings).

17th April – I made a ramrod for the Purdey Rifle – it needed something as it looked a bit bare without one. I didn’t have time to make a proper one out of the ebony that I have, so I made a simple one with a dummy instead of a worm.  I went to a re-enactors fair last year and there was a chap selling ash blanks for arrrows so I bought all of the straight ones he had and have kept them taped to a straight edge.  The nominal 10 mm ones fitted the pipes on the Purdey almost perfectly – I just needed to put the blank in the lathe and sand the inboard end down a bit to give a good fit, then fit the dummy end and the top end and colour the wood up a bit, and the gun looks much happier although its a nice rifle and does deserve better – I’ll get round to it when I have time to round off the ebony squares and can find my worm ends.   I’m rebrowning the O/U barrel again – I stripped the over browning off in the electrolytic deruster and then polished off the residue with 7000 grade paper.  Its looking good and I’m proceeding very carefully to avoid a repeat of the over browning.  I am fettling up a partial set of castings of an English doglock as a demonstration piece to show a lock with a horizontal sear – it took me a while to work out how the lock was supposed to function as it wasn’t immediately obvious from the bits I had – I have now got the sear working on full and half cock, and need to make a sear spring – its also missing the mainspring and the steel/frizzen/hammer or whatever you choose to call it.  Not sure if I’ll bother to make all the bits as I don’t intend to make a gun from it at the moment.

16th April – Busy day – I got out a couple of percussion rifles to see what I might put on my license and shoot at some point this summer – I found bullet moulds for my Staudenmeyer 30 bore – it takes a 34 bore ball and a 10 thou patch, and my Purdey that takes a 95 bore ball with a 12 thou patch. Anyway I did a bit of casting – the best accessory I’ve come across is the pourer designed by Jeff Tanner consisting of a small CO2 cylinder with the outlet hole cleared and a section cut off the top of the back, mounted on a shaft with a wooden handle.  Keep it in the molten lead and just pour it nto the bullet mould – keeps the dross out, and once the mould is up to temperature it gives a nice clean cast.   I occasionally get asked if I do gold inlay, so I thought it was time I had a go, so I splashed out on 2 inches of 0.5 mm pure gold wire – that was about £8, so £1 per quarter inch!  Anway I blew a bit of it on a test inlay 1 mm wide, which worked except that in punching it in I slightly dented the steel and didn’t quite get the groove I’d cut filled – there was not much surplus gold above the surface.  I have a supply of fine silver in the shape of vacuum gaskets so I decided it would be cheaper to mess about with that and save my remaining  bit of gold!  I did a quick test to see if the silver was soft enough (it needed annealing), using a script letter I had previously cut – and it worked – this time I had a decent excess of silver after I had punched it in, so it filled the cut properly.  I made the cuts with a number of cuts with the square graver to remove metal, then cut to the edges with the square graver canted to give a near vertical edge, then undercust with an Onglette as best I could.  I also nicked the bottoms of the grooves with the point of the square graver to give the silver some more purchase.  It looks possible, at least worth trying to do it properly!

Well, its a start!

14th April – I’ve been away for a couple of days sorting our cottage in Cornwall ready for letting via AirB&B – Mainly a new cooker and smarten up the terrace.   Back home I was looking through my bits and pieces to see what projects I could come up with.  I found a massive original East India Company flintpock by Moore (with replacement cock) that I was going to drop into my wall gun that had been converted to a punt gun.  I also have a set of original parts for a 1768 military pistol that needs a barrel and a stock and  few bits and pieces. Plus a set of parts for a pair of Wogden duelling pistols (minus cocksand stocks and a few bits) and a set of castings and wood for a double flint gun.  I ought to put some of the bits on my ‘guns for sale’ page so other people could have a go at making them up – I’ll sort through and see what I can find.  I’m still trying to get a cock for the other little Harding that almost matches my Post Office pistol.  I’m in communication with Jessica at the Post Office Museum, they have a little Harding pistol very similar to mine and I emailed to ask if it has the crown and broad arrow stamps on lock and barrel like mine. If not, they should aquire mine and have the real thing!  The reason I was rumaging was to find a set of doglock castings that I had somewhere, to use them  in a video – I found them – there are a few bits missing but there are enough to show the principle – so I started to file them up so I could make the bits I| have work enough to demonstrate the horizontal sear

10th April – I was doing my homework in preparation for making some videos on the history of antique firearms and came across a series of youtube videos – called Forgotten Weapons -from the US that describe some of the guns being offered by Rock Island auction house – mostly breech loaders but a few real antiques like the Lorenzoni and a couple of wheellocks. The videos are well made and informative so I’ll take what I can learn from them and not duplicate what they already do.  I have yet to see a video of anyone actually firing a Lorenzoni but there must be someone out there who has.  I do have a friend who has one in his collection but I haven’t so far managed to persuade him to let me fire it!!!!!

8th April – I ordered a 3 m length of 1/4 inch by 2 inch mild steel bar, cut into 300 mm lengths to use as trial plates for engraving practice.  A friend offered to surface grind them to get rid of the cold rolled skin that makes engraving them a bit like engraving a ploughed field although you can’t actually see the unevenness.  When they are ready I’ll cut them in half and put some on the ‘For Sale’ page.  I have a project for half a dozen of them – I want to make a set representing different vernacular gun engraving styles ( i.e. from guns that were intended to be used, not presentation pieces which I find altogether over the top).  I am fond of the late 17th century / early 18th century style – strawberry leaves and grotesque faces, but things went a bit quiet on the engraving front for a few years, then a rather loopy but quite sparse style came in towards the third quarter of the 18th century.  The last quarter of the 18th century and the beginning of the 19th were the heyday of the Palmer style with running leaf borders and poor representations of birds and dogs with liberal additions of scrolls.  The second quarter of the 19th century saw a marked improvement in the technical aspects of gun engraving with Gumbrell and contempories which persisted alongside the heirs to the Palmer tradition, plus the introduction of all over simple scrollwork and a wide variety of border styles round locks with a range of finess.  By the late 19th century engraving had become almost the only  thing that distinguished the guns of the top gunmakers like Boss, Purdy and Holland, causing them to adopt distinctive engraving styles – at that point I loose interest!  Before anyone corrects me, I do realise that the above is a gross simplification, but does convey a sense of the progress of the art. See Beginners Guide to Engraving on this blog….  Anyway it will make a nice set of exercises for me!

7 th April – Sorry about the absence of diary entries – other work took precedence.  I browned the big o/u barrel – it was going nicely but a bit light coloured, so I used my ex PCB browning –  I must have swabbed it on too liberally and then wiped off some of the excess as it went very wrong – part of the barrel went quite black, some stayed brown with the twist pattern visible and some appeared to have lost most of its browning – there is nothing for it but to start again.  I will use the electrolytic derusting as that should remove most of the browning without taking any more metal off.  I may have to go over it with 2000 grit paper but will take care to avoid the lettering.  I am still busy with sorting out some patent work so it will have tobe put on hold for a week or so!  I feel stupid as I am perfectly aware that you need to put the browning on very sparingly – hardly wetting the surface at all.

3rd April – I was preparing the barrel of the big over and under flintlock pistol and decided that my expensive ( £25) 6 inch No 6 file was a bit dead so I remembered reading somewhere that you could revitalise files by putting them in dilute (10%) Nitric acid, so as I happen to have some Nitric Acid left over from my experiments with anodising, I tried it.  well, the file fizzed happily for a few minutes before I rescued it, and did seem a quite a bit better. so I put most of my 6 inch files in the acid for a few minutes.  They need drying and oiling afterwards as the surface is highly reactive.  Anyway,  I finished the barrel with 3 grades of wet and dry wrapped round a hard, flat object ( small sharpening stone)  – 600, 1000 and 2000 after the No 6 draw filing.  I’ve given it about half a dozen rustings so far, not letting any of them run too long, and its developing a good figure – those  classic flintlock over and under pistols usually had well figured barrels, and the two barrels were made separately and brazed together – I have a feeling that they matched up the two barrels at the joint pretty carefully to respect the twist pattern.

2nd April II – Yesterday I got a very nice 12 bore boxlock ejector by Askill for a friend, who was delighted with it – nice side by side shotguns can be had for a song as hardly anyone shoots them now.  I finished the engraving of Fred’s gun bits today – a few difficulties, like a screwhead that my normal gravers couldn’t mark – I had to dig away with the GRS pneumatic, and then only managed a few crude cuts – it wasn’t hard, just very tough.  Another one I had to engrave was dead hard, but that was Ok because it annealed OK.  I finished the false breech for a single barreled gun of 1770 style, based loosly on that of my Twigg single of about the same date – The metal was pretty horrible and part of it had to be done with the GRS, I am ashamed to say!   I’ve been stripping and fettling a heavy flintlock over and under pistol – one of the locks wouldn’t engage half cock, and then wouldn’t engage either bent.  stripping it revealed the tip of the sear bent into a nice U shape!  The leg of the sear had been welded, so the tip must have been annealed in the welding process and being quite thin, just bent right over.  Anyway I managed to heat it up to red heat and bend it with a fine pair of round nosed pliers until I could flatten it.  It was then heated to bright red and quenched and tempered so it is now working.  In stripping the pistol I had some difficulty in freeing the ‘nail’ in the false breech tang – in most guns it goes through the stock into the trigger plate, so is a ‘bolt’, but in this case it was just a woodscrew, which explains why it was really difficult to get out even when it had started.  ( loading these photos I realised I still needed to engrave the ‘flanks’ of the false breech as they shouldn’t be left plain.)

Obviously the screw is not the proper screw – its just to hold it for engraving!

2nd April – The blog has just passed 2 million visits in the  5 years it has been going – here is a snapshot at 11 a.m.

Online Users: 0
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Today: 93 475
Yesterday: 196 1,222
Last 7 Days: 1,313 9,010
Last 30 Days: 5,593 37,526
Last 365 Days: 96,261 693,216
Total: 284,659 2,001,208

31 March – I had to make a new pair of nipples for the Venables as the originals were just too small to hold the standard caps tightly and I had a couple of ‘misfires’ where the cap had fallen off, so I had to pinch each cap slightly before putting it on.  Is a shame as the originals were ‘proper’ nipples with a small (about 1 m.m.) hole through a narrow waist in the centre of the nipple.  I made a video of the making, but the second one just didn’t go well!  I got too gung ho and tried to cut the titanium  too fast with my HSS tool – quite spectacular as the heat set light to the swarf coming off the cut and there was a very bright flash that burnt the tip of the tool away!  Not sure if I have that on video or not.  Anyway I eventually  ended up with a pair of nipples that are a perfect fit for the caps.  Then lawn mowing took over……………..

30th March – shooting at Cambridge Gun Club – with the Venables.  It obviously fits me as I only missed one clay in the first 8 but it was downhill from there as usual – still I do manage most of the ones that  simulate game!  I shot some ‘driven’ clays later with my big Miruku and that was OK ish so not too unhappy at the result!  There was a supplementary shoot in the afternoon with long range clays – 60 yds and up – I didn’t take part as it seemed a triumph of hope over expectation  – the best score was 5/13.  At that range with the average antique barrel I would reckon that at best you would stand a 50% chance of breaking the clay even if it was in the centre of your pattern as there are usually plenty of clay sized holes at that range.  I’ve now got all the bits for filming videos, although I’m having trouble getting my old camera to cooperate with the HDMI screen.   I’m trying to put together something on the history of firearms as an intro, but the trouble is that its very difficult to get hold of anything before about 1750 to film, and I don’t know anyone who shoots wheellocks, or Mingulet locks for that mattter.  Anyway I’m working on it, and on some more engraving videos.  I have been doing a bit of practice and I am beginning to think it might just be worth using special steel gravers – GRS sell some in what they call GLENSTEEL – I have one and as long as you don’t break the point it lasts much longer than my normal ones before it needs sharpening – the only trouble is that when the point breaks it usually takes of quite a chunk of metal and takes longer to sharpen as its harder. I have one single barreled false breech to engrave for Fred, so I’ll try and do a video of that – I may copy the false breech of my Joseph Manton Tubelock as its quite attractive and not too longwinded – to be decided, as they say.

29th March – I have thought of a great new business opportunity – selling newspapers from which every mention of Brexit has been expunged – I anticipate a brisk trade, although I fear there won’t be much left to read !  Had a pleasant morning discussing guns with a regular client who collected a pair of pistols that we renovated, and left a nice cased pair of 1785 ish pistols that need a bit of attention, and a hefty over and under flint pocket pistol of around 1810 or so that will freshen up into something better.  I didn’t get any time for engraving – I’m keen to keep my hand in and maybe do a couple more videos – I guess that ones of something being engraved are likely to be more popular than explanations!  I just remembered in time that I’m shooting tomorrow and that the Venables is a 14 bore and all my overshot cards are a bit small at 16 bore, so I had to dig out a 14 bore punch and make a few.  I will try the Venables, as I’ve spent so long doing it up that I need to get some use from it.  I think I have now sorted out resoldering barrels after three tries, so I’m quite gung ho about another try!

28th March – Almost at the end of another month!  I had another look at the Venables with a view to shooting it – it still has the nipples that I bought it with, and they have a fairly big hole right the way through.  I tried to fit the spare titanium nipples I have but they wouldn’t go all the way in – checking the depth of the tapped holes in the gun I think it is not that they are too long in the thread, but that I haven’t tapped them far enough up to the flange.  Its a problem because the dies always have a long taper on the lead-in and don’t cut right up to the shoulder.  I tried relieving the thread at the top but obviously not enough.  My die is ground off on the reverse side so that it doesn’t have such a long taper, but obviously not enough to do the job.  I would have a go at sorting the titanium ones, but tomorrow is a busy day and I’m shooting on Saturday – in fat I don’t know when I will be able to fit in next week’s shopping… maybe we’ll starve!  I’ve continued to sort out what I will need to do my videos of guns – I  am making some test runs to try out different lighting arrangements.

27th March – I survived my Ofsted interrogation so far, we have to return tomorrow afternoon to learn what the Inspector makes of our school!  I’ve put another screwheads video on youtube – and on the VIDEOS page here.  I’m just doing a few simple ones as practice for what I hope will be a series on the history of firearms.  We have an AML clay shoot at Cambridge on Saturday, I may just put the Venables on my ticket and try it, or I might follow my resolution and just stick to one gun,  my old Samuel Nock.  I have been a bit dissapointed at my shooting with my 20 bore hammer gun (when I give up on stuffing things down the barrel of the muzzle loader) – it has a very tight choke, but I don’t think that is the main reason – I have a feeling that it is a bit light and I end up waving it about in the air.  I might just take my big Miroku U/O and see if I can still shoot with that, it hasn’t had an outing for ages.

26th March – it never rains but it pours!  We learnt this evening that the school is to have an OFSTED inspection tomorrow, so governors have to go in to be quizzed by one of Her Majesty’s Inspectors about what we are doing to improve the school! I wish there was a simple answer to that, but I don’t expect repairing the doorbell will cut much ice!  My youtube videos are getting a few views, I’ve nearly done another one, but I find that I really need a decent microphone – is there no end to the expense involved?  They are relaying the road just outside our house through the nights this week, and at the moment there is an enormous machine that is shaking the whole house in a very disturbing way – no chance of sleep while that is going on 20 yards from the bedroom window, so not only do I have to face an OFSTED grilling, but have to do it after a sleepless night. Please excuse my somewhat negative post!

25th March – Did our STEM club at school – we were doing the experiment of inverting a glass over a burning candle – two competent scientists and we still couldn’t work out exactly what is going on – all the simple explanations on the web are clearly wrong, being far too simple – I think it is a number of processes going on simultaneously but we couldn’t work out any numbers.  The main problem is where all the oxygen ends up after it is burnt – it should be converted to carbon dioxide and take a comparable volume, but it doesn’t!  Puzzle…….  And while at school I was asked to take my suit of armour in and be a knight next term – makes a change from fixing their doorbell today!

24th March – I had a comment (see CONTACTS) from someone who took me to task for restoring firearms and for shooting animals.  As it’s the first time I’ve received such a comment I thought I’d reply via this post.  I support the right of my correspondent to hold whatever legal views she likes, and am more than happy to give my response in detail on this occasion.   My interest in restoring antique firearms is separate from my interest in shooting – in fact most of the restoration I do is of guns that could not be used, and would be unsuitable for any kind of sporting use.  Our cultural and engineering history has been intimately connected with firearms for the last 400 years – during that time they represented the only advanced mechanical systems manufactured in any significant quantities, and most advances in metalurgy and engineering were associated with firearms manufacture – two examples illustrate this, the first that around 7 milion examples of the Brown Bess musket and its derivatives were made to a broadly similar design in the years from1700 to 1830 while NO other engineering products even reached a thousanth of that output – giving rise to the concept of pattern manufacture and standardisation.  The second example is that when Newcomen invented the steam engine he was dependent upon technology developed for cannon boring to produce the cylinders. Guns represented the peak of both quantity and quality production and  are deeply embedded in our history – To ignore or allow such important artefacts to decay because of a recent cultural shift, however well meaning, would be to trample on our history.    As far as using  guns for shooting is concerned, most people who shoot do so at either clays or targets, not game, and as such enjoy a challenging and physical sport that harms no-one.  I defend my right to shoot game  – like the majority of the population I eat meat and don’t shy away from occasionally killing to provide some of that meat rather than sub-contract all the killing to others.  I am, as are my friends , always conscious of our duty to have regard for our quarry and to avoid wounding, and there are some aspects of game shooting, particularly when it doesn’t give rise to useful food, that I disapprove of.  As far as culling and control is concerned, in most cases shooting is widely regarded as the most humane method – think of more humane alternatives to shooting for deer or boar control.  One  large estate in Eastern England has been told by Nature England that it needs to cull 400  older head of deer a year to maintain a healthy population – I don’t know of any method more humane than (skilled) shooting to selectively cull such large numbers – perhaps my correspondent knows of a better way? Humans have removed the top predators from some species and we need to take on that role to preserve the health of the stock.  There are now supposed to be more deer in the UK than at any time in our history, and its likely to be true of wild boar within 30 years. Finally,  I challenge the assertion she makes that I have no moral conscience or compassion – it just may not align completely with hers, although I bet it does over the vast majority of issues!

P.S. I did a Youtube video on engraving screw heads – see VIDEOS at the top.

23rd March – I didn’t find the foresight of the Venables so I had great fun making a new one – very fiddly!  the hole appeared to be tapped 8 B.A. so I made mine that size although Dick said they were mostly 7 B.A.  Anyway the Venables is now complete and a very fine gun too!  I may replace one of my shooting doubles with it.  I’ve been planning a few more Youtube videos for the future – I’m told that things like watching engraving are popular, so I’ll do a few, but I really want to do some on the history of firearms – I’d like to  be able to show some of the splendid guns that various friends have in their collections – there is so much of interest in the history.

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

This is how it started out! It really is that bent.

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

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

Done -about 1/4 inch of cast off now – perfect for me.

19th March – watched bits of Holts sale on the web – I was right about the percussion guns being overpriced – lots didn’t sell and some just crept in over the line.  I didn’t buy – I was hoping the Fenton repro flint rifle (410) would go for near the bottom estimate as I wanted it to shoot but had reservations about the lockwork, which didn’t quite match up to the standard of the rest of the rifle – any way it just crept above my limit so I didn’t bid – I usually wait until everyone has had a shout before I come in – I always bid at Holts by phone as I feel it gives more control.    I picked out two other lots to watch, the Samuel Nock single gun (526) which had a perfect barrel, although I’m sure it was a Birmingham gun and I wouldn’t attach much weight to the Nock name on the barrel – there was no name on the lock – it made £800 – I might  have been vaguely interested at £700 but by the time you add the 30% buyer’s premium (Inc VAT) things get expensive.  My thoughts that the Pape boxlock was nice (1700)  were shared by a couple of other people, so it went above top estimate.  Pistols did a bit better than percussion long guns but the auctioneers were having to work hard to shift stuff.  The Unsold Lots sale will be bulging!   I filled in the time around the auction finishing off the false breech of Fred’s gun – I am reasonably happy with how it looks – I put a flower and foliage on the tip of the tang and then realised that traditionally the tang engraving has a cutout background so I dug it out.  My struggle with the metal of the false breech was real – the right side was soft, and the left side was a pig to engrave, so I resorted to the GRS gravermax for all of it.  If you look carefully you might see the difference between the engraving of the flower and foliage near the breech that I did by hand and the ‘assisted’ engraving of the rest.  It is almost impossible to reproduce the effect of hand engraving using an ‘assisted’ graver – but you would need to be quite used to looking in detail at old style engraving to know the difference.  But it explains why any traditional ‘English’ engraving done using a GRS on Lindsay graver or a hammer looks completely wrong to me – and unfortunately that is most of the ’19 century English’ stuff turned out in the States.

18th March – Don’t know what happened, I put up a post on my viewing at Holts but it didn’t get published, I must have forgotten to press the button. Anyway a few things of interest – lots of expensive percussion double shotguns – all the rage and some are definately overpriced, particularly if you want them for shooting.  The best bargain I saw was a single barreled percussion with a bore to die for  – I’d buy it but I have a couple already and am trying to slim down my collection.  I was tempted by a Pape boxlock ejector which was very sound and pretty but I’ve already got a gun lined up for my friend so don’t need another shotgun.  I do have one bid in, but you’ll have to wait til tomorrow to find out what it is/was.  I have been getting on with Fred’s engraving – I had another go at the false breech of the double 1795 gun – in the end I used my 1803 John Manton as a pattern.  The metal was very variable – one side of the breech end was like butter and the other side was very tricky – I ended up doing some of it with my GRS gravemax pneumatic graver – I am reluctant to use it because the engraving you do with it isn’t really right for the 19th century, but its fine for straight border lines.  I have to finish the tang off but overall I’m happy with it although at the moment I seem to be doing rather fine and delicate engraving – I’m not sure what has changed, or indeed if anything has!  I put my first cablesfarm YouTube video up today – graver sharpening, its not wonderful, but they will get better.  I am building up my equipment for making videos – I managed to get a nearly new £140 tripod head for £12 from ebay – it is quite time consuming making the videos but it will get easier…  I got caught at school today while running my club – could I come in for the next three Friday afternoons to work with one lad?  Welll yes…..    And another school puzzle that Dave and I are struggling with  – if you light a candle in a plate of water and invert a glass over it, the water will rise in the glass – why?  We reckon that the volume of gas produced  by combusion (CO2) is the equal to the oxygen (O2)  burned by Avogadro’s law, and the heat produced would have the opposite effect and lower the water level  – we don’t like any of the conventional explanations we have seen so far, including that from Harvard University.  We don’t buy into the heat argument as it doesn’t work the right way  and the burning oxygen doesn’t work because the CO2 is equal in volume ( where else could the Oxygen go?).  There are two factors that are not usually taken into account – since the burning process breaks down hydrocarbons water is produced as steam which should increase the pressure inside the glass.  The other factor to check out is that the carbon dioxide produced dissolves in water to a greater extent than oxygen, but not enough, we think. to produce the observed effect.  We plan to try with an oil film on the water to eliminate that possibility. Suggestions on a postcard…. as they used to say before email!

I didn’t get the lighting right!

15th March – Off to Holts to look at a few guns tomorrow – there is not much of great interest, and some seems a bit expensive.  Shootable flint and percussion sporting guns are now desirable as more and more people get into game shooting the slow way and the better quality percussion guns are rising in price somewhat, even without a ‘famous’ name.  I have been making a trial video of graver sharpening – not as bad as I thought it might be!  I have plans for a series for YouTube to drive traffic for this website – it will be interesting to see if more people find them than arrive at this website.  The first one is at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mi4DuohCRLE

14th March – Some of the lads were shooting at Eriswell today (OAP  cheap day!) but when I saw the rain and wind I suddenly remembered all the other things I needed to do!  The Venables barrel turned out very nicely after its copper sulphate dip and five brownings with Blackley’s slow brown and one overnight browning with nothing, plus a good steaming at the end.  All the ‘rustings’ were stopped before it looked anything like rust – in fact the only way I could really tell anything had happened was when I came to rub off the surface with 0000 steel wool and there was some very slight roughness in the surface finish that went when rubbed lightly.  The photo below was taken hand-held – something I never normally do, hence the slight shake.   I went to see Dick as a colleague was bringing a 12 bore boxlock ejector for me to have a look at – I am trying to find a nnice one for a friend.  This one will, I think, do very nicely – its an Atkins Birmingham gun, nicely finished and with immaculate barrels.  My only slight reservation is that its chambered  2 1/2 inch and I  did want a 2 3/4 gun, but the this one will do fine as the recipient doesn’t shoot big loads.  You get such good stuff for almost no money in those side by side guns if you steer clear of a few overpriced makers.   I’ve done the first bit of Fred’s engraving for a gun he is making – a sideplate – I put on a simple border and copied (with a fair amount of licence) a ‘stand of arms’ from a pull he sent me of an original.  Mine is quite lightly engraved – I was using a little GRS C-MAX square graver in carbide instead of my normal 1/8 inch squares, and I think that made me a bit more delicate.  It was actually quite nice to work with, I might use it for a bit now, and maybe buy another one or two ( at £22 each!)  I have been sorting out stuff to begin making videos, and have added a new Canon M50 camera to my collection to keep by the microscope.

Poor photo but you can see the true damascus stands out well.

Side plate for a new flintlock in the style of about 1770 ish.

12th March – the day for tackling the Venables Barrel.  I cleaned out my derusting barrel tank (a half section of rectangular plastic ventilation duct) and put in enough saturated copper sulphate solution to cover a barrel (guessed).  I was unsure how long the barrel should be in the solution – I seemed to remember 2 minutes being given, but Angier in Firearms Blueing and Browning gives 45 minutes.  Anyway I put the barrel in and it was more or less instantly covered with a coating of copper all over.  As the copper is deposited because it is swapped with iron in the solution, quite a lot of iron was being lost by the barrel.  Seeing the rate copper was forming, I decided that the 2 minute option was the safest choice, and when the copper was brushed off and the barrel washed, the damascus was discreetly enhanced.  I’ve done two ‘rustings’ since, rubbing off the barrel well before thick brown rust is formed – in fact I’m rubbing off with 0000 steel wool quite early in the rusting when the barrel has just begun to look  changed – it seems to be working as I can see a decent pattern emerging.  I went climbing this evening and bumped into a couple of people I know – its a ver sociable sport – I should sleep well tonight!

11th March – Did my Stem club today – one lad ahd an experiment he wanted to do for his science project that he had got off You Tube, which looked dodgy to me – turns out that some criminal idiot is putting spoof science videos for children on You Tube – I’ll have to go in tomorrow and put the lad right or he will be in for a big disappointment – I’d like to get my hands on said criminal idiot………!  I did manage to help another child write a rather neat progam for teh microbit computer so not all gloom and doom!  I’m continuing to experiment in preparation for making videos – I got my expensive 60mm Canon macro lens back from the lab – its just the thing for filming engraving so I built a handy stand and had a tryout on autofocus – I’ve now got to maser the video editing and I should be away!  I need a quick way to show the tool tips at high magnification with good illumination – its quite difficult to see, even at x25 magnification in my microscope as the heels are only about 1/4 mm long.

Camera stand from a bit of tube and a 2.5 Kg gym weight

not sure why the turntable looks so bright – its really quite dull!

10th March – The Venables barrel is becoming a bit of a saga!  I’ve now taken all the browning off again, and am toying with the idea of giving it a dip in copper sulphate solution to give the damascus a bit of a boost – it slightly etches the steel and iron differently.  I’ll try to get it all finished and wrapped up this week!  I have been experimenting with making videos of engraving – I can’t use my microscope cameras as  neither are really good enough and the better of the two takes up one eyepiece of the microscope so I have to engrave one-eyed which I don’t like.  I find that I can fix my normal Canon EOS 760D with its 55 -135mm lens so it takes a reasonable video of engraving at a decent magnification, so I’m trying that – I just need to make a stand for it and learn to use a free video editor – VDSC.  I  want to make a few You Tube videos to complement this website – they seem to get loads of views so it would probably help get a few more visitors to the blog.  I am planning one on making gravers, one on sharpening and a few on looking at historic gun engraving and doing a few examples of classic bits of design.  It will help keep me off the streets, – I can’t give up climbing  thought as I’ve just bought a pair of climbing shoes and it will take me 23 sessions to recoup the investment compared to hiring the shoes each time!

8th – I continued to brown the Venables barrel and it was going quite slowly but I could see the true damascus pattern coming out, then, on the fourth browning it went a dark opaque chestnut colour and showed almost no pattern whatsoever – I’m not sure what happened, maybe I left it a bit too long before rubbing off the rust.  I tried rubbing it down with 5000 grit paper and 000 grade wire wool but it didn’t seem to do much.  The I tried the 000 wool lubricated with gun lube and before I had realised it, I’d rubbed almost through a patch of browning – I don’t quite understand why the gun lube suddenly made the wire wool bite, but it did.  Anyway I will take the browning back to a uniform level and have another go – what a  bore.  It has happened before to Dick with my Bales of Ipswich barrels, so I shouldn’t be surprised although I have never had any problems in 10 or more jobs I have done so far.   I was idly looking at a you tube on graver sharpening and came across the alternative sharpening technique of putting ‘parallel heels’ on  gravers.  The claimed advantage is that the graver isn’t so liable to throw up spurious  marks round the outside of tight curves as a triangular heel does.  In the parallel heel sharpening, the heels are  continuous surfaces of constant width ( 1/4 to 1/2 mm) parallel to the bottom edges of the main face, rather than small triangular faces.  The problem with parallel heels is jigging them to the right angle for sharpening as the graver needs to be held at a compound angle and its tricky to set up without a proper GRS setting jig that is very expensive and slow to use.  I have tried  and failed in the past to make a suitable jig – I’ll have to think about it some more.  It would be quite handy as it would be easier to control the heel cut as more metal would need to be removed.  Anyway something to think about…..   Here is a photo of the cast off on the Venables stock – it must be getting on for 3/4 inch and needs to be reduced to 1/4 or 5/16ths.  I have had to take off the furniture as the trigger plate runs into the bend in the stock and is currently inlet slightly off centre, so it will have to be adjusted after straigtening the stock.  I’ll have to make an adjustable jig and heat up the ‘hand’ to make it flexible – it can be heated with a hot air gun, a steamer or wrapping in cloth and pouring hot oil over it.  The first way runs the risk of overheating the finish on the wood and possibly charring it.  I’m not sure of the pros and cons of 2 & 3.  I can see that both could do some harm to the finish, I’ll probably wrap a hot oily rag round the stock to protect it and then use the hot air gun on the rag, being careful to avoid a fire!  I did watch Dave Becker do one for me (with a hot air gun) so I know it takes a long time to heat up and even longer to cool down – we shot at quite a lot of clays while waiting!  On the subject of the Venables, I ran some 6oo grit paper through the barrels with a plastic jag using an electric drill – I have a long fibreglass rod with an end to take brushes, jags etc and a 6mm hex on the other end – the fibreglass rod has a loose plastic tube slipped over it so it doesn’t rub the barrel and so you can hold it to guide it.  Anyway a few passes, the last with oil, put a half decent finish on the bores – not perfect but very good by the standards of  an almost 200 year old gun!

Yes, it really is that bent!

7th later – the number of visitors to the site has just fallen quite noticably – I wonder if its anything to do with the fact that I blocked a number of nuisance visitors a couple of days ago?  p.s – I don’t think that is the reason, I think it may be that the software has stopped counting some of the spurious attempts to interfere with the site as if they were proper visitors.

7th March – I’ve started rebrowning the Venables barrels – first washed in detergent and warm water, then chalk brushed on and left to dry, then rubbed off (wearing latex gloves) and then into the browning  – I have started with Blakley’s Slow Brown which gives a good colour, rubbing the rust off with 0000 wire wool, wrapping the wire wool round a bit of brass sheet to get into the angles along the rib etc.  So far I have done 2 rustings with the barrel hanging inside a 6 inch plastic tube on the back of the Aga with the base of the tube standing in a little warm water to speed things up.  Overnight I’ll leave it in the cool cellar to rust as it mustn”t go too far before its rubbed off.   After this rusting I’ll probably do one with my old printed circuit solution to give it a bit of a blacker colour –  I think a greyish browning  looks less like an obvious rebrowning job.  The darker colour can be enhanced by steaming the barrel between rustings – I’ll see how it goes before trying that.

6th March – A tiny bit of engraving today – a practice ‘stand of music’ for a butt tang base.  I also did a bit more cleaning up on the Venables barrel which will, I hope, be ready for browning before the end of the week – I will be glad to put that job to bed, then just removing some of the 5/8 inches of  cast off from the stock – unless of course anyone looking at this blog needs a nice percussion gun with that much cast off – its not quite a cross stock and I can’t think what shape one would need to be to fit it, but someone must have had it made like that – its fortunately  avoided the problem of having to have the locks made on a curve!

This is magnified about 4 times real size.

5th March – I did the ‘Extreme Earth’ presentation to the year 5 and 6 children at ‘my’ primary- I did volcanos, which partly involved the kids putting a little water and a fizzy tablet in old film canisters and putting the lid on quickly, then retreating to a safe distance!  Great fun was had by all.  It is lovely being involved with the school  – if I have lunch in school there are always children who come and sit with me and chat.  I think I get the best deal, all the fun and none of the hard work the teachers have to do!  I did manage to make a graver for someone who had found this website while looking for engraving bits – it is always surprising how many people come to the site for interests other than guns – like sailing or welders or Land Cruiser steering!

4th March – Busy at the lab writing up early marine heat flow instrumentation, and then at my school STEM club – tomorrow I am going in with a researcher from Cambridge to do a presentation on Earthquakes and Volcanos to year 5 & 6, which should be fun.  I had a few emails about using the electric cooker elements to solder barrels, so a bit more information might be useful.  The element I’m currently using is from the grill of an old cooker we chucked out.  The elements are made of an outer metal tube filled with a powdered oxide insulator with a solid wire heater in the middle.  They are all made straight and cold bent to shape afterwards, so can be straightened too, you just need to be very careful not to kink them or bend them too sharply – they will come out a bit wavy but with a bit of careful and gently straightening in the vice will just fit down a 16 bore barrel.  The need connecting via ‘ 1/4 inch Faston terminals using heat proof wire ( also salvaged from a cooker.  The elements run on mains voltage and will probably be 1 or 1.5 KW power – i.e they will draw 4.3 or 6.5 amps at 240 volts approx (use a 6 A fuse).  It is possible that the act of straigtening them may damage the internal insulation and give rise to leakage from the element to the casing, in which case DONT use the element – If you wire up the system according to my recommendations the electricity supply will trip out if there is significant leakage.   Please DONT try to use this barrel heating system if you are not confident with mains electricity – if you do try, make sure that the barrel and any metalwork around is bonded very firmly to earth on the electricity supply and the supply is via an Residual Current trip that trips at no more than 30 mAmps. Unplug before working on any part of the barrel etc.  Don’t follow my example if you are at all unsure – I have a (too) long experience of dealing with mains electricity – my first experiment was connecting a 3 Volt torch bulb to an unshuttered power socket at the age of 9 – my mother never found out what blew all the fuses (no Residual Current trips then!) and I sadly never found my bulb, but surprisingly I survived unscathed.  As a teenager I ‘invented’ the radio alarm using a large mains powered valve radio and a clockwork alarm clock with a pull switch with exposed contacts actuated by the alarm winder starting to turn – it worked a treat and woke me up extremely rapidly as I always reached out to stop the alarm ringing and put my hand on the mains (still no Residual Current trips – just as well or it would have tripped out the radio and defeated the whole purpose).  I don’t know if there was such a thing as a commercial alarm radio in the mid 1950’s but anyway I had one and it worked!   So if you are not very confident and experienced  with mains electricity stick to a gas torch for barrel soldering……  ( A Residual Current trip is a device that compares the current flowing in the live and neutral wires and trips the supply out if they differ by more than 30 mA due to leakage – they are, in theory, sensitive enough to trip and protect you if you become the circuit that the ‘missing’ 30 mA flows through – all modern domestic installations should have them fitted.)

3rd March – Barometer dropping like a stone and wind getting up =- glad I’m not at sea.    I have been doing a bit of practice engraving on and off for the last few days – actually its more a matter of graver destroying as when I get back to it I begin by breaking the points of my gravers with almost every cut because I don’t finish the cuts correctly with a flick out push, but lift them and leave the point behind – always gets me to begin with, so tonight I had 14 gravers to regrind.  I have a few bits of a gun for Fred to engrave – a butt plate tang and a breech block.  I’ve started on the butt plate trial design  – I wanted to do a classic scroll at the heel, with lots of empty space and then a ‘wheat ear’ pattern at the tip.  The challenge of the scrolls is getting them to look uniform in ‘texture’ and balanced in the space available  – I’m using a pretty tough steel for my test piece  (EN8) which contributes to the brakages but its good practice.  The pattern round the ‘screw hole’ is not really right, I won’t use it on the real thing, and I might change the scrolls for a ‘stand of music’.  I managed to more or less finish the little post office pistol by J Harding – I got the safety catch working and made a triangular ‘cover spring to go in the sear spring but I cheated and it relies on friction rather than a sprung detent as I couldn’t work out how I was going to make that on such a small scale – anyway it works fine.  I will have to make the mainspring a bit stronger as it won’t open the pan fully when you fire it off but otherwise it all seems to work and look good – the barrel is a bit pitted and I didn’t want to strike it down, so I have left most of the pistol more or less ‘as was’. I was going to finsih the Venables barrel bits, but went climbing instead and an now a bit knackered……….

1 March  – Time rolls on….   Dick came over to assist in soldering the Venables barrels together, which we did satisfactorily, although there are a couple of bits of the bottom rib that will need very localised heating to bed them down ( beware the effects of expansion when you heat the rib!).  The top rib was a bit of a mess as someone had had a go at refixing it and had filed some of the edges down in a wavy fashion – its a very light rib made out of  thin bent sheet twist patterned steel  –  so I tried to file the edges to a more or less uniforn taper before tinning them. I more or less succeeded, but the rib is now a bit low to line up with the breech block.  The rib is not perfect – it has a few left over dents  for instance.   The breech and muzzle are OK and the breech blocks fit OK so I think it will do – now it just needs the bore cleaned up and the outside cleaned up and the multiple oxide layers rubbed off with wet and dry paper.  Its a boring and dirty job, made slower by having run out of 320 grit paper.  Anyway I spent a couple of hours working up to 600 grit and its looking OK.  Its a horribly dirty job rubbing down, and I was trying to rise and bake bread  in parallel – I put some dark rye flour in the mix to disguise any dirt that may have transferrerd from my hands – its only iron, after all is said and done.  Anyway tastes OK!

Wired with soft iron wire and cut nails started.  You can just see the loop of the heating element ( old grill element straightened). The nails and wire needs adjusting as the whole assembly heats up, so as to keep the rib in contact with the barrel throughout.

Bit of extra solder fed into the breech.

I had to quickly clamp the muzzles together as they were opening up – the Vice grip is only very lightly tightened so as not to dent the barrels.  The element is only just long enough – the muzzle needed a bit of localised heating to melt the solder here.  The mains terminals are a bit exposed, but the whole assembly is properly earthed and on a sensitive earth leakage trip and is unplugged when working on it.



 Posted by at 9:30 am
Jun 242019

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

Top – Kuchenreuter, lower Pistoia barrel (Italy?)

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


Here is the Pistoia pistol;-

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 10:19 pm
Jun 242019

Here is a gun I picked up at a local auction that must have a story attached – perhaps visitors to the site could help me?  

  It has a P53 type lock externally marked LSA Co and 1868 with a strange pattern just visible in front of the cock – the lock is pretty pitted on the outside, but the inside is shiny &  good quality and carries a broad arrow mark and the name Barnett plus the stamp J.C. –  Barnett & Co made locks and barrels for the British Government  from about 1854(?)  It is missing its bridle (holes exist).  The barrel appears to be a musket barrel of about .630 bore (not the .656 that was used when Enfields were made in smoothbore), of length 33 inches, giving the gun an overall length of 48 1/2 inches (weight 7 1/2 lbs)  The barrel carries the stamped name  ‘MANTON & CO CALCUTTA’ as one stamp, followed by ‘& LONDON’ made of individual letter stamps.  It carries Liege proof marks – (no it doesn’t, they appear to be Birmingham post 1914 – more research needed- see comments). There is a bayonet boss in the usual place, and a foresight but no rear sight or any sign that one was ever fitted.   The trigger guard is stamped with the number 35110 and the butt (LH side) has 88 in one place and 77 in another.  The stock looks fairly like a normal P53 stock, although I’m not really familiar with them.  It has three old style barrel bands (before Badderley) – the sling swivel is on the muzzle one, the other swivel is on the rear trigger guard screw.   The ramrod is steel, and has a somewhat squared end with a slotted jag – no bulge – I can’t see a retaining spring in the stock.  Overall it looks ‘of a piece’ and not mucked about with in recent times.  The British were at pains to equip the Indian troops with guns that looked like Enfields but were not effective against their own weapons – this gun may have been made up or more probably imported by Manton & Co., Calcutta (at that time run by Wallis) using old British Enfield locks, or maybe old stock complete guns, with the barrels replaced by new smoothbore barrels to ensure inferior performance (and not capable of taking standard issue British ammunition!).  It would seem that this gun must be one of many that were issued, hence the 35110 stamped on the trigger guard.  Any thoughts gratefully received.

see comments for more information.

Looks a bit like an Enfield
The four dots on the cock appear in the lock pocket too. Looks like a ‘proper’ Enfield lock?
Manton & Co Calcutta & London – ‘& London’ is not part of the main stamp.
Liege proof marks
number 35110 – wonder where the other 55109 are?
Sling swivel is at back of trigger guard.
Old style barrel bands (3)


 Posted by at 9:33 pm
May 012019

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

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

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

 Posted by at 11:32 pm
Apr 242019

27th February – I made a few more nipples yesterday so I have a bit of a stock, although some are a bit on the slack side – It would probably be easier to get a decent fit if I put a bit more of a taper on the slide when I did the final cuts – I’ll try with 3 degrees instead of 2 next time. I had an ‘order’ for two to replace a couple in a gun I sold some time ago – the old one were ones I had made of steel, presumably to my normal ‘small hole at the bottom’ spec but had opened up to being more or less parallel all the way down – they had seen quite a lot of use, but I hope the titanium ones last indefinately.  I also did a bit of touch-up engraving on a bashed about little brass pocket pistol – nothing special but the client wanted it refreshed where it had been filed off . Today I decided that I had to sort out how to make a decent job of resoldering the barrels of the Venables – I’ve made a number of half hearted attempts and I was reading an article in an old copy of Muzzle Blasts from about 1956 on resoldering barrels of a double rifle that gave me some ideas.   Apart from actually getting all the bits to fit together it is vital that the barrels are parallel in the horizontal direction although in a vertical direction they are ‘regulated’ to converge so they both hit the same point at about 25 yards to allow for the tendency of the gun to move right when the right barrel fires and v.v.  Obviously its more important with a double rifle and varies markedly with  the load, but still necessary on a shotgun,  The article mentioned having a steel plate to keep the barrels aligned,  I had been using a 3 x 1 inch bar as a base but had just used packing pieces to support the barrel to clear the ramrod pipes etc  which made life difficult as they kept coming out just when you needed them in place.  So I welded two plates to the bar to form a level base for the muzzle and the breech a couple of inches above the bar so that I can get to the underside of the barrel if necessry.  The plates have holes so I can wire the barrels down firmly to ensure alignment.  I checked that the tops of the plates are exactly parallel.  I have the electrical heater to fit inside the barrel, with a manual temperature control and Dick is coming over on Friday and I am absolutely determined that we are going to crack it this time – its quite stupid not to be able to do the job reliably – hence the new jig.  Its not in my nature not to be able to do something, after all there are hundreds of thousands of guns out there with their barrels soldered together…. I will get there in the end.  Tomorrow is the funeral of David Purr, a well loved village character who fabricated most of the steelwork needed in the village – his speciality was security gates and he made a couple of beacon baskets for the village – his legacy will live on for years – I shall miss Dave, he was a great help with lots of my over ambitious projects like my home made 4 wheel boat trailer.

24th February The unseasonably good weather had me out battling with the garden this weekend – I eventually got fed up with piles of sticks and bits of apple trees lying about from when I had to cut back trees for the neighbour to get at his roof so I splashed out on a cheap Mac Allister shredder from Screwfix (about £80) which turns out to be fantastic – it just eats anything less than 40mm diameter – almost literally gulping it down – and fills bins with chips that can go in the waste bin that is collected fortnightly.   I did manage to sneak an hour or two to make some titanium nipples – I do like working in titanium, but you do have to be careful to keep cutting or the surface hardens up and polishes so its difficult to get started again – I use sharp tool steel tools with some top rake.  The technique is to chuck the 10mm bar (Titanium T6 from ebay) and turn down 25mm to 8.50 mm then turn down 5.5 mm to 6.40 diameter, slightly chamfer the end and cenre drill a pip and drill a 1.2mm hole about 4 mm deep, then cut a 1/4 BSF (26 t.p.i) thread with the die adjusted to cut to the finished size in one pass as trying to recut only swages it.  I turn the die over – the other side is ground off so the thread runs to the surface – and cut up to the shoulder, then slightly undercut the shoulder with a parting tool before parting off  an  >11.5 mm length of the 8.5mm  section with the 5.5mm long 1/4 BSF  thread on it.   I then chuck a piece of 25 mm bar with a 1/4 BSF tapped hole in the end and screw the proto nipple into the bar tightly – I use the tailstock chuck to grip it and tighten it.  This is then faced off to exactly 11 mm from the face of the bar  and drilled  2.2 mm to a depth of about 13.5 to 14 mm, followed by the 1.2 mm drill to make sure it goes right through, leaving around 2.5 to 3 mm of the 1.2 mm hole at the end of the 2.2 mm hole.  I then use a radiussed tool to turn the nipple leaving about 4.5 mm of the 8.5mm diameter part intact.  The cross slide is used with a 2 degree taper to get a good fit for the cap – its very easy to make it a loose fit, beware – you need some fresh caps by the lathe to check.  One problem with Titanium is that it can be difficult to get very fine cuts as it burnishes, so try to get good control of the diameter as you converge on a good fit – its particularly difficult with the slide at an angle as the dials or DRO don’t give a lot of help.  I generally put the flats on with a file, as its difficult to hold the nipple for them to be milled (most of my cutters are not really sharp enough for titanium!)  I’ve been using titanium nipples on my Nock for some time and have probably put around 800 – 1000 shots through the gun without seeing any damage to the nipples.  Cutting the thread is quite hard work and even backing the die off  is almost as hard as cutting – I find it is almost impossible to make a second cut with the die as it is very stiff and removes no metal – it maybe that my dies are a bit blunt, but they work OK first time……  I always put the nipples in with a few turns of PTFE pipe tape as a gas seal but the titanium doesn’t seem to be affected anyway.

WARNING – Titanium swarf is highly inflamable and cannot easily be extinguished – you need either a special extinguisher or sand to smother it.  It takes a spark or serious heat to set it alight but then it is pretty much unstoppable, so don’t let swarf build up on the lathe – STOP  the lathe before attempting to remove it – it can be sharp.  Use a water based coolant if you need to cool the work, but better still use very sharp tools and fine cuts and DON’T LET SWARF BUILD UP.  ( I’ve seen the fire brigade called to a lathe fire with titanium – it was some years ago and WE had to tell them not to use water)

Nipple is screwed into bar to turn shape and file flats.

22nd February – getting ready to take my Flintlock John Manton and my Percussion S. Nock  to the Have a Go shoot I realised that I had overdone the re-work of the bent on the left barrel and it was going to be uncomfortably hard to pull off, so not good for beginners.  I manged to strip and re-work tumbler and sear and get it all back together in about 15 minutes and it now works fine. As I know its OK, I should take it all to  pieces and harden the tumbler – I think it’s too soft. A couple of AML members ended up having a discussion about cleaning guns (makes a change from BXXXXt  – as an aside, if you don’t think the EU is capable of making our laws, do you think that either hopeless mob in Westminster are really going to do any better? ) which is always guaranteed to bring out different techniques.  A number of my friends favour using a steam cleaner for the barrels, so I made up a probe from a bit of 7mm steel tube and attached it to my wallpater steamer.  I cleaned my gun ‘normally’, which some peple would call a bit ‘casual’, and then applied the steam cleaner, expecting a stream of dirty gunge to emerge as promised by the steam fanatics.  Alas, I ended up with a couple of cupfuls of water so clean that I could have made tea with it (I didn’t) and nothing came out of the barrel when I wiped it out that wouldn’t have come out anyway.   The essential part of barrel cleaning is allowing very hot water to flush out the muck – the stuff that will cause corrosion is basically all water soluble salts, and it is a basic truth of physical chemistry that things dissolve better in hot than cold water (except proteins) – once they are gone its mostly lead, which probably acts as a lubricant!  I do have a few barrels that come out really clean as they have been honed, but most continue to wipe out a bit black, and I don’t worry too much about it.

21st – One of the pleasures of running this blog is the emails I get from the many regular viewers with questions about their guns or repairs they need doing, or their interests in guns – although some of them do stop me in my tracks!  Some time ago I got an email with an attached photo of a pretty derelict flintlock pistol – the accompanying text asked me how he could convert the gun into an automatic pistol with a magazine that worked!  A bit disturbing to my equilibrium….  I have also had several emails from enthusiasts keen to make themselves shootable pistols  by the back door – I’m happy to reply with an email explaining what excellent accomodation Her Majesty is able to offer – an offer they are unlikely to be able to refuse if they follow their intentions.  I can speak with good inside information as I was for several years an independent prison monitor at Highpoint prison and got to know it well – in fairness to the prison you get three meals a day (budget for all three is £2.06) and heating, I do think some Old People’s Homes might be worse – units 6 & 7 for ‘good boys’  were quite acceptable.  It is possible to make yourself a pistol provided that it can pass certain conditions as specified in the Home Office Guidance on Firearms (see LINKS) and be classed as an INERT pistol – in essence this means that it is a reproduction of a pistol of not later than 1870 that cannot fire and cannot be made to fire with ‘normal’ DIY tools and skills as might be used for the construction and maintanence of the home That always seems odd to me – I don’t see where a cement mixer comes into making a gun work! I can offer only limited advice as to what that restiction might mean – for instance it is better to remove metal than to add it, so a 10mm slot milled from under the barrel from breech to near the end of the wood (leaving the barrel loops) and a chunk of bar glued in the barrel to restore balance is pretty difficult to put right,  but ultimately it is down to how the courts interpret it and there is NO certainty.  Better to start with all main metal parts from old guns so what you end up with is clearly a section 58 firearm restored – and keep well away from anything breech loading!

21st Re pistol below – another little detail that you can just see that confirms the butt as being wrong is that the trigger guard tang goes way too far down the butt to be right.

20th february – You are in luck – another set of gun photos for comment has arrived – a Twigg Pistol.  Lets have a look at what we can surmise about this… (We will refer to ‘British Gunmakers 1740 to 1790 by Keith Neil and Backs. for inspiration – rich in Twiggs!).  You may need to click on the images to get enough detail – back arrow to get back, logically enough!

Ok, what have we here? A ‘proper’ conversion from flint to percussion of a TWIGG flintlock pistol.  The signature is his second one, dating the gun to 1770 to 1775 or thereabouts.  The arrow points to a just visble set trigger adjuster – right for that time as is the safety (just?).  The pointed  tail of the lock is an earlyish feature too.

The engraving you can see is all from the date of conversion except the signature 

Looking at the whole pistol, and bearing in mind the fairly certain date of 1770 to 1775 ish, the half stock is wrong – at that date it would have had a stock running to the muzzle and no under rib.  Also the butt shape is probably wrong – it would have been  curled right round to past the vertical, or with a cast cap – you can jsut makeout that the tang of teh trigger guard goes too far down teh butt.    Barrel bolt in the  wood – has moved on from pins, but not yet escutheons under the bolt. ends.

Barrel signature is again TWIGG mk II and contemporary with the 177X date, The rest from the date of conversion?  But what has happened to the false breech tang?  UGH.

Not sure who the barrel maker was, possibly Twigg

Notice the metal insert as a bearing for the breech tang .

nothing noteworth here except the single lock screw – a useful dating feature.

OK, what did you get from that?   It all looks as if the lock, barrel, trigger  and trigger guard started out as a TWIGG flintlock of reasonable quality, probably an officer’s pistol.  The lock would have been plain and the breech would probably have had a plug with the tang on it rather than a breech and false breech with tang. The trigger and trigger guard look right and the set trigger is OK for the period,  The engraving added on conversion is quite rudimentary as if the engraver was not used to working on steel – it just doesn’t ring true to me.  The worst bit is the tang of the false breech, which looks as if it was executed by a child!   The big question concerns the stock – it was definately not half stocked when TWIGG made it, so that was a feature of the conversion – but is it the original stock?  The butt is the wrong shape for the flint date, and it looks a bit wrong for later pistols, but it looks ‘of a piece’ with the pistol in other respects.  My guess is that it was restyled on conversion – obviously the chequering would then date from conversion or probably even later – it looks very sharp.  Difficult to put a date on conversion but obviously it served at least 50 years as a flintlock – maybe an 1828 -1838 conversion date?   What is particularly interesting about this pistol is that details were changing rapidly at about the original date of manufacture  and by about 1780 things would look quite different – examples are that up to about 1775 locks were held on by two screws (this pistol has one) and by about 1775 Twigg had started to use the shell carving  on better guns and pistols.  In 1780 the barrel bolts started to have silver escutcheons and  roller frizzons came in – so lots of changes and aids to dating or just more confusion?  (Read the book mentioned above for more details or see the GUN DATES page on this blog!)  I’m sure I’ll get some idea from observers of this blog, and I expect I’ve missed a few essential things – I haven’t spent much longer looking at it than it has taken me to completer the blog, and I obviously don’t have the pistol to hand, so please forgive any errors……

19th February – I had another look at the troublesome left lock on the Samuel Nock that keeps dropping to half cock when the right barrel is fired.  I didn’t think there was much wrong with the bent in the tumbler and think that the problem is the old one of the sear arm touching the wood of the lock pocket – the sear arm does seem a bit close near the edge of the lock so I filed a little off the arm (it was a bit thick anyway) and carefully eased the lock pocket.  I tried to check if that was effective, but with no-where handy to fire the gun it is difficult.  To be on the safe side a slightly reshaped the bent so it has a little more engagement – I noticed that I’d just about got through the case hardening on the bent.  I’ll check it out when I next go shooting, and if its OK I’ll re-harden it – I might have overdone the engagement.   I am helping at an AML ‘have a go day’ at Cambridge Gun Club on Friday – probably a corporate ‘do’; but I’m not sure – I just turn up with a flintlock and a percussion and let the punters have a go – luckily under the auspices of the MLAGB so its insured.   I managed to finish the sear spring of the little post office pistol – very fiddly as I’d run out of Oxygen for my very tiny torch and had to use a kitchen blowlamp for heating and bending! Still its done – its looks in the photo as if  the spring sticks too far back, but it is the perspective and it does just fits the lock pocket – just as well as I have no intention of making another in a hurry!  I have now got to adjust the mainspring and fit the safety catch.  I ought to make the cover spring detent for the slider to finish the job off……….

The sear spring doesn’t really stick out like that – its perspective!

18th February – Today was the last day for exporters to ship goods to China to arrive before Bxxxxt, from today anyone shipping to the Far East  for the next 40 days will have no  idea of the rate of duty they will have to pay to land the goods!    I had a further email related to the Joseph Manton guns I put on the blog recently, pointing out that the New Zealand gun 6031 had been made with gravitational stops (I missed them), which were on the same Joseph Manton Patent 3558 of 1812 as the water drains, also with an addition to the lock to sound a musical note when the trigger was pulled!  (No know examples exist, not surprisingly!). Interestingly the replacement cocks used on conversion had notches for gravitaional stops, and so must be Joseph Manton cocks.  I still think it unlikely that Joseph Manton did the conversion as it is too rudimentary for him , but whoever did it had access to Joseph Manton cocks – possibly off another conversion job?  It raises the interesting question of whether these cocks were chosen to retain the gravitational stops ( which were not much liked by shooters as they were prone to stick and also prevented you from taking overhead shots) and the stops were removed at some later time, or it was just chance that the converter had a pair to hand that had the stop notch and just used them, while removing the stops at the same time. Or maybe I’m just wrong and it was a conversion by Jo Manton?  The barrel incription  ‘New Improvements by His Majesty’s PATENT’ should refer to the features of the 1812 patent so I had another look at 5692 – it has new later locks on conversion so is unlikely to carry  signs of gravitational stops, but although it has been rebreeched I might expect to see a plugged slot in the trigger finial if it had the water drain, but the finial is intact, so I don’t think it originally had drains……..  Always more questions than answers in this game.

6031 showing stud filling gravity stop pivot, and notch in cock for stop.

An 1816 pellet lock converted to caplock – plate 108 in the Manton book – the light blob is the gravity stop counterweight.

I started to try to sort out who made what in the way of detonator/pellet/patch/tube/cap locks in the period from about  1809 through to about 1830 when caplocks were pretty established |(except for later tubelocks) but I don’t have any good source books – Winarts Early Percussion Firearms is mostly about American firearms and isn’t really clear about who was making what and when – I’ll need to keep at it a bit longer but if you know any good books let me know….

16th February – Shooting clays at Cambridge Gun Club today with the Anglian Muzzle Loaders.  Bit of a revolutionary shoot – all simultaneous pairs.  I got off to a bad start as my Sam Nock hadn’t been fully cured of its habit of dropping the Left cock when the right barrel fired – I did spend some time looking at it and reshaping the full cock bent as best I could without softening the tumbler but all I had suceeded in doing was to make the left cock slip into the half cock bent when the right barrel fired – at least that didn’t produce a nasty recoil and waste a load!  Anyway I soon learned to shoot with the left barrel first, and only had a couple of shots where I forgot and pulled the wrong trigger.  I like sim. pairs and given the gun problems that cost me a clay or two, I was not althogether unhappy to score 19/40.  I’ll have to do the full cock bent properly, which really involves annealing the tumbler and reshaping it and re-hardening and tempering it.   My inbox continues to get emails about Joseph Manton guns of the same era as Derek’s.  I had a nice string of photos from New Zealand of a converted Joseph Manton double shotgun Serial No 6031 from  1813.  This one has been converted by drum and nipple, keeping the original lockplate, which shows what the locks of 6592 and the gun that lock 7006 came from must have looked like with their earlier style of (simpler) engraving. As with the others, lots of ancillary details are right for the date, the barrel has the Joseph Manton New Improvements by His Majesty’s Patent wording, (1812-1816 ish) and it is interesting because it has the elevated rib on the barrels (more pronounced than in 5692)  he patented.  It doesn’t have gold or platina stamps on the barrel, but there isn’t room. It also has the rain water drains that collect any water from the barrels & frizzens and drain it down through the breech plug and out through the tigger finial – another patented feature – its nice to see those features, it was a ‘top of the range’ gun with all the latest bells and whistles !  The cock is interesting because I think it belongs to a pellet lock or patch lock – variations of percussion ignition that filled the gap between the Forsyth invention of 1807 and the general acceptance of the percussion cap in the mid 1820s.  The spring on the outside of the cock was designed to enable the ‘plug’ of the cock to be removed and replaced with a new precharged plug without the need for any tools.  Later similar cocks (eg that on 5692) were used for caplocks but generally lacked the spring as they were not intended to be changed often, just as a replaceable hammer.  The conversion wouldn’t have been done by Manton as he always made new locks and re-breeched barrels, but  probably by a provincial gunmaker.  Maybe the cocks were a pair he had lying around, so he just replaced the plug with one designed for caps?

No 6031 – Cock fitted on conversion was originally  pellet/patch cock?

Notice the very small front trigger – rather extreme for that date but probably a choice by the buyer – maybe a crude modification –  difficult to judge from the photo?   Compare with 5692 below.

You can see the Patent water drain above the drum & nipple, and you can just see it emerging from the trigger guard finial in the photo below.


 No proof marks (not uncommon) but WF barrel maker’s mark, possibly William Fullerd.

14th February – In London yesterday so didn’t do much useful stuff and this morning I had to  finish off my patent review, but I did manage to weld up a new side screw for a pistol – the old one had lost part of its head, but outside the slot. anyway a new head was made and engraved and butt welded onto the old screw so that I could use the (odd) thread.  I had an email about the Manton I had put up onSaturday.  Turns out that he has a right hand  Joeseph Manton lock – without a gun – that is very similar except that it has a different bridle and a very long sear nose.  His has serial No 7006 and the Manton Supplement book lists a separate Left hand lock with the same serial number.  The one I put in the blog  has a date 1812 of original manufacture (as a flintlock), and this one the serial number belongs to 1816. Its not quite clear if it was a pellet lock originally  (it is just about possible in terms of timing & Keith Neil lists the L.H. lock  as possibly pellet lock), although I  suspect that it is like mine, this lock was made as a conversion from flint. Anyway  very interestingly it has an identical sliding safety in front of the cock which I think belongs closer to 1660 than to 1816.  I might speculate that this lock was one of a pair with the one in the book that were made by Joe Manton to convert a flintlock Joe Manton No 7006 to caplock within about 6 – 10 years of its original manufacture  and as sometimes happened the old lock and breech etc were retained and its been converted back and the caplock locks discarded.  Any ideas welcome – join in the fun of speculating!  The secret is not to believe too firmly in your guesses!

Here is the Joe Manton 5692  I showed on Sunday.

 No 7006 – I think it was made as a caplock because it has ‘Patent’ on the lockplate which is taken as indicative , as does the one above.

Look at the extremely long nose on the tumbler- it looks from the geometry if the cock needs to come back a long way to engage the full cock bent?

I am a bit thrown by the safety slider, which I have only seen on rifles from around 1850 – 1860.   It is, nevertheless, strange that two very similar locks should turn up with that safety

11th February – Went indoor climbing in Cambridge this afternoon, so am too tired to attend to the blog – sorry!

10 february – A nice gun for you today!  Derek brought a gun that belongs to a friend of his for me to cast my eye over, so with his consent, I will put a few photos on the web and we can enjoy a little specualtion about the gun together!

It’s a high quality percussion gun signed Joseph Manton on locks and barrel and with the serial number 5692 on the underside of the barrels, the breech block, the inside of  both locks and the tang of the trigger guard.  By the Manton book that serial number belongs to 1812 ( this gun is not in the book), still in the flintlock era although coming up to the tubelock and pellet lock transition period before the caplock, which this is by the usage in the Manton book.   Its about 22 bore double with 30 inch barrels but without the elevator rib that Jo Manton patented before this date (? or a small one?).  So it looks as if it is a conversion involving new locks and new breeching, or that it has been renumbered or is from a period later when his numbering MAY have gone haywire.   There are a lot of interesting clues in the gun if you can bear to go through them;-

1) It has the cocks with removable hammers – a follow-on from pellet locks and used around 1828.

2) What are those sefety catches in front of  the cocks doing on a shotgun?  (they engage in a slot cut in the back of the cock when its at half cock  – I think they are a later feature.)

3) If its a conversion the ‘bolsters’ on the barrels above the locks look odd??

4) In addition to the sliding safetys on the cocks there is a grip safety – but it is engraved John Blisset Patent even though Jo Manton claimed to have invented it. There is a burr at the backof the slot that suggests it may be a retrofit. I can’t see manton putting a grip safety with someone elses name on it!

5) The barrel wording is ‘Joseph Manton’s New Invention by His Majesty’s PATENT’ – a form of words that he appears to have used between 1812 and 1816 and not at any other time?  It may have a slightly elevated rib – Manton’s most recent Patent – I don’t know what constitutes ‘elevated’.

6) The numbering on the barrel looks as if it may have been restamped after previous numbers were dressed out – possibly also the numbers on the breech plugs. One breech plug is a bit misaligned.

7) It has two sets of CP proof marks on the barrel – one set looking as if they have been dressed down.

8) Everthing looks OK from on top although the breech plug doesn’t align perfectly with the rib – but the engraving is continuous across the joint.

9)  The locks have the number 5692 very clearly stamped on them.  The trigger guard tang also has the number 5692 engraved on it and looks original.

10) The locks have the classic Joseph Manton ‘sea monster’ engraving by Gumbrell that was seen on his guns around 1820 – 1828?  Oviously the front safety catches were not intended when the locks were made and engraved.

Now we can begin the speculation if you are still with me!

A good point to start is the locks –clearly made by Joseph Manton around 182X (on grounds of percussion caplock, engraving and style)  or so and clearly numbered for 5692 and so intended for an 1812 gun of his.  The locks have the sliding safety catches which can’t realistically be contemporary with their manufacture(?)  but almost certainly a later modification but are unusual on shotguns, being much more usual on rifles, (and introduced at a later date then the 1820s? – maybe 1830 – 1850?).  If he had wanted to put a safety catch on a gun in 1828 he would almost certainly have used one behind the cock intercepting the tumbler not the cock itself as on pistols of that era.    Joe Manton didn’t make very many rifles.  When you add in the grip safety, which looks like a retrofit on account of Manton claiming to have invented it and it having another gunmaker’s name on it (grip safetys were not in fashion for long as they are pretty unreliable)  The grip and cock safety together might suggest that it was possibly converted from a rifle (unlikely) but more likely that it had a very cautious owner at some time – possibly at conversion but probably  some time after – possibly in two phases, grip safety and then sliding safety.  The condition of the blueing of the sliders suggests that the gun wasn’t used much if at all after they were fitted ?   The gun has not had a lot of wear at any time – maybe some prior to conversion, but relatively little use as a percussion gun as there is almost no corrosion around the nipples or the breeches.

The stock and furniture seem OK for 1812, and the number 5692 on the trigger guard tang is almost certainly original so I’m inclined to put it all down as original – the engraving throughout is consistent in quality and design and could date from a few years earlier than the Sea Monster lock engraving.

The barrels are interesting – the signature etc is right for the serial number date of 1812 ( used up to 1816). There is no gold or platinum stamp on the breeches, but they are very small and maybe not wide enough to take his stamp.  It looks as if they have been struck off and renumbered and rebrowned and reproofed but I believe that the gun has been untouched in the same family for many years and it is quite possible that the work was done when the gun was converted or when one or other of the safety devices were added – it is almost certainly not a recent rebrowning.  While it is possible to speculate that the gun was at one time a rifle and has been rebarreled, one would have to allow that the present barrel was contemporary with the original 1812 date or else re-signed in perfect imitation of the earlier form.

My current guess is that the gun was built as a flintlock 22 bore shotgun in 1812  and carefully converted by Joseph Manton to caplock in about 1828 (say 1825 – 1830).  At some point it was owned by a hyper cautious owner who had the safety grip added – maybe by John Blisset himself ( he became Blisset and Son in 1867).  It is possible that being very cautious the owner had the barrels reproofed at that time or they may have been done at the time of conversion, although Manton did not always send guns to the proofhouse  – he preferred his own hydraulic test.  I incline to think that the sliding safety is somewhat later than the grip safety ( I’ve only seen it on guns of 1840 to 1860) and so may have been added later.

So its tentative history ( a guess!) ;

1812 made by Joseph Manton

1828 ish  converted by Manton to caplock

1830 ish  grip safety added – ?by John Blisset? (probably before 1840?)

(1840 -1850) ??  front safety catches added  and reproofed(?)

I’m sure I’ll be proved wrong – I will take the gun to Geoff Walker at  ‘The Flintlock Collection’ as he knows his Mantons much better than I do.

Things to check include any date for Blisset’s patent for the grip safety, and a more accurate date for the sliding safety in front of the cock – all these things had a relatively short period in fashion and can be useful for dating, although occasionally clients demanded out of fashion features.

8th February – I visited the London Proof House yesterday as a guest of the Gunmaker’s Company who still run it, having been established in 1637 for the purpose of regulating the gunmaking trades in the City of London and a 10 mile radius thereof.  The present building was occupied in the mid 18th century and is virtually unchanged – it is on Commercial Road a stone’s throw from Aldgate East station and surrounded by high rise flats on 3 sides.  The site is pretty small, the largest space  being taken up with the dining room where the liverymen of the company have their magnificant lunches.  The work areas, which are responsible for the proofing of  the guns made in London or brought into the UK, plus many military weapons (although those are mostly proofed at the maker’s sites by personnel from the Proof House).  What I found astonishing was that the total space taken up by the working part is less than my own workshops! And its all distributed in a warren of passages too.

It seems incredible that they do all the proofing so close to the City, with all the transport to the site, and all the costs associated with London premises.  I can see that they would need to maintain a presence somewhere in London as they are a London Livery company but to me its incredible that they don’t move the gun proofing bit to an industrial site somewhere.  Anyway it was an interesting visit and I enjoyed the lunch and the booze……

4th February – Having trouble with the dates again – last 2 entries were actually 3rd!  Oh well, worse things happen at sea!   I did my STEM club at school today but most of the children weren’t in a mood for concentrating – funny how some weeks they do and some they don’t.   I have been keeping an eye on which posts on this website get the most traffic – there are lots of visits to ‘guns for sale’ which makes me think I ought to put a lot more stuff on there – maybe time for a sortout!  I have been hoping that the Mortimer flint repro would sell as I want it off my certificate so I can put something else on.  I’ll have a look next week when things cool down a bit.  I’m at meetings all Wednesday and in London on Thursday and Friday including a visit to the London Proof House which promises to be very interesting.  Before then I have to sort out the cock of the flintlock that Dick has re-squared- he ran out of gas so I am having to silver solder it for him.

4th Feb Update – did a bit of work on the Harding Post Office pistol safety catch today (workshop was up around 25C!) – I couldn’t see a good way of making a 1.5mm wide slot through the inside bolt for the tongue of the external slider – my mill is nowhere near good enough to use such a small cutter, so I decided to mill a groove in a strip of metal and silver solder another piece over the top to complete the slot – worked a treat…   And it all fitted together after a bit of filing – you can’t see the silver solder line.  As before I left the part attached to the strip of metal until the last minute as its much easier to handle that way.

Strip with milled groove and piece silver soldered on top.

Shaped bolt still attached.

The bolt fits neatly over the tab on the slider – it will need pinning.

Safety slider is now engraved.

4th February – It continues cold, although I did get the indoor workshop up to 25 degrees C yesterday by  burning wood at a rate of knots for 6 hours.  I need to do a bit of TIG welding but by Argon has run out – annoying because it has leaked out of the cylinder – I’ve not used much in two years but its empty so I’ll have to change it.  I couldn’t do that with the loan car as it wouldn’t fit in. but I’ll take it on Tuesday.  I got some parts from Fred in the US to engrave for a gun he is making, so I’ll have to do a bit of design work.  I have the Post Office pistol to finish making the safety catch parts for, and the Venables barrel to re-do, plus a bit of silver soldering for Dick on a flintcock to fix a disk for a remade square.  I have converted Dick to using Bev’s method of re-doing the squares in cocks by milling out a hole and silver soldering in a disk.  My method is to mill a stepped hole so there is some depth location when it comes to the soldering, but Dick has done a plain hole – We shall see if that works as well.  The advantage of the stepped hole is that you can have a smaller ring of silver solder on the cock face so it doesn’t show round the cock screw but get an increased area for the solder as you can make the back mill of greater diameter.  Anyway we shall see which is best….  I mentioned that my Nock had fired both barrels together on the shoot –  I’ve had this happen before but there is usually a slight lag between the two shots as the second hammer doesn’t come down until the recoil unlatches the sear.  This time I didn’t notice a lag, and all the other guns said there was only one report – they were expecting me to fire the other barrel at the bird.  I was surprised to find that both barrels were fired when I looked at the locks – so I’m not sure what happened, although I’m pretty sure both barrels were loaded and capped to start with and both empty at the finish.  Had it been a flint gun I might suspect a ‘flashover’ but not on a percussion gun….. mystery!

2nd Febuary – Got my Land Cruiser back from the body repair shop thank goodness ( I had a little disagreement with a driver who did an emergency stop in the outside lane of a dual carriageway for no reason) – driving round in a loan MiniCooper in the snow and ice isn’t my cup of tea!   Had to take a couple of days out from gun playing, partly because the workshop is freezing and partly because I have to do a bit of sorting out for a US patent case that I’m a consultant for – which does mean I get paid!   I had a look at the catalogue for the March Holts sale  –  it reinforced my feeling that reasonable percussion doubles that might make good shooters are about as rare as hen’s teeth – prices continue to rise and there is now not a lot of difference between a decent percussion and a usable flintlock!   Both are pretty thin on the ground in that sale – lets hope Bonhams come up trumps.

30th January – Back from a ‘last of the season ‘ shoot courtesy of Bev – things get a bit scrappy at the end of the season, and shoots usually want  to thin out the cock birds, so this was a ‘ see what comes up, but hope its mainly cocks’ sort of day!  In fact cocks were pretty thin on the ground – more importantly also in the air – so it was mostly hens that were shot.  It was one of those days when its so nice to be out in the country – cold day but warmed by the sun and little breeze – that the size of the bag is a secondary consideration for any sensible gun.  We managed 30 for 8 guns, which is fine although one or two guns didn’t see much action.   My Sam Nock double fired off the left barrel when I shot the right – a habit it had when I first got it and which I had eliminated by reshaping the bents – I had a careful look at them under the microscope and they look fine – I thought that perhaps the sear arm was a bit near the wood in the lock pocket so I have done a little reshaping of the sear arms but I can’t see anything else wrong. Our next clay shoot is simultaneous pairs, so I will need that aspect of the gun to be 100% by 16th Feb!  I also  tightened up the barrel bolt that wasn’t holding the barrel tight – I used the corner of a chisel to prise out the pin retaining the bolt, and bent the bolt slightly down in the centre so it pulls the barrel down onto the stock better. Yesterday I started on the safety catch slider for the Post Office pistol – I took a chunk of 8 mm EN8 and cut out a tab of about  the right size on one end so I could work on it and have a decent bit to hold in a vice.  I milled the rough blank – slightly oversize and still attached to the chunk – and filed it to fit, only separating it from at the last minute to shape the knob.  It looks fine, or will do when I’ve engraved the slider – now to do the internals.

26th January – Just got back from the climbing wall with Giles and a couple of his friends – its difficult enough to keep up with 20 somethings without ending the 2 hour stint by all trying to climb as many of the fairly easy climbs in the room as possible in ten minutes!  To say I’m k*******d is an understatement!   And I had managed to make 24 jars of marmelade in the afternoon.   I’ve been wondering about the cock we put on the little percussion saw handled pistol as I wasn’t sure if we had got the correct shape and neither was the owner, but I had a quick look through the last Bonham’s catalogue and low and behold there was a saw handled pistol, albeit a boxlock, with a very similar cock profile – I made a quick overlay to check it out.  I’m still not quite sure we got the right cock but it matches others used!

Click on the photo for a better view, back arrow to restore.

24th January – I have ‘pruned this post to cover just 2019 – the contents from late 2018 are in the new post ‘ Blog September to December 2018‘ – it makes it easier to scroll if the post is kept a manageable size.

24th January – Switched back to my little Harding Post Office pistol.  I needed to remake the square in the cock as the cock was from another pistol.  As mentioned I decided to bore out the tumbler hole in the cock and silver solder in a disk and put the square hole in that.  The cock was Araldited to a scrap of wood and centered under the mill/drill and a 6 mm end mill put through – the square on the tumbler is a 5 mm diagonal, approx 4 mm square.  I then dropped an 8 mm end mill into the back of the cock 1.5 mm deep, and turned up a disk to fit the two milled holes with about 0.2 mm proud on the back surface and a 3.5 mm hole in the centre to start the square from.  I had intended to put the square in the disk before fixing it in the cock, but there is no way to hold it so I silver soldered it in place with ‘easy’ silver solder paste that melts at 650C (dull red heat).  I then filed up the square hole very carefully to fit and , I thought, in the right orientation – but it turned out to be about 10 degrees from where I wanted it, so I just heated the cock up  to dull red and turned the insert with the end of a screwdriver to the correct angle.  That all went well so I worked on the sear to get it all aligned as I hadn’t done the final shaping until the cock was on.  I am not sure that all the parts I had were from the same pistol, and the shape of the full cock bent was a bit too ‘re-entrant’ for the motion of the sear and you couldn’t fire the lock – so the bent had to be opened out a bit.  All done so I tweaked the mainspring and hardened it and tempered it to blue – and then broke it while clamping it to put it in place!  It was my fault as I couldn’t find a small mainspring clamp and used a mole grip too near the ‘elbow’ and overstressed it – another job to do, although I might just try welding it.

The cock is actually stopped by the step hitting the edge of the lock as it should be, but the ‘chin’ of the jaw is a bit close – the cock needs slightly reshaping, although I’ll have to be careful not to loose the square insert if I heat it to red heat….. 

23rd January – Amongst other things I had a go at sorting the percussion pistol with the extreme full cock position and overbent spring.  I’m not sure what has been done to the lockwork but it is not right!   I did manage to get the full cock a little better by honing the sear slightly (.25mm off) – I didn’t like to take too much off as it alters the geometry and, with the fly or detent, it might not work.  I took off the bridle as the lock was very stiff, and found that the inside tumbler pivot had been peened over so that it was a tight fit in the bridle – I couldn’t see any reason for that so I filed it off and punched it out and adjusted the fit – – while it was in pieces I also ground down the pillar on the mainspring so that it isn’t overbent at the full cock position.  Although it isn’t perfect, it now cocks and fires  much more smoothly.  I’ll add a photo when I can get access to the website editor on my main computer – \i’ve had a couple of times when it  won’t let me get into the editor and I have to resort to the laptop, which hasn’t got my photo library on it’s hard Drive.   I was going to put the little Nock pistol back together, but somewhere between my workshop and Dicks we have mislaid the sear.  I Araldited the cock of the Post Office pistol to a piece of wood in preparation for milling a disk out of the back……..  If you think I have too many jobs on the go at once, you are right!

22nd January – Meetings in school took up 5 hours, but I did manage to make a graver sharpener for a customer.  I did design a sharpener that would do both the main 45 degree face and then could be turned over to do the 15 degree heels, but it needed rather a lot of parts and was fiddly so I am making them as two separate  tools.  They are not really economic to make as I have to turn and drill and tap each part separately and there are a lot of parts.  I could save a lot of time if I made batches but I usually have to get them out of the door in a hurry so make them individually.   If I could sell in quantity I could easily get them made by the 50s at an economic price, but that number would last at least until I am pushing up daisies – even if I outlive my mother who died at 98 – a good age!  Just in case you think I was shirking on the tax, any moments I  could fit in went that way……….

21st January – My apologies for no gun stuff today!  Mondays is Bullard Archive and STEM club.  The STEM children are getting their act together a bit – last week was a bit of a rabble.  We are building prototypes for a weather station for the school – the anemometer worked – now we have to fit a digital readout to it using a BBC Microbit computer.  Plans are in hand.

I have to report that my tax is not getting done very fast…………

19th January – As expected, another day pushing pieces of paper around the desk and searching for lost bills and invoices –  I’m relieved to see that there is now a £1000 tax free allowance for online sales, so the few little bits and pieces I sell from the shop on this website don’t get taxed and don’t have to be declared!   I picked up a copy of George Orwell’s Animal Farm with a child friendly cover and started to read it, thinking it was a child friendly simplification but realised that actually the book is the full adult one and  so unsubtle and simplistic that you wonder why it ever became famous – but I suppose times change and we  just expect better now.  I packed up after one page – doing my tax didn’t seem so tedious after that……………..

19th 18th January  – I got a bit confused about the date – I have just started wearing a watch again and it’s got the wrong date – it’s a day fast.  I gradually built up a pile of Casio F-91Ws – cheap plastic watches – with broken straps but still working, so I got round to ordering 5 new straps from Cousins at £1.25 each – I now have 3 wearable ones, and a couple of straps left over – Tom has one that needs a strap, and I’ll no doubt need another some day. As expected I spent most of the day trying to make sense of my accounts for the tax man – I had an accountant to chase/bully me into getting everything I need, but she retired this year so its down to me!   I did get down to Dicks to take the inlaid little pistols so he can finish them off and we had the usual cup of tea and a chat about work in progress.  I have the little flint post office pistol to make the safety for and fix the cock and get the spring to work, plus I think I need to have a go at sorting the laid back cock of the saw handled pistol as it offends me!   The Post Office pistol needs its replacement cock fitted, which involves completely remaking the square hole for the tumbler shaft – there are 3 ways to do this – 1) weld up the hole and drill and file a new hole, 2) mount up the tumbler on the lathe and drill out the shaft (after annealing it) and silver solder in a new shaft and put a square on that, or 3) drop and end mill in the back of the cock and silver solder in a disk and put the square in that.  2 and 3 do allow some fiddling with the orientation of the cock before final soldering, which is useful. 1) is quicker.  I have used 1) – most often, and 2) before, but drilling out the tumbler is a lot easier on a full sized gun – I’m not sure I fancy doing it on this little pistol.  I haven’t tried 3), which is Bev’s favourite, so I might try that this time.  2) would be difficult with a anything with a fly or detent, as well as a small pistol.

17th January – Had a shoot on Tuesday which didn’t go according to plan as the birds didn’t play ball!  As the season goes on they get more wily and the stupid ones get culled, so the keepering gets more difficult.  The first drive, which should have been good, produced nothing – not even the usual early exit of blackbirds etc.  The poor keeper was tearing his hair out by the end, although there were a couple of passable drives for some guns.  A couple of guns didn’t have any luck at all and in the end the bag was half what it was supposed to be, which in any case was very modest.  I guess I can’t complain too loudly as I got my fair share of what there was to get and enjoyed the day out in the country.  Ah well, its all part of the game!    I came back feeling half dead and for the first time in my life I just sprayed my gun liberally with WD 40 and left it for the morning, for which I feel ashamed!

13th January – We had the monthly Anglian Muzzle Loaders clay shoot at Cambridge Gun Club today.  Bev insists that I post that I shot very well (for me, that is). I surprised everyone, myself included, by being ahead  after the first 16 clays =  two stands, but alas it didn’t last, and I didn’t manage to connect with many of the long range targets – by common consent they were out to 50 or 60 yards  and being carried rapidly downwind, and by the time we got to the driven stand I’d lost concentration a bit, but still my best score in ages.  It augers well for a game shoot on Tuesday, and I’ve just got invited on  a ‘Cock Day’ for the last day on the season, which will round off the game year very nicely.  Don’t expect much gun stuff over the next two weeks as I have got to struggle with my income tax return for Jan 31st!

11 January – Interesting little problem – Dick put a replacement cock on a percussion pistol in the correct orientation for sitting on the nipple when the tumbler is down and the spring is almost at the edge of the lock plate, and it all works but the cock is very far back in the full cock position – it all works but both the half cock and full cock positions seem a bit too far back.  The tumbler and sear all seem to be undamaged and original and it has a ‘fly’ or detent on the tumbler that works OK .  The only things I can see wrong are that the link on the mainspring has been brazed and the mainspring short arm has a very long ‘stalk’ that rests on the bolster, so that the mainspring is overfolded in the full cock position – it only just gets that far.  I can’t see what is wrong – the square on the cock could be a little out but not enough to cause the problem, and the link might be wrong, although neither would affect the cock position.  Given that it has a ‘fly’ it is not possible to move the bents in the tumbler although it might be possible to shave a bit off the front of the sear.  I guess Dick and I will have another think together!   I managed to find an hour to solder the top rib on the Venables and it’s on pretty well – there is one small gap on one side but that is where the rib was previously filed down too much and it doesn’t touch the barrel – to have put it in contact with the barrel would have involved bending one side of the rib down by almost 1 mm, so best not attempted – it will be fine as it is, I hope – the rest is very solid.  I do rate resoldering barrels as my unfavourite – job I’ll do it for my guns but not for others!

 Position with cock on the nipple – it looks very upright!

Half cock.

A very laid back full cock – the mainspring is struggling!

10th January – I was helping a friend with an early spring clean and we found a cartridge bag which turned out to contain 50 12 Bore Bismuth cartridges on a peg, then we found another 25 in a bedroom, and 25 more in a cupboard, making a total of 100.  While I don’t shoot live quarry with a breechloader very often, I can use the No 5 bismuth shot in a muzzle loader and can then shoot wildfowl if the opportunity arises.  I had a quick look at the price of Bismuth shot on the web and it looks as if buying cartridges and recovering the shot is somewhat cheaper than buying loose shot by enough to be worth while – plus its much easier to get hold of cartridges than shot.  The only downside is that you have a whole lot of primed, damaged cases – or perhaps I can find a way of unloading them so that I can use the cases for black powder cartridges, which I do use for hammer gun club shoots.  Bismuth is supposed to be as soft as lead and OK for Damascus barrels, muzzle loaders etc.  It’s slightly less dense than lead, 10 instead of 11.7 gm/cc so you need to go up a shot size to give a comparable range and penetration to lead, and you therefore end up with a somewhat less dense shot pattern, so you need to shoot within sensible range limits to give clean sure kills.

9th January – sorry for the gap in posting but more urgent duties took precedence – I actually managed to spend yesterday morning soldering the barrels of the Venables and thought I had done a good job, but after it cooled down and I cleaned it up on the fine wire wheel I spotted about 4 inches near the breech where the top rib hadn’t been in contact with the barrels on either side.  I’m not sure if the tinning was OK or if it hadn’t taken, I tried to heat up the rib to fix it but stupidly overlooked the fact that the rib would expand and bow up as it was fixed at the breech and further down the barrel.  I will now have to do a proper job and unhitch the rib right down to the breech so I can relay it properly.  Fortunately the breech remains silver soldered together so it shouldn’t all fall apart if I heat it up.  Just have to make sure the under rib and the loop for the barrel bolt stay in position.   Not sure when I’ll be able to do that job as I have a raft of stressful jobs eleswhere to attend to…  I’ve been trying to get down to Dick’s all week to take a bit of welding for Jason and collect the last lot.  Jason is our expert TIG welder – much much better than I am.  He really enjoys the challenge of the very fine gun work and would like to give up doing ‘bog standard’ speciality welding and take up gun repair!  Not sure the market is big enough unless he does modern stuff – we only have about 1/2 an hour a week of work for him. It’s definitely time I got a few jobs out of the door – I’m beginning to loose track…………………. Oh, and Fred ( see engraving Fred’s guns ) has got another one for me to do sometime – I will have to spend quite a while getting back into the swing of it as I haven’t done any significant amount of engraving for a year or so.

6th January  I bought a copy of Ian Glendenning’s 1951 book ‘British Pistols and Guns 1640 to 1840’ not remembering that I had a copy already – its long book (in shape) and only fits in my bookcase on end so you don’t see the spine and I had overlooked it.  It is, however, an exemplary book for beginners as it is a very succinct guide with a brief history and much more comprehensive descriptions of typical pistols and guns than is usually found in books.  Its a shame that photographs were not easier and cheaper to reproduce in 1951 or it would be better illustrated but it does contain a lot of line drawings of decoration. It has a brief history of developments, a comprehensive glossary, decent descriptions of pistols and guns in the author’s collection and a list of known makers.  It’s a very good second hand book to buy if you only have one book and want to put a gun or pistol of that period in context, and much cheaper than almost any other decent gun book.  If you want my spare copy for £25 including UK post, please email me – first come first served.  It’s probably slightly wrong in one or two aspects – I don’t agree with his analysis of the ignition from flash pan to chamber, for instance, but overall its pretty sound.

5th January – My calor cylinder in the shed ran out so that has put paid to finishing the Venables barrel until I can get heat back on.   I got a flintlock pocket pistol by Nock today to sort out.  It is in good condition overall but the ‘action is at fault’ as the auction houses put it in catalogues.  The mainspring has some brazing on the hook end so has probably been repaired, and the sear isn’t holding.  It was sent already stripped down – looking at the action was made easy because the side plate had been removed and you can see the engagement of the sear with the cock – the cock fulfils the role of tumbler as well as cock in that type of pocket pistol.  The cock bents are in perfect condition, the problem lies with the sear, which is an extension upwards of the trigger – it isn’t hardened like the cock bents, and so the tip  has got worn or broken away for about 1 1/2 mm. It rather looks as if someone used brute force to fire the pistol when the sear was very firmly in the half cock bent and sheared off a chunk of the sear – or possibly dropped the pistol on its cock when it was a half cock…… The sear is a bit wider than the cock, so its left a bit of the original sear sticking up either side of the worn gap that corresponds to the cock – the photos tell the story – the sear needs building up to the profile of the two bits that stick up either side – I checked by offsetting the cock and using one of the bits as the sear, and it functions properly.  It can either be done by silver soldering in a piece of steel between the remnants of the sear, or welding more material on, which will inevitably destroy the original profile.  I’ll think about that choice, both will work but the weld may be stronger?

As usual, click the photos for a better view, then the back arrow to return…

a chunk is missing out of the middle of the sear leaving a ‘horn’ either side

The sear, with worn down bit in the middle.

The cock bents are perfect.

2nd Jan 2019   I started to put the ribs on the Venables barrels – at least I got as far as tinning the ribs and lands on the barrels – I’ve probably been far too generous with the solder but I don’t want to have any more false dawns! I will probably go over it again and try to thin down the tinning to a more reasonable level or it will create loose blobs of solder within the voids under the top rib which will rattle around when the gun fires!  I’m in school tomorrow as part of a pre term planning session to see what science is planned. On Thursday I am helping take all 100 odd children to the Pantomime in Cambridge (as one of 15 adults I’m relieved to say).

1 January 2019    Happy New Year to all our visitors, especially the faithful followers!   I’ll be back soon – just got to do our New Year’s Party with breakfast for about 70 people and then I can think about doing things again!

 Posted by at 11:30 pm
Mar 202019

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 Posted by at 4:29 pm
Feb 102019

A nice gun for you today!  Derek brought a gun that belongs to a friend of his for me to cast my eye over, so with his consent, I will put a few photos on the web and we can enjoy a little specualtion about the gun together!

It’s a high quality percussion gun signed Joseph Manton on locks and barrel and with the serial number 5692 on the underside of the barrels, the breech block, the inside of  both locks and the tang of the trigger guard.  By the Manton book that serial number belongs to 1812 ( this gun is not in the book), still in the flintlock era although coming up to the tubelock and pellet lock transition period before the caplock, which this is by the usage in the Manton book.   Its about 22 bore double with 30 inch barrels but without the elevator rib that Jo Manton patented before this date (? or a small one?).  So it looks as if it is a conversion involving new locks and new breeching, or that it has been renumbered or is from a period later when his numbering MAY have gone haywire.   There are a lot of interesting clues in the gun if you can bear to go through them;-

1) It has the cocks with removable hammers – a follow-on from pellet locks and used around 1828.

2) What are those safety catches in front of  the cocks doing on a shotgun?  (they engage in a slot cut in the back of the cock when its at half cock  – I think they are a considerably later feature.

3) If its a conversion the ‘bolsters’ on the barrels above the locks look odd??

4) In addition to the sliding safetys on the cocks there is a grip safety – but it is engraved John Blisset Patent even though Jo Manton claimed to have invented it. There is a burr at the backof the slot that suggests it may be a retrofit. I can’t see Manton putting a grip safety with someone elses name on it!

5) The barrel wording is ‘Joseph Manton’s New Invention by His Majesty’s PATENT’ – a form of words that he appears to have used between 1812 and 1816 and not at any other time?  It may have a slightly elevated rib – Manton’s recent Patent – I don’t know what constitutes ‘elevated’.

6) The numbering on the barrel looks as if it may have been restamped after previous numbers were dressed out – possibly also the numbers on the breech plugs. One breech plug is a bit misaligned.

7) It has two sets of CP proof marks on the barrel – one set looking as if they have been dressed down.

8) Everthing looks OK from on top although the breech plug doesn’t align perfectly with the rib – but the engraving IS continuous across the joint.

9)  The locks have the number 5692 very clearly stamped on them.  The trigger guard tang also has the number 5692 engraved on it and looks original.

10) The locks have the classic Joseph Manton ‘sea monster’ engraving by Gumbrell that was seen on his guns around 1820 – 1828?  Oviously the front safety catches were not intended when the locks were made and engraved.

Now we can begin the speculation if you are still with me!

A good point to start is the locks –clearly made by Joseph Manton around 182X (on grounds of percussion caplock, engraving and style)  or so and clearly numbered for 5692 and so intended for an 1812 gun of his.  The locks have the sliding safety catches which can’t realistically be contemporary with their manufacture(?)  but almost certainly a later modification but are unusual on shotguns, being much more usual on rifles, (and introduced at a later date then the 1820s? – maybe 1830 – 1850?).  If he had wanted to put a safety catch on a gun in 1828 he would almost certainly have used one behind the cock intercepting the tumbler not the cock itself as on pistols of that era.    Joe Manton didn’t make very many rifles.  When you add in the grip safety, which looks like a retrofit on account of Manton claiming to have invented it and it having another gunmaker’s name on it (grip safetys were not in fashion for long as they are pretty unreliable)  The grip and cock safety together might suggest that it was possibly converted from a rifle (unlikely) but more likely that it had a very cautious owner at some time – possibly at conversion but probably  some time after – possibly in two phases, grip safety and then sliding safety.  The condition of the blueing of the sliders suggests that the gun wasn’t used much if at all after they were fitted ?   The gun has not had a lot of wear at any time – maybe some prior to conversion, but relatively little use as a percussion gun as there is almost no corrosion around the nipples on the breeches.

The stock and furniture seem OK for 1812, and the number 5692 on the trigger guard tang is almost certainly original so I’m inclined to put it all down as original – the engraving throughout is consistent in quality and design and could date from a few years earlier than the Sea Monster lock engraving.

The barrels are interesting – the signature etc is right for the serial number date of 1812 ( used up to 1816). There is no gold or platinum stamp on the breeches, but they are very small and maybe not wide enough to take his stamp.  It looks as if they have been struck off and renumbered and rebrowned and reproofed but I believe that the gun has been untouched in the same family for many years and it is quite possible that the work was done when the gun was converted or when one or other of the safety devices were added – it is almost certainly not a recent rebrowning.  While it is possible to speculate that the gun was at one time a rifle and has been rebarreled, one would have to allow that the present barrel was contemporary with the original 1812 date or else re-signed in perfect imitation of the earlier form.

My current guess is that the gun was built as a flintlock 22 bore shotgun in 1812  and carefully converted by Joseph Manton to caplock in about 1828 (say 1825 – 1830).  At some point it was owned by a hyper cautious owner who had the safety grip added – maybe by John Blisset himself ( he became Blisset and Son in 1867).  It is possible that being very cautious the owner had the barrels reproofed at that time or they may have been done at the time of conversion, although Manton did not always send guns to the proofhouse  – he preferred his own hydraulic test.  I incline to think that the sliding safety is somewhat later than the grip safety ( I’ve only seen it on guns of 1840 to 1860) and so may have been added later.

So its tentative history ( a guess!) ;

1812 made by Joseph Manton as a 22 bore flintlock shotgun

1828 ish  converted by Joseph Manton to caplock

1830 ish  grip safety added – ?by John Blisset? date based loosly on level of wear. & reproofed?

(1840 -1850) ??  front safety catches added  and reproofed(?) Not much used thereafter?

I’m sure I’ll be proved wrong – I will take the gun to Geoff Walker at  ‘The Flintlock Collection’ as he knows his Mantons much better than I do.

 Posted by at 10:32 am
Jan 242019

Here is the diary:

30th December – Nothing much to add – cleaned up the workshop a bit which took all the time I had – I did find a little book  from 1941 – a handy guide to Enemy Weapons with brief instructions so that they could be pressed into service by the British if needed…….

Its complete – someone has ticked off most of the weapons so presumably they had absorbed the information, or maybe actually handled the weapon.

I’ll probably be arrested for putting it on the web!  I might just compound my sin by scanning it and putting the whole thing on the web sometime. I like the instruction that it shouldn’t fall into enemy hands – did they think the enemy didn’t already know about the weapons they used?

29th December – One party done – 23 members of the family for a sit down lunch – lovely to see them all every year.  Now back to normal for 24 hours, then another prep for the next party!  Managed to get a visit to the climbing wall for another bouldering session where I met an old college friend who, like me, is a climbing geriatric – he has been climbing for many years, I’ve done it three times and am told that my technique is rubbish, but I did manage to do a grade 4 and 5 climb today in spite of that.  I found time to start on the mainspring for the little Harding pistol  – I had a strip of 2 mm thick spring steel and cut out a profile with an angle grinder and annealed it in the furnace  then put in the hairpin bend in about the right place – note the tab which will eventually make the pin that goes in the hole in the lockplate – best not to make it too small at this stage as you don’t know how the bend will turn out.  Heat to red heat and bend at 90 degrees then hammer a bit flatter and eventually almost close up the joint ( keep heating it up between stages). it’s then shaped a bit more and the thickness and width tapered and  then you can file down the pin so that the ‘elbow’ just clears the protrusion on the nose of the lock that holds it in place.  I had to heat and bend the pin very slightly to get the spring to lie flat.  I then opened up the spring a little and heated the the end that rests on the tumbler ( there is no link on this pistol) and bent it to shape.  Having got the shape of the end more or less right, I annealed to by making a hollow in a pile of wood ash and heating the spring with a butane torch, then pushing the ash over the spring to slow down the cooling.   After polishing it I was able to offer it up in place – it looks reasonable, but may need a little more adjusting before it is finally opened up a bit and hardened and tempered, of which more later….  I think it will be OK, if I’d had a slightly thicker spring steel I might have preferred to make it 2.25 mm thick, but I think it will do – I do have to put a dab of weld on the top arm so I can file up a little wedge to go into the small indent on the underside of the lock ledge.  I can then finish the sear nose and get on to the cock.

26th December  Pheww……  Christmas is passed, now just 2 big parties to organise and run in the next week – but at least we had today to relax!  We even managed to go to the cinema and see ‘Mortal Engines’ which seemed rather like the last Star Wars film I saw, lots of shootups and clever cgi.  Anyway I did manage to get more done on the sear for the Harding pistol – it just needs to be finally adjusted after the mainspring and cock have been sorted.  I rather like fiddly machining, although I’m prone to being a bit careless at the last moment and taking off too much metal somewhere. I just about got the sear OK, – the arm that intersects the trigger plate was welded to the sear itself rather than machined as one piece to save more machine ops, and I left the joint as a fillet.

There is a bit of a puzzle with the works of this pistol that I can’t get my head round at the moment – the bridle appears to fit perfectly on the lock plate – the 2 screws, tumbler and the peg are in perfect alignment, and the tumbler seems right.  The puzzle is that the lock plate has a slot for a sliding safety catch and the tumbler has a slot into which a catch would fit at half cock – all as it should be to work with a small part moving inside the V of the sear spring, with a cover spring with a pip to hold the catch in either position.  All as I would expect – But the puzzle is that there is a slot in the bridle that doesn’t quite align with the slot for the catch in the lockplate, and a additional hole in the bridle that doesn’t coincide with a hole in the lockplate, and anyway is half obstructed by the tumbler when its on full cock  – so what are  the slot and the hole in the bridle for – they would appear to get in the way of the sliding safety and tumbler ?  Any ideas or photos would be appreciated;-

25th December 00:12 hrs    Happy Christmas, and thanks to all the followers of this blog who have contacted me over the past year – have a good day, and may Father Christmas bring you something special, or, more likely if you are like me, you’ll have to buy it yourself if its in the gun line!

23th December – I couldn’t keep away from the workshop and came across the little pair of rubbish pistols I had bought at too high a price, and thought they deserved a bit of attention as at least one is restoreable.  The first problem was fixing the stock – the muzzle end was cut away so I needed to splice on a bit of matching wood, glue up a crack down the middle ( partly covered by the patch wood) and then patch a couple of small holes with instant glue and sawdust, then steam a few dents out and colour up the patch.  That is all going well so the next problem is the cock, which isn’t the original one – its a casting and is stamped on the back with initials and the date 1969. – it had never been fitted to this pistol as the square is completely out of alignment with the tumbler.  I cleaned up the cock and recut the engraving and filed it up a bit to make it look a bit less like a casting – the next job is to fill up the hole in the cock and weld it all up ready for a new square to be cut.  I’ll fill up the hole with a square plug of steel with a pilot hole drilled in the middle, and weld round it.  I’ll need to get a sear that fits and make or find a mainspring, plus all the bits of the safety catch that locks the tumbler in half cock position.

De-rusted and ready for restoration.

The wood of the patch is a little light but it will colour down OK

Cock stamped 1969 – with plug to block the square.

22nd December – I had another session of ‘Bouldering’ with Giles this afternoon (see diary 17 Dec.).  I managed a few of the third grade climbs but found that after a few climbs  I didn’t have the strength in my arms to do overhanging  climbs – I’ll have to ask Father Christmas for some weights!   I was reading a copy of ‘Muzzle Blasts’, the American magazine from 1968 and was amazed to see that the US Senate was considering legislation to require a State licence in order to transport any firearm in an automobile through that state!  In some states it was apparently already an offense to have a firearm anywhere in a public place or in a vehicle except in the local hunting season.  Given that level of proposed restriction its not difficult to see why the NRA so vigorously defends the freedoms it eventually won from excessively restrictive laws.  The UK may well find itself in the same boat in the next few years if there is a change of government, and in the event of a ‘no deal brexit’ transporting guns through Europe may well require permits from every country transited!  There are currently government proposals to prohibit the instruction of under 18s in the handling of air weapons on private land or ranges, which would be loose one of the main opportunities to train youngsters in the safe handling of guns of all types – I guess you and I know that few people with any land will take any notice, meaning that those without are being penalised again!  There is also pressure to get some kind of regulation of antiques, at least of obsolete calibre breech loaders.  See the latest copy of Black Powder’ for the battles being fought on our behalf by the BASC, MLAGB, Sir Geoffery Clifton-Brown and others. If you are not a member of either organisation, please join as they are doing a fine job defending all aspects of out hobby……….  Oh well, moan over, and by the way, have a Happy Christmas, that is, if the drones don’t get you…. and I’ll try to find something more interesting to blog about in for 2019!

21st December – Looking over my stock of unfinished projects to see what I can do to escape from Christmas!  I have a set of parts for a pair of Mortimer dueling pistols that were machined up by an ex. Purdy gunmaker – its not a complete set, it needs pipes and cocks and one false breech, and the cast trigger guards that I have with it are too narrow to do the job properly.  I think I’ll have to prioritse finishing them sometime but I won’t start till I have all the bits ready.  In the meantime I ought to finish putting the ribs on the Venables barrels – the only trouble with that job is that it probably ought to be done in the rough workshop which has no heating to speak of – still its not that cold at the moment…

20th December – I found my Hutchinson Dueler that I’d ‘lost’.  when I went away in the summer I found it lying around after I’d put the other guns I had in the house into secure storage – so I thought I’d better hide it, which I did rather successfully, because I have been unable to find it since!  Anyway today I was clearing out a part of my workshop and found it behind a large box.  It was about the third gun I bought in the early days and I had some of the work on it done by Dick and the barrel struck up and the name freshened by a professional engraver.  It was in fairly good condition except that the cock had been broken and repaired very badly by brazing so that it was not really possible to re-weld it – I had a copy of a cock from my very similar Edwards duellers, both Dublin, both the same era and very similar in engraving. That was before I regularly posted stuff on this blog so there is no post – I will put up some photos, mostly of the finished job. See new POST

18th December – One more screw to make today – a side nail for the duelling pistol – one was worn but OK and the other was a bit too far gone around the turnscrew slot.  I was going to make a complete new screw but I couldn’t find a thread that would work  – neither 2 BA or 10 UNC would cut the mustard.  Fortunately the thread on the existing nail was OK, so that gives two possibilities – weld up the head slot and file and recut it, or graft a new head onto the old stem.  Welding up the head slot is dodgy if you are an indifferent TIG welder like me, but I know I can make a reasonable fist of welding the stems of side nails and similar size screws.   I turned up a new head with 10mm of shaft and cut the appropriate length from the top of the existing screw.  A slightly precarious jigging of the parts and a dab of weld fixed it and I could then weld round it.  Of course the old metal had a fair bit of carbon, but I managed to do a strong weld using piano wire filler rod.

The head was then shaped a bit using a drill and file and the slot cut with a slightly ground 12 inch hacksaw blade,  brushed on a fibre wheel, given a quick reverse electrolysis and engraved to match the other nail and re-brushed. Then  case hardening with Blackley’s colour case hardening powder followed by quenching, then a wire brush and a short rusting with slow brown.  Overall effect is satisfactory!

Re-heading a nail by welding on a new head.

The nail on the left is the new one.

17th December – bit tired today as I went ‘bouldering’ with Giles yesterday in Cambridge.  I had seen it before when I went with the children from school for their activity week, but hadn’t really tried it.  Its basically free climbing on a wall  4.5m high with hand and footholds without a rope – if you fall you have about 500mm deep of soft flooring to absorb the shock.  The holds are coloured and each colour defines a climb, graded according to difficulty- I managed the first two of the 8 grades – above that the handholds are less positive and my grip isn’t up to it yet. There are lots of climbs at each grade, including overhangs, so lots of things to try and scare yourself with!  I only found one of the second grade that I couldn’t do, and I think I must have spent well over an hour without repeating any climbs – great fun… see photo (not the Cambridge wall).   I did a bit of work at the Bullard Archive this morning, photographing old equipment, since I seem to be the photographer in view of the number of photos I take for this blog!  I had a little session of lathe work this afternoon, having measured and planned the screws I need to make to restore the duelling pistol I’m working on.  I keep a supply of old screws to try in holes if I have to make new screws, and also thread gauges if I need to check a thread. The table of thread sizes I compiled is invaluable for finding a match – its on this blog on the USEFUL DATA page in downloadable form. I have most small taps and dies, except not a very good selection of  Metric sizes like M3.5 and M4.5 . Most threads of British or Irish guns turn out to be replaceable with either UNF or UNC threads ( or 1/4 BSF for nipples – not the same as 1/4 UNF! ) so those are my ‘go-to’ threads.  I needed a screw of about 4.5 mm diameter for the tang screw at 32 t.p.i  – I took a chance on No 10 UNF which should be 4.82 mm diameter but tightening the screws on the die holder cut a perfect 4.51 diameter thread. I did the checking and sketch the screws needed while in my warm workshop and then migrated to the freezing shed where my lathe is, taking cards with sketches on.  I managed three screws in a short afternoon including simple engraving and aging, and also finished off a replacement blank for the link I have to remake.

15th December – I finished the link today, only to find that its really still a bit short for the mainspring I want to use – I think I may have mis-measured somewhere along the line – not to worry, its the first one I’ve made and I now know I can make them pretty quickly – I left the pins on that one a bit big too, so I’ll make a better job next time – I didn’t bother to finish it once it more or less fitted as I could see it wasn’t going to work….   I think the technique will work for links with two pins as the tumbler end pin can be silver soldered in if necessary.  I’m also going over the ribs of the Venables to make sure they are properly tinned, and I’ll do the barrel some time but the main heating element is set up in the shed and its freezing in there!  Anyway here are some more photos of the link…

Complete disk 1/16th inch thick as a blank for the link

Hacksawed, ground and filed to shape – its not quite long enough!

14th December – I started work on sorting a lock for a client – it had a home-made mainspring and a short bodged link between the claw on the mainspring and the tumbler.  My first job is to make a new link – this lock has a screwed pin as the pivot in the tumbler, so there is only one end of the link that needs a permanent pin fixed through it.  This opens up a neat way of making a replacement.  First I hacked out a rough disk of steel from a sheet of 8 mm EN8 steel with an angle grinder and Araldited it onto the face of a piece of 1 1/2 inch bar that I’d faced off in the lathe.  A couple of hours on the AGA top hardened the adhesive, and I was able to turn the blank to about 35 mm diameter and then turn off the face 3 mm deep leaving a 2.0 mm peg sticking up in the centre.  putting the whole caboosh on the AGA hotplate didn’t quite destroy the glue bond but a few minutes with a kitchen blow torch finished the job.  I now have to re-chuck the bar and skim it flat and put a 2.1 mm hole in the centre, and glue the disk on, then face it down so the disk is 1.55 mm thick and also leave a 2.00 peg in the centre – then I just have to cut out and file the link to shape and drill the hole for the tumbler pin.  I’ll have to be careful to make sure I get the disk thickness right.

The link is too short – a poor replacement at some time…

One side of the disk faced off.

13th December – That work on the AGA didn’t achieve a solution! it went out overnight due to overheating and cutting out, and I had another couple of hours trying to get it right.  Its a delicate system, quite simple in principle but dependent on the burner and the reservoir being exactly at the right relative levels relative to each other. I’m not sure that even now I’ve got it right – the trouble is that it takes around 6 hours to cool down enough to work on and 6 hours at least to get back to working temperature.  Anyway I did get to post the gravers and make a graver sharpener for a client, and I also found a decapper for another client – I have to say that the retail sales figures for cablesfarm.co.uk have taken a big upturn – that is, from about 1 every 3 months to 3 in a fortnight! maybe its people stocking up on Christmas presents or as a precaution against a hard brexit!   I did get to go to the school for their Christmas lunch and I even dressed up a bit – went into the little ones classroom as the were being fitted with paper hats, and they all wanted to try on my top hat.  I now have a pile of gun stuff to do and its getting near to Christmas panic time in cablesfarm – I can feel the pitch rising, so I’ll have to make myself useful to avoid a meltdown!  A correspondent pointed out that the photo of the funeral reminded him of a sketch from Monty Python – it reminds me of a sketch that they could have made,  but not the famous (totally tasteless) one they actually made.  I’m sure I’ve seen a scene of a group of pallbearers struggling across rough ground somewhere though……….

13th December – I realised why I hadn’t got much done yesterday – I spent 2 hours struggling with the AGA which had gone out while we were in Wales. There is a major problem with AGAs with the the old style wick burners using modern oil with biofuel added as they clog up with sticky soot – this time it lasted only 6 weeks or so since I scoured it out thoroughly.  ( Actually looking back over this blog I see that I cleaned it on 12th Sept, so actually 3 months, not so bad, but still not ideal!).   Anyway its now playing up and tripping the overheating sensor and turning itself off, so another session this a.m. trying to fix it – while I have a heap of other jobs waiting!  I thought you might like this photo from mother in law’s funeral while you wait for more gun stuff!

12th More –  Managed to get two gravers made – doesn’t seem much for a day, but I did have a visit from a collector/dealer who bought a revolver case from me and left a couple of pistols that need a bit of work.  One percussion pocket pistol just needs a cock – I only have long gun cocks in my spares box but I’m hoping that Dick can come up with something, otherwise its a bit of a hacksaw and weld job – amazing what you can do with a bit of brute force and ignorance!   The other one is a flintlock – it needs the usual clean up and the woodwork patching and sorting and probably a couple of screws made – as regulars will know that is one of my favourite jobs – it is also due a barrel re-browning.   To give you some idea of costs, the flintlock will probably cost around £300 to £350 to sort  – and it should add about £500 to the value – obviously we don’t often do work that costs more than the added value, although occasionally people want antiques restored for sentimental value.  I reckon making a simple screw if I have a die for it is around £20 to £30 with the head engraved and coloured down.

12th December – back from the Welsh funeral – wonderful way to go – the sight of the coffin being carried up a steep muddy track and across a bumpy field to be buried in her field was very moving – bit of a struggle for the guys carrying it though.  Anyway back now and a list of jobs to get out of the way before Christmas – make a couple of gravers, revisit my designs for sharpeners and make one for a client, fix the two locks – make or find a tumbler link and last but not least finish the barrels – they are beginning to haunt me!

8th December – Had a good clay shoot today – something must have changed in the way I’m shooting, although I can’t think what, but I did much better than usual with my usual Sam Nock percussion double – long may it last… Unusually for me I had a ‘misfire’ and some trouble unloading the barrel, but I think I made a mistake when I probed the barrel with the loading rod and in fact it wasn’t loaded at all! – we all make silly mistakes at times but its much safer to assume a gun is loaded when its not, than the other way round. After unloading the other barrel and tipping out the powder I fired off a cap – this showed that even after unloading and inverting and tapping the gun, quite a lot of powder remains adhering to the inside of the barrel – judging from the muzzle flash.  I  did know this from a previous occasion when I had loaded directly after tipping out the powder and suffering a very hefty wallop on firing……….  We had our Anglian Muzzle Loader’s Christmas Dinner (at 4 p.m., normal time for a cup of tea and a crumpet!) and raffle – I put in a de-capper and a worm for a loading rod – I was planning to offer to tap the recipient’s loading rod to take the worm, but I’d chosen to put a 9/32 x 26 thread on it as that seemed to be the most common thread on older cleaning rods, and it was picked up by someone who was looking for a worm for a cleaning rod that fitted it.  The decapper went to a good home too – there can’t be many percussion shooters in the area who don’t have one of my decappers, I’ve made so many!

Sandra, our very efficient AML scorer and button pusher!

7th December – signed on today to find the WordPress software that powers this site was due for an update, which included a new editor, so now I’m not sure quite what I’m doing – so far it doesn’t look that different so maybe I’ll be able to manage!   If you are thinking of setting up a website and want a DIY job, go for WordPress with Wordfence to guard it from rogues!  Without them I wouldn’t be running this blog.  I’m off to Cambridge Gun Club for our monthly shoot and Christmas Dinner tomorrow – muzzle loading shooting involves a comprehensive list of equipment, most of which has to be carried round from stand to stand.  I have a leather ‘bum bag’ with a waist strap that sits in front, it has wads and cards and spare caps and the unloading worm  end for my loading rod.  My capper is on  a chain and holds about 20 caps – its one of the Ted Cash ones from Kranks and works well.  I have a large shot flask on a strap hanging at my waist that will just about do 40 shots at 1 1/4 oz.  My powder flask can sit in a coat pocket or on a table if there is one. My loading rod is leaned against something handy for clays, or fitted into a tube that is stuck in the ground for driven game shooting.  Remembering all this paraphernalia is challenging, and its not uncommon for someone to get to the first stand and realise that they haven’t brought their loading rod from their car, or worse still, at all.

6th December – I did one of those daft jobs today that takes longer than its really worth, but sometimes one has to in order to get a project finished- the pair of cased pocket pistols I bought as a blog project needed new screws for the backstrap/tang, and the steel inserts they went into had got damaged when I had to drill out the screw.  So I made a couple of screws, and matching brass inserts to Araldite into 5 mm holes where I had drilled out the inserts – it turned out that 7 B.A. was a good thread size that I had a tap and die for – I have a more or less full set of B.A. and UNC & UNF but am a bit short on Metric threads in the smaller sizes.  By the time that job was done the morning had gone…. Anyway the little pistols are now together and working fine, so I’ll put them on the ‘for sale’ page.  I also cleaned up and tinned the top and under rib of the Venables (again!) and made a new heating element by straightening out an old grill element and bending it into a ‘hairpin’.  Unfortunately it turns out to be a bit short – I think it will work with the Venables barrels which are only 26 1/2 inches long, but only just!  I have got a couple of storeage heater elements that are 650 W each so I will straighten them and use one for each barrel – I’ll need some ceramic connector blocks to join them, the grill elements come with ‘faston’ tabs.

Used grill element – it does work but its a bit short.

5th December – I took the pair of London locks over to Dicks and we tried to find a pair of springs to replace the rather poor ones that someone had made for them – I hoped Dick would take on the job but unfortunately he is already overloaded, so I’ll have to have a look at it – we found a couple of springs that might fit, but we will probably have to find or make new tumbler links – luckily the links are fitted with a screw onto the tumbler so don’t need a through pin both ends, which reduces the work a bit.  The locks need a bit of welding as one cock is very loose on its square – someone had put in a couple of bits of metal as packing to stop it wobbling around!  Also the step in the cock that should act as a stop by hitting the top edge of the lock is not making contact – the cock is being stopped by the tumbler colliding with the bridle, which is not right!  I’ll post some pictures. I’ve derusted the little pocket pistol ( called C51 in my list for some reason)  and it doesn’t look quite as bad as I expected!  I am now tidying up the butt and re-sinking the escutcheon that had ended up standing well proud of the surface.    The little cased pair of pocket pistols is having the butts oil finished – it needs a couple of small screws made – I think 7 B.A. is about right and I have the taps and dies for that…….

(C51) Definitely worth the effort derusting it !  Its a good example of a very cheap pocket pistol of around 1850ish.  The engraving on the boxlock is what I regard as the most rudimentary engraving possible and is a strong signal to me that it was cheap, although the butt is better than most cheap pistols.  Note that the pistol is shown at half cock, in which state it could possibly be carried with a cap on the nipple without the cap falling off – maybe if one felt in imminent danger?  You certainly couldn’t put a cap on the nipple at half cock.

4th December – Busy today buying a Christmas tree and other chores – household duties piling up as the season approaches and we have a family funeral on Monday (not mine, you will be relieved to hear).   A new viewer of this blog expressed some surprise that it had a quarter of a million visitors over time, until I explained that I couldn’t distinguish between 250,000 different people visiting, and one person visiting 250,000 times, given the information my computer logs – I probably could do it if I downloaded each day’s visitor’s IP addresses and  correlated them but I’ll just assume that it has about a hundred regulars at most and lots of casual hits!  What I do know is that on average visitors click on around 3 or 4 posts each time they visit

3rd December – Sorry about the gap – don’t know what happened to the time!   I got set up for soldering the ribs on the Venables on Saturday – carefully tinned all the surfaces and put the heating element in and started to warm the barrel and I thought I had the bottom rib settled in place  and the solder melting when all the lights went out leaving me in total darkness at the back of a very cluttered shed!  Turned out that an electrical leakage in the heating element was tripping the electricity, so that was the end of that for the time being!  Sunday in daylight I had the idea of making sure the barrels which I had previously carefully earthed were not grounded, and letting them float at whatever voltage the leakage generated – all I had to do was the switch off the power at a double pole switch before touching the barrel!   That worked – I had a voltmeter on the barrel and it wasn’t above about 50 volts so no problem……  Anyway  I thought I’d got the ribs soldered on BUT no such luck – there wasn’t enough solder and most of it was dry joints so off it has come again, and I’ll try again with more solder on the joints – I had tinned them all but I’d wiped the tinned surfaces with a tissue and not left enough solder on them.    I had a couple of late London locks to work on because they don’t spark up as the mainsprings were too weak.  Actually they will take a bit more sorting out!  I’m still trying to work out the recent history of the locks – both springs appear to be much narrower than any I’ve seen before, one is certainly home made, and one link is wrong.  They are from the period when main and frizzen springs were made very strong to speed up ignition, so its a bit of a mystery…    I tried to get the little pair of pocket pistols done – I made a new screw for the butt under tang – No 8 UNC – and aged the head by reverse electrolysing and then browning tit – looks fairly convincing.   I’ll get them together shortly – I have to sort out screws for the top tangs, they are tapped into metal inserts in the wood of the butt, which appears to be ebony – class pistols!   I have started to de-rust another little percussion pocket pistol from my bits and pieces box – not sure this one is going to amount to much, but we shall see……………

Very rusty and basic pocket pistol (C51)- lets see what we can make of it!

29th November – Back from a marathon session of auction watching at Bonhams!  What is to report?  I guess that the general view was that prices were ‘soft’ when compared with a few years ago.  Not much surprised me – there were as usual one or two things that went well above estimate but nothing that got applause from the room, and a lot of the small pistols that went within estimate or just one bid above.  A pair of silver mounted pistols from 1650 (estimate £6000-9000)  made £13000 (Hammer price)- I think that old stuff –  i.e. up to mid 18th century –  is undervalued compared to the mass of late 18th through early 19th century firearms, just on the basis of the quantity that is out there.  A pair of nice Scottish pistols of good quality by John Murdoch of 1760 also made over the estimate,  again no doubt due to the scarcity of  such good early stuff.   Most small tap action pistols didn’t shine – some were unsold, but a pair by D Egg made £5500 (Hammer price) on an estimate of £2 -£3K.  The hammer price has a 25% buyer’s premium plus VAT on the premium meaning you pay 30% more than you bid – I’m used to it and plan carefully, but it used to get me in the very early days – I’d think I’d got a bargain, only to find when I went to pay that it didn’t look so great, even though I did know about it, its just psychologically difficult to include it while bidding, which is of course what all auctions trade on!  By the time a dealer has added on a reasonable margin, minimum 25%, probably up to 100% or more (no names, no pack drill, but you might know who I’m referring to!), things are getting expensive.   One thing that is interesting is that mid and lower  priced cased pairs of pistols often don’t fetch as much as you would have expected them to fetch if sold either uncased or as single pistols, especially if you add on the value of the case, flask and accessories.  One dealer who bought one cased pair said he would split it up to get more for it.  I was annoyed at myself for not bidding higher on a box of flasks, but you can never know how far the other bidder would have taken you unless you try!  I had intended to bid on some pistols for restoration on the blog but they just crept out of my top prices.

If you are wondering if  I actually bought anything or just spent my time writing down the prices things made, I did – I bought a nice cased Pryce and Cashmore Daw patent pistol, and , on the spur of the moment, I bought a ‘small’ double barreled flintlock pistol of 18 bore by Fishenden of Tunbridge in rather good condition – except for 3 small dings on the barrel that must have been made after it was re-browned as they could easily have been reduced in appearance by a little filing of the raised bits thrown up by the dents – I might have to do it!  Anyway it is otherwise in nice condition.  I think I’m going to try to make up  cases for all my pistols as near as possible in the style of originals – not by way of faking but just because they look so nice in a case!  Oak pistol cases should be easy as the top and bottom are screwed on with small brass screws.   A couple of pistols like ones I have got made cheering amounts – a Remington o/u Derringer in poor condition made £450 hammer price – mine retains most of its original finish……

Fishenden of Tunbridge 18 bore Pistol

26th November – I had a school visit this morning and my STEM club in the afternoon, so didn’t do much to the barrel except clean up the surfaces that the ribs will attach to. I checked that the breech blocks still fitted perfectly together, so I must have got the barrels joined in exactly the right orientation – that is a relief!  Here are a couple of photos of the setup – the red arrow points to the K type thermocouple that monitors temperature and can control the heater – it is covered with a bit of glass wool in use so that it picks up the barrel temperature – I also have an IR thermometer that gives spot temperatures so it is possible to control the heat and thus hopefully get the soldering right.  I’ll buy some lead free solder paste for the ribs.  I’m off tomorrow to view Bonham’s Wednesday and Thursday auctions.  There are very few percussion or flint sporting guns in the sale – a few large bores but very little of interest to the low budget shooter!  I will look at a few percussion and flint pistols to see if anything is worth fettling, and I’m tempted to look at percussion revolvers although the piggy bank is pretty empty!   Even if I am not seriously buying, I’m always interested to watch the auctions as it gives a good idea of the market and who is buying.  I have a feeling that Bonhams is normally the hunting ground of dealers, whereas Holts has more collectors – I know that the saying in the trade is ‘ buy at Bonhams, sell at Holts’  and I suspect that there may be some truth in it – one difference is that Bonhams will often sell below the bottom estimate if there is little interest in a lot, whereas Holts almost never does – in all their auctions I’ve only seen it happen a couple of times – Holts do have their on-line unsold lots sale as a backstop.  Anyway I’ll report back………..

Without additional heat from a torch, the element only gets the barrel up to just above 280 C – the melting point of tin.

Make sure you earth everything including the barrel!

Dick bought a straight element, but you can straighten curved ones if you can’t get a similar one.

the weird colour is due to the lighting in the shed – in this case an LED bulb – I’ve toned it down from deep yellow!

25th November – Started putting the Venables barrel back together today.  I set up Dick’s 2 KW ‘hairpin element on the controller for my furnace, so that I could control the barrel temperature using a probe, so that it didn’t overheat.  I wanted to start by silver soldering the barrels together at the breech and muzzle, and decided it needed one small packing piece between the barrels in the middle as they were quite easy to bend  and I was worried that when I came to put the ribs on they would force the barrels apart – the packing piece was about 1.5 mm thick since the barrels are a bit flared – properly referred to as ‘swamped’ for some reason.  I needed to get the temperature of the bits to be joined up to 680 C – the melting point of ‘Easy’ silver solder – which is actually about dull red heat – the element only raised the temperature to about 300 C (so no need for the controller at this stage!), which will be enough for the tin solder that I’ll use for fixing the ribs themselves, but I had to use a small gas-oxygen torch as well to get the areas to be silver soldered up to the extra required heat.  Anyway it all seemed to work out OK and I now have the barrels firmly joined in a way that will allow me to get them hot enough to re-fix the ribs without the barrels coming apart.  I now have to clean them up and re-tin the margins where the ribs will touch.  I’ll need to wire on both top and bottom ribs and solder both together.  The standard method is to tie soft iron wire round the barrels with the ends twisted together with pliers, and drive cut nails as wedges to hold the ribs- they can then be tightened up as the wire expands on heating – I also have half a dozen small ‘vice grips’ modified to clamp ribs in place.  The ramrod tube with the hole for the bolt needs to go on at the same time, and it probably a good idea to fix the other pipes at the same time.  Refixing barrels is about the worst job there is on guns, particularly on old guns where the metal surfaces that the ribs touch may be pitted and hard to clean – I wish I had a minature sand blaster, then I could mask the strips off and clean them thoroughly.   I’ll be interested to see how well this one goes – it would be good to have a reliable method!  I’m already thinking about lapping the barrels – again, it would be really good to have a setup that would let me lap barrels easily.  I guess that the soldering of the ribs will have to wait a week as I’m in London most of the week at Bonham’s sales – if I can manage to find time and internet access I’ll post reports!

24th  November –  I realised I needed cufflinks for a black tie dinner shortly, and I had lost one of mine so I thought I’d buy a cheap pair and construct my own with the bits and some nice Quorn Hunt buttons I have.  In the end I found a cheap pair in the keycutting/engraving shop for £11.99 – the assistant asked if I wanted them engraved (machine), and I said I did hand engraving myself – she asked if I did commissions as they occasionally got asked for hand engraved things… anyway it made me think it would be fun to engrave the plain ones I’d just bought in the style of an early 19th century gun lock.  The link blanks were a treat to engrave, being thinly plated copper – I might even be tempted to do their engraving after all!  I’ll get another pair when I go past again as I’m not particularly happy with the second one (not shown here!).  Maybe I should take commissions  for Christmas presents! I wonder if the gold plating would take – the decapper I plated wore/rusted through very quickly but I’d only put a gold wash on it.

Here are 5 motifs from the end of the 18th, beginning of the 19th century gun locks – bird, flower, fence, plant and sunburst – they are about 1/4 of the size they would be on a gunlock – about 1 cm square.  They are in typical William Palmer style .

23rd – We did pass 250000 visitors!  I did a little prep on the Venables barrels but decided that I needed an infra red thermometer as mine had disappeared to Gile’s flat!  As usual I got escalated into buying the most expensive one that Screwfix had – it does infra red up to 1000C and also had a K type thermocouple for contact measurement, so I should be able to get the silver solder temperature right without overheating the barrels etc.  The cheaper infra red thermometers only go to 300 – 500 C.  I did some more work on the small pair of pistols – I had to drill out the screw in the tang and in doing so I enlarged the hole somewhat – it was pretty rusted up and the screw fitted into a steel insert in the butt that was completely rusted to the screw.  I tried to weld up the screw hole, which should have been an easy job, but my foot pedal control on the welder had got out of adjustment and was on full power all the time, so that more or less destroyed the tang before I had a chance to take my foot off the gas!   Anyway I fixed the pedal and welded a new tail on the tang, filed it up and engraved it, then matted it down by ‘reverse derusting’ it which pitts the surface slightly.  Now have to sort out the insert in the butt, make a new screw and adjust the hole  in the tang…. a stupid amount of work for a couple of errors!

23rd – November – some time today this blog should reach a quarter of a million visitors since it started!  Amazing for such a minority interest site….

22rd November – Great game shoot in Hertfordshire – 4 cracking drives with lots of very well presented pheasants in nice varied country.  When we arrived at the first drive it was raining, but it stopped by the time we had got to the pegs and was cloudy and a bit chilly but not uncomfortably so.  As usual our overall shots to birds ratio was excellent at about 2.3:1, which is much better than the average breech loading shoot  – discussing it over lunch I reckon its because the keen Anglian Muzzle Loading game shooters shoot clays and game with equal enthusiasm, and thus shoot all year round, whereas breech loaders tend to shoot either clays or game, so the game shooters in general don’t shoot as much as we do.  Anyway I was pretty pleased with my shooting for a change – I don’t think I quite made it to 2.3 :1 but I think I was better than 3:1 and I got 11 pheasants. I’ve cleaned up the Venables, its now a question of tinning the barrels for the ribs and silver soldering the breech and muzzle together.  I discovered today that the Venables was put into Holts by a friend of mine, so I could have bought it off him and avoided the buyer’s premium if only I’d known!  Next week will be busy as I’m planning to go the Bonham’s sales on 28th and 29th – not that I can buy much but its a good way of keeping an eye on the market.

20th November – I cleaned up the little pair of pocket pistols – stripping off the butts  so the rest could go in the deruster was tricky as the screws were stuck fast.  Going round the heads with a modelling knife point broke the outer rust layer and lets the release oil soak into the joint, but I still had to use heat on one top one, and one top one just wouldn’t budge as the head was too far gone so I had to drill it out – slightly enlarging the hole in the top tang in the process, so that will have to be welded, filed and coloured up.   I put the rest of the pistols in the derusting bath without taking anything apart – they have cleaned up well on the outside and although I can’t get at the inside to brush the loose rust off, I’ll probably leave it as it all looks fine and works well – a touch of oil is all it needs.  I managed to unscrew one barrel with my hand, the other I can’t shift at the moment – not sure whether I’ll bother.  I had to go out so I left one of the derusted pistols without wire brushing or oiling it – you can see that it looks rusty, but all that brushes off.   I took the Venables barrels over to Dick’s to use his U shaped heating element to take the barrels apart.  I’m glad I took them apart as they are a mess with rust and poor soldering – the bottom rib was not well attached and there were a lot of shims between the barrels that were not properly fixed – it looked like a botched job.  The barrels were joined at the breech by what looked like brazing but it came off and didn’t look as it had made a proper joint.  Anyway now to run the through the de-ruster again and then clean them up and tin them along the rib edges.  I saw a lovely job of barrel assembly and blacking at the shoot on Sunday, but it had cost £500 and  that is just too much for the value of the gun, so I’ll do it myself with Dick’s help.  He says that soldering barrels together is the worst job he had to do – actually he hasn’t done any since I last did one with him last year.

You need to break the rust seal round the screw head and dig out the slot, then add penetrating oil and use a well fitting turnscrew.

I left this to dry after derusting as I had to go out – it looks worse than before but it will all brush off….

Here it is after a brush on the fine wheel – the nipple looks a bit short!

18th.  I had a game shoot on Friday – I didn’t hit much – some days you draw the short straw, but its all part of life’s rich pattern!  Clay shoot today in our black powder hammer gun competition – I was shooting my William Powell  gun made to Westley Richard’s 1874 patent with the ‘crab knuckle’ joint and bar in wood lock – it always gets admiring comments whenever I take it out – it has been rather over restored with blackened hammers (wrong!) but it still looks stunning if you are not a pedant!  I finished off in the afternoon re-shooting some of the same clays with my little side by side 20 bore Beretta hammer gun of 1955 vintage – I did slightly better, approaching 50%!   Next week I need to tackle the barrels of the Venables with Dick – I saw a beautiful job of refixing barrels today, but at a cost of £500 – that would make the gun too expensive, so I’ll have to do it!  I’ve been poring over the Bonham’s catalogues for 28/29 of this month – such a lot of things one could buy if one had money to spare!

15th November – More Land Cruiser expenses – the calipers were seized on the inside cylinders of both front wheels – anyway the front end is all done now – it had a fairly low mileage for its age so I guess these are symptoms of it standing around rather than working hard.  Definitely put paid to buying anything at Bonhams, although the catalogue for the sale on 29th arrived today –  they are selling the collection of a Canadian ‘Wild West’ fanatic – he had around 130 assorted Winchester underlever rifles and repros thereof – Winchester kept making special editions for various event and anniversaries etc., and he obviously felt obliged to buy one of each. I can’t imagine a more tedious collection!   I fixed the lock of the coachman’s pistol today – it turned out when I had got the cock close to the lock that there was a bit of play around the tumbler/cock joint, so I had to apply a little weld to build the tumbler up, which of course messed up the threaded hole for the cock screw – but I was able to tap it out again to a decent state.  I turned up a new cock screw with UNF No 4 thread ( .112 OD & 48 t.p.i.) – I turn up the thread diameter and thread it, then turn the shank to the OD of the head and part off enough for the head – I have a number of 25 mm cylinders tapped for different thread sizes, so I can then screw the thread into a cylinder and turn the head.  I then cut a slot with a section of 12 inch hacksaw blade that has had its sides ground down.  After polishing on the fibre wheel ( still in the cylinder) it is removed and heated to red heat and dipped in colour case hardening powder a couple of times, then dropped it in water – colour is then restored by heating to a grey blue colour which also tempers it.   Unfortunately the first one I made had the thread too long and it pinged off somewhere while I was trying to shorten it and I couldn’t find it – so had to make another.  I reckon it takes  30 ish minutes to make & finish a screw, 10 minutes more if it is engraved, less if I’m making a batch……

14th November – My Land Cruiser went in for MOT today – the front tyres  failed as they had perished – never heard of that on a normal vehicle – it usually happens on trailers that don’t get much use, they were not even particularly worn either – plus it needs new disks and pads – oops, bang goes the chances of buying anything at the Bonhams auction on 28th – just when I had arranged to go and spend a couple of days in London staying with my daughter so that I could ‘do’ the auction properly!  I just hope its back by Friday as I have a shoot (again). I had a go at soldering the fillet into the Venables barrel and tinning the rib.  It is difficult to get the tin – used as solder as its stronger than lead-tin -to stick to steel, even with flux.  One problem with tin is that it has no transition state between solid and liquid, and the liquid is low viscosity so it won’t bridge gaps – just runs through, whereas tin lead has a bit more of a semi liquid stage.   Its a bit like welding aluminium, which also goes straight from solid to low viscosity liquid so you can end up with a great hole where you thought you had a weld if you put in too much heat.  I did manage to get the edges of the rib all tinned so I just have to do the same to the barrel and join them.   I’ve put a few pictures of the pocket pistol on the GUNS FOR SALE page – its in nice condition, almost worth finding a box for it.  I got the lock of the Little pistol I had cleaned up back as I’d sent it out before I’d finished fitting the cock back on properly!  I have to make a new cock screw too as the ‘original’ has almost split in two at the slot – I had a look in the books for a pattern for it and found a photo in ‘Great British Gunmakers 1740 – 1790 by Keith-Neil and Back.  Its a good reference for photos of guns and pistols from that period and has the perfect matching photo – a coachman’s pistol by TWIGG of 1760 (see below fig 100).  I hadn’t really registered ‘coachman’s pistol’ as a type, but it makes logical sense for those dangerous times.  The choices for a cock screw  of that period on plain pistols appear to be a domed plain screw or a flat headed screw with slightly tapered sides – a bit later and fancier and it would have been a shallow dome with a very thin rim, still probably plain, but soon being engraved… or at least so it would seem. Of course you always have to be wary as its always possible (likely?) that cock screws have been replaced with the ‘wrong’ pattern. The existing cock screw appears to have been an approximation to UNF 4,-  O.D. .112 inches, and 48 t.p.i. so it will be easy to make one – I think probably the flat shape would be most suitable.

Most things are similar – the ramrod pipe is a bit more elaborate on the illustration and the fore-end is a slightly different shape, but not much else – both are by TWIGG and have his first signature, (c 1760)  so it will do as a model for the screw!.

13th November – I took the Venables barrel over to Dick for his opinion on whether it needed to be taken to pieces – his view was that the bottom rib was OK and it would be a bit of a fuss to put it all together.  I remain to be convinced, but I will probably put the top rib on, which I should be able to do without disrupting the joining of the barrels, and then see if I can get the bottom rib off and back on without them coming apart.  The barrels had an 8 inch long fillet in the top joint near the breech that wasn’t properly soldered in and was stopping the rib fitting down on the barrel – Neither Dick nor I had come across such a thing before, and I suspect that it was part of a botched repair when the rib came loose (see photo a few back).  I might put a bit of it back as it will help to keep the barrels together at the breech if I do take off the  bottom rib.  I ‘borrowed’ some pure tin solder from Dick as ribs etc were always fixed with tin, not tin lead solder.  I bought a small pocket pistol from Dick that he had cleaned up –  it is quite a tidy little pistol, and unusual in that it has an attached stirrup ramrod  – very handy.  Anyway it will go on the GUNS FOR SALE page as soon as I can find a few moments to do it and to take a few more photos – let me know if you are interested.  I also have the cased pair of pistols below to clean up – they will probably go for sale too – little pistols are really popular now – long guns take up too much room for most people.

12th November – I de-rusted the barrel of the Venables to remove the rust that was lurking under the now removed rib.  The process left the barrel looking really good – you can still see the rather nice damascus pattern, but it now looks as if it is just an old finish and hasn’t been rebrowned.  If I wasn’t going to have to make a bit of a mess cleaning up the barrel to refit the rib etc. I’d probably be happy to leave it.  I noticed that a bit of the under rib is lifting, so I don’t think I can leave it, which means a complete strip down of the barrels to their individual parts ( 2 barrels, top rib, bottom rib in 2 sections, 2 pipes, muzzle fillets,  pipe for bolt.)  Dick says it is not difficult to refix the barrels together – I have done it once ( on the Perrins restoration) but it was a bit tricky.  He did say that it wasn’t overly expensive to get it done by Ladbrooks, so I might explore that option as they could be lapped at the same time.    I had a visit from a friend/collector yesterday and got a small pair of inlaid pistols to fix, plus I bought a pair of pocket pistols in a case that I wanted so that I could do a ‘typical’ restoration for this blog.  They are nothing very special, but they are a pair which is not common, and ‘as found’ and fairly rusted and the case is quite pretty so it will be a useful job for the Blog when I’ve finished the Venables.

If you click on this you’ll see that there is quite a decent pattern visible after de-rusting. There is a bit of corrosion under the rib but not enough to cause concern in terms of strength.

Pair of pocket pistols for restoration  – it will be interesting to see how they turn out!  Someone must have had fun doing the box.

11th November – I knew it would happen soon – that I’d get the urge to do something to one of the guns that is sitting round the place waiting patiently for attention!  In the end it was the Venables double 15 bore percussion that I’d bought at Holts with a sprung rib at the breech end but otherwise a nice gun.  I kept walking past it until this afternoon when I picked it up and decided that I would do the job properly, take out the breech plugs and remove the top rib completely to see what else needed doing.  Getting the breech plugs out of a double is always a bit fraught as you have to hold the tubes tightly in a lead lined vice while you put a pretty massive force on a 2 ft long wrench. You then risk breaking the barrels apart, although in this case I may end up taking them apart anyway  With a double gun you don’t have much room around the hook of the first plug out as the hook of the second barrel gets in the way so as soon as it moves you have to change tools ( in this case to a big ‘vise grip’).  Fortune was smiling – my breech plug spanner fitted perfectly with a little filing, and the first plug came out easily – I suspect it had been removed recently.  The second was still in tight and needed quite a bit of heat to shift it ( I did check the barrel wasn’t loaded!), but in the end it came out OK – at least you can use the long wrench for all of that one.  I then ran the butane torch down the top rib and detached the 2/3 that was still attached.  The rib was hiding a fair amount of rust, and wasn’t particularly well stuck on  anywhere.   Now that I can see up the barrels properly, I can see that the bores are pretty good, so I will probably send them to Ladbrooks to be lapped when I’ve put them together (or perhaps have a go myself?).  I now have to decide whether to take the bottom rib out to get rid of any rust there, or to leave it so that the alignment and regulation of the barrels is retained.  I’ll probably derust them as they are now so I can see how much the rust has eaten into the barrel before deciding whether to strip the barrels down to the individual tubes.  I think someone had started to do the rib before, but hadn’t managed to get the second plug out, so had given up and put it in the auction.  I’m more than ever convinced that it will be a fine gun when finished – it will be quite handy as the barrel is short for a percussion gun (27 inches) – I suspect it has been shortened, although given the very clean state of the bore, not for the usual reason of getting rid of a thin muzzle.  Anyway gun work is on again!  P.S bits are currently being derusted at 2.6 amps so I’ll leave them for an hour or so – it will, of course, destroy the browning, but cleaning and re-soldering the rib would have done that anyway.

Barrel with RH hand plug removed and LH plug started – it was held vertically in the vice to get this far. The long wrench is shown – larger cutouts fit single barrelled breech plugs – the barrels are still joined although it looks as if they are apart. (sorry about the photo, hand held, poor light and in a hurry)

Barrel and rib – the rib is very thin and it and the barrel are quite rusted on the inside surfaces.  I’ll derust both and see if the bottom rib needs to come off.

The Venables of Oxford before I started messing about with it – beautiful stock…

9th November – My STEM club children did their presentation to an assembly today which was great fun – they presented their ‘cookie alarms’ – amazingly all 8 alarms worked!  Now we have to think of projects for them for the rest of the term!  I was looking through a blog that had an argument about how much one should restore antique guns.  One school of thought says that one should try to return them to the state they were when new – by if necessary doing a complete refinish.  They compare antique guns to old cars and watches, which they claim are always restored fully, including repainting and re-upholstering, and add to their argument by conflating ‘patina’ with  ‘rust’.   Their argument fails on several counts, firstly because the purpose of restoring old cars and watches is to be able to use them for their original purpose, even if only occasionally, whereas very few old guns are ever shot, even once for a test.  The same argument applies to watches.  The main argument against trying to recreate the original finish on guns is that it is not usually possible to do so without destroying something else.  With cars the paint is a superficial layer that can be removed and replaced without any damage to the underlying structure, whereas removing the ‘patina’ to generate a surface smooth enough to refinish back to the original standard will inevitably degrade the engraving, and it is virtually impossible to recut a whole gun decoration without loosing part of its essential character.  At that point it is really easier to start from scratch and make a new ‘antique’!  Some parts will inevitably be worn in such a way that they can’t be returned to original condition, so there will be a mismatch at the end of the process.  The other fallacy is the claim that fully restored cars and watches are more valuable than ones in good original condition – they are not by a long way!   Guns, cars, watches – a full refinishing may hide anything  and if the purpose is to have something to display rather than use, that should be a warning to would be purchasers that all may not be as it seems.  My approach is that with guns of poor quality or in poor condition there is very little to loose by doing whatever restoration is necessary to make something worth keeping for posterity.  For mid range value and condition I would try to restore functionality by doing any necessary mechanical work and  cleaning off all surface rust – either by gently mechanical means or electrolytically if there is enough rust to warrant it, which process leaves its own quite acceptable finish that requires no further treatment beside oiling.  Repairs to the wood depend on the extent of any damage – structural cracks and missing wood need to be attended to,  extensive denting may with advantage be steamed out after which some refinishing will be necessary.   High class guns have a higher threshold before interventions are acceptable, and will probably be restricted to restoring mechanical function and repairing major defects.  The most common refinishing is re-browning of barrels, which seems to be something done for/by collectors almost as a matter of course.  The metal from which barrels are made is soft and liable to corrosion and marking and scratching whereas most of the rest of the metalwork is hardened and more protected, so barrels are almost always in the worst condition of any part of the gun and can really drag down the appearance, so its understandable that they get re-browned.  I suspect that it may not have been uncommon for the barrels of guns to be re-browned occasionally while they were in service for the same reason – evidence for in service re-browning comes from the wear often seen in the lettering on barrels.   It’s certainly a common re-finishing operation and if done carefully probably doesn’t detract from the value, although a gun with a good original finish will always fetch more.     Descriptions are something else that is fought over.  I guess ‘original’ is the key work – if it is unqualified it should mean that all the parts are original, and the appearance of the gun hasn’t been changed – i.e. reconverted to flint.  Where the finish is original throughout this would be noted as ‘original finish’ or something similar.  Where barrels have been re-browned this should usually be indicated, but isn’t always obvious.  My take on re-browning barrels is that you shouldn’t aim to get them back to ‘shop’ condition because they will then show up the rest of the gun – just just to create a compatible and discrete finish without to much shine.

8th November – I just got the  Bonham’s catalogues for the next sale on 28th November – what a treasure trove of stuff, there are two large  quality collections up for sale.  It strikes me that many of the serious collectors in the business are of a ‘certain’ age, and that there may not be so many younger collectors waiting in the wings to pick up the spoils – my guess is that a lot of the good stuff will go overseas, probably to the US where there is more general interest in these things and the currency is favourable. I know of one or two good collections that are bound to be on the market within the next few years.  Anyway in the meantime the really desirable guns are the rare pieces and fine, preferably cased, pistols in really good condition, and I expect the run of the mill stuff to go for reasonable prices!  I don’t know if that will turn out to be the case – we shall see, but the estimates don’t look excessive!  Given the impending legislation on ivory it will be interesting to see if the pair of ivory handled pocket pistols sell.

6th November – Dick has been relining a gun case for a  Joseph Manton percussion gun,  I gave him some green biase that was a bit bright (from Bernie the Bolt) – I had faded it down using dilute bleach when I used it, but he used too much bleach and it went a bit grey .  He then tried a hot wash in the washing machine on the remainder of the cloth, which gave a decent result, but by that time he had not got enough left to finish the job, which means raiding my stock again!   I’m still fixing up my internet wiring under the floor etc – I got a new crimper but the cost was nearer £50 – still it works and I can remove the patch cables that were running round the house in an untidy and conspicuous way…..   I will get back to some gun work shortly but its so cold in the workshop if I’m not moving that its only worth starting when I have time to get the woodburner up to temperature and let it warm up the room.

5th November – Here are some photos of the 4 barreled pistol I did some work on for Dick for a client – I engraved the barrel tang as it had been welded – I forgot to take photos of the finished job but here are some of the pistol – Dick had stripped the lock down to repair so I didn’t have those bits on hand to photograph.  It has an indistinct name on the lock that could be HUNT  – its not very clear overall  but the N and T are fairly clear and most other possible names don’t fit – the initial letter definitely had a straight vertical line in it!.  Hunt appears several times in the list of Birmingham and Provincial makers – the most likely being Joseph Hunt, gun and pistol maker of Bull St Birmingham 1766 – 1774, or Robert Hunt listed in Rotherham in 1783.   I would date the gun from around 1780 on stylistic grounds and based on photographs of broadly similar 4 barreled pistols that are dated to around that time by Keith Neal.   Probably they ought to be called Volley guns as they were incapable of firing individual barrels.  The 4 barreled assembly unscrewed as one and left a small single powder chamber in the middle that was linked to the barrels by 4 groves in a rim round the mouth of the powder chamber – I’m not sure how closely the breech fitted to the barrel – maybe there was a gap for the expanding gap – there wouldn’t have been any powder on the barrel side of the connection. I would guess that the pistol used a very small charge, as the barrels don’t look as if they would stand much pressure.  I’m not sure what the pistol was loaded with or how – the normal single barreled turn-off pistol has a powder chamber and the breech end of the barrel is slightly larger diameter than the bore, so the balls are held captive and also serve to retain the powder  until fired – handy for a pistol likely to be carried around far more than actually used.  The volley pistol has no such bore enlargement at the breech, so nothing to stop the load coming out of the muzzle – perhaps it had wads down the barrel to hold the load in place? (answers on a postcard please!)

4th November – Fantastic shoot yesterday at Sotterley near Beccles – we have been very lucky with the weather this year, and apart from the need to add a layer from time to time as winter approaches its been gloriously sunny most times.  The bag was around 120 birds for a hit ratio  of 1 for every three shots on average, which is excellent – few breech loading shoots manage to better that.  We were double pegging ( 2 guns per peg to give reloading time) and 14 guns in all.  I shot my Nock double – I’m used to it and it is reliable – misfires are very few and almost always ‘finger trouble’ rather than a failure of the equipment.  Anyway a really good day, although it has to be said that on the last drive of 7  I saw more foxes (1) than game birds (0)!  I had a question from a fellow muzzle loading shooter concerning a John Manton single barreled percussion gun – the lock had to be removed before the barrel could be disengaged from the false breech because the side nail (screw that holds the lock on) passed through the breech block.  It was normal for the locks of quality flintlocks to be removed when cleaning the gun as priming powder residue is very corrosive and could penetrate into the inside of the lock or at least get into the edges. Both John and Joseph Manton cased their flintlocks with a place for the locks to be stored out of the stock.  This was done for guns where it was physically possible to get the barrel off without removing the locks, although it should be noted that on some flintlocks, including some Mantons, the frizzen fouls on the barrel, particularly where the breech is recessed in late flintlocks, and it is advisable or even necessary to remove the locks before removing the barrel.     The Mantons continued to case percussion guns with detached locks, quite possibly because the early caps of fulminate or chlorate were very corrosive and the same precautions were necessary as with flintlocks.  I am not sure how common the through breech plug side nail was, but I’ve seen it before.  It was probably more common in pistols without a false breech- I seem to think military pistols, but they are not really my thing!.  The gun described to me fits with an illustration in the Manton Book facing page 41, which illustrates a single barreled gun serial no 9689 of 1828 – i.e. an early percussion gun and specifies that the side nail passes through the breech plug.    For my sins I’ve been trying to wire up some network cables in the house, but the connnectors (RJ45) have proved difficult to crimp onto the end of the cable – my first problem was that the connectors obviously didn’t match the cable – in fact I’ve no idea what they did fit, and my second problem , after getting the right connectors,  – more difficult to spot – was that the crimp tool I’d bought on ebay wasn’t crimping properly as it had a slightly faulty casting for driving the contacts into the wires – thus wasting at least 3 hours more of my time!  Ah well I’ll have to shell out £35 for a decent tool – I should have learnt by now never to buy cheap tools – although my experience of buying cheap Ebauer power tools from Screwfix has been uniformly good – not that they get much work.

31st October – I bought back a little 4 barreled pistol to do some engraving on for Dick.  I have been having a discussion about the Warner Civil War Carbine of 1864 with someone who also has one sans breech block – I realised that although there are a couple of photos of the Warner on this site, there is no proper post, so I’ll have to do one.  The Warner is one of dozens of designs for a breech loading Carbine for the Union side in the American Civil War.  When the war started the army of the North was quite small was armed almost entirely with muzzle loading percussion guns, there was no one obvious choice of arm, and the manufacturing facilities didn’t exist to produce a single design in large quantities.  The union thus gave our orders to a number of would be manufacturers of various designs  to produce samples for inspection, so be followed up with orders for a modest quantity with the promise that if the Carbine was satisfactory the Union Armouries would take as many guns as the manufacturer could turn out.   The result was a proliferation of new designs, of with around a dozen made it to the production stage, of which the Warner was one.  After a bit of a fuss it did get a patent, although not for the features that had originally been claimed!  In the end the only features patented were the semicircular bottom to the chamber and the use of a firing pin without a return spring that used a chamfer on the breech to move the firing pin out of the fired position, a feature that partly led to the eventual downfall of the design.  The main reason the gun failed in service wasn’t really the fault of the Warner gun, but was due to the tendency of the rimfire cartridges to burst at the rim due to faulty metal cases – this produced a number of problems – in the beginning it invariably blew the (Snieder tyrpe) breechblock away – that was mostly cured by drilling a hole in the bottom of the chamsber to relieve the pressure, but finally it was binding of the firing pin when a burst occurred that jammed the gun – all because Warner wanted to use a ramp on the breech to retract the firing pin instead of a spring like everyone else.  I guess if you think about it, a Snieder like sideways hinged breech block can never produce and sustain as tight fit on the head of the cartridge as a cammed bolt, so will always be more prone to rim bursting in a rimfire cartridge than bolt guns.  Photos and a new post will follow…….

e28th October – Yesterday at Homerton College Festival for 250th  anniversary doing engraving demonstration – mostly screwheads.  I’d forgotten that the Cambridge liberal academic community on the whole didn’t really like guns, and had taken a few to display, but they hardly got a glance, while my engraved screwheads attracted a lot of attention.  I gave them out as ‘rewards’ to those children who showed real interest, of which there were a fair number.  I’d made some little oak blocks to mount them in, and gave some to the really really keen kids!   I decided to use the Amscope microscope I bought some time ago  – I bougth it in the mistaken belief that it would allow me to have a digital camera displayed while I engraved – it turned out that to use the camera you have to divert the image from one eyepiece, so not a lot of use to me.  Anyway my little pen sized camera stuck on the side of the microscope sufficed.     The Amscope actually worked perfectly well, and at about £450 is a good buy for an engraving microscope – just make sure you get a useful stand with it.  See blog post on engraving setup for more…..

I finished off the Twigg pistol – it all went together OK – I didn’t dare to bend the trigger guard to be a perfect fit as it had an incipient crack and would probably have broken if any strain was put on it.  The tumbler welding worked well, and is perfectly aligned and is strong enough for the intended purpose – if you look down this blog you’ll see that the square had broken off, and a new square had been tapped into the tumbler but was free to turn relative to the tumbler.  I put a few dabs of weld around the joint – it was clear that the tapped hole had not left much of a wall thickness in the bearing part of the tumbler but the pistol isn’t going to be shot so great strength is not an issue and it all filed up and fitted OK with the cock in the right alignment.  If it had been a gun that was likely to be used for shooting I would have used a different approach, and annealed the tumbler, drilled a hole right through it and made a new  tumbler axle with the square on it and silver soldered or welded it in place and then re-hardening and annealing it – a lot more work that wasn’t justified in an old pistol.

Lug soft soldered onto the trigger guard – it widens at the base to give strength, I didn’t want to silver solder it.  The guard is riveted to  the finial and I didn’t want to solder over the rivet so the tab is displaced a bit.

Finished pistol – minimal repairs to preserve as much of the original appearance and patina as possible – the cock screw needs colouring down as I reshaped it a bit – it now looked too like a machine screw! 

25th October – I made a brass tab to solder onto the trigger guard of the flintlock pistol I have to fettle – it all soldered together well and is now ready for the final installation in the pistol- I left a flared end on the tab so it has a decent surface area to soft solder as I didn’t want to heat the trigger guard up enough for silver solder.  Photo tomorrow if I remember before I fix it in place!

24th October –   If you are in Cambridge this Saturday come along to the College in Hills Road – I’ll be in the Senior Combination Room with the other local crafts – and introduce yourself.

Busy today – remove the breasts from yesterday’s bag for the freezer – we have a good supply of game for the winter and will no doubt add to that from future shoots – nice warming game casseroles on the menu!  Some venison would be a good addition, I do fancy a bit of deer stalking!  I am also beginning to think a wild boar shoot in Poland would be quite fun.   I  finished the little addition to the escutcheon and a couple of screwheads for a gun Dick is repairing ( see photo).  I offered to do an engraving demo at the Homerton College 250th anniversary on Saturday, and said I’d bring along a few antique guns that were (a bit) relevant to the 250 yr history of the college.  I hadn’t realised that this would involve the college in telling the police and receiving a list of frankly over the top conditions, including that my flintlocks should be ‘deactivated’ by removing the flints!  This is not a legal requirement since none of the guns require a license, but who would argue?  Fortunately most of the public events I do don’t attract such ad hoc rules.  Anyway I will mostly be doing an engraving demo, which requires I ship in a whole lot of equipment, tables, turntable, microscope, stool etc.  I usually just engrave screw-heads as not requiring too much concentration so leaving me free to talk – I have 20 nice big 1/2 inch old Nettlefold steel screws from ebay that I have polished up. This time I have made some wooden blocks to mount them in, which I’ll try to sell to raise a bit of cash for buying bits for my STEM club at school – the kids seem to eat batteries, buzzers and reed switches and sticky tape at the moment.  I also have a project to engrave the Homerton Coat of Arms on a piece of brass sheet I have cleaned up – fortunately it appears to be quite tractable so I’m optimistic that I can engrave it more easily than the dog-disks I usually buy.  Probably not a good project for a public session though.

I got given tweed shooting suit – circa 1958 – today, and it fits me almost perfectly so now I’ll be able to hold my own with the toffs on the shoots for the rest of the season  – I fully expect my shooting to improve with the new addition, although obviously an over and under would be totally inappropriate – I think our next club shoot is hammer guns so I might take my William Powell – reasonably in keeping, although probably it should be an Army and Navy or some such. Come to think of it, a shooting suit is probably a bit over the top for a club shoot, and I wouldn’t want to be a laughing stock…………

I didn’t do the Griffin, just the B.  The Griffin is also big in the Homerton Coat of Arms.

23rd October – Fantastic day’s shoot at Glemham Hall kindly organised by Bev (thank you!) – lots of walking – we all got to walk up a drive behind the beaters, and several standing drives, over pasture and rough ground so a nice change from standing in a long line in the middle of a crop field.  A decent breeze  aided things, and I had some good drives – in the end I got five birds, which was a fair score for me – the average bag per person was about 7.  I treated my son Tom to the shoot too, as he was down from St Andrews – he too enjoyed it.  We had a team of pointers doing the flushing – beautifully trained, they were all either field champions or on the way, and much of the pleasure of the shoot, especially for the walking guns, was seeing the dogs work – sort of makes me wish we had a dog, but I don’t think it would fit in with the family life we currently lead – in fact it would need a pretty dramatic change – one day perhaps….   We’ve now cleaned the guns and packed things away so I can slump til bedtime, having used up all my spare energy.

18th October – I’m off tomorrow to Norfolk to visit a very keen collector of flintlocks – might take a couple of guns to see if he is interested – part of my ‘divestment program’ – I have a few strange things that could find a more appreciative home!   I have a game shoot next Tuesday , muzzle loading of course  – they seem to be coming thick and fast at the moment – I feel a bit bad about the extravagance!  I was trying to work out why I can shoot the two types of clay that I can hit and not all the bulk of them – the common feature of the ones I find relatively easy is that they are going vertically, either up or down so I don’t need to separate how far above or below the clay I shoot from how far in front – it all gets subsumed into the same guess!  I did find yesterday that I could shoot crossers from the high platform when I was looking down on them, so maybe my problem is just shooting above or below, and if you mostly miss that way, you never home in on the right lead to give?  Maybe I ought to have some coaching!

17th October – Really good morning shooting clays at Eriswell with Clare and Jan, a friend over from Holland, despite the fact that it started off with light drizzle – not exactly ideal for muzzle loaders.  Clare wanted to concentrate on the ‘Driven’ stand – clays coming towards you off a tower that simulate driven game birds but we had to fill in time before it became free, so I did my usual erratic shooting at ‘crossers’.  Things looked up when we got on the driven stand as they are one of the two types of clays I can get a reasonable hit rate on ( the other is clays dropping out of the sky!).  So unusually for me, I was able to hold my own….  It’s a relief that I can shoot these simulated game clays as it means I’m reasonably OK on real game!  Towards the end of our morning’s shoot a breech loading shooter came over to see if he could use the driven range after us , so Clare gave him a go with her single percussion, (hit) and I gave him a go with my double (2 hits) so Clare tried to seduce him over to the dark side (as in blackpowder muzzle loaders) – it may even work, he was pretty interested.  I took the Venables of Oxford for Clare to have a look at, but the rib is now hanging off so I can’t put that job off any more – not my favourite job, and it will entail rebrowning the barrels after resoldering the rib – resoldering the rib will involve taking out the breech plugs,  which itself can be a pain…  Ah well, it was something of a bargain so I shouldn’t complain.

13th October – I should be at the AML Big Bore shoot tomorrow, but something unexpected came up so I probably won’t be able to get out my 6 1/2 bore Gasquoine and Dyson live pigeon gun – I will try to pop over at the end of the shoot to deliver a few bits.

I’m busy painting and re-glazing a sash window that my friendly carpenter/joiner built to replace a partly rotten one – He replaced one 23 years ago but didn’t get round to doing the other one that needed replacing, although he machined up all the timber for it – despite having built and fitted French doors and re-roofed almost half the house in the interim, he somehow hadn’t got round to making the window in spite of periodic reminders until last week, when he had a spare day or two between jobs. So its been in the job queue for 23 years – He bought his son to help – he now works with his father but hadn’t been born when the job was put on the queue!  The sashes are large and have old  Victorian wobbly glass  – 2 panes to a sash – they are at the very limit of the size you can buy in Polish handmade glass and thus difficult to source, and are pretty expensive so there is a high premium on not breaking them in removing them from the old frames and fitting them into the new ones. They are now out and cleaned up and the frames primed and undercoated so its time to putty the glass in – care needed!

11th October – very enjoyable shoot yesterday in brilliant sunny weather with very light breeze – perhaps not the ideal Partridge weather as they tended to fly very low so that it often wasn’t safe to shoot.  Still we all had fun and a reasonable bag.  Its very early in the season and most of the pheasants were too immature. Anyway, I collected a very early Joseph Manton double 22 bore shotgun converted from flint to percussion with drum and nipple in a reasonably competent manner – but certainly not to Joseph’s standards, so presumably by a second tier gunsmith, and probably after it had passed out of its original ownership.  The serial number is 331, which puts it at 1791 and is the first double flintlock listed in Keith Neil’s book, although I think several early ones have since come out of the woodwork. It belongs to the period when the front trigger was a lot smaller than the rear one.  The gun looks ‘of a piece’, although the trigger guard shape and the sling fixing behind the trigger guard ( without a matching fixing on a ramrod pipe) don’t quite fit in as they look a bit rifle-like.   The locks are of high quality inside and the engraving good – the screw holding the false breech has asymmetric  engraving matching the engraving on the tang, which is unusual.  The bores are pretty good, but the barrels are quite thin at the muzzle.   The escutcheon has initials with a crest above, but I can’t read them.   Many old guns one sees have a ‘mystery feature’ that you can’t explain and which leaves a question mark hanging in the air – its part of the charm of collecting – in this case its the missing muzzle end sling eye – I can’t see any trace of where it was, although I’m quite prepared to accept that a shotgun in 1791 did have a sling fitted.  It has been suggested to me that this gun would be a perfect candidate for a re-conversion to flintlock –  but I would resist the temptation – its an early Joseph Manton in reasonably original shape, and as such is fairly rare – re-converting it would turn it into a lie, and my view is that it would be ethically wrong.  It will clean up quite nicely as what it is, and could possibly make a  shooter.  I think it is for sale, so drop me an email if you are interested.  I’ll put more photos in the post ‘Joseph Manton 331’.  I brought it back to photograph and show to a Manton specialist, but I don’t think I’ll buy it as I have enough doubles!

8th October – My little STEM club this afternoon – real buzz, bordering on chaos!  All the cookie jar alarms mean that the room is full of little 9 Volt buzzers going off all the time – why do I do it?  answers on a postcard please ( but not sent to me!).  I decided to strip the Twigg pistol and have a look at it in detail – I’d already got the tumbler out, so here is a picture of the neat repair to replace the sheared off square.   Getting the trigger guard off pistols of that age is always tricky because they are held in by pins through the wood that are usually rusty, and if you knock them out carelessly they will take out a chunk of wood with the pin and leave a messy hole.   The pins are invariably put in from the left side of the gun/pistol  so you need to knock them out from the right side.  To do this you need a small pin punch and a tack hammer – its fairly easy to take out pins that emerge from a flat surface – you just need to fold up and hammer flat a piece of lead sheet to 5 mm thick  and put that under the pin so it supports the wood, then tap the pin out – the pin will make a hole through the lead, which will support the wood – in this case it worked just fine as you can see for the front trigger finial pin – in this pistol the pin didn’t do anything as  the tab had broken off the back of the finial.  The pin holding the back of the trigger guard was a bigger problem as the grip is curved so its difficult to support the wood around the pin as you knock it out – in this case it was complicated because there appeared to be two pin ends on the right side of the butt.  I shaped up a lead pad and found the right pin, and that one came out OK and released the trigger guard – previous disassembly had damaged the wood a bit, but I managed not to make it worse!  Both wood and the back of the finial were coated in epoxy glue but seemingly without any contact between them – I need to clean out the slot for the tab I’ll put on the finial as its filled with epoxy. Not sure whether I can get away with soft solder for the tab, or whether I need to silver solder it – Silver soldering might alter the patina – I’ll think about it…………………………………. ( just had to break off to take my bread out of the oven!)

The pin is coming out very cleanly, thanks to a lead pad.  The potential for damage is considerable!

This pin also came out fairly cleanly but had been rather crudely knocked out before when the front finial  was glued in.

The trigger guard is backwards – just to confuse you!

7th October – We have now agreed the work to be done on the Twigg pistol, so that can start.  I spent an hour today clearing out the drain from the kitchen sink and water softener – I mention this because it was interesting – the drain where it goes into the gully was bunged up by soft white ‘rock’ that looks to be calcium (carbonate?) based – the water softener works by ion exchange,  it exchanges the calcium ions in the incoming water for sodium ions and traps the calcium ions in the resin, then when it back flushes to recharge the ion exchange resin it must flush all the calcium ions from the resin and replace them with sodium ions – so the small volume of flushing water must contain all the calcium from the much larger volume of water softened.  What the chemistry of the formation of the deposits in the drain is, I don’t know  but it accounts for the amount of calcium …  Next week is busy, I have a shoot on Wednesday, so a very early start to get there by 8:30.  I think I have everything I need – I have No 6 shot, although I hear that most of my shooting friends have now changed to No 6 1/2 shot, which corresponds to a metric size (not sure what) – presumably when we leave the EC we will not be allowed to use metric measurements any more………

5th October – Sorry, bit of a gap while I attended to school matters and did some work on a couple of windows.  I got a nice little pistol in the post today to be fixed – not that it has much wrong with it – its an early flintlock pistol by TWIGG, first signature and first finial design, but very plain, although none the worse for that, and well made.  Probably made between 1760 and 1770 but I am uncertain what to call it.  The barrel length is 7 1/4 inches, a bit small for a normal holster pistol (typically 9 -10 inches) or an officer’s pistol ( not sure if that description works as early as this anyway).  Maybe a small coach pistol, or one to have about the house in case personal protection was needed?   Anyway its a pretty thing and has had very little wear over the years – it looks ‘of a piece’ and pretty genuine – if it were percussion it would be in the age of sticking spurious names on guns and one might suspect it was a ‘fake’ but 1770 is a bit early for that sort of thing.  At some point the square broke off the tumbler and the cock fell off – someone carefully tapped a hole into the tumbler and screwed in a piece of metal and filed up a square on it – the only problem is that they didn’t provide any way to stop the thread unscrewing, so now the cock moves independently of the tumbler – it will need brazing or welding…  Also the tab on teh back of the trigger guard by the finial has snapped off, letting the trigger guard hang loose – I’ll have to drive out the pins securing the trigger guard and bit of the tang, and silver solder the tang back on. There is a little bit of surface rust around the top jaw etc, and behind the frizzen spring that needs cleaning off, but other wise it is best left pretty well untouched.  I really like this sort of utilitarian pistol – nicely made but not for show.

1 Oct – Another month…. Getting to do some gun work would be a great luxury as I seem ridiculously busy on other things – today I was working on the Geophysics Archive followed by my Stem Club – we have 11 very enthusiastic kids all making alarms to fit on to cookie jars etc…   Tomorrow is again busy with meetings but on Wednesday I will reward myself with a couple of hours clay shooting in the morning to get my eye in for driven game – update – ( post script…no I won’t, I think no-one else is going!) – my next shoot is on 10th. After that I have a school meeting at 1300 hrs of all the inconvenient times! I’m shortly due to get a pistol to refurbish – details will follow…..

30th September – Had a very nice email from the owner of the Martini Henry (see below) saying how pleased he was, and that he never expected the chequering to turn out so well!  All credit to Dick.  I had a recent email from the US asking about calibers  of percussion rifles – a quick look at Donald Dallas’s 2003 book  ‘ The British Sporting Gun and Rifle’ has interesting details.  In the early days of percussion, sporting rifles fired mostly cloth (or occasionally fine leather) patched round balls.  Since the grip on the rifling was minimal, basically limited to the patch thickness, it didn’t take much to cause the ball to strip from the rifling and fail to spin properly – so it was not possible to accelerate the ball sharply or to achieve high velocities if you wanted to benefit from the increased accuracy that the rifling should in theory provide.  Thus you were limited to effective ranges of 50 to 100 yards at the most.  Much of this difficulty was caused because the rate of twist of the rifling was carried over from flintlock rifles, where the acceleration was much more gentle due to the slower burn of the powder resulting from flint ignition.  Had a slower twist been used, it might have been possible to use higher velocities.  In fact experiments with smooth bore muskets showed that there was little to be gained by rifling below 50 yards.   Once shaped bullets were introduced the ratio of mass to drag improved, so the bullets held their velocity for longer, and the longer contact of the bullet walls with the rifling meant that higher initial velocities were possible using bigger charges.  A further improvement was the principle of the Minie bullet with a conical hollow in the base and a wooden or clay plug in the hollow that expanded the skirt of the bullet on firing, and got a better grip on the rifling – later found to work quite well without the plug. The main benefit of this was in the military because it allowed bullets with more windage, that could be more easily loaded when the barrels began to get fouled.    Simple conical bullets allowed ranges of 100 to 300 yards.  The next big jump in velocity came from using keyed bullets with deep grooves that had a large resistance to stripping – examples being the Jacob’s patent arms made by Daw, and the Express rifles of Purdey using belted ball bullets.    A couple of rifling ‘inventions’ along the way were significant improvements – in large measure because they tackled the problem of rifling fouling – they were Lancaster’s oval bore rifling, which is what it says it is, and Whitworth’s hexagonal rifling.  All the improvements made it possible to shoot at ranges up to 1000 yards, allbeit with cleaning of the barrel between shots.   An interesting instruction with a Purdey 50 bore rifle No 3852 of 1844 from Dallas’s book gives the charge for a round ball of .453 cal as half a dram of No 2 powder with a stout linen patch, and of a conical bullet  for the same rifle as 2 drams of No 6 powder with a thin cambric patch and the hollow in the tail of the bullet filled with grease – quite a difference.  The same sights were marked  50 & 100 yds for the ball and  100 & 150 yds for the bullet – illustrating the much greater drop on the ball.

26th September – The Martini Henry stock and fore end are now finished and dispatched, see below.  I haven’t had a moment to do any more gun stuff as school things have been pressing  – I have a new group of young children ( 6 -9) in our STEM club and Dave and I are having to reset our complexity index many steps lower.  The trolley is now complete and I’m getting some of the BBC microbit computers sorted out as they seem just the job for the kids.  Plus a a couple of school meetings this week, and two next week – being a school governor is a fairly big commitment but pretty satisfying.

I can’t claim any credit for this chequering – Dick is the expert!

23rd September –  Spent today building my ‘cupboard on wheels’ for the STEM club – its amazing how much 3 sheets of 12 mm ply weigh – it will be a struggle to get it out of the workshop but will tidy up all our stuff at school.   I had a look through the visitors to the website yesterday, and there were dozens of visits from different cities in China that didn’t seem to do anything, just make 2 quick visits  – they seemed coordinated too as they all did  the same thing over a short period  – something suspicious no doubt!  Anyway today they are not doing it.  I get between 250 and 300 ‘proper’ visitors a day, who on average click on about 6 things, which for a small unpublicised specialty website I reckon is pretty good.  It certainly generates a few inquiries and the occasional restoration – If you do want to know about a gun or pistol email me (see CONTACT) and attach a few photos from different angles, including one of the whole thing and one of the lock etc.   I can often give you general information on non specialist stuff and have a fair idea of auction prices for common types of gun and pistol (not military though!)

22nd September – I finished repairing the surface of the Egg stock  which looked very poor as the fairly thick varnish had come off in patches allowing oil stains to form.   I steamed the wood and got rid of some of the varnish and some of the dings, then wiped over with shelac and put on several coats of ‘slacum’ ( linseed oil, driers and a little beeswax).  I didn’t want it to look too re-finished, just not quite so pock marked, and it seems to have worked.  I can now put that job away as I’ve done the case and the stock, although I did notice that the loading rod in the case is not quite long enough for the barrel – but I don’t suppose anyone will notice.   Dick has now finished the Martini Henry stock so I will collect it and take some photos before returning it.

21st September – a day of relative quiet!  My STEM club at the junior school starts next Monday and I’ve been politely told by the teaching assistant in the classroom I use that I can’t leave our bits and half finished projects around the classroom all week. As she seems quite adamant I think I had better take notice, so I designed a trolley to hold it all that  can be wheeled into a store room, assuming there is any room there.  Anyway I worked out the I could make it from 3 sheets of 12 mm ply and have given Ridgeons a cutting list, so tomorow I’ll see how many of the 20 specified cuts are in the right places!  I went to Dicks to see how he is getting on and he sold me a nice overcoat pistol that will eventually appear on the website – it will be cleaned and repaired so nothing to show here!   He has been doing some re-chequering on the stock and forend of a Martini Henry, which has taken him an age and is very well done – looks fantastic – I  will have to pack it up and return it to it’s owner.  I don’t understand how Dick did it for what he is charging – I keep telling him to count his hours on jobs and charge a fair rate, but he won’t learn! ( he doesn’t look at this website, or any other!)  I took over some baise for lining a Joseph Manton percussion double case as Dick thought his was too bright – I have a few meters of various colours – some lovely thin burgundy stuff that I long to make a  case with.

19th September – I’m afraid that the last couple of days talking to groups of schoolchildren as part of Cambridge University’s  Physics at Work event has left me with little energy for going into the workshop and doing anything to guns in what is left of the evenings!   So far I’ve talked to 24 groups (20 minutes each) and I have another 12 tomorrow – my voice is just about hanging in there… Gun stuff will appear in time.

17th September – Back from a cracking day out  ( now where does that come from ?) at Bawdsey with a super group of people on my first shoot of the season after Partridge.  Nice breeze meant fast birds and great fun was had by all – 73 birds for about 240 shots by 8 guns – a fair ratio by any account.  I managed to stretch my supply of tubes for most of the day but had to borrow a few just in case.  Tubes for the tubelock guns are precious as each is handmade by us and it’s quite a lot slower than reloading black powder cartridges – I can make about half a dozen tubes an hour if I concentrate.  My gun has now been cleaned  – the composition in the tubes is highly corrosive and the lock(s) need to be taken out and washed and scrubbed to remove all residue.   We had a reporter from the Shooting Times and a photographer, so expect a feature on muzzle loading game shooting in the mag in a month or two.  Everyone who is involved with the shoot in any way is always impressed by how good humoured and relaxed we are about our sport – unlike a number of groups shooting breech loaders!  We always enjoy our shoots whatever the bag, and always have a modest impact on the estate.  I can see muzzle loading game shoots being on the increase – we just need to find a good way to initiate others into the skills needed to transition.

16th September – I’m of to my first shoot of the season at Bawdsey tomorrow.  I gather we will have the press there, so best bib and tucker ( whatever that is)…  Two of my friends are shooting tubelocks, and I thought that out of solidarity with them I should do the same.  I only have a single barreled gun so no ‘left and rights’ but at least it takes away the indecision about whether to reload after firing one barrel of a double or to wait for the next bird.   I will take my Nock double percussion in case I can’t hit anything with the tubelock – I haven fired ti for a while and its a bit high in the comb so I’ve had to add a butt pad which makes it a bit long but at least brings the gun up in a reasonable direction.   I’ve made a batch of decappers to take as I usually  give a few away at shoots…..  news of the shoot later!

12th September – I got the information on the Irish Registration act from an old copy of Classic Arms which was a magazine devoted to antique firearms, around 1990 – I ‘inherited’ a pile of old magazines from my father, which I rediscovered recently and an slowly working my way through.  As well as the Classic Arms, which was an impressive UK publication full of adverts from dealers and detailed articles by many of the authors of ‘standard’tbooks on particular subjects, I have a pile of copies of ‘ The American  Rifleman’ of various dates, the earliest from 1945, and then some from the 1960s.  All these old magazines have  excellent articles on old firearms – the American Rifleman  is of course mostly current guns and is interesting because the earliest copies cover the period after the war in Europe was over but before the Japanese had surrendered. I was interested to note that the supply of guns and ammunition had halted during the war and was only just coming back in 1946 – there was strict price control on guns and ammunition – basically limiting the price to that before the war. Manufacturers were allowed to charge 9% more but the extra had to be absorbed by the dealer and not passed on to the end customer – if anything was available anyway – supplies of copper and lead were restricted – one doesn’t think of America having that sort of restrictions!.  There were loads of advertisments for ex military arms of every nationality, and dire warnings about using Japanese rifles with  American high velocity ammunition.  There was an official way that troops could bring back a ‘souvenir’ weapon with official blessing, but nothing with a barrel less than 18 inches long.   You could pick up a working Webley Mk 4 revolver back in the States for $14, which was probably less than a fiver!  The 1990’s UK mags covered the banning of handguns and were full of anguished debate and hand wringing – I fear we may have a repeat coming soon…….    I didn’t do much gun work today as I had to service and clean the AGA (cooker) – its that time of year, but I engraved a few decappers this evening.  Out of interest I cut through  the box section of the other trailing arm of the suspension unit from my boat trailer – this was the one that didn’t fail on my trip, but you can see that it wasn’t far off.  Of course it look OK from the outside!

11 September – I was wrong about the Irish Firearms registration act being 18th century – it came in in 1843 and was repealed in 1846  – it is thought that about a quarter of a million guns may have been registered – the registration ID consisted of 2 letters for the county and a (usually) 4 figure number stamped on the barrel or occasionally on expensive guns, in a more discreet place.

11 September – I ordered a new capper from Kranks as I’d lost my old Pedesoli straight capper in a field somewhere last season – the guy at Kranks said the Ted Cash inline capper was better so I ordered one.  It’s different in that the spring is short and you push the caps down with the knob – it has a crafty loop that holds the knob back while you feed in caps – it claims to be patented but I can’t see what or why – I’ll have a look later as all US patents are now on the web.   Anyway the problem with both the Pedesoli and the Ted Cash cappers is that they don’t hold enough caps and are too fiddly to reload with cold hands in the middle of a shoot.  I modified my last one with a bit of brass to form a slide to feed the caps down and it worked very well, so I thought I’d do the same for the new one – its just a small brass bit soldered on by the loading hole with a groove shaped to fit a cap – seems to work well.  I find you need a small 1.6 mm pin on a chain as some caps fall over in the groove and need to be prised upright – don’t put force on the compound or they will go off!  I thought that it would be better to hang the capper off a ring on my new block as the loop on the end needs to be free to hold back the knob.   I always carry a decapper and a small pricker made of 0.7mm steel wire to clean out blocked nipples.

Ted Cash capper from Henry Kranks with Cablesfarm modification.

Cablesfarm decapper – customised version in gold – don’t ask,  you can’t afford one!

I carried on cleaning the Turner – it all went in the deruster and then had a good brush down on the fine rotary brush.  I coat all the surfaces with ‘Metalguard’ which forms a very thin anti-corrosion layer over the metal – especially useful on the inside metal surfaces as there was a fair amount of internal rust – a lot adhering to the wood that had to be carefully scraped off so the furniture bedded properly.  Anyway  I stripped off the lock workings and cleaned each part – derusting actually gets to all the surfaces so its just a matter of cleaning them – on the wheel if they are big enough to hold safely ( I have spend enough of my life looking for little bits that have pinged off when I’ve been brushing them !),  The ‘fly’ or ‘detent on the tumbler designed to block the sear from entering the half cock bent as the cock falls is a particularly fiddly little part that is only too easy to loose.  Once re-assembled the pistol doesn’t look much different, but is in a much better state to weather the next 100 years.

Its been derusted and the  rust will now just brush off but you can see how much there was.   Arrow points to the ‘fly’.

Stripped and cleaned externally and internally.  There was a lot of rust under the furniture and the furniture now fits better  – click on the photos and you can see that the finial is a better fit than in the unrestored photo.

10th September – Quite busy on the gun front!  I had a commission for  five individually named decappers, and after a bit of hunting around I found some spring steel strip that was suitable although it needed annealing.  So that is now done – I gold plated one for a friend for fun- the process is SO easy (see post Gold Plating).  I must make another combination field tool consisting of a brass ‘hammer’ for chipping flints and a short wide turnscrew for the top jaw screw to complement my percussion decappers.   I collected the ‘central fire lock to engrave a new cock screw- it is certainly a weird thing – like nothing I have ever seen before! (see below).   Dick received  a sawhandled flintlock pistol ( duelling/officers) with a .57 bore and heavy barrel to be restored and passed it to me to derust and clean.  Locks signed Turner, and a very faint DU1049 on the barrel – that was a mark introduced in the 18th century (?) in Ireland to control guns – they had to be registered under pain of a considerable penalty.  From the DU mark I assume that the maker was G Turner of Dublin.  Given the Irish enthusiasm for duelling pistols, I assume that is what it was intended for.  The pistol is in reasonable but worn condition and is a good example of many such.   The issue here is how far to go in stripping it and cleaning it.  If the fit of wood and furniture is good, there is a danger that it will not be as tight after work.  On the other hand there is the possibility that there is significant rust behind the iron furniture that is pushing it out of the wood.  In this case I could see that the edges of the trigger guard were rusting and the finial was raised.  It is usually necessary to remove the cock from flintlocks to get surface rust from behind it and give a uniform finish, and the same goes for the frizzen spring.   In this case I took all the furniture off ( very carefully, but fortunately the screws all came out easily and no damage was done.  I haven’t stripped the ‘works’ off the back of the lock, or taken off the frizzen yet, but that may follow after derusting, which works just fine on assemblies.  I have removed the mainspring as I am a bit careful after a couple of springs fell apart in the derusting bath!  It will all go in the derusting bath except the mainspring.

Weird or what?  Bentley’s Patent percussion axial fire lock, full cock…… 

Turner of Dublin   (DU 1049) before restoration

Back of trigger guard – you could say this is more conservation than restoration!

Stripped – it turned out to be easy to remove all the furniture without damaging any screws.

8th Septemeber – I did the ‘Have a Go’ at CGC yesterday, with my Nock double percussion.  I took my Jackson Central Fire patent double intending to use that, but the geometry of the cocks in relation to the nipples is constrained by the fact that the nipples exit into the centre of the chamber, hence central fire.  This leaves very little room to put the caps on the nipples.  I realised as I was getting ready for the clients to arrive and capping off the guns that I would have a difficulty capping while someone else was holding the gun, and quickly swapped to my usual double, the Samuel Nock.  I saw a very interesting Central Fire percussion double a couple of days ago – the nipples didn’t just exit into the middle of the chamber, but were also aligned along the axis of the barrel so it was a true central fire – this led to a really neat cocks that were scultped into the action, and when cocked did not protrude above the action body – I’ll try to get a photo shortly, I had never seen anything like it! I can’t remember the maker, but need to find out!

6th September – I fiddled around this morning filling a couple of gaps in the Egg pistol’s woodwork around the lockpocket – I haven’t managed to get rid of one visible rise where a knot goes through the wood, maybe a bit more work.  As I lay in the dentist’s chair for an hour this afternoon I kept thinking how nice it would be to have all her tools in my workshop- when I said ( in an odd moment when I could speak) that I’d love to have them at home, she said she wished she had them at home too – not sure what she would do with them – by then I couldn’t ask and relaxed back into contemplation – very restful….  Tomorrow I’m doing another ‘have a go’ shoot at Cambridge Gun Club – almost out of shot and wads but I think I can wing it – not sure how many others are helping out, but I probably won’t do more than 30 shots so I’ll probably manage.  I’m tempted to take my 20 bore breech loader for a bit of fun afterwards, but perhaps I should stick to the one muzzle loading gun for the shooting season.  I still can’t be sure which gun fits me best – cetrtainly NOT  the Venables, and today I had a bit of a problem when try mounting guns because I couldn’t stop my left eye being very dominant – I’m sure I’m usually right eye dominant or neutral !

4th September – I very reluctantly decided today that I wasn’t going to go to the Sandringham Game Fair next weekend to do my engraving demonstration as I have too many other calls on my time at the moment – I spent 4 hours this morning being ‘trained’ on safeguarding as a school governor – I have to say that it was very poorly presented and about the most inefficient knowledge transfer I have witnessed in years!  How a school can’t manage to work out how to communicate knowledge defies belief but there it is.   I took the Joseph Manton and case to Dick’s to get his view on relining the case, and met a good friend and very knowledgeable dealer of good guns who recommended selling the gun and case ‘as is’  separately to get the best return on the basis that the most likely purchaser of the gun would want it to shoot and would therefore have little use for the case.  I must say I find it annoying to have to keep a gun in the locked cabinet and the empty case elsewhere, so I can see his point.

3rd September -I finished the middle compartment for the Egg box today – its a bit of a tight fit but I think it will be OK .  The mystery of the breech block I couldn’t engrave is solved – although the person who made it hadn’t hardened it, the material he used had been ‘pre treated’ – which means heat treated and tempered/annealed, so no wonder I couldn’t engrave it.   I need to make some more de-cappers, for which I need 1/2 x 1/8 spring steel strip in an annealed state, but I can’t find any on the web.  I’m sure when I last made some I found it easily, but I am not sure now where I got it from.  In the end I ordered some nearly the right size from Kevin Blackley, but I’d prefer to find a supplier of  bigger quantities than 12 inch lengths.

2nd September – Went to a historic re-constructors event at Quy – lots of tents selling everything medieval and groups of reenactors camped around – I always love those events as everyone is so committed to their particular period or activity, and always enthusiastic to talk about it – thank goodness for enthusiastic people who actually do things!   I bought a few ash dowels (intended for arrows) that will make simple ramrods when I can’t justify the work of a full ebony rod.  I was pleased to see ‘Bernie the Bolt’ had his stand – he sells all kinds of fabric for historical costume that he has made up and dyed to period colours.  He’s a good source of baize for lining gun cases as he sells a woolen cloth woven and dyed in Yorkshire in good colours for gun cases.  I have used it and it is a reasonable substitute – its actually slightly too thick but will do – it is woven at about 450 gm/sq m whereas the guy on the stall said it should really be about 250 – 300 gm/sq m. for gun cases.  He said that the mill would make the lighter material but wanted £13 per m ( 1 m wide) by the bolt and they couldn’t see any profit in it, since he sells the heavier stuff at £15 per meter (Dyson sells both thick and thin but no weights given, at £16 per foot).   For gun cases £15 per m is nothing, bearing in mind how much work goes into using  1 meter of cloth on a relining.  The case I have to reline came with the cloth from a billiards table, but looking at it it is much too thick and won’t bend over the top of the partitions, so I bought 1 m of a very dark green that I think will do much better.  I started to make up a quick and dirty ramrod for one of my old shooting guns out of a new arrow blank  as it looks a bit bare without one – I’ve given it a dummy brass end and will fix it up with a horn tip.  When I have worked out the technique for rounding and tapering the ebony squares I have, I’ll make a better one!

1 September – another month gone!   Had a mixed day at Cambridge Gun Club – in the morning I couldn’t hit anything – the couple of clays I did hit were when I fired and was pretty sure I wasn’t on target.  I was trying my Venables, but I’d forgotten that it had a lot of cast on the stock – almost 3/4 of an inch.  I realised that I’d been making a mistake every time I tried a gun to see if it ‘came up’ well for me – I’d done it with my eyes open and that  forces me to put my head in the best position so I think the gun fits perfectly as long as the comb is not too high – I realised the proper way to try a gun for fit is to hold it in the normal position just before mounting, and close your eyes as you mount, then open them to see if its right – doing that with the Venables showed me that I’m probably shooting 20 or 30 inches to the right of where I think I am, enough to put a target outside the shot pattern.  In the afternoon I reverted to the good old Samuel Nock and was back to my normal hit one miss one routine, except for ‘crows’ and I wait for those to get falling properly and can normally pick them off.  Anyway it was a very useful shoot as it saves me from the mistake of taking the Venables on a game shoot.   I came back with a couple of jobs, a new breech block for a double percussion gun to engrave, and a case to remodel inside and reline.  I am not sure if I can engrave the breech block as it seems to have been hardened and tempered, or to be made of a high strength steel on a hard state – I will try with the Gravermax on the underside, but I’m not hopeful…..  Anglia Muzzle Loaders goes from strength to strength, its almost embarrassing – every month or two a new face appears – existing members are just not dying off fast enough to keep the population stable ( as one of the older members perhaps I should take note!)   Bev had a problem with a new lot of OB priming powder that didn’t work – the company makes Swiss O.B. in two grades with the same name and only a difference in how the label is put on – one works and is the proper one, the other clumps up and is useless.  Heaven knows why its made or sold – anyway there is more on the MLAGB blog.

31st August  –  I had to tackle the big Yew bushes in the front garden today – they are about 20 ft high and needed trimming all over so I ended up at the top of a 16 ft ladder using a hedge cutter with both hands – I didn’t fall off…..   Looking at the case for the Egg duelling pistols I realised that it couldn’t have been a flintlock case as there was no-where for the frizzens to go, so as its a very close fit I came to the conclusion that it is original to the pistols – don’t know why I didn’t realise that before, but I think when I was a greenhorn someone told me it was the ‘wrong’ case….  I am not sure why the middle compartment is missing, the lining shows where it was, and looks as if it got ripped when the compartment walls were removed – the pistols should just fit with the compartment in place.  Or maybe the compartment fell to pieces – several of the bits of the dividers are coming adrift.  I decided that I will replace the central compartment and fix in place the rest of the dividers so that it is tidy. It would not be sensible to reline the whole case as it would then be difficult to be sure it was originally for the pistols.  I checked through my supplies of biase for lining the new dividers, and found a good green that is probably a fair match for the original lining colour but is slightly too dark for the current state of it.  I thought as an exercise I’d try to make it match in colour and texture (it is a bit thick and has a bit much pile).  A sample came down in colour nicely after an hour or so in domestic bleach, and shaving the surface with a razor and rubbing with coarse sandpaper followed by a quick flash over with a flame got rid of the excess pile, so now I just have to hope that the process works on a piece big enough to do the job!

The ‘aged’ biase is on top – the top streak was undiluted bleach!  Click to view.

I have reluctantly come to the conclusion that the woodwork on the unrepaired pistol is too marked and will need to be refinished – no doubt it is a shellac based varnish and with luck I will get away with just a very light steaming to raise the marks – the important thing is NOT to round off any sharp corners by rubbing things down too vigorously.  Here is the problem, the other side is visible in a previous photo.

Most of the damage is to the varnish!

I’m shooting at Cambridge Gun Club tomorrow – and I’ll take  my ‘spare’ percussion doubles to see if I can sell any!

30th August – I seem to be back in the gun tinkering business again!  I’m sure those visitors to the site who have faithfully stuck it out all summer will breath a sigh of relief!  I cleaned up the other Edwards as it looked worse once I’d done the first!   I am now struck by how damaged the wood is – maybe I won’t be able to resist refinishing it lightly?   In the course of getting the cocks and frizzen etc. off I used my two favourite disassembly methods to good effect  – if a screw is reluctant to come out, don’t try too hard to unscrew it, especially if the head is a bit mangled – instead tighten it very slightly if you can – a very tiny movement will be enough to break any sticking, and the screw head will probably be perfect for use in that direction – once you have a slight movement, some WD 40 or equivalent, or better still a little acetone with a touch of oil will help as you work it back and forth until it becomes easy.  The other trick is releasing the cock from the square on the tumbler  – lay the lock face up on your thigh and using the largest pin punch that fits the square, tap smartly with a light hammer a few times and the cock will gradually come off – I know it sounds improbably but it works for most things that need driving out with a pin punch!

Having finished with the Edwards  I looked at another cased pair I have that needed attention – a pair of percussion back action lock duelling pistols by D Egg – they too came form my father’s collection and were rather sad as one pistol was broken through the lock area, and someone had attempted to glue it rather badly and  had then lost the lock. I got Blackleys to make a set of castings from the good lock and freshened up the engraving and got DIck to fix the wood and make up the lock castings (it was in the early days and I wasn’t confident I could do it).   Anyway at some point I looked at the pair as  possible shooting pistols, but Dick hadn’t finished off the lock action fully and the sear caught on the half cock notch when the cock was let down.   Its one of those faults that one comes across from time to time in locks that don’t have a detent to lift the sear over the half cock bent.  The remedy is usually to reshape the half cock bent, and possibly refine the full cock bent a little. Fortunately the tumbler hadn’t been hardened so I didn’t need to anneal it.  To get the sear past the half cock notch, the notch needs to be shaped so that the end of the sear is deflected outwards as it passes in firing, which in order to get a secure half cock notch means that the sear needs to slide into the half cock notch without being lifted at all.  None of the standard files are suitable for shaping the half cock notch as it needs a true knife edge – I have a very fine flat file that I’ve ground off to leave a fine edge on one side.    Anyway I managed to re-work the half cock notch and polish it all up and harden it – and it now works a treat…….

The  Eggs are interesting – they were obviously good quality pistols and, replacement lock apart, are in reasonable shape. They are in a case that was obviously for a pair of flintlocks that has been crudely modified for the Eggs – it would be natural to assume that some collector put them in a box he happened to have BUT both case and pistols have the crest of the Earl of Sefton ( Liverpool) and the case has a Liverpool ironmonge’s label, so it looks as if they were put in the current case by the Seftons – one can imagine that the Earl might have been a bit strapped for cash but wanted to upgrade his flintlocks for the latest thing in percussion, so he traded his flintlock pistols in and put the new pistols in the old case, having removed the central box as there wasn’t room for it.  Or maybe William Drury did it for him and put his label in the case?  Anyway both case and pistols obviously belonged to the Earl at some point, so you can invent you own story!

They just fit, but only just!

 Posted by at 9:49 pm
Dec 212018

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

before restoration showing repaired cock
A little unusual in that the lock is fixed through the lock plate into the side of the false breech with one short screw and with a hook on the front end.
Another unusual feature is that the frizzen is connected to its spring with a link, not plain or a roller as was common later.
Nothing unusual here, nice bridle and very short link. The spring is not original, but that is common as springs often broke in use – this one is abit soft – I might try to get it more balanced with the frizzen spring., which is OK
 Posted by at 12:11 am
Dec 062018

Here are photos of a pair of pocket pistols I bought as a project for the website – they are now completed and for sale – see FOR SALE page.


as bought

Derusted electrolytically and allowed to dry – the rust is loose!

Quick brush with 3 thou wheel


New tail to topstrap.


Topstrap engraved to match

New screws for topstrap/tang


A couple of coats of ‘Slackum’ oil finish and they are done!

One butt has a trap for caps, the other is a later? dummy.

 Posted by at 9:00 pm
Nov 102018


30th August – I seem to be back in the gun tinkering business again!  I’m sure those visitors to the site who have faithfully stuck it out all summer will breath a sigh of relief!  I cleaned up the other Edwards as it looked worse once I’d done the first!   I am now struck by how damaged the wood is – maybe I won’t be able to resist refinishing it lightly?   In the course of getting the cocks and frizzen etc. off I used my two favourite disassembly methods to good effect  – if a screw is reluctant to come out, don’t try too hard to unscrew it, especially if the head is a bit mangled – instead tighten it very slightly if you can – a very tiny movement will be enough to break any sticking, and the screw head will probably be perfect for use in that direction – once you have a slight movement, some WD 40 or equivalent, or better still a little acetone with a touch of oil will help as you work it back and forth until it becomes easy.  The other trick is releasing the cock from the square on the tumbler  – lay the lock face up on your thigh and using the largest pin punch that fits the square, tap smartly with a light hammer a few times and the cock will gradually come off – I know it sounds improbably but it works for most things that need driving out with a pin punch!

Having finished with the Edwards  I looked at another cased pair I have that needed attention – a pair of percussion back action lock duelling pistols by D Egg – they too came form my father’s collection and were rather sad as one pistol was broken through the lock area, and someone had attempted to glue it rather badly and  had then lost the lock. I got Blackleys to make a set of castings from the good lock and freshened up the engraving and got DIck to fix the wood and make up the lock castings (it was in the early days and I wasn’t confident I could do it).   Anyway at some point I looked at the pair as  possible shooting pistols, but Dick hadn’t finished off the lock action fully and the sear caught on the half cock notch when the cock was let down.   Its one of those faults that one comes across from time to time in locks that don’t have a detent to lift the sear over the half cock bent.  The remedy is usually to reshape the half cock bent, and possibly refine the full cock bent a little. Fortunately the tumbler hadn’t been hardened so I didn’t need to anneal it.  To get the sear past the half cock notch, the notch needs to be shaped so that the end of the sear is deflected outwards as it passes in firing, which in order to get a secure half cock notch means that the sear needs to slide into the half cock notch without being lifted at all.  None of the standard files are suitable for shaping the half cock notch as it needs a true knife edge – I have a very fine flat file that I’ve ground off to leave a fine edge on one side.    Anyway I managed to re-work the half cock notch and polish it all up and harden it – and it now works a treat…….

The  Eggs are interesting – they were obviously good quality pistols and, replacement lock apart, are in reasonable shape. They are in a case that was obviously for a pair of flintlocks that has been crudely modified for the Eggs – it would be natural to assume that some collector put them in a box he happened to have BUT both case and pistols have the crest of the Earl of Sefton ( Liverpool) and the case has a Liverpool ironmonge’s label, so it looks as if they were put in the current case by the Seftons – one can imagine that the Earl might have been a bit strapped for cash but wanted to upgrade his flintlocks for the latest thing in percussion, so he traded his flintlock pistols in and put the new pistols in the old case, having removed the central box as there wasn’t room for it.  Or maybe William Drury did it for him and put his label in the case?  Anyway both case and pistols obviously belonged to the Earl at some point, so you can invent you own story!

They just fit, but only just!

29th August – I was thinking about a possible article for Black Powder on the ‘morals or ethics’ of restoration and looked at some of my guns that might be interesting to consider.  I alighted on a cased pair of Irish Duelling pistols by Edwards that belonged to my father and which I had never touched – I thought they might benefit from a light clean and a quick check that there was no rust causing problems, although they are in basically sound condition – the only problem is that the case has been relined and the case lock messed about with, otherwise they are pretty good.  Anyway I took out the lock of one to strip enough to clean off the external faces and parts, i.e. cock, frizzen and frizzen spring. to do that I took off the mainspring to get at the frizzen spring fixing and surprise – there was a roller on the end of the mainspring. I’ve taken a few locks apart and I thought I’d seen most variations of lock, but this is a new one on me.  I guess it was a transient feature between plain springs bearing on the tumbler, and the later and ubiquitous link.  I was in two minds about remaking the side nail as the head was pretty mashed up – anyway I’ve mislaid it so that decides it for me – sweeping with my magnet hasn’t found it!

29th August –  I came across an original Curtis and Harvey powder tin that was full of powder – much as I’d have liked to keep it in its tin, I was responsible and decanted it into a plastic container and put it in my approved box!  While I had it out, I thought that it would be interesting to compare the grain sizes of powders, and as I have a whole lot of different powders I took a set of photos under my microscope and here they are….

As usual, click on the photo for a clearer and bigger picture…….

The powders are, as labelled, Swiss OB, No 1, No 2, No 4, TS2, Curtiss and Harvey No 4, Czech Vesuvit L.C. and a miscellaneous powder I was given as a priming powder which turned out to be useless – its grain structure is like coke, see last picture which is an enlargement.  All the other pictures are at the same scale – 5 m.m. across the photo.  I think I still have more powders in my box ,  Farquarson & Nobel No 2 – but I’ll find those later.  The photos appear to show that the Swiss powders & the TS2 and C &H have quite uniform grain sizes while the Czech powder is much more mixed in size.  As shooters of muzzle loaders will know, the grain size controls the ignition speed because the grains burn through relatively slowly compared with the speed of propagation of the flash through the interstices  – so bigger grains mean slower  burn – hence OB for rapid flash for flintlocks priming and Swiss 4 for rifles where you want smooth acceleration down the barrel to avoid stripping the rifling.   The Czech powder in much cheaper than the Swiss and is used in percussion shotguns although it isn’t as fast or powerful as Swiss No 2, the alternative which is invariably used in flintlocks.  Presumably the slower ignition of the Czech, which has a relatively fine grain size,  is due to its composition, and possibly that the mixed grain size means it packs tighter and doesn’t allow the flash to propogate through the charge as well ?  On the evidence of grain size alone, one might expect Czech to be comparable with Swiss No 1 – which is used in pistols as it gives fast burn suitable for the short barrels of pistols, but clearly other factors are at play here.  It would be interesting to sieve Czech and compare the fine fraction with maybe OB and the coarser with Swiss No 1 or 2.

28th August – I was part of the MLAGB ‘Have a Go’ stand at the Fenland Country Fair  yesterday, & it was manic!  Sunday was pretty dead by all accounts  (I was elsewhere ) so everyone came on Monday, and 6 of us were flat out from about 10 a.m. until 4 p.m giving people a go with our guns – I took my little percussion single barreled Nock which people all love – its a small gun – 5 1/4 lbs and 13 1/2 inch pull but it seems to ‘come up’ right for everyone – keeping the charge low 2 1/4 drams and 7/8 oz is fine for adults, and probably about 1 1/2 to 1 3/4 drams and 1/2 oz for children and I didn’t get any complains as long as I got people to hold the gun properly  into their shoulders, and not just the heel.  I took my single barreled ‘Twigg’ flinter as its very reliable and is a classic long barreled gun of around 1780.   We had a couple of traps set up for going away birds and  a few people did pretty well – one young girl ( 15 ish ) had never touched a gun before but hit her 3 clays in great style like an old timer!  My son Giles had never touched a shotgun before ( you might wonder why – he never had any desire to ) brought his girlfriend and had 2 shots and broke clays on both, a hidden talent!  At the end of the day  I’d collected tickets from around  70 shots (about half with the flintlock), used two flasks of powder and got through one flint.   Saturday is our Anglian Muzzle Loaders monthly shoot so I’ll go to that – I have decided that I have accumulated too many double percussion guns, so I’ll offer them to members of the AML first, then put them on this site  – I’ll get rid of the Samuel Nock and the Egg plus the 8 bore single wikldfowl gun, which will leave me with two, the Jackson and the Venables.

26th August – Just driven back from a family party in Wales in the most horrendous rain, so I feel a bit washed out!  But no time to relax as I’m on duty on the MLAGB stand at the Fenland Country Fair with my guns and some pistols to display by 8:30 a.m. tomorrow morning- fortunately its only about 10 minutes drive away from home.  Today must have been a washout for them, and I’m concerned that the ground will be so waterlogged that they won’t let anyone drive onto  the showground – which means I’ll have to carry all my stuff right across the whole ground. We’ll face that when we come to it.   I’ve had a correspondence with a collector/dealer about descriptions of antiques and restorations thereof – which has got me thinking about coming up with a sensible set of descriptions that cover most degrees of restoration – I’ll keep thinking about it in odd moments and when/if I come up with any ideas I’ll try to produce something useful…..  In the meantime I’m up to my neck in other things……

23rd August – Back from my sailing/camping trip to the Blackwater Estuaety and the Colne.   Had an interesting diversion on the way to launch at Tollesbury Marina, planning to arrive at about 4:30  to launch around 6 p.m on a rising tide.  Half a mile from the Marina (literally) there was a bang and a scraping noise form the trailer…..

…and a friendly native brought me my wheel…

Not much chance of putting that back, or of going anywhere soon, or so you might think – But, wonders of the internet, I Googled  ‘Trailer parts near me’ which came up with Indespension in Colchester  8.8 miles away as the crow flies – a quick telephone call had them in their stock room with a measure, but we couldn’t be sure any would fit, and they closed in 45 minutes…..  A very rapid dash got me there 15 minutes before they closed, and we sorted out a pair of new suspension units and hubs which they kindly greased and assembled for me, and even gave me a couple of pairs of latex gloves so I could fit them without getting my hands dirty!  I still didn’t know if they would fit the trailer, but they did, and I was able to replace the broken unit – I  had a socket set in the car that for some reason has two 13 mm sockets and 2 ‘drivers’  so I was able to undo the rusted nuts and bolts with a bit of effort…..  And I managed to launch by 8 p.m. on the top of the tide…..  Well done Indespension, and all for a cost of £157.00 including VAT!  The wonders of the internet!  And I had a good couple of days pottering about in the boat…………….

20th August –  The shooting season is almost upon us – I have a few shoots (muzzle loading only) lined up and I’ll be at the Fenland Country Fair on Bank holiday Monday – I have been press-ganged into the ‘have a go’ squad as we will be a bit thin on the ground, so I won’t be doing my engraving.  I will however be at Sandringham Country fair a fortnight later with my full engraving setup and display, and I look forward to meeting old friends and new at both events.  If you have any antiques in need of restoration bring them along,  and if you are a watcher of this site, make sure you introduce yourself!

19th August – I finished the tent for my dinghy, so tomorrow I am setting off on the first stage of my plan to sail round the world – the first stage being about 5 miles up the Blackwater estuary!   I thought I’d post a photo of our amazing crop of tomatoes – 3 plants growing in a growbag on the woodstore roof.  I set up a very cheap watering timer about 6 weeks ago and they have not been touched since – I think this is the first time either Penny or I have got anything edible to grow, so its a red letter day!   I thought I’d better include something to do with guns and engraving just to keep some semblance of focus to this blog – I came across a small piece of brass that I’d used used for practice when I first tried engraving some 55 years ago!  As you can see, its fairly basic scroll stuff, and I guess is still the pattern I default to if I’m not trying to do anything in particular.


I did this in about 1959!


17th August – Spent another whole day waiting in for a promised delivery by TNT – that is two days I’ve wasted because of them in the last week.  I’ll have to hunt round and find where on the web to leave a negative review!    In my frustration I played around with recutting the chequering on an old shotgun fore-end from Dick’s scrap box.  I have some proper tools for cutting 24 lines per inch, but they aren’t perfect for recutting – but I did make a tool some time ago out of a cheap plastic handled crosshead screwdriver with the end bent and ground down.  It has a curved ‘keel’ ground to a 60 degree edge, and a sharp slanting cutting face – it is ideal for recutting as you can use the ‘keel’ to follow existing lines or mark new ones, and when you have got the mark it leaves in the right place you just tip it up a little and it cuts as you move it forward. If there is any existing groove the keel will follow it.  I did have a problem on the fore-end where there was a gap without any trace of the old chequering and I didn’t manage to fill it in very evenly, but its not too bad.  I now need a better cutter to widen the cuts and even it all up.

16th August – I’ve been busy making a tent for my little dinghy so that I can do a short camping trip before the summer ends, but today Dick rang and asked if I had any chequering tools as his were blunt.  At the time I couldn’t find the odd one or two unused ones I had somewhere, but this evening I found a couple of 24 lines per inch cutters and had a go on a scrap of old gun stock – my tools are 24 lines  to the inch, so quite fine.  I wouldn’t say that my first effort was perfect, but it would pass on casual inspection.  I don’t have the proper tools for doing the edges – old shotguns have a fairly wide convex groove as a border, so I might make try making one some time.  Anyway, that is another skill that I can spend some time working on this winter!  I’ll post a photo of my effort some time.

13th August –  Yesterday the little o/u pistol was collected by my friend and client  – I let it go with reluctance as its such a beauty – I showed him teh Venables 14 bore but wouldn’t let him buy it!  I did persuade him to sell me a little pair of Belgian percussion pocket pistols that need quite a lot of restoration done as they have rusted.  I normally steer clear of foreign stuff as it was not popular here, but times are a’changing as they say, and I needed a straightforward project for the blog as I’ve been a bit distracted lately.  I haven’t actually got these pistols yet, or for that matter seen them in theflesh, but when I do I’ll put photos up.


Goodbye –  you don’t see many as nice as this!

11th August – The mystery of the Yamaha F4A outboard deepens!   I put it all back together – minus the back cover – and ran it with the pipe that connects the thermostat housing to the exhaust junction and carries the hot cooling water from the engine  disconnected at the connection to the leg.  The engine was running with the leg in a tank of water in neutral at ‘trolling’ speed.   With the thermostat in place a few drops appear from the pipe when the engine is cold (it needs to leak s bit to get the hot water to the thermostat), and as the engine warms up the flow  gradually increases and a thermometer shows the water at around 60 degrees C or so, which is about right – but then the pipe starts to spit steam and after a minute or so it is just a stream of steam with no solid water and the engine get very hot.  With the thermostat removed there is  a strong continuous flow of water from the pipe and it  doesn’t get much above 40 – 45C and the engine stays reasonable cool.  I checked the thermostat before and it meets the specs exactly, so what is going on?  The tell tale is showing good pressure on both tests….

When running with the water coming out of the pipe rather than into the leg, the leg gets quite hot from the exhaust  but that isn’t a factor in this problem.  In all these tests there is a very strong stream coming from the tell tale hole by the inlet to the engine.   Anyway I have left out the thermostat and plan to use the outboard to see if it overheats in use – of course I’ll reconnect the pipe to the leg to cool the exhaust and put on the covers.   Mystery…………

Good tell tale flow and good cooling flow  when no thermostat is fitted

9th August – Having said yesterday that it was too nice to be indoors, I got my comeuppance today as it rained all day non stop and is still raining.  I did a few vaguely gun related jobs- making some felt sleeves to keep my antique pistols from getting damaged.  I was hoping to  do some work on the dinghy in preparation form my little trip, but that wasn’t possible.

8th August – The number of visitors to this site has jumped to about 500 a day – and it seems to be genuine visitors rather than bot attacks, which is nice.  I haven’t got back to gun work yet – its really too nice to be indoors, so I got back to trying to fix my Yamaha F4A  outboard that was overheating last year.  We failed to notice that there was no cooling water coming out of the tell tale outlet, and the engine overheated, so I stripped it down and found the water pump absolutely solid with salt so I replaced all the parts of the pump and cleaned out and replaced the thermostat – it all seemed fine and water flowed out of the tell tale but it still got far too hot.  I took the head off and checked & cleared all the water cooling passages, which were pretty clear anyway, and then had to wait while I got a replacement head gasket.  I put it together today  but fortunately didn’t put all the cowling back on as it was still overheating, although this time there was a very strong jet coming out of the tell-tale hole, so there was obviously adequate pressure from the water pump.  Nothing for it but to take the power head off the leg to look at the only bit of the water path I hadn’t checked – but no sign of any problems there.  Now that is all a bit of a mystery, so I went back to the thermostat that I’d replaced and checked it in hot water – it opened fully by 70 degrees C, which is what it is supposed to do.  I put the thermostat housing back on without the thermostat and could then blow easily through from the water pump inlet  to the water outlet into the exhaust path so there can be no obstruction in the entire water path in the engine.  That really doesn’t leave much that could be wrong!  I am now waiting for a new gasket  to put the power head back on the leg and I’ll try again.  One useful thing I did learn is that the telltale outlet is right by the cooling water inlet to the engine, so it doesn’t show if water is flowing round the engine, only that the pump is working, and the tell tale water never gets more that luke warm, so as a check its rather limited.  My only possible thought is that there was an air lock in the path to the thermostat housing so that it never got heated enough to open – anyway my only idea at the moment is to try it without the thermostat in place…………………..  I’ll be back with more on this, I would like to get the outboard working as I want to go off in our 16 ft dinghy for a few days while the weather is good………………………

5th August – back at last after our sailing holiday – altogether a good time was had by all.  Only one gale and we were safely tied up in Stornoway for the day – we hired a car and did a tour of Harris, which is not difficult as there are not that many roads!   Mostly sailing  required 4 layers of clothing, but the wind dropped almost every night so no tense nights worrying about anchors dragging, and it was often possible to eat in the cockpit in the evening (thankfully midges don’t make the journey out to the boat!).  We even had one whole day then it was possible to wear shorts and a tee shirt, which is almost unheard of in those parts.  We got the hang of sailing the boat better, mostly because Giles had done a bit of yacht racing and was good at sail trimming, so we had some exciting fast reaches at 8 knots plus in winds to 25 knots.  We explored a few new anchorages and discovered a couple of  very pretty lochs to overnight in.   Now back to ‘real life’ or what passes for that here!  I’ve forgotten everything I knew about guns and engraving, so it will be fun picking it up again………………

Quiet evening in Loch Shell, Lewis

25th July – Greetings from the Hebrides, where it is about 14 degrees C and alternating between 20 knot winds and calm, with rain and drizzle thrown in for good measure, while me house sitters bask in 30 degrees and swim in the pool!

Alongside in Scalpay Noth Harbour, Harris

Motoring in the rain!

20th July  We have nearly reached the end of school term and our house guests/house sitters will shortly be arriving so we can hand over and disappear for a sailing trip round the Hebrides.  Until then I am pretty busy on work, so there won’t be much on the blog,  I’m afraid, unless I can persuade the sitters to give an account of their time in the house – they certainly won’t be doing any gun engraving as my collection is currently in storage – and I’ll try to sell a substantial chunk of it before I take it back as I have run out of space!  I’ll try to put some pictures when we do eventually get away, but mobile reception is a bit flakey in the Outer Isles, and our target this year is St Kilda, which I’m certain doesn’t have any.

18th July A very pleasant afternoon with a couple of friends for lunch and a bit of gentle muzzle loading clay shooting in their garden – we had a very nice Egg double 11 bore tubelock sans ramrod that was quite heavy and of around 1840 – 45  vintage.  This was the second phase of popularity of the tubelock after the first Joseph Manton 1818 tubelock patent flurry of guns – it is always assumed that the second phase of popularity was predicated on the craze for live pigeon shooting and the big wagers involved, on the premise that the tubelock was slightly faster ignition than the caplock.  The bore is a hint that it was a live pigeon gun as it was the maximum allowed bore, and most sporting guns except wildfowl guns were smaller bore. Plus it doesn’t have a ramrod.  It was one of a pair of guns without the numbers 1 & 2 to distinguish the guns and that is possibly a clue as sporting guns were usually carefully individually marked.  Unusually the tubelock had a number of misfires, which we put down to faulty tubes – I didn’t make those tubes and I’ve never had a misfire in the few hundred I’ve made.  I took my Manton Flintlock and we got it to go from a noticeable delay to pretty fast by tweaking the priming – our American friend convinced me that it was faster with about 1/3 or  1/4 of the priming powder (Swiss OB) than I had been using – great discovery given the price of Swiss OB.  I’m almost out of OB as I seem to have mislaid my pot of it – possibly I lent it?  I think I’d been adding more priming in the mistaken belief that it made the gun go off faster.  We shot the Venables for the first time – it seems to shoot as a percussion caplock would,  All in all I managed to bag a few clays with all three guns.

17th July  I have been trying to ‘invent’ new designs for border engravings, but its turning out to be more difficult than I imagined – I thought I’d do a rope, but getting the shading to look right is proving tricky – I’ll post a photo when I get a bit nearer a solution.  I had the last STEM club of the term – the oldest children – year 6- are going on to secondary school so next term there will be new members and we’ll have to start again with cutting up cardboard boxes and using masses of sticky tape and hot (warm) glue guns and lolly sticks etc.  So Dave and I will have to rack our brains to come up with suitable projects that include the above!  I’ll miss the year 6s – they were great. We are shortly off to Scotland and sailing, so I am getting ready for the house sitters to take over – I am relieved that they are staying because the thought of coming back after a couple of weeks and finding the swimming pool a stagnant green puddle is not at all attractive!  I hope they get on all right with the cockerel – nasty piece of work!    I got invited out to lunch and some gently muzzle loading shooting tomorrow  so I might take the Venables and see if it shoots as well as it seems to handle – and maybe the Manton flintlock to see if I can get the ignition up to speed – it was a bit slow last time, although I have to admit that it is other people who really notice – I am maybe too slow myself to judge the ignition speed of a flintlock unless it is really noticeably slow. Tomorrow I also have  a visit to school to meet the teacher responsible for Special Educational Needs children as that is my governor responsibility – in total that means I will have made three visits this week and  a similar number last week – in fact every term-time week – the holidays will come as a bit of a relief.

16th July – another sunny day!  I don’t know how long it is since we had rain, probably about 4 weeks and counting… Coincidence or what – just as I finished typing that sentence Penny called out and said that it was raining – but you can be sure it won’t be enough to soak the ground!    I went over to see Dick today to see the progress on jobs. – We have a small problem – the double barreled ‘foreign’ pistol was stripped by Dick but neither he nor I can find the small parts from the inside of the locks – I’m pretty sure I only took bits that needed engraving, which I’ve returned in the box they came in but the ‘works’ have proved elusive – both Dick and I have searched our workshops to no avail – really strange because both of us have several of sets of bits at any one time and always keep them separate and in boxes or zippy plastic bags.  The annoying thing is that if you make a new set – possible but tedious – you can be sure they will turn up just as you finish the last part!

15th July – I saw several interesting guns people had bought to show at Rugby yesterday, including a fine underhammer percussion rifle by W Parker.   One shooter had a problem with his percussion shotgun – the cock wouldn’t pull back from the fired position as far as half cock so a couple of us had a look and took out the lock, whereupon it became clear that the problem was that the nose of the tumbler was  hitting the mainspring claw/ tumbler link and preventing the tumbler from rotating any further.  It’s unusual to see clearances here of less than a couple of m.m. , but the gun looked original and had been shooting perfectly well.  The problem appeared to boil down to the link being effectively too long – the top joint of the link onto the tumbler appeared to have bit of play, but not really enough to cause the problem.  I had a spring clamp in my car and took out the mainspring, which revealed the problem – the link had started a crack just at the joint between the flat part and the cross bar that engages with the claw on the mainspring and had allowed the rod to move so as to effectively lengthen the link and cause the interference seen. (see photo – of a different lock).  It will be a tricky job to weld it, but another member took it away to fix as its an ‘up North’ job.  I had a look at a few locks from an assortment of guns and couldn’t find one where the clearance between the tip of the tumbler and link/claw was so small -before the crack opened the clearance could only have been a few tens of thou! –  you meet something new every day in this game!   I stupidly didn’t photograph the  broken lock, so here are some photos of ones I have to hand that illustrate the site of the problems

This is a lock from my Samuel Nock percussion 14 bore  gun. The arrow illustrates the closest point as the cock is pulled back – as you can see the sear hasn’t reached the half cock bent. On the broken gun there was a collision between tumbler and spring and link at this point.

A lock from a John Manton & Son 1852-5  percussion double showing the point on the link that had started to crack on the Rugby gun – if it hadn’t stopped working because of the interference, the link would have failed shortly anyway.

14th July  – At the Horley Wood Helice shoot today – fantastic weather, with enough breeze to stop us all frying in the sun.  The Rugby club is one of only 5 in the country to have a helice layout – as I’ve probably explained before, the principle is to simulate the old sport of live pigeon shooting matches without any loss of life, either the shooters or the targets.  It is laid out like the old live pigeon shoots with 5 traps in front of the shooter, loaded with orange winged clays that fly, and have a knockout white centre that falls free if hit (with a little luck).  There is a small fence around 2 feet high in an arc around the shooting position at about 30 yards(?) distant – the ‘clay must be hit so as to separate the white centre, which must hit the ground inside the fence to count as a kill.  We allowed the clay to bounce over the fence and still score, but I think some rules say it must finish up inside the fence.  The fun part is that the traps spin up the clays and oscillate from side to side and up and down so that the shooter can’t anticipate which trap will fire on the ‘pull’ ( the use of that word signifies the pulling of the string that opened the trap over the live pigeon) or the direction it will take.  the spinning orange part is a propeller and can describe a whole range of different paths with changes of direction during flight.  Scoring a hit is a mixture of good shooting and luck in getting an ‘easy’ bird (in truth none are that easy). As muzzle loaders are not as fast as breech loaders, and we are not experienced helice shooters, we only use the middle 3 traps, which makes it somewhat easier,    It is so different from ‘normal’ clay shooting that all the winners were shooters who didn’t normally figure as winners in conventional clay competition, and many of those who are normally good  didn’t shine……

For the benefit of those there, some of whom read my blog, here are a couple of photos;

20 bird shoot – so only 8 out of 28 hit half or more of the birds well enough to score – there were a few near misses too.

The ‘bird’ is just below the wind turbine blade.  The trap on the left has just fired hence it shows black.

As in any muzzle loading event, it takes time to load and shoot 560 shots, so there is a little time to relax 

13th July  Missed out on the restoration & engraving for a couple of days –  I had a look at the two little pistols Dick has restored – they look very good now.  They will in due course be collected when the owner gets down off his combine!  I bought back the frizzen of the Blair and Sutherland that I had asked Dick to make a better fit to the pan as it was so hard the file wouldn’t touch it – the beauty of having an electric furnace handy means just dip it in scale inhibiting paint (Brownells) and hang it in the furnace and set it for 900C then turn it off and let it cool ( it cools at a reasonably slow rate as the bricks are quite good insulators).   I am off the Rugby for the Helice tomorrow – I got out the Gasquoine and Dyson 6 1/2 bore live pigeon gun  to see if I could mount it but the stock is too high and I can’t get my head down on the stock – given that live pigeon guns were made to shoot high, adding the extra from my eye being above the line means I don’t think I could hit anything with it – so it looks as if it will be the old faithful Henry Nock single 14 bore.  the load is limited to 1 1/4 oz and 3 drams, which is quite enough for its 5 1/4 lbs weight.  I’ll take the Venables of Oxford to show off my bargain!   I’m busy preparing for sailing in Scotland- we have a large table piled with food, and I’m sorting out navigation software for my mobile phone – there is a group of enthusiasts who have been surveying small locks around the West coast of Scotland using a rubber dingy equipped with GPS and an echsounder, because a lot of the Official Admiralty charts are based on surveys that were done in the 19th  or early 20th centuries and the positioning of small features like sharp rocks is not always perfect.  Anyway I have purchased the amateur charts (Antares charts) and they look pretty good, although they only cover a handful of possible anchorages in the Hebrides.  I have also been fretting over the swimming pool so that the house-sitters can keep it sanitary – if left un-dosed it goes a horrible green colour and heaven knows what nasties lurk within – probably kill anyone who ventures into the water instantly.  I got a floating gizmo that holds clorine tablets that dissolve slowly, but finding the right settings to maintain the level steady is taking a while.

10th July  I finished my black powder box and filled it and photographed it for the Firearms dept – hope they like it!   One anomaly in the instructions seemed odd – if you don’t keep the box in a secure place (whatever that is) then it must have secure hinges and hasp and padlock.  Nothing about fixing it down to anything, so presumably its Ok to pick it up and run away with it.  You could probably get in fairly fast using the saw blade on a proper Swiss Army knife – they are vicious.  The more detail you try to put in regulations, the more holes you create!  I engraved the breech block of the pistol – I did the false breech earlier – see photo.  The whole thing is now complete as far as my work is concerned, with the possible exception of a few screwheads yet to be made.   I was given an old lock, which was obviously rather crude, or possibly early, as there is no bridle on the tumbler – see photo….

Breech block of ‘foreign’ pistol.

Gash lock I was given. – The mechanism is pretty crude – there is no bridle supporting the tumbler shaft – this is probably a function of it being a trade gun rather than on account of its age, although the ‘banana shape of the lockplate  is a somewhat early feature.The cock looks a bit too unrusted compared with the rest of it so is probably a replacement.

9th July I took the bits I had engraved to Dick’s so he can get on with fitting them to the wood – the butt cap fits on to a chunk of what looks like ivory that forms a white (now varnished brown) band above the brass cap.  Not sure if it is ivory, but the pistol predates plastics…  I now have the barrel to put a bit of decoration on the rib on the breech block  – probably nothing else, I’ll see how it goes I might be tempted to try a silver inlay.  The barrels are very light – the muzzles look like  typical shotgun muzzles in terms of thickness, and the breeches are a bit thicker, but not much, plus the barrels appear to be slightly swamped (i.e. have a ‘waist’) although it isn’t true swamped  in that the barrel never gets thinner than at the muzzle – just looks swamped when you view along the barrel.  Anyway for a pistol we reckoned it had a very light barrel.   I’m going to have to have a better system of keeping track of which bits of which guns I have, and which bits Dick has – it hasn’t been a problem before – we both have ‘systems’ that usually work, but today we were not sure who had all the ‘works’ from the pistol locks.  I am sure that Dick had stripped them, and I only took the bits that actually needed engraving, but he thought I have them!  We both have workshops full of stuff, but actually both of us are quite careful about keeping track of bits so it is unusual for us to misplace things.  My black powder box is pretty near completion – just need a strong point to secure it to an eyebolt. Now I have to photograph it for the Firearms & Explosives person.


Its difficult to know where this pistol came from – the chequering is fairly coarse and the shapes are not English – the ivory plug is unusual too! 

Very light barrels of around 18 bore – must have used quite light loads!  

8th July – I fixed up an automatic watering system for the tomato plants (3) which live in a grow bag on the roof of the log store – they get through about 8 litres of water a day in this weather!  I am amazed that a little plastic part run on two AAA cells can turn on and off a full water supply at 5 Bars pressure!   I made a garden gate (its a weekend and time to catch up on domestic jobs) out of a couple of old table tops I had collected from a skip in a University lab – they were covered in dirty hardboard but made of solid pine – they were quite narrow and on the underside has a groove along one  edge and a couple of holes for ink wells with ink soaked in all round – took me back to my first school were we had to use ‘dip pens’ to write in copybooks – it probably gave me a love of graphics and script writing, not that I’m very good at it – maybe my early education wasn’t rigorous enough. ( that all makes me sound like someone out of Dickens or a TV historic play).  Anyway a very solid gate now hangs in the garden, and a bit more old junk has gone from the shed…..  I eventually found the trigger guard – it was in the cellar with my derusting kit – logical – I just forgot to look there.  Anyway that is now done, plus the brass butt cap.

I went for a classic scroll here – I used the gravermax as the metal was a bit mixed – not as easy to control as push engraving….

but it has to be quick – the job is taking far too long for any sensible added value!

7th July – Shades of 1976!  I remember an aerial photo of my auntie’s farm taken that year – a house in a sea of completely parched fields.  My quest for the missing trigger guard got pretty frantic, especially when I realised the brass butt cap was missing too. I even had Dick searching his workshop in case I’d taken them down with the other bits of the pistol to show him.  They were of course where I had put them – down in the cellar next to the derusting tank!   No time to actually DO anything by the time they were found.  My blackpowder box turns out to be a fairly tight fit on my modified plastic bottles – I should have made the spaces 5 mm bigger, but it will just fit them.  I’m sorting out bits and pieces for sailing – things have moved on from the days when you needed dozens of paper charts at about £ 8 each – I just got all the UK charts in digital form for up to 5 mobile phones for £25. which is a bargain!   Very handy for use on deck – you need to put your phone in a waterproof bag, but that isn’t a problem.  I still like a few paper charts for planning as it helps to be able to see the detail and the big picture in their proper relation at the same time, plus I love ‘walking’ the dividers across a chart to measure distances/times – so quick and immediate.

6th July.  I have now finished all the bits of the double pistol, except the trigger guard, which I have mislaid!  I had it on my engraving bench and looked at it in preparation, but it had evaporated!  The fact that someone dished me up an oversize gin and tonic at 6 p.m. hasn’t helped the search!  I’m sure it will turn up somewhere!  I’m reminded that next Saturday is the Helice shoot at Rugby, when our gang will try their hand at this fantastic clay shoot – regulars on this site from last year will know that the traps throw flying ‘clays’ from random traps in random directions in imitation of the 19th century s’sport’ of live pigeon shooting.  I do have an original live pigeon gun by Gasquoine and Dyson (see post) – like a lot of the early percussion live pigeon guns it is large bore – 6 1/2 and like all live pigeon guns, it was made without provision for a ramrod as all loading was at tables and supervised to make sure the loads were fair. Live pigeon guns were usually made to shoot high as the birds were always rising when shot.   Although it is a big bore, mostly the guns were not overly heavy and shot moderate loads of 1 1/2 or 2 oz of shot (later 1 1/2 was the max. allowed and the big bores were dropped).  The other large bore guns that you find were wildfowling guns which were typically much heavier – 12 lbs not being unusual, and would have loaded heavy powder and shot charges – 3 oz and 4 or 5 drams of black powder.  While many of the live pigeon guns were of high quality and finish like mine, the wildfowling guns were  usually plain and strictly functional.  I will have to think about which gun to take!

5th July – I found an offcut of 6mm ply in the recesses of the shed that was big enough to cut the partitions for the black powder box from, so that is now done and awaits hinges and hasp – I might go mad and buy some intumescent  strip for the lid – about £12.  It is recommended in ER2014 but not obligatory.  I finished off the two lock plates that had been ‘engraved’ by a madman – I had to follow most of the existing pattern as some of the cuts were quite deep – anyway it looks passable now – the leaves sticking out are strange, but they were quite deeply cut so it was not possible to ignore them.  Anyway it looks a lot better and I eventually followed a suggestion for a border from Dick, so I did a wiggly line, which is very quick to do and looks the part.  I shudder to think how long I’ve spent on them so far – I have the rest of the furniture to sort now- its in the derusting bath.  I did most of the second lock with the Gravermax  as it gave me slightly more control in the difficult parts of the metal – around 30% of the surface.

Slightly unusual design, it would probably have been better to make new lock plates, but that would raise the price of the job considerably and it is a collector’s find so its quite nice to keep elements of the original;


4th July – back in school for a 1 to 1 session with a young lad.  We succeeded in programming the robot vehicle to follow a line but dodge round an obstruction and carry on following – we got  it to do 4 laps of an obstructed circuit.  I have now glued up the black powder box – it is designed to hold 16 bottles of 500 gm each and is effectively made of  24 mm ply, so its pretty hefty, even empty!  I now have to get some 6 mm ply for the internal divisions – I have a full sheet in the shed, but it is so deeply buried and  such a struggle  to find space to cut it up (by hand) that I may just go and see if I can pick up some offcuts in the timber merchant.  I’ll then need hinges and a hasp and some means of securing it in place.  Then I can retire my old box.   I spent a good part of the day engraving the junk locks (see below) the metal is horrible and I’m getting through gravers fast – I won’t be able to put off a sharpening session much longer.  I’ll post a  photo shortly – it is very difficult to get something that looks reasonable when so much of the original ‘engraving’ is still there. the pre-existing stuff really defines a pattern unlike anything I’ve ever seen on a gun or anywhee else for that matter – heaven knows who did it, or why!  Last chance to bid on Holts sealed bid sale – I couldn’t find a lot to get excited about, but I did stick in one bid, so we’ll see if that works.


3rd July in school a couple of times today – my STEM club was very quiet as its a ‘move up day’ and my seniors had gone off to their next term’s schools for the day.   I decided that it was almost impossible to buy 500ml antistatic bottles – almost because it is possible to buy wash bottles at about £8 each – so I cut all the old 1KG black powder bottles I had at 125 mm from the base and cut the skirt off the top at 20 – 25 below the corner and then split up the corners of the top a little to make it easier to fit the top over the base – I then stuck the two together with black silicone sealant.  My stock of empty bottles was good because several years ago I’d bought a 12Kg sack of BP and asked the AML members for spare empty bottles.  Anyway I now have 10 antistatic bottles that I hope will satisfy ER2014.  I bought a sheet of 12 mm ply and got it cut into three strips – I decided to make the box out of two layers of 12 mm ply instead of 18 mm ply as it will be easier to get good overlapping joints and its a lot cheaper – around £25 a sheet for shuttering ply with one good face.   So far I’ve cut the pieces and glued the two layers of  all the sides together.  I am hoping that my construction method works – I’ll post the evidence when it is put together.

Looks a bit wonky, but who cares?

2nd July.  I recut the trigger guard of the rifle – its always difficult to decide how much I’m going to do – this one was quite pitted – probably deeper than the existing engraving over a lot of the surface. so to refinish the surface to get rid of the pitting would probably have obliterated all of the original engraving and I’d then have to recreate the original (without really knowing what it was!).  I settled for refreshing as best I could – its often difficult, as in this case, to make out what the engraving represents, so you have to recut the clear original cuts, getting finer and finer as far as you can follow, and hope that something recognisable will emerge from the  recutting.  In this case a stag’s head emerged with scrolls on either side.  You can now ‘read’ the engraving much better, without it looking too brash. Interestingly the deeper cuts appeared to be done with a chasing tool and hammer, which is quite unusual in my experience on an English gun,  the fine lines were, I think done with a push engraver.   Dick has a strange foreign pistol that had the crudest engraving you can imagine – the owner wanted it ‘tarted up’ to look more like an English pistol – it has a short double barrel that actually could be English – the rest might be a trade gun decorated by an amateur.  Ive now put that to bed, I hope ( photos below)

The initial state of the trigger guard – its quite difficult to make out the details – electrolytic derusting cleared out the hard rust, which makes it easier to recut.  As always, part of the difficulty of ‘reading ‘ the engraving is that the rust comes up flush with the surface, so you don’t see relief or shadows.

It is now clearer although the photo doesn’t show the middle bit well as there are no shadows 

I’m supposed to turn these into something respectable!   The tail is too deep to ignore, but I’m tempted to file out the nose engraving as it is only on one plate.

The pre-existing ‘engraving’ if it deserves that name makes it difficult to deviate as most of the cuts on the tail are too deep to ignore.  So I just work with what is already there- recutting lines and adding shading and changing the overall shape with additions. – I’ll put a pattern in the border round the lock at some point.  



1July.  Another month gone….  I went sailing in our 16ft dinghy today as it was such a perfect day!  I had an amusing encounter where I pay to launch the boat – last time I said 16ft as the length and they said lets call it 14 ft 6 inches as that is cheaper, so I agreed.  This time I said 14 ft 6 inches and they said lets call it 3 meters as that is cheaper – presumably this will continue until the boat has infinitesimal length and costs nothing – or is 3 m the minimum cost?  Watch this space to discover….   The owner of the rifle reminded me that I was also going to recut the trigger guard – I’m afraid it has slipped my mind, so that is something to look forward to.    I got a letter from the Firearms Licensing people for Bedfordshire ( our licensing is now joint)  telling me the  latest storage regulations for Black Powder and asking for photographs of my box etc.  There is a bit of a problem here – while the maximum contents of the box has increased to 15 Kg ( I think 10 Kg is the max on the license) it still has to be stored in 550 gm max  per bottle and the bottles have to be plastic / polythene or paper or cloth and the plastic must not ‘induce static electricity’.  All my BP comes in 1 Kg antistatic bottles of which I have plenty but it is nigh on impossible to buy 500 ml antistatic (usually black) plastic bottles anywhere on the web.  Since you need to leave 30% space above the bottles the box gets a bit ridiculously high if you just half fill the 1 Kg bottles, which is presumably perfectly legal – you can’t count the 50% space within the bottle towards the 30% either.  So I am in a bit of a quandary – I am thinking of cutting the existing bottles down and gluing them back together, or using sticky tape.  My current box takes 500ml poythene bottles but it looks like I’ll have to make a new one – heaven knows where it will fit in the house!  Here is the extract from ER 2014  – I’ll try to track down the full thing when I have time..  On second thoughts, keeping the BP in paper bags of 500 gm is obviously quite legal and much cheaper ……………………..  Suggestions welcome!

click here for ER2014 summary:-  Black Powder regulations

30th June – I picked up the barrel of the rifle that I engraved the patch box for from Dick today – he has done a nice job of browning it – a good chestnut brown – he struck up the barrel a little to get rid of some of the small scale pitting, but didn’t take it too far so that it looked as if the barrel had been worked over.   There is no engraving on the rifle at all, although it is a nice quality piece – it is thought to be  outsale from Joseph Manton very late in his career – it is a little unusual that it is unsigned, un-numbered and without a barrel makers mark, as its a decent quality Birmingham proofed gun.  Dick and I had a mutual ‘senior moment’ when putting the backsight back – we couldn’t remember which side the folding leaf was normally on – we did get it right as I checked on my Purdey rifle when I got home.  I had to take out the foresight and file it down a bit as it didn’t fit very well. Anyway its ready to go back to its owner, which is more than can be said for the little pistol Dick is STILL working on – it must have taken the best part of a week to do – far more than the pistol is worth!    I’m going to have to have a try at shooting the Venables – it seems to fit pretty well with its 3/8th cast off.. I do have a problem that I always think almost any gun I pick up fits me, unless the comb is too high for me to see down the barrel rib, in which case I can usually shoot it with a leather butt pad fitted. The secret with the leather butt pads is to cut shims from old cork table mats and use them to adjust the length of the stock.  I’m sure that they can’t all fit but I need an ‘expert’ to look and see what fits – the problem is that I shoot equally erratically with them all.  I was thinking to go sailing tomorrow on the Stour by Ipswitch – its tidal and you can only launch and recover from a trailer when the tide is more than half up, so at the moment its only possible to fit in a good sail on alternative weekends, and so far it hasn’t worked out.   Our plastic bag containing 30 tons of water in the back garden is getting lots of use in this hot weather- more swimming so far this year than any  years for quite a while………………………

The ramrod is with the owner.

Twist has come out very well – it isn’t too shiny, so looks in keeping with the rest of the gun.

28th June – A busy day what with meetings and a visit to my lovely dentist – I did have time to make the second titanium nipple for the Venables.  Making them out of titanium is a pain as the metal is so tough.  It is OK to turn with a sharp tool but you do need a sharp tool if you want to take a very fine cut – it works best with reasonable cuts.  I drill a 1 mm hole in the bottom of the nipple but you have to proceed very carefully and clear the drill often – the second nipple has a 1.1 mm hole as the 1 mm drill  sheared off in a failed attempt!  The main hole down from the top is 2.3 mm to within 3 mm of the bottom so the 1 mm hole is about 3 mm long – they seem to work with those dimensions  The worst bit is cutting the thread as the die only seems to cut on the first pass (with difficulty and a lot of heat but maybe the die is blunt), and any attempt to resize the thread with a closed down die gets no-where, it just compresses the thread, generates a lot of heat and is a difficult to back off as it is to cut – but you can cut decent threads on the first pass if you get the die right. I have a die with the top face ground down about 1/2 mm so it cuts further up the nipple as breech block threads are rarely relieved at the top.  One problem is that titanium is pretty resistant to filing – at least with my less than perfect files. and you have to remember that the fine swarf will burn with a lot of heat and is very difficult to put out – don’t use water, use sand or a purpose made extinguisher.   Why do I bother to use titanium?  Well it is very tough, won’t corrode or shatter, doesn’t need heat treatment – but mainly for the challenge – & I happen to have a bar of 12 mm titanium courtesy of ebay!  Most nipples in late percussion long guns turn out to be a pretty good fit to 1/4 UNF which is 28 threads per inch.  You sometimes need to open up the die to the maximum extent if thread is very loose or worn, or you can recut to 9/32 UNF which is also 28 t.p.i. – I have recut without annealing the breech block.

You can see the rib lifting – its been resoldered badly.  Click on the photo to see the damascus pattern clearly.

27th – quick trip over to Holts to pick up the gun I bought last week.  It is everything I expected and more – its difficult to see how it didn’t sell for  more than the cased Manton and Mortimer which were no where near as good a quality.  It is London proofed, and is obviously quite late – I think Venables didn’t start until 1846 – the wood is superb, it wouldn’t be out of place on an expensive modern Purdey or H&H, and as fresh and crisp as if it had just been re-stocked by a good stocker – although why anyone would bother for a percussion gun that wasn’t by a well known maker I can’t think – anyway I think it must be original.  The barrels are a nice true Damascus, not twist and the top rib is pretty, although it needs refitting as its a little raised – the bores are about the best I’ve seen in an antique gun that hasn’t been lapped, and the insides of the locks are perfect except for a couple of very small patches of rust.  The engraving on the furniture is top quality and all matching, including that on the butt plate, which is the first I’ve seen that has no rust on it. The only anomaly is the trigger guard that is like a rifle one, but probably an owner’s choice…. What’s not to like!  I now need a case for it, and a powder flask to go with my lovely shot flask.   I have started a new post for the Venables as I have taken lots of pictures, but here is a taster….  Oh, and I decided the Venables needed new nipples so I thought ‘how neat to make them out of titanium’ – which I did but I think the one I finshed is a tiny bit too long in thread and won’t screw right in.  I’d forgotten how difficult it was to cut threads on titanium with a die.

26th – slight falloff in visitors to the site as others are lazing in the sun? ( I spent 4 1/2 hours in school so earned my swim!) Looking more carefully in The Powder Flask book I find that my flask is made of Britannia metal, an alloy of tin 85%, Antimony 10%, Zinc 3% and copper 2% or some very similar composition, and that the ‘hallmarks’ on my flask are standard Dixon marks for Britannia metal flasks – not sure of the dates – here is a photo of the page from the book showing what they should look like – it matches. Now I need to find a gun of matching quality – it would do superbly for the Harkum that sold at Holts as the shot flask was the only item missing.   I’m off to Holts tomorrow to pick up my Venables – a friend is livid as he booked a telephone bid on 3 guns ( including the Harkum) and wasn’t rung so missed them all at less than he would have been willing to bid…..  I usually leave a contingency bid on stuff I book a telephone bid for in case, but I have always been rung.  I guess there is always a fear that the auctioneer will be tempted to run the bidding up to the contingency bid ( my contingency bid on the Venables was £750 but I got it for £420 so quite a risk).  While I’m up at Holts I will have a look at the stuff in the sealed bid sale as there are a few junk guns I might want.  Somewhere along the line I’m after a single barreled wreck with a 3 stage twist barrel big enough to cut down for a barrel for my Mortimer pistols – that way they will be proper twist barrels, which they would be if I used modern barrels.  I have one already that is just big enough and long enough in the octagonal section.  Having considered both Birmingham and Holts last sale I see the pistol market buoyant, the smaller the better but not Liege, long guns not so buoyant – in both cases the name is a disproportionate factor, probably justified in flint guns but less so in percussion as designs were getting more standardised and, in late percussion often came from Birmingham.  I have always been amused that a turnoff pocket pistol made and engraved in Birmingham is worth twice as much if the name on the side is NOCK or whatever, as compared to one with e.g. BLOGGS, given that neither Nock nor Bloggs ever did more than hand over the pistol to the customer, probably as a freebe on a large purchase, probably still in the bag it came in from Birmingham.  Cased ‘duelling’ pistols by well known makers tend to have silly prices attached, but beware my comments on June 24th on re-conversions.  There are some lovely guns about but  they stand out a mile from the run of the mill stuff and are worth paying for, and there are always the odd bargain to be had if you look carefully – I reckon I’ve found two in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve looked at several hundred guns and even more accessories to find them. Don’t be tempted to buy the sort of junk I used to bid for – it just clutters up the place and you feel bad about it every time you see it!  Good hunting…………………..

James Dixon & Son

From the Powder Flask Book by Ray Riling.

Britannia metal flask

25th June – Too much lazing in the sun & swimming but better make the most of the weather, which will worsen when the school holidays starts and also when we go off on our holiday!  I  had three school meetings today, so I needed the swim….  I got the charts of the West Coast of Scotland out today and started to work out possible routes and anchorages – we’de like to make a dash for St Kilda if we can – its been a target for several years and the weather has never been stable enough.  St Kilda is out in the Atlantic and doesn’t offer much shelter from swells so it can be an unpleasant anchorage if there is any strong winds further out in the Atlantic, which there often are.  The distances on the West coast of the Hebrides can involve a long day’s sail and we don’t normally sail at night as we don’t have enough crew to manage where much navigation is involved and there are no light buoys for entrances into lochs etc when you get there.   As always with sailing, its a matter of getting the right wind and tide.   I polished up the silver(?) shot flask – it really needs a posh cased  silver mounted gun, or at least a pretty fancy one to justify the flask – I guess its fairly late – I must look it up in ‘The Powder Flask Book’ by Ray Riling…… I find that the full name ‘JAMES DIXON & SON’ was used from 1833.  Both shutter arm and flask nozzle are marked ‘Z’, which ought to tell me something  but doesn’t!

25th June – Here are a couple of pics of the flask I bought yesterday  – at the moment the shutter assembly is in the derusting bath.

The shutter arm is stamped ‘JAMES DIXON & SON  SHEFFIELD’ 

The second from the right looks like a British hallmark, not sure about the rest! Suggestions???

24th June 2 hour drive to the Birmingham Antique Arms Fair. ( I’ve done too much driving in the last week or so)..  Overall impression, mostly military stuff and swords, quite a lot of noise and people, many of whom were more interested in a football match that seemed to be going on somewhere else, which I assume involved a team from England.  Lots and lots of pistols of all sorts, but very few long guns except military rifles -one exception of note – George Yannegas showed me a minature Whitworth Target Rifle cased complete with all its accessories and in mint condition – he has of course tried it out.. SO if you have a handy 10 grand it could be yours.  Certainly better value than some of the cased pairs of duelling pistols at astronomical prices – I’d want a lot more than was on offer if I was going to part with £29,000!  Even the cased percussion duellers were above £10K….   I did see a few dodgy guns, in fact I probably thought some perfectly genuine ones were dodgy after seeing some of the offerings.  Kevin (Blackley) told me that about 25 years ago a certain West Country ‘restorer’, now deceased, had admitted to reconverting over 1000 guns and pistols in 5 years, and he is presumed to have done but reconversions for the next 20 years…    No wonder he got so good that its almost impossible to distinguish real from fake.   I didn’t buy any guns but I did pick up a rather nice high quality shot flask for £70 – I thought it was German Silver, but when I got it home it appears to have hallmarks, and so might actually be silver, although they don’t quite correspond to any in my reference book.  I kick myself for not going through his stock for a matching powder  flask!  Anyway I’ll have to find a test for silver…. I’ll post a photo tomorrow.  I got a book on Continental flintlocks and their decoration as I thought I ought to have it to extend my reference library, although I have to admit that I dislike the more elaborate continental carved steel guns – My Barranechea  (Eibar) in the Catalan style is about as far as I want to go in my collection.  Oh, and on the way back an accident on the A14  added an extra  half hour to the journey after I had stopped off at Kettering Hospital to pick up my brother and take him home to Corby.  Very frustrating waiting while they discharged him, everything seemed to be a slightly disorganised  and inefficient process carried on by cheerful and helpful staff who were lovely – just wholly inefficient at executing a process – I think that must be the state of the NHS – cheerful inefficiency.  It certainly looked as if all the managers sat in offices well away from the nitty gritty of the action, while there is no-one effectively managing processes on the shop floor. Of course I might well be wrong – I only heard how it took about 8 hours to discharge him when it should have taken 30 minutes to an hour at most….I waited 1 1/2 hours after he was supposed to be ready to go….


23rd June… CGC was hosting the Army and RAF cadets National Clay Championships, with teams from all over the country from the West country to Scotland – we were offering shots with percussion and flintlock guns at £1 per shot (50p to Help for Heros) which just about covers our costs – CGC pays for the clays and gives us free cups of tea but it is tiring – more or less non stop for 6 hours without a break, a couple of cups of tea and a burger on the go ( wouldn’t be allowed if it was a job!).   Great fun though – the cadets love firing the old guns, especially the flintlocks, and a few of them managed to break clays with a flintlock, which is reckoned to be difficult even with some practice.  I was using my single barreled ‘Twigg’ (possibly spurious?) which as usual performed very well – I had one ‘flash in the pan’ misfire out of about 20 shots as the touch hole got bunged up as I had got lazy about putting the wire through it between shots.  The lock is very kind to flints, and sparks well, although it has a very strong mainspring and frizzen spring and no frizzen roller – one might expect it to be hard on flints for those reasons.  I had my little Henry Nock single percussion 14 bore – its a good gun for small shooters as the pull is only about 13 1/4 ins and the gun weighs 5 1/4 lbs, but it ‘comes up well’ on most people.  With a normal load of 2 3/4 drams and 1 oz it has a bit of a kick so I cut the load to 2 1/2 drams and 7/8 oz which was better.  At 2 3/4 drams and 1 1/2 oz it kicks like a mule but I don’t use that load on ‘have a go’ shoots – in fact I only used it once on a shoot by mistake as I picked up the wrong shot flask!  We were using Vesuvit powder in the flintlocks & percussion as Swiss 2 is a far too expensive for a have a go shoot !   Pete was using his Pedesoli reproduction Mortimer flintlock, and had reliable shooting, although he did shatter a flint for one misfire. I took him the shot belt I had made, which was much admired.   Off to Birmingham tomorrow – 2 hour drive there – Dick was coming but has too much work on – partly because the little pistol is taking so much time to sort out. Now I must finish cleaning the two guns – I have done the barrels but they need oiling and putting together.

22nd June… Such a nice day I spent a while just sitting in the sun, then having a gentle swim in the large plastic bag of water in the garden – 30 tons of it!  Its 10m long so its just big enough to get a bit of exercise.  I was relaxing in preparation for a busy weekend – tomorrow I am going to Cambridge Gun Club where we are offering a taste of muzzle loading clay shooting to the CCF cadets as part of their shotgun day.  I get asked to do it as I am one of the few who shoot flintlocks, and they are always popular as the flash is quite spectacular and it makes a good video.  On Sunday I’m off to the Birmingham fair at NEC to see Kevin Blackley and get a few bits.  I just learned my brother is in Kettering Hospital so I’ll kill two birds with one stone and call in and see him on the way back – perhaps the idiom  is inappropriate in the circumstances!   I did find time today to drill and tap a 9/32 BSF hole in the end of my long loading rod and make a new charge removing screw with 9/32 thread so that I have the means to unload my long barreled ‘Twigg’ flintlock – my normal cleaning rod isn’t long enough.  I have found it very useful to have a screw that can be put in the end of my loading rods – especially for game shooting as it saves carrying a sectional ‘cleaning’ rod.  It could be neater, but it was made in a hurry.

Piece of wire from a shelf support bent round an 8 mm bar, ground flat and then soft soldered to a brass boss. I’m always impressed when a knurling tool manages to run in sync with the diameter of the workpiece!

21st more…  Just caught the sale of lot 1502 ( blog pasim)  – I thought if by a fluke it went at or near the bottom estimate I just might not be able to resist, although I’d have to sell my soul to the devil to pay for it – assuming he doesn’t already own it.  In the event my judgement of the beauty of the gun was shared by several far richer people who eventually pushed the price up to 4 times the top estimate – £20K – I don’t think the devil would have taken my soul in part exchange at that price!  So all done and dusted and I’ve packed the Purdey foreend for dispatch.   Dick is trying to sort out one of a pair of tiny percussion pistols – the trigger guard strap was broken and the body had been botched, so its turning out to be a horrendous job to get it to function – we didn’t price the job to cover having to re-invent the interior, which is what it amounts to, but you win some (not many) and you loose some (too many). Having finished the fore-end engraving I’m casting round for the next job…… Maybe sort through my mail……Pay some bills….. Fix the Outboard…Mow the lawns…..

21st June – Watching the Holts sale online – I hope you will forgive me for not sharing my bid intentions with the world last night – I had 2 targets,  a nice double 14 bore percussion by Venables of Oxford (£300-500) that had an almost mint bore and very nice wood, and a Greener that needed a bit of TLC.  The Venables looked like it was rather underpriced at estimate 300-500, the only thing against it was that the rib had been very crudely re-attached ( easily fixed),  but I would have been prepared to go well above the top estimate to get it – in the event I had a telephone bid and  got it at £420 hammer price, so pretty happy! I’ll have to try it and if it shoots as well as it fits me, I’ll retire one of my existing doubles, its very reassuring as it means that decent doubles can still be found…..  The Greener was not such an attractive proposition, I’m not really a Greener fan but it looked like a restoration opportunity – in the event I ducked out at £600, which I thought was a lot compared to the Venables!   I’ll watch 1502 if I am in, although I do have a meeting at 1700… I hope I’m not tempted……    I finished the Purdey fore-end….

I guess I’m happy with that – in the end it was mostly done with the Gravemax on acount of the curvature! 

Bottom one is a pull of the smoked part on cellotape.

21st June – At Holts today to look at one or two guns in the auction tomorrow.  Obviously the star attraction for muzzle loading shooters is the Harkam in its original pigskin lined case with all its original bits – the full works, except it’s missing the shot flask.  It was difficult to see if it had ever been shot.  In reality its probably not of much interest to shooters because it is so good that it would be a sin to use it, which is a change from my usual stance that guns are meant to be shot! A lot of the attraction of this one is that it is so perfect, so shooting it would take the edge of it!  Anyway it is probably a bit pricey for most of the shooters I know (estimate £4000 – 6000 – my guess around 5500+) . The dog of the lot has to be the Nock 7 barreled gun, whoever did that to any gun needs to be strung up and banned from ever going near a gun again – and the estimate? £15000 – 20000!  Some mothers do have ’em…..  I wouldn’t give £2000 for it if I had money to burn!   Owning it would reduce one’s street cred to zero!  I think my favourite gun in the whole auction has to be lot 1502, the Dickson 16 bore non ejector skeletal round body gun – it is SO elegant and makes the usual run of overpriced Purdeys and H&Hs and Bosses look like double decker buses alongside a sports car.  If I had 3K to 5K kicking around I’d be in there like a shot – I did have a look but unfortunately I don’t seem to have enough to hand!  It will probably go for at least 6K and on top of that it needs restocking as the wrist is rather fragmented- another £3500 or so – Oh well…..  One can dream….  There were a couple of cased late percussion guns of  slightly dubious origin (?), a Purdey and a Mortimer – I base my judgement on the lock engraving, both have very similar engraving that symmetrically fills the lock plates, and the names are put just along the top edge as if they are an afterthought – look very like good quality bought-in Birmingham guns, either retailed by the signed makers or just spuriously named. There were a number of  other cased percussions, a couple of John Mantons, one OK ish, one not so clearcut.   Nothing really stands out.    The lesson as always is that there are a lot of dubious guns around – caveat emptor.    I drove via the Blackwall tunnel, and had a dodgy moment as to whether my Land Cruiser needed to pay to go in the Low Pollution Zone – it would appear from the website that it doesn’t, although my old one did. I do have to pay the ‘naughty boy’ charge in addition to the congestion charge if I go in the city.  After 2019 I’ll have to pay to go anywhere near London, which fortunately I don’t often do…

The ‘Purdey fore-end is going slowly, I may finish it later tonight although I don’t usually carry on after about half past midnight……..which is only 10 minutes away…..

We’ll see what tomorrow brings………………

20th June – Getting back into my stride – STEM club at school – the latest project is to get the keen ones to program the robot to dodge round a bit of ‘wall’ across its path – going well!   Apart from that and a school meeting I am trying to get ahead with the Purdey engraving on the new fore end.  It is taking forever to do all the little scrolls, and it is so easy to slip on the curved surface – I’ve tried putting in the main scrolls with the GRS Gravemaster pneumatic tool – in general I much prefer ‘push engraving’, but the Gravemaster has its used, particularly on curved surfaces as it requires almost no force to drive it through the metal and there is therefore much less chance of a slip.  If I was a professional, and used to the pattern I would presumably be able to bang it out in a fairly short time, but I guess it will actually take me a day or so to complete it – I’m probably about half way through now. I will probably go down to Holts tomorrow, if I can face another few hours of driving after Scotland…………

As on the original, there is no attempt at precise symmetry, just a general aim to follow the same general pattern and keep the balance of  cut and uncut metal about the same over all the surface.

18th June – Apologies for leaving my regulars without their daily update!  I’m back from Scotland – sadly neither Tom nor I carried off any trophies from the Scottish National Muzzle Loading Clay Championships on Saturday – the only things we did carry off  were six soaking wet guns (and two soaking wet shooters). I am afraid that we ducked out of the last competition ( double hammer gun) so that we could rush home and try to sort the guns before going off to the dinner – they were beginning to get marks and in danger of starting to rust as water had penetrated round the locks of some of them, and the slips they were carried  in were also wet inside.   Anyway we managed a preliminary clean and got back to the Guardbridge Inn in time for the celebratory meal.  On Sunday we visited ‘Scotland’s Secret Bunker’ a few miles from St Andrews.  Built originally in the 1950s as an underground RAF radar tracking station it was later designated as the seat of government and control in the event of a nuclear attack, with the ability to function in lock-down sealed mode for a month!  It is built on two floors about 60 feet underground and could probably support around 100 people, so as you can imagine, its huge!  The control rooms are recreated with sounds of announcements and warnings etc so it’s all very atmospheric – there is quite a lot of old technology around – back from the days when machines spewed forth punched paper tape – I still have a few rolls of tape – my first computer program in 1966 was on punched tape, and I built a Mass Spectrometer controller that output its data in that format, although pretty soon computer programs were printed out on punched cards the size of  postcards with one line of code on each card. A  small program gave you a pile of cards from about 3 inches high and a bigger one about 2 feet high ( of course you couldn’t actually pile them that high).  The delight of the punched cards was that if you dropped the pile on your way from upstairs in our building to the computer in another building the cards & therefore the lines of code got muddled and could not  be put back in order as they were not numbered – about as much use as a book if you cut each page into individual lines and jumbled the whole lot!  The neat thing about my first program on a ‘proper’ computer – it calculated the shape of a weighted  wire towed through the water – was that chunks of it were still incorperated into other people’s programs 30 years later!   I had a good run back from St Andrews today – 8 hours from door to door including a stop for lunch – I was very lucky, on the way there I passed a 10 mile queue of almost stationary traffic coming the other way, and coming back I passed a 5 mile queue!   I had another go over the guns when I got back – my little Nock had started to get a bit of rust round the muzzle, and they all got a bit of TLC.  All my slips got damp and although they were dried on radiators overnight ( Tom has central heating, of which I strongly disapprove) it is almost impossible to dry the muzzle ends as they are encased in vinyl and too small to allow effective circulation.

I’m afraid I have no photographs of the shoot – I forgot to take my proper camera, and in any case it was too wet to use it……………

14th June. Another lovely day, but the forecast for the shoot in St Andrews on Saturday is gloomy – rain all day – but that is par for the course up there! I’m hoping I have everything lined up to go!  I’m borrowing the shot belt I made for Viking to ‘test’ it as I don’t want to deliver an untested item – I fixed the broken spring on the ( Irish pattern) nozzle by cleaning it up and soft soldering it in – seems to work. I was looking through my collection of old shot flasks and realised that almost all my old flasks have the seams breaking down so they leak – I’ll have to make some new bodies for them.  I’ve now lost one of my loading rods – why do I keep loosing things!   I’m kept quite busy by this blog, answering queries and fixing things, which is interesting but all takes time.  Dick is busy working an the small pair of pistols that have occupied him for too long!  The bottom strap was broken and a poor replacement had been silver soldered in, which is always bad news as it means you can’t make a good weld repair without getting rid of all the silver solder and that is usually easier said than done. anyway as that repair was finished it became clear that the action could not possibly have worked as it was, so Dick has had to do a bit of milling to get the cock spindle in the right places and  sort out the tumbler bearings.  They will look beautiful when finished – and may well be for sale – we already had one person interested!

13th June..  I was sorting out the Parish Council email accounts this morning to comply with the Data Protection stuff ( I host their website and email for historic reasons) – it made me realise that I probably need a policy for this website, so I made one up.  Since the site doesn’t put cookies on other peoples computers it isn’t very onerous – the notice at the top of the page should suffice, and I’ve put the Wordfence notice in a new page called GDPR just in case.  Wordfence is based in the US and IP addresses etc are sent over there so it is responsible for that side of things, fortunately.  It all makes work for the working man (or woman) to do, as the song goes…..   I got the pulls from the action body of the Purdey for which I have the fore-iron to engrave, so I am able to start that job. As usual I started with a trial of the Purdey scroll pattern – actually there are several variations of the small scroll that are cut differently and give a slightly different overall impression.  After I had put a decent surface on an annealed piece of steel I did a first trial – the challenge is to get the right balance of cuts and highs.  Since I only had pulls of the action body, I took pulls of my trials to match.  This Purdey engraving uses cutout background and outlines to leave the desired raised shapes, as distinct from my normal engraving where the lines are the picture -called  intaglio.  I did a trial on my test piece, took a pull, cut out a bit more around the desired shapes and took another pull ( after getting rid of any burrs with a  fine wire brush wheel) – and then once more.  Here are the results, with the pull of the action body.

There might be a bit too much cut-out in 3 ( white areas are cutouts), but 3 is certainly better than 1.

 Posted by at 9:49 pm
Oct 112018

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

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

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

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


Initials surmounted by an unclear crest above.

 Posted by at 10:14 pm
Aug 082018

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


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

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


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

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

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

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


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

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


 Posted by at 9:59 pm
Jul 172018


12th June.. I have been a bit slack on the blog!  I had a 3 1/2 hour very intense meeting on Monday that left me a bit disinclined to do much except swim up and down, after which I just slumped!    Today I did a bit of sorting out of shot, wads and cards and powder for the trip to Scotland.  As I’m taking 4 muzzle loading guns I though I ought to check which wads I needed for each, which led to sizing all the bores – of course no two guns are the same actual bore, whatever their nominal bore is, anyway I managed to cut it down to 2 sizes of wads, conveniently one size for Tom and one size for my guns.  Tomorrow I must make sure the right guns are on my certificate!  This blog is obviously being found by lots of people as I’m getting a steady stream of photos of guns and pistols to identify.  I live in hope that I’ll discover a priceless antique gun for someone, but at the moment its rather at the opposite end of the spectrum.  I did my STEM club with Dave today, but there was a football match on and we only got two kids, so they got on and built a robot while Dave and I programmed our line following robot to skirt round an obstruction – we got about half way there in 45 minutes!

10th June… I did say that the weather encouraged sitting in the sun rather than working away in the workshop! …..So we went to an Elderflower party today, a friend’s family has been holding one every year for the last 50 odd years to make elderflower wine, which they consume in some quantity. Around 30 people spend a few hours collecting flowers and getting the heads off in order to make 20 gallons of wine (it used to be much more) to last the year. After the work some of us played a game of croquet – it looks like a nice gently, very English, very genteel way to spend an afternoon.  In fact it is about the most vicious game of skill and tactics imaginable – winning is more about scuppering the opposition than getting ahead – in fact getting an early lead isn’t necessarily a great help as I found out to my cost, since if you manage to hit an opponent’s ball you get an extra turn, thus if there are no opponents balls near you, you miss out!  Anyway (son) Giles  beat me ( that’s his inheritance down the drain!).   The number of visitors and visits to the site continues to increase, which is nice – so far in the last 365 days there have been over  100,000 visitors and 670,000 items viewed – obviously a lot of those are regulars who get counted each time they visit – its a shame the software doesn’t analyse visits in more detail, but I think you have to pay if you want more detail, which of course anyone making money out of a site would do.  I sometimes wonder whether there is any way I could ‘monetise’ the site, but actually I’m happy to do it for fun, and I do get some interesting work from time to time, and make new acquaintances and friends, so I’ll carry on for a bit longer!

9th June later…  Shooting at Cambridge Gun Club today – our 1/2 oz of shot competition.  No compromise on the difficulty or range of clays, and the hit rate was a little down on some normal shoots but still good – I did my usual mediocre shooting, but was reassured that several others got the same score!  After lunch I switched to my little 20 bore Beretta hammer gun and  did somewhat better – I am resolved to go and practice properly until I can shoot a bit better.  I have in mind to try an interesting experiment, as I think that one often knows before one pulls the trigger that it is going to miss.  My competition would work as follows – unlimited clays, but fixed number of shots allowed –  score 0 for any clay you don’t shoot at, -1 for any you shoot at and miss, and 2 for each clay you break with the first barrel, or 1 if you break it with the second barrel. I reckon this would concentrate the mind!   So a top score would be 40 and a lowest  score would be -20, if you hit half the clays you score 20 and hitting 7 (1 in 3 shots) scores 1 .   I now need to find someone to try it with.  It could of course be a bit more expensive if you aim to shoot the ‘normal’ number of shots, but it might work with say 20 shots, using a very limited number of traps, say 5 hits at each of 4 traps……..   I took the Manton back to its owner who was well pleased – I forgot his slip, which I found on the peg when I got back – I’m very good at labelling slips and ramrods when I have guns to work on, as they are easy to mix up or mislay, I just forgot to look behind the door!   Pete asked me to tap a hole in a cleaning rod to take the ‘normal’ brushes etc., but that seems to have opened a whole can of worms – The tap I have used is a 9/32 x 26 BSF but that actually cuts too tight – the web suggests 9/32 BSB ( brass thread ( similar to BSC cycle thread & always 26 t.p.i.) but I only have the BSF  in 9/32 and that appears a bit smaller than the brush threads – what I thought was going to be a trivial job becomes a lot more involved – but then these challenges are what makes it interesting………………………

9th June – Back from 2 days in Norfolk at an outdoor activity centre with the year 5 & 6 children from the school I’m a governor at.  Great fun and the kids had a good time and were very  well behaved!  The activity centre was based around an 1898 house designed by Edward Lutyens so I had great fun poking around and trying to work out how the house had been originally before it was altered in several waves – first in WWI as a convalescent home for soldiers, then back to being a private house, then the activity centre, which retained quite a lot of the old furniture etc in the ‘public’ rooms, including about 10 years of Hansard containg every word spoken in Parliament during that time – covered one wall!  I could have spent the whole time reading MP’s speeches from 1975!  Anyway back to real life – in particular our annual recession shoot, in which we shoot clays using 1/2 oz shot load – its not as bad as you might think…. anyway I’d better load up and head out…..

5th June Dick and I spent an hour together getting the locks of the Manton to fit – I had fitted new springs and Dick had re-fixed the ‘rims’ of the lock pockets that were a bit broken away. You may remember that we had found that the locks and barrel were original Manton, but had been grafted into a different and older stock at some point. We had two problems – 1, the springs were slightly bigger in places than the previous ones and so we had to adjust the german silver reinforcing sheet at the top of the mainspring slot, and second that the lock front extensions didn’t fit between the barrel bolsters and the edge of the lock pocket, and were opening an old crack in the woodwork  – presumably the cause of the previous damage around the locks. Unfortunately the rim of the lock pocket under the mainspring was already very thin, so no room to cut more away – I realised that the reason the numbers on the inside of the lock above the mainspring had been half filed away was a relic of previous attempts to solve the problem.  Anyway we filed the bolsters on the barrel down a bit – luckily the breech block was only slightly hard. Anyway judicious filing got it all together, and we filled the crack with a shim of walnut verneer and refinished it.  – Job done and ready to go…..   Now I’m off to Norfolk with the Yr 5 & 6 children to an activity centre… I’ll report back……..

4th June – Didn’t manage much today – just finished off the cartridge loading so I now have 100 Black Powder cartridges for Scotland.  I promised to make another shot belt for a friend, and started on that – I think its going to be a bit smaller than mine, which is a bit heavy when full – for game shooting you don’t need a lot of shot and the less you have to carry across ploughed fields the better!

4th June – Excuse the absence yesterday, as I said, sitting in the garden took priority!  Today a meeting all morning in school prevents the garden sitting, and anyway the weather isn’t so appealing!  I have now managed to make 75 cartridges towards my 100 total so nearly there.  The rifle is now getting the oil finish on its stock augmented as it was a bit worn, and I took a photo of the patchbox in situ – I think it looks the part, but these things are always subjective!

It’s in the process of having its oil finish restored – it has the smeared on flood coat waiting to gel and be rubbed off, so looks a bit of a mess!  

2nd June.  I put the patchbox lid in the rifle and it looks good – the toning down of the colour works quite well – I coloured it lightish straw on the AGA hotplate, then rubbed it over with 7000 grit paper, then gave it a rusting with my browning solution – that went rather too well so I rubbed that partly off with 1000 grit and finished with 2500 and 7000 and polished with 0000 steel wool.  It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success but it worked – I did think at one point I’d have to start again, but it came good!  Photo soon!  The annual trip to Leucars to shoot the Scottish National Muzzle Loading Championships is the w/e after next so I thought I’d better start loading the annual bag of black powder 12 bore cartridges – Tom shoots there too using my guns as he doesn’t have a certificate in Scotland.  (He’s in St Andrews so dead handy and my B & B for the w/e) so I need double rations for the hammer gun competition.  I usually take my Bacon patent antique  bolt action double for him, and use my Westley Richards 1874 patent hammer gun by William Powell, of which I am very fond!  Anyway 100 cartridges should do – I got a couple of bags of capped cases at the Northern Shooting Show – its as cheap to buy new capped cases as to buy the caps and use reclaimed cases, even if its not so environmentally friendly – not that shooting clays scores high on those stakes anyway…  I’m getting through the restoration jobs on my list, thanks to help from Dick – I’ve now got the forend iron of the Purdey to engrave, but I’m waiting for pulls of the action body so I can line up the scrolls. After that I’ll have to find some of my own jobs to do!  Things usually quieten down in the summer as I find its rather nice just to sit in the garden and read the paper………………….( weather permitting)…

1 June – I had an email from someone who had come across the post on the Land Cruiser steering lock problem on this site and had a similar problem.  I was able to get out my pile of bits and work out how to remove the broken bit of the lock bar – and send him some pictures.  That post gets quite a few visits – If I can be bothered I can review all the traffic to the site on a daily basis, it also tells me which are the most popular posts, and I can see where all the attempts to crack the site are coming from.  I don’t look very often – I just keep an eye on the number of visitors and visits.   I finished the patchbox lid and I’m just colouring it up – its not too bad considering how difficult the metal turned out to be – I couldn’t get consistent cutting, and the inclusions didn’t help, in the end I started to use the GRS gravermax air driven graver, which I don’t use often, as it ploughs through most things without discriminating and if you are not careful it goes very deep.  I forgot to take a photo before browning so it will have to wait!

Dick got carried away with the Manton stock!  He needed to sort out one or two problems, including all the cracks around the lock pockets and then decided that he would have to refinish it.  In stripping it he uncovered some intriguing history – while the locks, breech plug and barrel are original Manton as far as we can tell, they have been fitted into a different stock at some point – probably a long time ago.  The evidence for this comes mostly from the photo below.  It looks as if the stock originally had locks with a different shaped tail (almost certainly older) and the cutout for the fence behind the false breech shows that has been changed.  There is a plate (German silver?) screwed in under the breeches, presumably to reinforce that area, and it has a notch cut out for the lug to take the end of the short top arm mainspring that was  fitted to the gun as found. The fixings of the plate are not symmetrical- suggesting it wasn’t done by a gunsmith..  The lock pocket of the stock has the correct cutout for a long top arm spring.  Confirmation comes from the matching number engraved on the tang of the trigger guard – it is not very carefully positioned or executed and doesn’t come near the rest of the engraving in quality – it can’t be original….   The original stock was from a good quality gun, possibly even another Manton and has the original furniture and breech block, Probably percussion as there isn’t a cutout for the cock to hit the top edge of the lock – but it might be for a flintlock with a French cock….. The stock was presumably made for a long top arm mainspring, and the Manton locks will take either – I guess when the swap happened the Manton locks had had long top arm mainsprings, as had the stock, and the locks were modified by the fitting of a small lug on a peg to catch the end of the short top arm.  The stock has been neatly extended and the joint covered with chequering.

31st May  Out a.m. but this afternoon I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and get on with the patchbox lid – you can walk round a job for just so long and you get nowhere.  Anyway I looked at my designs and decided to go with more or less what I had already tried.  The lid had lots of flecks in the surface that I thought were the orange peel marks from cold rolling, but they seemed more  like little pits of corrosion – anyway it cuts OK in places but seems to have some inclusions that occasionally make it difficult to cut smoothly – anyway I’ve got most of it roughed out ready for the details and shading – I’m going to leave a space in the middle that would fit the oval, but probably not cut it.  I’ll try to get it finished tomorrow with luck.  I need to visit Dick and get tht Manton stock back before the weekend so I can take it back to CGC ant the muzzle loader’s shoot.

30th May – Still trialing the engraving for the patchbox lid – I needed lots of engraving practice as I’d been a bit lax recently!  I finished trying my original idea for the lid, and for fun engraved the oval ( done very quickly and carelessly!).  I put the lid in my furnace to ‘normalise’ it as I wanted to make sure that it was in the annealed state – an hour or so at 910 C and a very slow cool.  When I looked at the existing top to the patchbox (see below) I realised I’d been copying the lock engraving – the lid is slightly different in feel and some of the cuts are different – possibly a different engraver or in different frame of mind.  In particular the top isn’t symmetrical and is more open, so I am having a bit of a re-think – my efforts are not wasted as most of it is very similar.  I changed my tactics with gravers today – when one got a bit blunt I sharpened it instead of changing it for a fresh one – it seemed to work better, possibly because all my gravers are different lengths and it saved continually changing my hold.  Mostly I can get away with just touching up the heels.   The over and under pistol barrels came good – in contrast to the Manton barrel they only needed about 5 brownings – there isn’t a lot of figure in them, the twist is a bit indistinct – I don’t think its a function of the browning process  – just how the metal is, but they are a very nice chestnut brown – very discrete.  It’s possible I could have brought out the figure more my etching the barrels in copper sulphate solution before browning them, but I can’t see a distinct enough twist to be worth the erosion of the metal.


I think its too fussy – even without the oval &  hasty lettering – I’ll re-think a simpler, more open design…….

The barrels have twist figure, but its not well enough defined  to come through the browning strongly. 

30th May – This blog has now passed 200,000 visitors since I started it!   Amazing.    Started to brown the two o/u pistol barrels, must order some more browning solution!   I’m still trying out my ‘Gumbrell’ style engraving – the trouble is that the more I do, the more I adapt it to my own preferred style!  I have to keep reminding myself to go back to the original and check how it was done!  Anyway I started on a trial layout for the actual engraving on the patchbox lid – I took it to Dick to show him and he thought it would pass muster – see comments below photo;-


I didn’t finish the scroll on the right as its clearly too big for the space.  Not sure what the oval is for, but it fills the space!  I’d probably leave it out on the real thing!  I’m reasonably happy with the scroll on the left  – but doing 4 matching ones will be a challenge!


28th May – The bag of water in the garden continues to grow!   I am still trying to get my head round the Gumbrell engraving on the Rifle – the only way to see how its done is through the microscope, so I took a series of photos using my camera eyepiece and built up a partial mosaic of the ? Gumbrell engraved (?Joe Manton) rifle, the late percussion Joe Manton shotgun and my last attempt at something similar – its pretty instructive! Some bits are  not visible to the naked eye – like the cross shading on the shadows on the rifle ( you’ll need to click on each photo to see them in detail) ;-

This is the ?Gumbrell rifle engraving I’m trying to copy for the patchbox lid….



This is my second attempt – I don’t yet have the correct pitch of shader to put in the parallel lines, mine is too fine -it just looks like a smudge!

This is my first attempt – before I’d done these photos!


This is the Manton engraving – quite different cutting although the overall style is similar – the overall effect id much heavier. 

27th May – What a beautiful day!  We decided to put our old above ground swimming pool up – its just a giant bag of water really – about 30 tons of it so it takes a while to fill!  Its over 10 years old so lets just hope it doesn’t have a leak in the bottom!   I was playing with my microscopes to see which I was going to keep on the bench – the Am Scope does need a 0.75 Bartlow lens to reduce the magnification somewhat so you can see more of what you are doing – as it is, the maximum field of view (on lowest magnification) is 28 mm wide, whereas my Wild it is 52 mm.  You can get one from ebay or from AmScope for around £30 – my Wild uses one – I found a close up lens from an old Canon camera that was  about 0.7 and works very well – I had to make some plastic brackets to hold it as the screw threads are not compatible.   I finally tackled the second Manton lock spring – I’d found one for the left lock that fitted exactly, with a long top arm – the locks will take either a long or short top arm spring – I guess they were modified at some point to take the more modern short top arm spring.  I couldn’t find any springs that fitted exactly, and the nearest I could find was a fairly modern short top arm spring.  Fitting it required the peg hole that locates the spring to be moved a couple of mm.  Positioning the peg hole is critical as it governs the angle that the link on the tumbler takes, and therefore the position of the spring relative to the bottom edge of the lock when the hammer is fully down on the nipple – if the spring peg is too near the hammer, there may not be  clearance for the link to move to full cock, if its too far away the spring and link will try to overlap the edge of the lock, but hit the wood.  Anyway I plucked up courage to mark and drill a 2 mm hole into the lock plate – not quite right through – luck was on my side and it came out perfectly. I was worried that the lockplate would be too hard to drill but it was OK.   So the locks are back to working!  I still don’t understand how the original springs came to be so defective!

The position of the spring peg hole in the lockplate controls the resting angle of the link, – the spring mustn’t be near the edge of the lock plate or it will foul the wood.  This lock now has a spring with a short top arm – at some time I think the locks were modified to take these more modern springs by the addition of the small stop that holds the end of the top arm  – its is just pegged into a hole in the lockplate.

This lock has a long top arm spring as I had one and it fitted exactly – this style of spring would have been fitted to the locks originally.  In this photo the spring is too low and overlaps the bottom of the lock and so would foul the wood, but as soon as the hammer was fitted it comes to rest on the flashguard and stops the tumbler before the spring gets as low as in this photo.   I had to grind down the lump on the top arm as the spring needed to go up to allow the gun to reach full cock but when I took this photo Dick still had the hammer so I didn’t know if it would all work.

I am still playing around with the rifle patch pocket engraving – or at least trying to crack the engraving on the lock so I can make an approximation. I was trying to get a good black and white image  as its is less confusing and I can the see how its done. I’ll have to spend an hour or two with paper and pencil…..

26th May  It’s half term next week so I have the week to myself!  I knocked up a quick headrest mount for the new Am Scope microscope so I could actually use it, and did a bit of playing – it seems to be fine – the zoom is handy and has a bit more magnification than my Wild when flat out, which is really good for checking the sharpness of my gravers – I’m not sure which one I’ll use in the long term, but I’ll keep both on my bench for the moment while I give them side by side tests.  I suspect the new eyepieces will win the day because I can keep my glasses on, which saves a lot of troubletaking them on and off and getting oily fingermarks all over them.  I’m still trying to work out how the Gumbrell engraving was done, and develop the organic shapes – unfortunately I’m a pretty poor artist, and have to do everything the hard way, but I will get there.

The stand is very good – except that used at right angles to the bars it rotates rather easily about the main post.

The head rest support fits into the camera tube mount – it is a ‘quick and dirty’ job to get it working made from a bar of acetal – I should probably make an aluminium one and anodise it as I did last time. 

25th May  In school much of the day – a bit frustrating as we needed to use the smart board for software programming but had to move to the hall which doesn’t have one, but we coped!   I got the Am Scope trinocular microscope today – Its pretty nearly as good as my Wild/Zeiss one and very good value for money – the stand is more versatile and the eyepieces allow the wearing of glasses as the eyes can to be some way back from the lenses – the only trouble is that your head is then ‘waving about in the breeze’ and you really do need a firm headrest like the one I made for the Wild. (see DIY Anodising post and the Engraving Setup post.  The trinocular facility is not as useful as I hoped as it involves switching out the left eye path when you want to use the camera, and the camera is much magnified relative to the eyepiece so you only see a small part of the field of view – I don’t think this is just a function of my camera, but I probably need to make some experiments – the camera I have that fits the new microscope doesn’t appear to have a proper video feed and the frame rate is very slow so  it doesn’t work for ‘action videos’.  But as an engraving microscope it is just fine – a slightly more convenient size than the Wild as its shorter from eyepiece to objective, and handy to be able to keep my spectacles on, and the stand is very good with a double arm slider – and its zoom rather than switched magnifications.  I haven’t fitted a light to it yet – the camera ring light I use on the Wild is too small to fit the ‘nose’ of the new microscope. I expect an expert would find the optical quality inferior, but for engraving I challenge anyone to find much difference – and all for £422.38  including carriage from the UK so no VAT or duty to pay – whats not to like ( AmScope x7 – x45 trinocular zoom microscope with dual arm stand) ? – & I can swap the eyepieces with the Wild and wear spectacles for that now…..  I’ve now got the Purdey foreend to engrave with fine scrolls and the patchbox cover to engrave with Gumbrell large scroll.  The Purdey engraving is not particularly fine and once I get the details sorted in my mind it will be no problem, – however the Gumbrell engraving ( see below -click on the photo for much better view)  is a  whole other ballgame – he was about the best engraver in Britain as the time and his work is technically challenging, whereas the Purdey is, relatively speaking, just hacked out!  So I’m spending a lot of time looking at the Gumbrell lock and trying out different bits of the pattern – its all leaves and plant scrolls with subtle interplay of light and shade – the cuts range from deep to very fine tapered cuts, all with perfect sweeping curves.  I am having to revisit tool sharpening to get fine enough cuts without throwing up burrs . I have been lamenting for some time that I haven’t had much engraving to do – now I am revelling in a real challenge – I did a bit of ‘Sea Monster Gumbrell engraving once but never really cracked it, so now is my chance to raise my game!  I’ll post photos when I get a bit further along the learning curve- assuming I do, but at the moment its a bit primitive- just as well I annealed a couple of test plates!

24th May  GDPR comes into force today, whatever that means!  I have to sort out the Parish Council website as I host it for some obscure reason – actually I’m told that GDPR is being misinterpreted by many organisations as it really only applies to marketing – the rest is to do with Subject Access Requests.  I bet you are none the wiser- me neither!   The good news is that the Manton Barrel is put to bed – it eventually got a decent brown – i deliberately didn’t strike it down to smooth bare metal as I didn’t want to take too much off the barrels and anyway I didn’t want it to look all shiny and stripy as if just rebrowned – it now looks very comfortable and mature, like the rest of the gun!   Dick is working on the stock, and then I just have to pop in the replacement spring in the right lock – it means drilling another hole for the spring peg as its annoyingly about 2 mm away from the existing hole – I went through all Dick’s boxes of locks and springs but there was a distinct shortage of right hand springs, and all the ones that he had were worse than the one I’d picked out already.  I will try to get away with a blind hole for the peg – I can’t see it needs to go right through the lock plate, but if it doesn’t work as a blind hole I can always drill it through.  I’ll have to plug the existing hole, but that is not a problem – contemporary repairs often moved the peg hole.  I got a percussion rifle today to rebrown and engrave the replacement patchbox lid.  It was suggested by previous owners that it was by Joseph Manton but from his late period and was un-named and un-numbered.  It is certainly of a high quality,  it is late, so it is possible it comes from a ‘fire sale’ of stock.  In favour of the Manton theory is the quality (although by then he didn’t have all his own quality workmen), the tail of the trigger guard that I’m told is characteristically Joe Manton, and the engraving which matches that on a number of his guns post 1820 ish, presumably by Peter Gumbrill who later worked for Purdey after he set up on his own.  Gumbrill stopped working about 1850. The barrels were proofed in Birmingham. I love these mysteries – you keep hoping for the definitive clue…..


Superb Peter Gumbrell (?) engraving ( click photo for better view, then <- )

favourite Joseph Manton trigger guard tang.

Lock in perfect -as new- condition with ‘fly’ or detent as was normal on a rifle to stop the sear slipping into the half cock notch if you merely squeezed the trigger ( as you are supposed to with a rifle) – Shotguns rely on a more vigourous trigger pull to avoid this problem.

24th May  – I didn’t get anything at Bonhams, the cheap 14 bore gun went for one bid more than my bid but I didn’t really want it.  The cased pistols both went well above my bids – one for twice what I bid and the other telephone bid I took up to my spending money limit but the next bid got it – you never know how far the other bidder is prepared to go!  Anyway my general observation that pistols, particularly small non military pistols are hot property held true!  The Joe Manton flint/percussion gun made 15000 GBP, which after the premium and tax takes it to almost 19K!  Still it was a very unusual piece, and if I had that sort of money I’d want it in my collection.   I did a bit of engraving on one of a pair of little pistols that had been extensively repaired – good to get the tools out, although the metal was horrible – bits of old hard metal, bits of new soft metal and bits of filed up weld metal – in the end that job got through about 20 gravers!  I actually have one very fine graver from GRS that really stood up to it for a lot longer than most of the others, so I must try to get a couple more.  Oddly it doesn’t shine so much against my normal HSS ones for softer metals.  Still browning the Manton barrel – about 10 rustings down and still the steel is more or less untouched!  How many more will it take?    I got a percussion rifle to sort out this morning – a very nice clean and elegant un-named gun.  I have to re-brown the barrel and also engrave the (replacement) patch box cover.  AT the moment the cover appears to be cold drawn steel that has been partially hardened – it will need annealing before I can engrave it.

22nd May  – Off to Bonham’s viewing today, which involved enduring a moderate amount of rail chaos – all manner of excuses were posted on the boards – I think they have a random excuse generator in their system – I saw’train in the wrong place, no driver, signal failure, breakdown’ – I didn’t see ‘engineering works’ for which be thankful….   Anyway Bonhams was its usual friendly place – part of the attraction is the social aspect!  I met up with a friend who had flown over from the US to to look at a gun and we had a good chat – we’ll meet up again in November on a muzzle loading shoot.  There were a number of fairly OK percussion guns at reasonable estimates, but I have enough- no more room in my cabinets for long guns!  Nothing spectacular, although I left a few bids at around the bottom estimates just in case – I might set up internet bidding, although I did fix one telephone bid – you can’t book a telephone bid on any lot that has a lower estimate of less than £500.   There was one gun that I fancied – a Joe Manton ‘switchable’ flintlock and percussion gun – and  I wouldn’t have minded the cased set by Smith of a gun and a rifle – fitted with nipples for Imperial caps, which Smith favoured – all well more than my pocket money these days.  The pair of Barbar silver mounted pistols at 12000 to 15000 look quite similar to mine, only unfortunately quite a bit nicer!   The Manton barrel continues its browning – its becoming clear that the sections of twist the barrels are made of – they are coils  about 9 or 10 inches long –  don’t all match, either along the length or from side to side – I’m not sure if this is an artifact of the stage of the browning, or more probably of the construction  If its built-in then I’ll go for a a fairly dark browning to hide the differences.  All will be revealed…  I have been practising my Purdey engraving – when you look in detail at the fine scrolls they are fairly simple cuts and not especially finely executed. but very clever in achieving the visual effect – looking at them with x25 magnification allows you to see exactly how the engraver made each cut, so that you can truly copy it – its one of those situations where the outcome is more than the sum of the parts so  fairly crude cuts will work as long as the balance of light and dark and the overall impression are right.  Anyway a bit more practice is called for….  Over to Dick’s tomorrow to pick up a mainspring for the other Manton lock and collect the little pistols that need the engraving touched up…..

I haven’t cracked it yet – I need a lot of practise with paper & pencil first to get it right

21st May – got yesterday’s date wrong – my watch has skipped a day!  The Manton barrel is going quite well after its aborted browning – I am convinced that the twist on the two barrels is slightly different – we will see when it is finished.  I tried out ‘normalising’/annealing a couple of test plates – at least one is EN8 – I sealed them in a stainless/titanium envelope made from sheet from Brownells, and one was also coated with anti scale paint – I wanted to see if I could anneal without generating scale.  I used my little furnace ( see post) and cooked them at 910 degrees C for an hour, then let them cool very slowly by feeding in a little power from the auxilliary supply until they got below 400 C.  The bare one didn’t scale, and the paint is still on the other one so I guess that is clean too.  I just tried engraving a straight line across one plate and cuts much better than before, so I’ll anneal all my plates from now on.   I talked to a knife maker at the Northern Shooting Show who wanted to do engraving on the scales of his knives , and, since he has a real need, I suggested that he could justify buying a suitable microscope at the start.  I always have a bit of trouble with my separate camera when doing demonstrations of engraving as it gets knocked and doesn’t give a very clear picture – anyway I thought I’d buy a cheap(ish) trinocular microscope to see if the cheap microscopes were any good, and so that I didn’t have to disassemble and cart my good one to shows, and had a camera that showed what I was actually doing – I might even be able to shoot videos, which would be good.  I managed to find a new AmScope x7.5 – x45 trinocular microscope on ebay from the UK substantially reduced  price so I bought it!  Tomorrow I’m off to London to view the Bonhams auction – not sure if I’ll buy anything – probably not but its nice to look and I can see various friends!

20th May – bit of a disaster with the browning of the Manton barrel – I wasn’t having much luck in the cellar with Blackleys slow brown so I gave it a coat of mine and shifted it up to the kitchen next to the AGA and left it for a few hours.  Nice deep reddish brown colour BUT a patch were I hadn’t put on any of my brown looked very pale and with sharp edges  AND in a few places the rusting had got too vigorous and had raised some rough patches that I couldn’t remove with 0000 wire wool or a brush – it needed 3000 grade paper to get them down and that left patches – SO back to square one – chuck it in the derusting tank and then work on it with 1000 grit, 2500 grit and 000 and 0000 wire wool – so now we are back to the start – no damage done.  It has never happened to me before, and I don’t know why it went wrong this time as the rusting hadn’t been too vigorous -maybe my solution is really too strong – I’ll dilute it some more – when steamed it tends to give a very black colour.   While waiting for the derusting etc I started to tackle the outboard motor that was overheating last year.  I had done the bottom end and water pump last autumn, so I decided that there must be a block somewhere in the cooling galleries of the engine – I stripped the engine and took the head off – there was some salt and crud in the passages but not enough to stop the flow – anyway I’ve cleaned it all out and will get new gaskets from the friendly chap in the Isle of Man – would be good to go sailing next w/e if this weather holds – I need a new number plate for the trailer – I have a spare outboard if the Yamaha isn’t finished.  I’ve started to do a bit of practice for the Purdey foreend engraving  – I picked up an old practice plate that had been heated on one corner and realised that the corner was much softer to engrave compared to the rest.  The material is bright cold rolled mild steel ( probably EN1 or EN3) but the cold rolling process toughens it up considerably so its much harder to engrave than soft gun parts.  I have more or less run out of test plates, so I’ll order some more EN1 in 30 x 6 mm and then anneal it in my furnace before flattening the surface and getting a good working finish for practice plates.  Metals4U gives you 10 free cuts and then 50p per cut, so a 3 m length can be cut into 150mm plates for £4.50 which is not bad, which adds up to about £2.50 per test plate.  I might get them surface ground again, but I’ll try for a finer finish than last time as I had to do a lot of work on the surface before I could use them.

19th May – More school today – a visit to see how the school is doing with its maths progress.  The children in the top class had made  cards and presents for Dave and I for doing robotics with them – really touching!   I went shooting this morning – it was meant to be a ‘have a go’ session that we run for the Cambridge Gun club for corporate groups, but the group had cancelled and they had forgotten to tell us, so we got a free mornings shooting as a compensation.  I took my flintlock and am sad to report that I couldn’t hit anything with it – well, actually one clay!  It was firing a bit slow but that isn’t an adequate excuse…   I swapped to my percussion for the last few  shots and was back in my usual somewhat erratic form – bother, I was hoping I had got somewhere with the flint – I did better last time.   I’m still browning the Joseph Manton barrel – its being very slow but I think its getting there.  One lock still needs a mainspring but I think I’ll go and have a poke through Dicks box again to see if I can get one that fits without having to drill a new hole for the peg.  I picked up a handful of mainsprings with a short top arm – as from modern locks – and they are all more or less identical – just about 1.5 mm too long between peg and claw.   Apart from cleaning the two guns, all I had time for was sharpening the 15 gravers that I bought back blunt or chipped from the NSS.   There is another Anglian Muzzle Loading shoot on Sunday but I don’t think I can face using the flintlock as its just too depressing!  I’ve got to ship some engraving bits to Australia, but unfortunately they have to be picked up and its not easy finding a day when I am in.

18th May – A morning in school invigilating the dreaded SATs exams!   Dick has finished the Manton hammer and made a new nosepiece, he didn’t have the rest of the gun and didn’t know which way up the nosepiece opening should be, so they need unscrewing and changing.  He has, as usual, made a fantastic job of copying the good hammer – I just need to engrave a couple of lines to frame the chequering on the spur and it will be a perfect match when its coloured down.  The barrel is coming along well after about 4 or 5 brownings – I guess it will take 10 or so.  Now I need to replace the mainsprings with the ones I found in Dicks junk box – he says he found another box of springs if I want another poke around – and to think I used to make them….  Dick will do a bit of work on the wood round the lock pockets,  I cleaned up a couple of pistol barrels that need rebrowning – I hope I got a reasonable finish – I refuse to strike them down to the bottom of the pits as that will seriously remove metal.    I talked at the NSS to a gunsmith who wanted a Purdey replacement foreend iron engraved – I have never done any Purdey style engraving, or indeed any modern style engraving but I said I would have a go!  Probably regret it!  I had a look at some Purdey foreend that Dick has, and looked on a couple of auction websites so I have a fair idea what to do…   I’m off to Cambridge Gun Club tomorrow as we (Anglia Muzzle Loaders) are putting on a ‘have a go’ event for CGC and I am needed on account of not many people have flintlocks and are familiar enough with them to let them loose on the public.  For the first time I actually checked my flints and replaced them BEFORE starting to shoot – this is probably a big mistake and I probably ensured that they won’t spark well!

You have to admit, that is a pretty good copy!

A couple of barrels to rebrown so that they don’t look rebrowned!

An old Purdey forend – most are not quite so closely worked – I will see what I can do!

17th May – Back in harness, so to speak.  I have finished preparing the Manton barrel (and unscrewed the foresight) and put on the first browning which went quite slowly but looks very promising now I’ve rubbed it off with 0000 wire wool – I will probably make a warm box as the cellar really takes too long – I can do pistol barrels on top of the AGA  in a tub but long gun barrels need some better method than hanging them in the cellar.   I am now preparing the barrels of a pair of over and under flintlock pistols – they are slightly pitted (as are almost all antique barrels even when the rest of the gun is immaculate) and needed a gently rebrowning, but it would not be appropriate to strike them off to get rid of all the pits – I have run them through the derusting tank to convert all the red rust in the pits to black and wire brushed them – I then work on them with 400 grit paper on any bad bits but mostly with 600, followed by 1000, then 3000 and 000 wire wool. It’s fiddly because there are ribs between the barrels and a rib underneath and each has two right angled edges to be cleaned out.  I run them under my fine wire wheel (0.03 wire) to brush the grit and dust off between grades of paper.  The engraving on the barrels looks fine and isn’t even filled with rust, so just a very quick going over to clean it out before browning.   I spoke too soon about filling my shooting calendar for next season – I got another lovely invitation today that I can’t miss.  The only problem is that its on Penny’s birthday and I’ve already ducked out of a party and a May Ball for the Scottish shoot – I am expecting the divorce papers any minute………………………………………………….

16th May – Bit of a surge in visitors to the blog – I gave out about 50 cards at the NSS so I guess some new people are looking – Welcome if this is your first visit – hope you enjoy the site.

16th May – Busy trying to sort out my ‘clean’ workshop, which is anything but.  I’ve now got a bit more swinging room around the microscope, although the support for the microscope will still get in the way, but it only blocks an angle of about 10 degrees so not too bad.  I had invitations to another two muzzle loading game shoots next season, which just about fills my shooting calendar!  I think I now have 7 lined up – they are getting more and more popular as people get a bit jaded by the big bag breech loader shoots – It’s going to grow significantly as a sport – we are already seeing a steady increase in the numbers shooting clays with muzzle loaders.  At the moment its difficult for newcomers to get into the muzzle loading game shoots as only a few people are organising them and they always get filled up quickly with  the ‘regulars’.  It can’t be a very attractive commercial proposition for the shoot, as the bag is much smaller than for  ‘normal’ shoot, and hence the gross take is a lot less –  having said that, the shoots I go on all seem to be very popular with the keepers. I am going to see how well I do with a flintlock next season, as its getting a bit common using a percussion gun – nasty new fangled things!  Checking my calendar, I’ve had to duck out of a birthday party and a May Ball to go up to Scotland to shoot the National ML championships with my son Tom, but it is great fun, even if I don’t hit much – Tom and I are about equal as he only shoots once a year and I am a lousy shot anyway.  Last year I missed the Samdringham Game fair, which I love, but this year I should make it.  I probably won’t be at the Fenland Country fair – its my least favourite as its only 10 miles from home so none of the fun of camping there!  I popped over to see Dick and look at the hammer of the Manton he has been filing up – Jason did a splendid job of welding – much better than my welding – so that is almost done – I just need to brown the barrel now.

16th May – Back from Harrogate…  The Northern Shooting Show was pretty hectic viewed from behind my engraving bench – not sure of much that went on outside a radius of about 15 ft!  Lots of interest in what I do, particularly in engraving and re-engraving antiques, and I am sure a lot of work will come my way as a result. I came totally exhauseted after talking all day for both days!  People seemed to like the assurance that I understand the importance of not over restoring guns, so I am becoming ‘The Ethical Restorer’!  Quite a good strapline…    I did get to wander round on a short lunch break – its an amazing show, I’m not sure in our urbanised south of England you could put on a big show that had Shooting in the title, we just tag guns onto ‘Country Fairs’!    Several of the enquiries that I had related to restoring the engraving on barrels, and I have a couple to do already, so while I have my microscope etc all packed up from the show I have decided to re-organise my engraving bench so that there is room to swing a barrel – this means extending the bench and cutting away the bottom part of a set of shelves, so that is today’s job – I do have a couple of pistol barrels and a double shotgun barrel to re-brown, plus a few other bits and pieces, but I do want to get the bench sorted so I can get all the boxes off the floor and have room to move!

10 May – A website regular emailed me to say that he did his browning on the back of his AGA so I thought it might be worth a try.  I’ve been browning the little pistol barrel hanging over a jug of water in the bottom of a steel barrel about 2 ft high in the cellar so I just took it up to the kithen and perched it on top of the cover of the AGA hotplate and wrapped a piece of silvered bubblewrap round it – that really turbocharged the browning and finished it in one go – beautiful!  Thanks Chris.  I can probably get each rusting done in a couple of hours like that – now I need to sort out how to do the same for a long gun barrel.  The little pistol is now together and looks superb – I wish it was mine.   I’ve now loaded up my truck with all the stuff for the Northern Shooting Show – I’d forgotten what a long drive it was until I did a reccy on Google maps – about 4 hours.  I’ll have to get there in time to build my setup and display – it takes a while to get the microscope set up with the turntable as the field of view needs to be aligned with the centre of the turntable an perpendicular to it or I keep loosing the object as I rotate it, which of course I have to do all the time as you can only cut in a very limited range of directions.  The NSS opens at 8 every morning so its an early start, although I only have to travel from where we camp on the shooting line to the show hall.  I haven’t been able to get a map of where on the site the MLAGB stand is going to be, or how much space we will have  so I’ll have to play it by ear.   I’m still not quite sure what to take in the way of guns – I’ve been asked to take some pistols for the main display and I’ll take a couple for my own display of restored things, and my restored Lancaster oval bore as that is my best bit of restoration so far.

Here is the little pistol – I can’t claim any credit for restoration – it is entirely original!

9th May – Sorting out labels for the NSS – I’m still browning the little barrel and it still has some way to go, I’ve lost count of how many brownings its had but judging by the number of wads of used 0000 steel wool lying about on the bench it must be around 8 so far – I’m still using Blackley’s slow brown as I don’t want to make the finish any blacker at this stage by using my solution with copper in it.  I nipped over to Dicks to have a look at the Manton hammer – it is looking good, a little bit more work needed.  As I expected Dick has had to file through the weld I put on the front of the spur in order to match the existing one, so he will take it to Jason for a bit of delicate welding – probably a bit fiddly for me to do.  He found a chequering file to cut the spur surface, so that will match the existing one, I’ll have to do a bit of engraving around the chequering but it should be good.  I must get on with the Manton barrel smoothing with 600 grit paper, then 1000 then 3000 ready for browning.

8th May – Spent most of the day sorting stuff to take up to the Northern Shooting show on Friday  – as well as all my engraving stuff, microscope, power hone, lights etc I had to sharpen about a dozen gravers and find my microscope camera etc.  I have 2 tables & trestles plus mounted photos and bits for a display of restoration to sort out, plus a notice or two about restoration as I haven’t got any.  Clare emailed me this evening to bring some pistols for the main MLAGB display – so that is another thing to sort out  – I seem to have mislaid my Colt Navy that I usually take – probably gave it to Tom – it was a bit ropey… I did wonder about getting some section 7 pistols for my collection – it stops rather abruptly after the Adams and associated  percussion revolvers – apart from a couple of little rim fire .32 Smith and Wessons which are as common as dirt.  I carried on browning the little pistol – still some way off, but I’ll keep at it.  I did a bit of cleaning up of the Manton barrel – that will brown nicely when I get round to it.  Dick says he has nearly finished filing up the hammer spur and reckons it won’t need any more welding, which would be good. I’ll probably go and see it tomorrow – he is quite excited because he has just got another dog so I”ll be shown that too – another black lab bitch that was rejected as a gundog!

7th May – went to Dick’s to show him the Manton and hand over the filing of the hammer spur to him – he has a better eye for shape than I do and is better at filing – he did a proper apprenticeship while I am just a bodger!  He was as amazed as I was at the nature of the surfaces of the break in the Manton springs  – I can’t believe they were the original springs.  There is a bit of a mystery there – if you scroll down a bit and look at the two photos of the lock you will see that the top arm of the mainspring rests on a little ledge on the inside of the lock plate, and on the outside there is the end of a pin where the ledge is fixed through the lockplate – this seems to me to be a bit unusual as the top arm usually rests under the thick piece of the lock that rests against the barrel – i.e. its normally quite a bit longer.  It looks like the lock may have been modified with the ledge added to take a replacement spring – The springs with the short top arm are now associated with ejector springs.  Anyway at DIck’s we sorted through his collection of mainsprings – he has lots of ex Purdy ejector springs and various assorted springs including a number of mainsprings recovered from old percussion guns.  We managed to sort out half a dozen possible springs – they are almost an exact fit, except that all bar one has the peg that locates  in the lock just about 1.5 mm to far towards the muzzle to fit directly – I did contemplate filing off the pin and welding on a built-up peg, but I’m not sure if that would be strong enough, so I’ll probably do what an old gunsmith would have done and drill a new hole and plug the old one – I might just try a blind hole.  I’ll then have to block the old hole, either welding it or, more authentic, riveting in a bit of steel rod. Anyway its good to know I won’t have to make springs from scratch…   Browning of the little pistol barrel is being slow – Dick complained that the last pistol he browned took him 15 rustings, so I shouldn’t get depressed as I’ve only done 4 so far.

Obviously the ones with red clay are the originals –  the right hand lock on the right.   The peg on the RH  original lock is further from the ‘elbow’ than it is on the LH lock

This is the best fit spring  for the LH lock – it may be a bit short, causing it to hang down below the lockplate, but I can’t be sure as Dick has the hammers and they form the stop.  This spring is more traditional and rests on the main bolster, not the pegged in ledge arrowed.  Most locks had the bolster extending further forward?  The photo also shows the line where the flashguard is joined into the plate rather than being integral. 

6th May –  I got my microscope camera rigged up today and took a few photos of the broken springs – it works very well but needs to be in place of one eyepiece so you can’t use the microscope while the camera is in place.  Anyway you can certainly see why the springs fell apart – its just difficult to see how they ever held together!  I tackled the job of welding the replacement spur on the hammer of the Manton.  I could not see how to get a weld across the whole face of the joint, and the lump I welded on is somewhat oversize so I tacked it in place – it took a couple of goes to get it aligned right. Now it needs shaping, and if that gets near to taking away the weld I’ll just go in a bit deeper with the weld – I’ll just have to make sure that there is always enough weld left somewhere to hold it all together.  I’m browning the little barrel but its being a bit recalcitrant – I had to hang it in a bucket over a jug of hot water to get it to rust today.  I get the urge to try my browning solution on it, but I’ll keep going with Blackley’s for a bit.  I’ve been in correspondence with a friend from the AML who is browning a barrel and not getting a great deal of joy after half a dozen rustings – he has now added some dilute copper sulphate to his bottle of Blackley’s Slow brown to emulate my used printed circuit etching solution – signs it might help.    I’m off to the Northern Shooting Show on Friday so I have lots of things to sort out.  I will be doing engraving demonstrations and  giving engraved screwheads to small children as usual, but I thought I might make a change and do a static display of restoration equipment, parts and tools and a job in progress ( I have lots!).  I’ll take my power hone for sharpening this year as I get through the gravers at a rate of knots – I made another 4 this afternoon – I usually sell a few at Harrogate.  I bought a very cheap belt sander and some silicon carbide belts which is ideal for preliminary shaping of the points, and other shaping jobs as it doesn’t heat things as much as a grinding wheel.  I mean to get a coarser diamond hone disk but the 80 grit ones are very expensive, and anyway I need a new 260 grit wheel at some point.  All these tools cost a lot.  I am doing a quite few restorations for friends and via the blog but I have to work out costings each time and don’t always get it right so I thought I’d try to make a price list – at least with a range of prices for each job so people could judge whether it was economically viable to do a particular piece of work on their gun.


The delamination emerging top right in each of these two photos is visible along the top of the spring surface as a crack.

Above are the two parts of  one mainspring – all sorts of faults are visible, including a slightly rusted surface from an old crack and  several delaminations.    I really find it difficult to believe a spring can be that bad!  I’ve seen a fair number of breaks in mainsprings before and always look at the surfaces under the microscope but usually they are clean uniform surfaces – sometimes with a rather large grain size. These look as if they are original, so its difficult to see what happened to them – unless it was the effect of a damp atmosphere.

This spring has flaws too, not quite as obvious in the photos, but both broke – the red is modelling clay.

I hope that the metal I’ve welded on is large enough to make the spur- its quite difficult to judge – we shall see!


5th May  – Had a bit of a problem today – I was derusting a pair of percussion locks for a job and after 10 minutes in the derusting the mainsprings both broke!  I knew that some very high strength modern steels suffered from hydrogen embrittlement if subjected to a very long  derusting electrolysis, but I’d never had any problems with mainsprings in dozens of