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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Welcome to my site – you’ll find this post is a sort of diary where I put things I’m doing that are (almost) relevant to the subject – they ‘fall off the bottom’ after a few weeks – bits from the diary may get put into existing or new posts when they fall off. Please feel free to contact me via the comments box in each post or by my email as per the CONTACT tab at the top. If I can I will respond – email will usually get a quicker response. Many of the guns illustrated belong to friends or clients who have given permission for them to be included.
Most of the photos on this website are mine, a few are from other sources or are photographed from books. The guns photographed mostly belong to other people who are happy for them to be on the web – I always ask. My photos are copyright – you are welcome to use them for your own purposes, but not for gain – please always attribute them to cablesfarm.co.uk. All my photos have been reduced in resolution using photoscape (excellent & free) to save space on the website, they are normally 1200 pixels wide, occasionally 1600 for more interesting things. The image you will normally see on your screen is at a lower resolution still, as wordpress fits it to the page and decreases the resolution very considerably to speed up loading. Clicking on any photo will show you the full 1200 or 1600 width version if your screen resolution allows it – they are very much clearer. All the photos were originally taken at much higher resolution – up to 6000 pixels wide – if you want a higher resolution version of any of the photos e.g. for publication, please contact me with details and we can if necessary discuss copyright and I can forward full resolution copies. For serious research publications I am happy to take new photos of guns I have access to. If you right click & ‘save image’ from the normal web page you will get an image of (for the J LANG 14 bore for example) 94 KBytes, if you left click on the image and download from the larger image that comes up on a blank screen you’ll get about 573 KBytes, which is what I uploaded to the website – if I send you the original cropped image it is 8.257 MBytes with a horizontal count of 5885 pixels !
So now you know why the photos in the normal view look a bit murky! Just click on them for a better photo.
27th January Had a pleasant day’s shoot at Cambridge Gun Club today – as mentioned I took the Manton double flintlock and managed to hit quite e few clays – no worst than with anything else I shoot, which is pretty good for only the third or forth time I’ve used a flintlock. By the time I’d worked out a few of its little pecadillos with Bev and Pete’s help – both are flintlock experts – I got it going well, and it was shooting relianbly. One thing tha we realised was that using semolina instead of a wad on top of the powder missed having the piston effect of wooshing the air down the barrel and carrying the powder into the chamber behind the touch hole. There is the overshot card but maybe that isn’t as effective. As I didn’t have any wads of 14 bore with me I used a card over the semolina. How big a pproblem this is/was we were not sure – to begin with I didn’t have any problems with ignition and was using Swiss No 1 as the priming powder – later I had a few occasions where a frizzen sparked but didn’t ignite the powder in the pan, whcih we put down to the priming powder and I changed to the much finer Swiss OB. I’m always a bit unsure about these changes that one makes, because one tends to stick with them on the basis of pretty unscientific evidence and nere revisits the issues. Bev said he had a couple of near identical flintlock doubles, one of which went off quickly and the other was quite slow to fire, so he took the breechplugs out of both to see what the difference was – caution, both he and I are very cautious about taking the breechplugs out of doubles in case we separate the barrels so we use various clamping arrangements. anyway both breechblocks had a fairly deep hole down from the face of the plug that forms one pattern of patent breech, but the ‘good’ gun had a hole of about 7mm and the ‘bad’ one more like 3/16th of an inch ( that is how he told me – 3/16 is 4.7 mm ). He drilled the smaller one out to match the good gun and polished it with a Dremel and it was certainly shooting better. I could never quite work out the relation between the volume of the reduced bore in relation to the total powder charge – I think that only part of the powder goes into the hole, and some sits in what is usually a semicircular depression in the top of the plug – the original idas of the patent, I think, was to start the explosion in a small relatively enclosed space and the flash front would propogate faster that ignition through the powder.. This was certainly the principle of Nock’s patent breech which had a small trnsverse chamber behind the touch hole that communicated with the main chamber via a fairly small hole. You can tell this breech because it had s screw plug on the opposite side of the breechplug to the touch hole. Or have I got this all wrong? someone will tell me! I took my little Webley bolt action .410 (the Rat Gun) for the post lunch breech loading bit of the shoot using 2 1/2 inch cartridges firing 11 gm of shot as against 24 or 28 in the ‘big boy’s’ guns. The Webley has a very tight choke and probably covers well less than half the area that a 12 bore covers on normal cylinder bore . Judging by a shot into the bank at a ‘rabbit, about 1/2 to 2/3 of the diameter, so you need to be that much more accurate in your shooting – anyway I did quite well with it and broke a fair number of clays when I was onto a good run. Back to the bedroom tomorrow – the limewash is now done so its a major cleanup, then go and get the floorboards and juggle around with the Relative Humidity of the room and the moisture content of the wood – a 5% change in R.H. makes about a 1% change in dimension across the grain in most woods – thats about 3 mm in a 300 mm wide board – so I ought to aim to get it sorted to within a couple of degrees of the highest RH its likely to experience during the year, or the floor will warp! Probably should have specified narrower boards – oh well, too late!
26th January The 4th Jab made me feel a bit rough for a while, but I think I have recovered quicker than from the 3rd. I’m off to CGC tomorrow for a spot of clay shooting. I’m going to try my John Manton flintlock double – when Bev was over here picking up his guns he pressed me to shoot it again, so I’ll give it a try. Its a nice gun and was a bargain as it has a repair spliced into the fore-end, the only thing I don’t like is that it has ginger browning on the barrels – the real shame is that its done perfectly, so I’m reluctant to get rid of it and try for a better colour. I’ve now finished the limewashing of the bedroom walls – I ended up putting 4 coats on to get the colour solid, but its pretty quick so not a problem! I now have to get the room finally dried out so I can go and collect the elm floorboards from Sotterley next week – I think laying them is going to be quite a job as the existing floor is all over the place in terms of levels and a bit springy in places – I’ll have to do a lot of firring to level up the joists, which are bits of wood probably put there in 1750 ish and not squared very well, and a ropey in patches… are well, if I will take on these tricky jobs!
24th January Got my 4th Covid Jab tomorrow – I’ll be beginning to feel like a pincushion! Got two coats of limewash on the walls and ceiling – it is an amazing paint on lime plaster – it just becomes part of the wall and you can’t rub it off without taking the surface of the wall with it. Not sure if I’ll do one or two more coats. The lime putty and the Buff Titanium pigment came to about £25 and that would be enough to to the room (40 sq m) with 4 coats 10 times over. bit more on the Sort of Autobiography, which is getting some positive comments. I plan to do the University stuff and then my own business .
22nd January At last, the pair of pistols is finished and in a box ready to post! When Bev had a look at the trouble I was having getting colur onto the steel of the barrels in the browning he suggested that I try Logwood chips in solution. I had imagined that they might be a dye, and indeed they are used as a dye to colour fabric deep red, however then used on iron they give a chemical reaction , the Heamatoxylin in the Logwood giving a strong reaction with the iron to colour it shades of black, and leaving a light scum of black particles on the surface of the liquid. I followed recommendations I found on the web for guns and dipped the barrels in boiling Logwood solution for a couple of minutes and the steel that had refused to colour came out a light grey – a pleasing overall effect. while hot I poured clean boiling water over the barrels, and when they had cooled a bit, I rubbed beeswax over them and wiped it off again. The overall job now passes my standards, and I’m happy to return them to their owner. Having done that I went with Tom to Giles’s flat in Cambridge to clear out the last of his stuff and say goodbye to my three months of work renovating it!
21st January – Went to see my Oncologist today – he was cheerful as usual – his Christmas skiing break in France had been great, although he had only made it across the French border about 20 minutes before they closed it to Brits. Life on the edge! A bit more on my Sort of autobiography…………. – it had 20 views yesterday! Mixed up some more limewash – I need to check the colours in daylight tomorrow.
20th January – got a coat of limewash on all the walls and ceilings. Sorting out a colour is a bit of a pain – there is too much surface area for lime white to be suitable – it would be blinding, and we didn’t want a strong colour. There is a bitof a puzzle as its an attic room, and a lot of the area is the roof slope and there isn’t a sharp boundary between the slope and the ceiling so it would be difficult to use a different colour on those surfaces. We thougth a neutral buff shade would do, and I came across ‘buff titanium’ – a different form of titanium oxide, not the stark white that one usually associates with titanium. I had a bit of acrylic buff titanium in a tube, enogh to make a few samples on white paper, which is a good way to test colours as you can dry them out quickly. I got a couple ,more tubes from the art shop – enough for the first coat, but its rather pale and needs more pigment. I found a website that sells the raw pigment as a powder, so I’ve ordered 2 Kg, which should be enough to colour the limewash a bit stronger and put on another 3 or 4 coats. It is beginning to look like a room – I am keen to get it pained as soon as possible so it can dry thoroughly before I ship in the floorboards – the limewashing will eventually put about 24 litres of water into the room over 4 coats, and that has to be taken out – my dehudifier extracts about 6 or 7 litres a day…..
19th January – Tidying up the bedroom bits that need sorting before the floor goes in – painting the woodwork etc.
18th January – I think I’v got to the end of the plastering, so I’m letting it dry out before giving it a few coats of limewash. Limewas is a beautiful, tough and very cheap paint – its basically a bit of lime putty and a lot of water, left for a day so the Calcium Hydroxide dissolves into the water, with a bit of colour added using acrylic paints dissolved in clean water and then added to the limewash. The Calcium Hysroxide only disolves to a fairly low concentration ( 1.6 gm per litre) but its enough to react with the carbon dioxide in the air to form calcium carbonate – limestone on your wall – a very tough finish and beautiful too. I am putting a bit on the autobiographical post each day – really just a series of anecdotes as Penny says.
16th January Last week’s extra job was helping Giles emigrate to Canada, at least, getting hin out of his flat, although Tom and I have to go back next weekend to clear out the last few bits. I’m still plastering – is going so-so. I’m beginning to get fed up with it to be honest, and almost at the point of wishing I’d got someone in to do it! I now just have to put a very thin coat of skim lime and chalk to level out the surfaces before limewashing it with 4 or 5 coats of homemade limewash of a sutiable muted shade of nothing. The problem I’m finding is that the setting of the plaster is very uneven – the ceiling and the tops of the walls sets up well before the walls near floor level – I’m pretty certain most of this is caused by the pattern of airflow and heat distribution in the room – I have a dehumidifier running some of the time, and occasionally a heater, but mostly I leave it to its own devices so that the lime has a chance to carbonate before it dries too much. I hppe, optimisticall, that by the end of next weekend I will have got the plastering and limewash finished……… well, one can but hope! I have been contemplating putting an account of bits of my working life etc on the site as a sort of autobiograpical post – I enjoy writing, and there might just be someone out there amongst the hundreds of thousands of people who have visited this blog who would find it a handy way of passing an idle moment. Anyone not interested could always ignore it!
12th January Plastering going OK, but it is difficult to find the point at which the plaster is right for the surface to be reworked. This evening’s job was to make some more bread as we have run out – I make most of it, although I’m lazy and buy the odd loaf from the surpermarket when we’re going shopping.
11th January – Plastering not going well! I mixed up the lime putty with sand and used half a bag of sand I had to hand, as well as a bag of kiln dried sand I bought – unfortunately the bag I had was one that I’d discarded when I did the kitchen because it had some large grit (2 -3mm) along with the sand – I should have put it in the skip then. Anyway it makes it almost impossible to put on a 2 mm skim coat, so I’ll have to chuck the large tub of plaster I mixed and start again using the fine sand – expletive deleted here. After yesterday’s shoot Bev accidentally left his guns in my Land Cruiser that he’d been in, so he came over today to pick them up. While he was shooting his double flinter on the shoot, it split at the wrist on the recoil, pinching a bit of his hand in the crack. The crack goes pretty well all through the wrist and as he uses quite meaty charges it won’t be adequate just to glue it. We had a good look at the problem – my solution would be to strip the stock of the trigger guard and probably the false breech as well, and mill a deep slot into the recess where the tang of the trigger guard fits, and make a block of wood that is about 1/4 mm narrower than the slot and comes to the right level for the tang to go back onto. This can then be glued in with epoxy, the clearance allowing a glue line – necessary with epoxy. The trigger guard is fixed with a screw into wood and then unwinds from a threaded hole in the trigger plate at the front of the trigger guard – if necessry I would drill out the screw – the new screw will go into the new block, so no need to plug the hole. I’d be pretty picky about the wood I put in the slot so that the grain didn’t follow the split – I might even use good quality ply. Thinking about holding it all together while the epoxy sets, I thought the ideal thing would be to bind it all with self amalgamating /self vulcanising tape – its a fantastically useful stuff – rubbery, will stretch to 5 times its length and then slowly shrinks somewhat, and the layers bond together into a solid mass, still rubbery and retaing a lot of tension – one of those magic things like electrolytic derusting! On another gun issue I was showing him the pistol barrels and lamented that they hadn’t really taken – he thought they were great, and the client would be delighted! So maybe I need to look at them in a different way………………………………….
10th January – Game shoot today – actually only 25 minutes away on very slippery roads! I wasn’t on form, and was mostly out of the action, so that left most of the birds for those who were! Anyway it was good to be out in the countryside and it wasn’t so cold and there was no wind, so all in all an enjoyable day. I can now do another experiment in gun cleaning…… Back to plastering tomorrow – Tom and Giles came round yesterday for tea and I sneakily got them to take the bags of unused NHL plaster down and bring up the very heavy tubs of lime putty plaster – a tub holds 25 Kg of the lime putty, but when mixed with 2 parts sand ready to go on the walls the tub holds more, even when only half full. Giles flys to Canada on Friday, so Thursday is reserved for shifting the last things in his flat, which means I only have 3 days work this week. I am trying to get the wet jobs done as soon as possible so I can get the elm for the floor into the room and laid. It is supplied planed to 22 mm thick but needs sanding – at the moment I’m not sure whether to sand it before its laid, or after, or some of both – I guess it will be clear when I see it! the existing floor is very uneven – probably the variation in height is about 3 or 4 inches overall, and includes quite a slope. Should be fun to lay……
9th January – I thought I’d tackle a couple of outstanding jobs today – fixing up wires and pruning the vine that yielded a splendid crop of grapes this year, and finding out why there were a couple of damp spots on the sloping ceiling of one of the bedrooms came from – turned out to be a valley that was lead dressed in about 1994 – very well done judging by the superb lead welding – turned out that a slate had slid down the roof and made a very small crack/cut, or at least that is where I think the leak was. I contemplated doing a lead weld myself – I’ve done them in the past but I not an expert and its a difficult job. In the end I cleaned it all up and used Fix-all. I had a real gun surprise – as I mentioned earlier, when I finish shooting on Thursday I spray WD 40 down the barrel and planned to clean it next day – well I forgot , and didn’t remember until late yesterday when I was just going to bed, so I gave it another shot of WD 40 and left it. I finally got round to cleaning it this evening – boiling water, a few drops of washing up liquid and a scour with a bronze brush, rinse with boiling water and remove nipple, then a few drops of 303 cleaner (emulsifying oil) and pump vigorously with polyester wadding round a jag. Leave to dry for a few minutes then one run through with a folded kitchen tissue on a jag to remove water, then a new tissue with WD 40 – repeat a few times….. Only this time the tissues came out almost completely clean, whereas they are usually dark grey/black for as long as I keep replacing them. Final wipe through with gun oil. Not sure why it was so clean, but a lot more dirt came out with the wadding clean water than usual – I will certainly repeat the experiment ( delay of 72 hours and 2 sprays of WD 40) – a completely surprise result – I don’t think I’ve had such a clean barrel since I cleaned a newly honed barrel!
7th January 2022 – now finished the second coat plaster and mixed up some lime putty plaster to start the final coat – I’ll wait til Tuesday to start that, and hope that my sponged finish is rough enough for the plaster to adhere. I had a very pleasant clay shoot at CGC yesterday – it was pretty cold, but actually I kept quite warm, except my right hand – putting caps on is a challenge in cold weather. I did have my Zippo hand warmer in my pocket, but there isn’t much opportunity to hold it, I had one of the disposable warmers on one shoot – it was actually a foot warmer with a self adhesive pad for sticking in your shoe, but I found it ideal to stick round the wrist of my gun so I was holding it most of the time. The disposable ones seem to chuck out more heat than the Zippos or the charcoal ones and last at least as long – it always amazes me that they can work just by rusting a few grams of iron powder, but it makes you realise why its a good idea to keep guns oiled! I’d been vaguely lamenting that I had no more game shoots this year, but was rung up last night and offered a muzzle loading shoot on Monday as someone had dropped out – its pretty much my favourite shoot and only about 40 minutes away. I had run out of semolina yesterday, so had to use cous cous – which seemed to work just fine, so I’ll have to add semolina to tomorrows shopping list. Several of my fellow shooters seem to have adopted the habit of putting WD 40 liberally in the barrels of their guns (out of the stocks) after use, and leaving them overnight before the usual boiling water wash in the morning. I’ve been doing this for some time (and not just for lazyness) and it does make them quite noticably easier to clean. I was looking at the visitor statistics for this blog – most visitors are from the US, next is UK then Europe, with lots from China and Russia – not sure what they make of it, or if its all attempted hijacks! I had an email from a work colleague from about 50 years ago who had come across this website and managed to associate it with me – goodness knows how as he isn’t an antique gun person.
3rd January – Back to plastering all day – the NHL plaster drives me mad, but I’m learning to get the better of it, although the floor is knee deep in blobs of plaster! I am using my 1 meter long springy edge (plastering spatula) to level the plaster, and then after a decent interval of 4 to 6 hours going over it vigorously with a sponge float to get rid of any lines etc. Seems to work. I will go over it all with some decent lime putty plaster as a finisheng coat. I was reminded that this web site was originally started to post breadmaking information, hence the un-gunlike name. It had a brief period as a roof restoration story, and then became a gun blog. I still make almost all the bread as we prefer it to anything ou can buy in the supermarkets, and we don’t have access to a decent baker, Cambridge and it’s several French bakers being too far and too much parking trouble. I was reminded yesterday of my early days of experimenting when I made a couple of loaves – Giles is emigrating this month and gave us his Kenwood Chef – its a lot better at least in theory, than mine, which was a very cheap version from TKMAX many years ago and has suffered many indignities, including falling off the table while mixing dough and continuing to mix while lying on its side on the floor – several times. Its now tied on! Anyway Giles’s has a posh stainless steel bowl, ours has a cheap plastic one – but when I tried the stainless one it wouldn’t mix dough at my preferred consistency – the dough just spread itself round the outside of the bowl and left a void in the middle in which the blade rotated and I had to intervene several times. Its all down to the brushed stainless surface which the dough stickes to – its more difficult to clean too – you leave the plastic one and the bits of dough fall off when they dry, not so the metal one. When made the bread didn’t rise quite as it should – its interesting because it shows how many variables there are in the process….. As a boring scientist I’m always interested in how domestic appliences etc earn their keep – if the breadmaker cost £100 and I use it twice a week for ten years, that still adds about 10p to the cost of a loaf. When we first had the above ground swimming pool I used to note the cost per swim – its now about £2 per person per swim. Makes you think….. End of Christmas holidays tomorrow, although mine ended a couple of days ago – lets hope for a better 2022……………….
2nd January 2022 Well, I made it into 2022 in one piece! Given the ever circling Covid and it’s attempt in March 2020 to do for me, that has to be good. My best wishes for 2022 to all the followers of this blog, and my particular thanks to the kind and thoughtful people who email me from around the world when I don’t post for a while to see if I’m OK. I started on the second coat plastering yesterday – I got the plaster recommended by the supplier of the wood fibre boards, but I think its not really the right stuff for the job – I think it is meant for external render. I always use lime plaster as its an old house, and in the past I have always made my plaster using lime putty, sand and chalk, but this time I’m using the recommended bagged lime plaster which is based on Naturally Hydraulic Lime (NHL) which sets by forming silicates as well as combining with carbon dioxide, whereas the lime putty doesn’t form silicates and sets much more slowly. Anyway the plaster I have for the second coat ( and enough for a final coat) is a real pain to use! Lime putty plaster is ‘fat’ and workable and spreads easily as its somewhat thixotropic – this stuff is horribly sticky, even when quite soft and begins to stiffen up almost immediately you have mixed it – not at all pleasant to work with, and not really possible to ‘bring it back ‘ to rework the surface when its beginning to harden up – horrid stuff, but I have another 8 bags, so I will probably use it for the second coat and try to level out all the surfaces, then switch to ‘real’ lime putty. I put the single barreled gun together – its quite a nice single percussion – I had made a lock for it and engraved my name on the lock and barrel and re-browned the barrel, but the rib came off so I had to resolder it and then re-brown it – I just hope that the relevant authorities can see that its actually made from antique parts and is thus an antique! I dug out the Westley Richards double percussion that I used to shoot when I was a teenager going out in the evening to shoot pidgeons to feed the ferrets. ( turns out Pete, one of the Anglia Muzzle Loaders used to shoot the same wood when he lived at Fingringhoe!). I used it again for a year or so when I started shooting with the Anglian Muzzle loaders but gave up on it as it would bung up and misfire from the 30th shot on any session – clean it thoroughly and it was fine for another 30 shots . Anyway it looks a bit sad as the barrel is a bit rusted and stained although the bore is good and there is plenty of metal, so I think I’ll have a go at re-browning it – I’m keen to find something that actually browns ‘properly’ rather than these pistol barrels which are still resisting colouring on the steel after 10 brownings, I might also investigate why it misfired, although I am always reluctant to remove the breech blocks from doubles as its easy to put a force on them that separates the barrels – and that leads to a major, beastly job.
I think it looks worse that it is – we shall see!
31st December – Its late, New Year soon! I didn’t start the plastering today, just sorted a few tools and got the lads to carry 10 bags of plaster upstairs. I’m still browning the pistol barrels, but maybe they will shortly come good. I resoldered the rib on a single percussion some time ago and got fed up trying to brown it, so after about a dozen brownings without much colour I propped it up in the workshop and left it (probably for 3 months). I thought It looked pretty rusty, so I thought I’d better at least clean off the rust and oil it or it would just clutter up the workshop and mean that gun was useless. I wire brushed it fairly vigorously and it didn’t look too bad – I heated it up on the AGA and poured boiling water over it several times and rubbed it over with a block of beeswax while still hot (my favourite finish) and I have to say it looks quite a decent lightish brown, but certainly within the range of decent shades and with a strong twist figure. Now Ive got to find the breechblock! Happy New Year in 2 minutes………….
30th December – The percussion lock is now done. I realised that I couldn’t re harden the tumbler without disturbing the silver soldered extension, but when I heated it up to I probably didn’t take the bits round the bents up to a high enough temperature to anneal them – anyway it works just fine! I coloured up the cock a little – I tried to get the area round the square red hot and dumped it in water, but it didn’t harden much. As I mentioned its a late percussion gun ?1850 ish? so the mainspring is more like that of a modern sidelock – the early springs often? usually? had a short top arm compared to the acting arm but later on they got more nearly equal lengths. I had always wondered about the elegant taper of mainsprings, and I read somewhere that the test of a good spring was that when amost fully closed you could just run a 10 thou feeler gauge all the way along the gap between the blades. The spring in this gun is extremely strong and when the lock is on full cock the blades of the spring are almost closed. I am a bit concerned that the spring is so strong that it will strain my cock-tumbler square! I’m tempted to anneal it and close it up a bit as there is no need for such a strong spring, although I suppose it might take the odd millisecond off the firing delay. I’m trying to steel myself for a return to plastering – I was going to buy a new, £60, replacement for my old plastering trowel which was bowed, but I had a look at the new one in Screwfix and decided that they were meant to be like that, so saved that expense! I do have a nice new finishing trowel that is flat, so that will suffice for the final stages. I’m still trying to brown the barrels of the two pistols and its still not happening – the soft iron is getting well rusted and dark, but the steel is acting like stainless steel and doesn’t take any colour to speak of. I’m half a dozen rustings into the third attempt, lets hope……………….. I have never seen this problem before! Well, actually see tomorrows entry- I did despair of the single barrel.
Little blob of grease from the cock screw spoils the picture!
29th December – 2022 is approaching rapidly! I tried to drill out the bits in the cock thread, but the thread extractor metal was harder then the rest even after annealing, so the drill just started to wander, so that was a fail. I Araldited the tumbler in a bit of faced off bar located by the bearing on the back and cut off the square and faced the 3mm stub and put a 4mm end mill into it for about 3.5mm and turned up a short piece of bar to fit to replace the square and silver soldered it in place, then filed a square on it. Its interesting that there was a de-facto standard amonst percussion gunmakers that defined the alignment of the square on the tumbler shaft so that cocks are often interchangeable. I tried to use this standard orientaion and filed up the cock to match – As with many gunmakers I didn’t get a perfect square, but I did get a reasonable fit in the correct orientation – I used one of my unused castings for the cock as the original was pretty horrible. All that remains to do now is to reharden the tumbler and colour up the cock – not sure that it needs hardening – and make the No 4 UNF cock screw. I had a bit of a problem with my lathe today – a few times recently it hasn’t powered up when I’ve switched the mains on, and I’ve had to feel round the back in the wiring box and reset the circuit breaker (switching off at the mains first!) This time it was dead whatever I did to the circuit breaker. It’s a big lathe and weighs over half a ton and the wiring box is at the back and there is only about 4 inches clearance to the wall. I cursed, and went and got my testmeter and a crowbar – but when I came back it was on so did the job. Went out later and same thing, came back an hour later and it was on. I suspect the main circuit breaker may be faulty as the work light isn’t on and that doesn’t have any of the trips and interlocks in its circuit……Have to dig out the crcuit diagram if I can find it….. Something else to sort out. I ought to get back to plastering tomorrow – I need to go to Screwfix to pick up a new plastering trowel as my old one is bowed – thats £50! I forgot when I was having my rant about the building inspectorate failings to include Grenfell.
The 2 punch marks are interesting – possibly to shift the stopping point of the tumbler?
just hope the brazed joint is strong enough over such a small area…..
I used the one on the left to replace the central one.
Getting on for a day’s work…….
28th December While waiting for the third try at browning the pistol barrels (!) I got out the slip that was waiting in the office and had a look at the next job which I had more or less forgotten about… Its a percussion single – not particularly special, Birmingham and late. The cock screw had sheared off, and the owner had resourcefully acquired a screw extractor to try to remove it. As anyone who has tried that with an old gun will tell you (with hindsight!), that is a recipe for disaster because the extractor, in doing its job expands the stuck piece of thread, which of course means that its stuck even more firmly – the harder you try the harder it is locked in place until, as in this case, the screw extractor also shears off – and that is likely to be even harder metal than the original screw. Usually with a flintlock or older percussion I would araldite the tumbler to a bar in the lathe and turn off the whole square and drill out the tumbler and silver solder in a new axle and put a new square on the end and tap a new hole – takes a while but is straightforward although it does mean annealing and re-hardening the tumbler. However, with this late gun the tumbler has a link to the mainspring (no link on older guns), and the link folds into a slot in the arm on the tumbler, and the slot actually crosses into the tumbler axis so if I made a new axle I’d have to cut a slot through it, and I am not confident my miller will be accurate enough to cut a 1/16 inch slot. So that solution is not easy, although I could file the slot before fixing the axle in the tumbler. That leaves softening the tumbler and trying to drill out the broken extractor and bit of screw, and hoping there is enough metal left to tap a thread without weakening the square – maybe I’ll try that and if it doesn’t work I’ll try the new axle. The cock (hammer) is a bit of a mess, probably a bad a casting, and has had multiple attempts at tightening it on the square. I can either fit another cock – I do have 2 suitable castings – or drop a milling cutter through the cock and silver solder in a disk and remake the square to fit the tumbler…. I will have to get back to plastering soon, but I might just sneak another day tomorrow – I did manage to do some work on the loft hatch today so at least some work was done…… Oh and I did a little tinkering on the pistol wood repair and it looks even better.
27th December More work on the pistol stock. I had to cut back quite a chunk to get to good wood – some of the black stained (rust) wood was very weak – anyway I glued in a chunk of walnut with isocyanate – its quick and makes a thin glue line and doesn’t need clamping, just a quick squirt of activator. I have now cut it back to match the curves and coloured it up – unfortunately there is still some stained wood around that it would not have been sensible to cut out, so I had to stain the patch black to match. Then a couple of coats of thin shellac and a rub down with 2500 paper and its looking good – I gave the wood a quick polish with my favourite wax polish – its actually a hard mould release wax polish that gives a good finish and doesn’t clog things too much. I listened to a program on house ventilation this morning that set me thinking – modern building regs call for 0.4 air changes per hour – if you put 10 people in a 30 cu meter room in about an hour with that low level of ventilation they will be be breathing 5% of other people’s breath even if the air mixes perfectly – ideal for transmitting Omicron! My old house probably runs at more than 5 air changes per hour – if I hold up a sheet of newspaper in a doorway it isn’t vertical. Much healthier . So once again building regs have got it wrong – in the 1940’s it was cement as strong as brick, so cracks propogate through walls, in the 1970 is was all reinforced concrete now rusting and spalling off. Now we are burying tons of carbon intensive concrete in massive foundations – a friend got permission for a 3m x 3m extension to his small Victorian cottage – the building inspector insisted on 2m deep foundations, then looked at them and said they needed to go to 3m deep – right up against the cottage with its ?600mm deep foundations! How stupid can you get – my friend is now waiting for cracks to appear in the cottage while the extension sits rock solid!
I think this pistol must have been lying on a damp surface for years judging by the stains.
26th December My holiday from plastering continues, so I got a bit more gun stuff done today (about time too, I hear you say!). I hardened the spring I modified yesterday with the propane torch and polished it and found a nice spot on the less hot plate of the AGA where the temperature was about 310 C, so I put the spring down there and covered it with a pad of fibreglass insulation (the sort used in roofs) and left it for 15 minutes. When I got it out it was a nice blue colour indicative of about the required temperature for tempering springs – 305 to 310 C according to my book. I had been quite careful to open the spring to the same extent as the extant spring on the other pistol while it was soft, and was extremely careful to ‘work the spring in’ to let any stress in the metal redistribute itself before fully compressing it. I even kept it fairly warm to make sure it didn’t fracture – it works, thank goodness, so that is one more job out of the way. The photo shows the new spring in place and a modern sidelock spring very similar to the one I modified to make it – the critical detail is the distance of the peg on the side of the upper leaf from the ‘elbow’ of the spring, the rest can be sorted in the cutting, bending and welding – the top leg needs a fairly high tab built up on it, or the elbow hangs down below the edge of the lock and the top arm touches the barrel. The stock of one of the pistols has a crack running forward from the rear side nail cup and looks a bit of a mess – its a very common place for pistols to crack – they tend to crack from the side nail hole right through the stock, often on both sides. First thing is to investigate the obvious crack – I do this under the microscope as its easier to see what the materials are, picking the crack out with a modelling knife to get to some wood. In this case I found I was digging in black filler/glue ( not wax as it didn’t melt). Now there is no point in trying to put a repair on top of an old repair, so its a matter of digging away till you get to some solid wood, in this case taking out quite a lot of the filler. you then need to finish the gap with straight sides, preferably tapering so you can get a good fit. I think I’m now almost back to wood, so tomorrow I’ll shape a matching piece of walnut with the right grain and glue it in place. It is always better to make sure you cut back to a sound foundation – trying to keep repairs as small as possible often doesn’t quite look right if there is still some damage on either side.
New spring and modern sidelock or late percussion spring very similar to the one modified for the new spring.
25th December – I can’t believe how long it is since I last posted – I’m sorry, but I guess a lot of my regular readers will have got fed up and deserted – don’t blame them! My excuse is that I’ve been desperately working on the house restoration, trying to get to the point of finishing the ‘wet trades’ i.e. plastering before Christmas. I wasn’t sure if I could do the plastering myself, or if I’d need to get a professional in to do it. Well, I did just manage to finish the first coats on everything and so get the bulk of the drying out of the way – I’m quite slow, which is OK with lime plaster as it doesn’t ‘go off’ like gypsom plaster, so it took me around 5 days to do the 50 sq meters of the walls and ceiling, which were mostly wood fibre board (in place of the original laths) and some cork insulation. It all required a base coat, then pressing in a fibreglass mesh to stabilise it, then going over with another thin coat to hide the mesh. One job I didn’t enjoy was pressing 3 meter lengths of mesh into the wet plaster on the ceiling – until you have got most of it stuck it doesn’t stay up, and once its stuck you can’t move it around to align it, and then it all falls down and you are left standing there draped in mesh partly covered in plaster – not fun. It went reasonably well and is flat enough for the top coat, although I found that my big posh finishing trowel had got slightly banana shaped somehow so it won’t do for the top coats – fortunately I bought another one earlier. I hadn’t realised that there was what I call ‘tool porn’ in the plastering trade, where manufacturers try to make functional tools look sexy and posh as well as functioning well, I also notice that the cool tool colours are now black and yellow- copied from DeWalt tools. My excuse for not posting is that at my age 7 or 8 hours work, including plastering leaves one completely zonked out ( is that still a word – we used it when I was a child) so I miss my usual active late night slot. Today being Christmas I have a bit more energy – we had a small family Christmas party, but as some of us are vulnerable, including me, we decided to have it outside round the fire pit with hand food, like we did last year – it actually worked pretty well and no-one died of hypothermia, or at least not before they left. On the gun front I haven’t done much although I will do some over the next few days while I rest from plastering. I had a clay shoot with a few friends a CGC a coupleof weeks ago and shot the best I have done for years, if not ever – I wonder if having shot very little for the last two years has got rid of some bad habits I had! The cheering thing was that I shot well with my percussion Nock single ( the only muzzle loader that I shoot nowadays), but also with a 20 bore hammer gun, I am getting back to the broken spring job, having made one new spring and then broken it, I’ve found another spring that could be modified, and bent, filed and welded it to fit – I now have to harden and temper it and hope that it will not break – I will be very gently and will probably end up with a spring that is on the weak side, but better than another broken one. I still haven’t managed to get a decent brown on the pistol barrels – I got rather deperessed by my previous attempts, but am steeling myself for attempt no 3. I also realised there is another job in a gun slip in the office that a friend left to be sorted out – I can’t even remember the exact details, although I think I wanted to find another percussion cock for it, and was going over to see Dick before this latest Covid thing happened – his wife has type 1 diabetes so is vulnerable, and he is on immunosuppressive drugs and so is very vulnerable, so that won’t happen for at least a few months. I wish the vaccine refusenics realised the stress they cause, including to the hospital staff I know who have to pick up the pieces of their obstinacy! Lets all get jabbed and boosted and re boosted and take care so we can get back to something resembling a normal life again. The drug companies are doing a great job designing new treatments as well as vaccines so I hope the days are approaching when Covid can be treated the same way as seasonal flu – I got an email form the NHS a couple of days ago saying I would get one of the new monoclonal antibody drugs if I got Covid so I’m on their radar which is good news….. Take care, and I hope you have a good 2022.
11 November – Really good muzzle loading shoot yesterday! Weather very cloudy and occasional Scotch mist – enough to twart one of the flintlockers for one drive – and not a breath of wind to deflect the birds. The bag was fairly small – 67, but the birds were flying well and the drives were good and even, so everyone had a most enjoyable time – proving that numbers are not everything. I had mostly pegs on the outskirts and wasn’t in line for any big flushes, and I decided that I prefer it that way, especially as I shoot my single barreled percussion gun, so ‘left and rights’ are not possible. I seem to be the only person to shoot a single – someone asked my why I used it – the answer is I shoot better with it than any other gun I have, it is light to carry about all day (5 1/4 lbs), and it saves the dilemma of whether to reload after shooting one barrel or wait til you have shot both. I was surprised in discussion to learn that other experienced shooters had inadvertently reloaded with a cap still on the live barrel! I did make a small plastic ‘top hat’ that fits over the nipple and is locked in place by the cock, but I haven’t used it. All in all a very good day, enhanced by the fact that it was only 25 minutes drive from home. I seem to have got my left eye under control – I have a vintage pair of big gold round frame glasses of the type the NHS used to issue that have a W bridge instead of nose pads – so they fit closer to my face than normal specs and thus offer better protection from bits of cap. I put a bit of sellotape over the top quarter of the left lens which is just enough to stop my left eye dominating when my head is down on the stock – I don’t notice it when looking normally. I’m carrying on the browning of the pistol barrels – I think we are getting somewhere this time – I’m about 6 or 7 rustings in, so hopefully we will be nearly there. Work on the bedroom continues – still not much visible reconstruction yet, but lots of fiddly framing started, and I’m now putting in conduits to pull the electrics through later. I need to use conduits as the house seems to have had a severe mouse problem at some time – much to my surprise they seem to be happy burrowing and making nests in the fibreglass insulation – which makes it pretty disgusting – I’m replacing it with wood fibre (Seico Flex 036) and I’ll try to compartmentalise it to keep rodents out. I did come across one power wire that had the insulation nibbled off – jut not enough to electrocute the perpetrator! In my last house when I lifted a floorboard there was a 2 meter length of flat cable with all the copper exposed like a railway track! That was the advantage of the old TRS rubber covered cable – nothing ate it, although it did get brittle.
7th November – I’m sorry for the missed blogs – I got a nasty infection that made me feel rather useless – and it took a while to sort out – I even stopped working on the bedroom restoration and sat on the sofa most of the day. I did try and do a bit of gun work, but that turned out to be a disaster! My browning of the pistol barrels got no-where – goodness knows why. I never managed to touch some of the steel layers – almost as if it was stainless steel, and the rest didn’t get any colour to speak of – a complete mystery – I ran it to about 14 browning and then gave up and decided to start again when I felt a bit more dynamic! I hardened and tempered the pistol spring, but wasn’t really ‘with it’ and it ended up a bit too open and the ‘hook’ end snapped when I tried to put it in the pistol – I will have to tackle that shortly! I am now more or less back on track and working on the bedroom again, which is just as well as there is a load of work to do – as I pointed out before, I do tend to get more ruthless as I begin to be able to see the job in hand – so I did a bit more demolition and removed an old built-in cupboard that was built of completely woodwormed uprights. I now have a larger room to finish. I have taken it all back to the rafters I put in in 2002, and will put in lots of insulation before putting on Savolit wood fibre board – its a substitute for lathes and can be diretly plastered over. There 1s a lot of plastering to do – 40 or so sq meters at three coats, I’m not very quick at plastereing so I might ‘cheat’ and get a professional in to do it if I can find someone who is good with lime plaster. We had Giles’s flat plastered by a pro – a joy to watch and perfectly smooth, but he left one room to his mate, and that was no better than I could have done (but quicker).
25th October The browning of the two barrels looks a bit more promising – I may have found a clue – I suspect that if you put on the browning too generously it actually takes off the existing oxide layer? sounds improbably I know, but I’m now wiping on a very little browning solution. I spent the afternoon scrubbing distemper off the gable end wall (horrid job) so I could dub it out flat ready for attaching the cork. I rang the floor board chap this morning to confirm their bank details as my bank doesn’t like me using bank details that come from emails – there are loads of scams called BECS going the rounds, where somehow a scammer intercepts genuine emails from a business and sends an email perporting to come from that business but with the scammer’s own bank details. It is usually directed at big business and has raked in hundreds of millions of pounds for the scammers. Penny got scammed out of £500 pounds when having carpets fitted in the cottage in Cornwall, so I take it seriously……. Anyway the floor board chap (Ben at Sutton Timber if you need floorboards!) pointed out that I’d better get all the ‘wet trades’ finished before fitting the floor or the boards would curl up ( actually curl down is more likely!) so I must push ahead with the plastering, but a lot to do first – like putting in the conduits for the power and lights, and sticking the wood fibre boards up so I have something to plaster onto!
24th October – Well, a bit of a gap again – sorry! I had a skip delivered so have been trying to fill it to justify 6 cu yds! Work on the bedroom has been progressing – I have been debating what to do about the floor – its a mix of old and not so old pine boards with lots of patches and gaps – I was going to board it with OSB and have it carpeted but Giles pursuaded me that that wasn’t in keeping with all the other fearures of the room – I did think of getting a few old pine boards and lifting the floor and relaying it, but figured that that would be quite difficult as the nails will surely tear the wood if they are lifted. Anyway after a discussion and a search on the internet I have opted for new Elm floorboards (I didn’t know you could still get Elm in England!) 300 mm wide – we have other rooms with old Elm floorboards, so its a reasonable choice. One really surprising thing came to light when I lifted a section of floorboard – the space between the joists was filled with tan coloured loose material that looked like perfect insulation – at first I thought it was coarse sawdust, but careful examination showed it was plant material that I identified as the petals of hops – I got some hops from the garden, and apart from the colour (garden ones are paler) they were identical. Goodness knows how many hops would be needed to fill around 10 sq meters of floor to a depth of about 7 cm (3 ins) – I wondered if they were a byproduct of brewing or something. Anyway they are clean and a good insulator (the room underneath was the dairy) and will stay, possibly supplemented with some vermiculite if there are empty joists. I’ve never heard of hop petals being used as insulation in old buildings – must make some enquiries…. Things happened on the gun front, but slowly – I did about 8 rustings of the two pistol barrels but they haven’t started to brown yet – in despair I rang Dick to see if he would like to have a go, but he said it usually takes him 10 to 12 rustings and I should be a bit more patient! I have adjusted my technique, being careful to apply browning with an almost dry sponge, and using medium steel wool…. we shall see………. The pistol’s owner sent me the stocks to make sure things fit and work – I was having problems with the heel of the spring coming below the lock edge, so I welded a longer stud on the top arm that locates on the bolster, that kicked the heel up, but the tumbler end of the spring then got a bit low and was too short – straightening out the bent bit a little fixed the length, and bending it down cured the problem of the low spring – now I just have to reharden it. Now I just have a little bit of woodwork to do on one stock and finish the browning, then I have another gun to sort out and another client is threatening to visit wih more work….. And I think I have another pistol to do that I’d forgotten about! And the frames to make for the secondary double glazing…… Plus I have to plan and buy stuff for the STEM club that starts after half term next week………….. Maybe I should retire for the third or fourth time, but I don’t seem very good at it!
17th October – I got one gun job out of the way this morning – a repaired spur and ‘mouth’ on a percussion cock to engrave – difficult as its all on a steep curve, so I resorted to the GRS – the welds are not altogether even textured so it was not straightforward, but the overall effect is OK. I coloured it down with my gas-oxy torch, and then made its mate the same – I think it looks good, but I don’t have the gun to check the overall effect. I photographed the cocks together after I’d engraved the top and the photo showed that the repaired cock had much less engraving on the high part of the body – its a thing I’ve noticed before – you think a job is done and you photograph it, and pack it up to go, then later you look at the photo and see a problem. Anyway I got the cock out again and recut that bit of engraving – the two cocks are subtely different in engraving and surface texture but now look a bit more of a pair. I’ve done two brownings of the pistol barrels – they are beginning to show figure, but there is still a fair amount of metal the browning won’t bite on. I’ve been taking photos after each browning, but they don’t show up as much as in actuality – I must see if I can find a photo trick to show the actual effect. You can distinctly see that the barrel is made of strands of different iron/steel rather than a homogenous material, but as its a pistol barrel the composite bar wasn’t wound round a mandrell in a spiral as it would be in the case of a long gun, but was made into a strip and wrapped round the mandrell and hammer welded into a tube in a series of grooves in an anvil with a lap joint so broadly the pattern runs along the barrel. I believe most pistols were made this way, as were all (?) military muskets and rifles. Some fancy pistols did have wound barrels and elaborate patterning, but most didn’t.
Recut – original engraving not identical on the two cocks…… (& different lighting)
there is 140 mm of wood fibre insulation to go in and 60 mm of cork on the gable end wall.
A similar brace at the right end is missing and will be re-instated when I can find a curved bit of wood.
16th October -More work on the bedroom yesterday – got me thinking about the 7 deadly sins of old house restoration and what would be the 7 deadly sins of old gun restoration. My 7 for old buildings are :- 1) Cement, 2) UPVC in any shape or form, 3) MDF board, 4) Plasterboard, 5) Vapour barriers, 6 Struck pointing of brickwork, 7) Float glass. Not sure I can get to 7 for guns ;- 1) Sandblasting (yes, it has been done!), 2) Brazing of broken parts, 3) Use of woodfiller, 4) Polyurethane or similar varnish, 5) stainless steel, 6) Slotted head woodscrews, 7) Almost all sanding of existing wookwork. This weekend is devoted to getting some gun jobs done – I’ve prepped the barrels and cleaned them with water and washing up liquid to get rid of any oil, then given them a wash over with chalk and water mixed like thin cream. When this was allowed to dry you can see some figure showing through as faint rust marks – the beginnings of browning – its now having its first proper browning. I decided to make a completely new top jaw screw and cut the thread on the lathe since it is set up for a suitable thread pitch – 28 tpi. I heated up the top of the screw and dipped it in colour case hardening compound not to full read heat – anyway that dulled it down a bit. I then reverse electrolytically derusted it ( i.e. rusted it rapidly) – in order to slightly dull the surface. Its actually put some natural looking blobs of the surface too. Its not a bad match for the original, I’m satisfied. There is one niggling job that I need to attend to;- the new mainspring I made/converted is very close to the edge of the lock, and probably won’t fit within the lock pocket of the completed pistol (which I don’t have) = There are 2 options, either move the hole in the lockplate that houses the peg on the top leg of the spring, or reshape or remake the spring. Either way its a great bore and will take a while – the lock plate is hardened so I’d have to anneal it, which won’t improve it, so I’ll proably work on the spring! I got an email from school a couple of days ago asking if I’d organise/run a project for 2 classes to build their Nativity display models for the local church – I’ll be delighted to do it, I’ve already bought a couple of strings of LED christmas lights to illuminate Bethlehem! Bit ironic for an atheist to be doing the church display but hey ho, thats life……
II can tell them apart ‘in the flesh’ but don’t know which is which from the photo, so must be OK!
14th October – Destruction more or less complete – just waiting to get the last 20 bags of rubble and muck down to the ground using my ‘crane’ – actually just a pulley stuck out on an arm from the window. It needs two people, one up one down, to operate so I have to wait for Giles to come over tomorrow. I was just about to finish in time for my 4 p.m. transfer to gun jobs when the materials for rebuilding were delivered on a couple of pallets and dumped outside – that took most of my afternoon gun time to sort out, anyway nearly ready to go, some framing up to do and it will be ready to stick on the sheets of wood fibreboard (Savilit) that will be the base for plastering with lime plaster. So I had better go and get a few minutes work on outstanding gun jobs. I’ve got a percussion cock that has been welded to re-engrave – its all curved surfaces which are very difficult to do hand encraving as you can only keep a constant depth of cut by EXACTLY following the curved surfaces, otherwise you almost invariably slip and make horrid cuts. My solution for this is to use the pneumatic graver (GRS) that operates with almost no push and so doesn’t tend to slip. I’ll go and start now………
13th October – Still destroying! Quite mild here – how long will it last? We have a massive crop of green tomatoes in need of another week’s sun – can’t face that much chutney! We planted a grape vine about 5 years ago and have never had more than a handful of unripe grapes, but this year it made it from its trelis to the south facing wall of the house and went mad – we must have had enough grapes for a Chateau Cablesfarm vintage – bottles running to two or three figures ( that’s roman numerals). It won’t happen, as the potential winemaker ate them all at about a bunch a day for the last month. I’m still experimenting with striking up the pistol barrels. One of the problems with using a file is that occasionally a speck of metal gets embedded in the file and creates a deeper scratch. I tend to file wet as this helps avoid the problem – some people use chalk for the same purpose, not sure which is best. I got good results from using a small fine diamond sharpener stuck to a plastic handle (EZE-LAP) until the white spirit I was using disolved the adhesive holding the diamond onto the plastic. My current best guess at a good technique is filing down to No 4, then use a fine slip, then 400 grit and finally 1000 grit. Looking under my x25 microscope there is still plenty for the browning to get a bite on. I’ve recut the engraving on the barrels a couple of times as I’ve filed so that they still look crisp. The microscope x25 does reveal that the surface still has multiple small pits, but I think when browned they will not show (they don’t really show to the naked eye) so I think I’m now ready to go! I have had to divide my day up to get both the bedroom and the guns done – I reckon 6 hours of labouring is enough at my age, so at 4 p.m. I retire to the gun workshop for a bit of filing etc. ( after a cup of tea of course) until 6, then maybe back again after dinner for an hour or two if I feel energetic, then attend to the blog if I have anything to say!
12th October – Mostly busy on the bedroom renovation – still in the destruction phase. I went out today to buy some 12 mm OSB sheets for some ‘undersheets’ and to make the floor fit for a carpet, but it turns out that OSB is now in very short supply and is almost impossible to get. Shame as there are no really good substitutes. I spent a bit of time on Sunday and this evening striking off the two pistol barrels. Nick, a fellow antique firearms collector sent me a link to a facebook page re my post about the difficulty of browning barrels if you burnish them too well. The link said that the correspondent never went any finer than 360 grit paper, so the browning had something to bite on. I wouldn’t be as catagorical as that, some very high class pistols had very highly polished barrels under the browning, but it does make the point. I rang Dick, who has done many more barrels than I have – he basically works up through the paper grades to 1500. His browning is good. I feel it is ‘horses for courses’ as usual – looking at a number of guns you can see distinct longitudinal marks (scratches) along the barrel in guns that have never been re-browned, so they were quite coarsely finished when made. The pistol barrels I’m doing are fairly badly rusted in places, so there is no chance of striking them off to get rid of all the pits, so I figure it would be better not to have a highly polished brown. For pistols with Octagonal barrels my current technique is to strike off the flats with a good No. 3 file used lubricated with thin oil or white spirit (could use water with a drop of detergent but you can’t leave the work in progress or it will rust) either used as in draw filing with the file at right angles to the barrel, or if the barrel faces are flat along the barrel ( these ones are) then you can use the file parallel to the barrel. Follow this up with a No 4 file used similarly. then a N0 6. I then have a small slip stone that gets rid of most of the file marks. The advantage of using files and the slip is that they are completely flat surfaces and therefore keep the flats flat. In fact, often the flats are not flat but very slightly convex, so you can allow for that as you file. I really don’t like using abrasive paper any more than I have to, as I think it is always liable to round the corners off, but after I have filed and stoned, I’ll work through a couple of grades of paper wrapped round a flat surface narrower than the flat of the barrel. If you have engraving you want to preserve, be careful if you use paper as it invariably rounds the edges of the lettering. I did try to get the breechplugs out of these barrels, but failed, and it wasn’t essential so I left them in.
If you click on the images you’ll see the rust pitting – it won’t be too conspicuous when done, but its too much to be filed off completely
Top one is at 800 grit stage, buottom one is at slip-stone stage.
8th October – Still hoping to get down to some decent gun work – I have 2 pistol barrels to strike off and brown, but the last two I have done have been a bit of a pain as it took more rustings than usual to get the browning to bite on the steel component of the iron/steel mix in the twist barrels. I suspect that I may be rubbing the rust off too well between rustings and burnishing the metal to a surface that resisted the rust? I have been using 0000 steel wool, while conventional advice is to use a wire brush, but I didn’t have anything except a very coarse brush that I thought would scratch the metal. Anyway I had to do something to put things right, so a search on the web brought up ‘The Wire Brush company’or something like that, and I was able to buy a couple of brushes that were (probably) more suitable – one with .015 mm diameter wire and one with .035 diameter. I think the website was the one where I found my very fine Vertex wire wheel recently. I will be interested to see how the next two barrels turn out. The stripping out of the bedroom is progressing well – as usual the more I do the more drastic my stripping becomes! Having taken the plaster off the lathes, it was clear the lathes were going to be problematic to retain, and also I needed to improve the insulation between the rafters (its an attic bedroom), so all the lathes are coming out and after I have put in the new insulation (140 mm of wood fibre) I will put on a 15mm board made of bonded long wood fibres that can be plastered on. We started to remove the plaster from one of the slopes, only to discover that it was plastered onto reeds, and so is probably a considerably older generation of work than the lathe and plaster – anyway its interesting enough that I decided to retain it – it has 150mm of fibreglass inulation behind it, so not too bad. The gable end wall can’t be insulated on the outside ( its a flint wall and it would be desecration) so I’ll add a layer of insulation inside. Unfortunately there isn’t a lot of space due to the shape of the room – too thick a wall and there wouldn’t be room for a double bed, so I will have to make do with 50 mm of cork insulation and the plaster applied to that. I’ve been having fun calculating U values and juggling things! Insulation Rebellion would be proud if only they were really interested in getting people on-side instead of just driving diesel cars and living in uninsulated houses and alienating people !
6th October – Excellent day’s shooting yesterday – after fretting all week at the dire weather forecast we had only 5 minutes of light rain the whole day, and any moisture had evaporated in ten minutes! It took me a while to get my eye in – there was quite a breeze and I had a couple of stands at the beginning that were at the downwind end of the line so the birds were motoring. I thought I was better at partridges, but in fact I had a better hit rate at pheasants. Anyway good fun, and it was nice to see a group of friends who I hadn’t seen for almost two years. The world is coming back to life again, and I’ve gone from having no restoration work coming in for the last couple of years to having 3 or 4 jobs drop on me in the last month. I had a visit from the ‘magic’ double glazing chap this morning, and Dave and I had a look at the sample – It is rather impressive – two sheets of glass about 3.8 mm thick with a 0.1 mm gap in the middle which is a vacuum, giving a toal thickness of 7.8 mm. Normal double glazing has a 20 mm gap filled with argon or krypton that transmits heat by convection – around 70% of the total heat transferred. Triple glazing is a way to overcome this but then you end up with very thick & heavy units. The magic units give a thermal performance better than good triple glazing! They are also pretty good at sound insulation as sound doesn’t travel in a vacuum. The secret of how the relatively thin glass doesn’t bend inward under the vacuum is a series of 0.5 mm diameter pillars on a grid of about 25 mm that you just don’t see when its in a window – if you place the unit on a sheet of white paper you can see them but they are not particularly obvious. So I decided to do a couple more windows and replace the glass in the back door. It is expensive – its very complex to make – but we all have to do what we can to fight global warming, and insulating homes is (probably) one of the best ways. Oh, and the units are fully recyclable – I’m beginning to feel virtuous…… I do get a bit fed up with most of the discussions of what we need to do to get to carbon neutral – a very necessary aim in itself – because we seem blind to the enormous amount of energy that will go into manufacturing all the electric cars, trucks, houses, boilers, heat pumps, nuclear power plants and even wind farms themselves – That will probably balance out any benefits from the use of these fossil fuel saving systems for years to come, and we won’t have low carbon technologies on line to make these low carbon technologies. On the other hand we have to start somewhere!
4th October. work has started on the bedroom- I found a newspaper I had put there when I first did a preliminary rebuild in prparation for the full works – the newspaper was dated 2002! How time flies…. I spent a happy hour starting on a new cock screw. I couldn’t find a suitable thread to use on the new one, so I have turned up a head and plan to weld it onto the old screw – I’ve done it before with side nails and it does work although its a bit fiddly getting the two bits lined up and getting electrical connection for the welder too. I’ve jigged them up in a piece of brass channel in the hope that that will work. I use modelling clay to hold the bits while I make the initial tack as it lasts long enough, just. Shooting tomorrow so no chance of any gun work – I’m still pondering the welder – I put a current sensing resistor in the celectrode cable, so I will do some esperiments to see what current I want to work at. The weather for the shoot tomorrow looks a little better than it did, but not too brilliant!
3rd October managed to fit in a bit of work on the pistol sear – mainly ‘tuning’ it to give the right position of half and full cock – its sensitive to the length of the nose of the sear, as you would expect, so you need to file the nose down with extreme caution to avoid taking too much off and having to start over again. Anyway it now works and I straightened out the sear arm as I hope it no longer needs to be cranked, then hardened it and tempered it a bit in a fine flame, avoiding directly heating the sear nose, just letting the colour run down and dunking it in water when it had gone straw coloured. I annealed the sear arm, holding the body of the sear in the vice to keep it cool, as it may need to be bent to fit – I haven’t got the stocks of the pistols so I hope it fits, otherwise the owner will have to try bending it! The welding on the underside of the sear is not perfect – I was struggling a bit as I mentioned before – I went on the web looking for advice on low current welding but it seems that there may be a number of issues with welders, particularly cheap ones, that mitigate against very fine welding – I understand that welders give a short pulse of quite a significant current to start the arc – maybe as much as 50 amps so my quest for a very controllable low current welder may be pushing me up out of my price range – thats what usually happens when I try to be particular about what I want! If I can’t find a suitable welder at a reasonable price I will program up a microcomputer to give me short pulses as in a more expensive welder. I spent a couple of hours building a crane to stick out of the bedroom window to lower the old plaster and get the new stuff up as we don’t really want it trecked through the house and over the Persian carpet in the living room! A major triumph – I did a sortie after diesel – my car is OK but Penny’s is quite low, so I took a 10 litre can and did a reccy and found the local Tescos had diesel so a quick call got Penny out to fill up. It really is quite difficult round here – it seems to be pretty easy to get petrol but not diesel. If we hadn’t got some for Penny’s car I was going to borrow a petrol car for a while! I’m shooting on Tuesday, which is the only day in the next fortnight that is forecast to have heavy rain! We are to bring a breechloader in case its too wet for muzzle loaders. I’m not too sure how game reacts to heavy rain but I would be surprised if they can be persuaded to leave cover! I’ll take my 1950s Bereta 20 bore hammer gun – it has a very tight choke on both barrels so will be a challenge to hit anything, assuming there is anything to hit! I would take my bolt action .410 ( the rat gun!) as a challenge, only I don’t have enough 2 1/2 inch cartridges to be worth it. But it will be nice to get out!
1 October – I’ve had to spend time prepping the work area for next week and finishing the prototype secondary glazing frame so I can work out the exact sizes of the super insulating glass to order – its on 8 weeks delivery so I wan to get the order in ASAP. My gun workshop is now getting cold so I have to get the woodburning stove going, which inhibits me from short expeditions to work on guns. We did manage to fill up the Land Cruiser with fuel and put 10 litres from a can into Penny’s car, but that won’t last long…………
28th September -I’ve spent some time getting ready to start work on the spare bedroom – plaster to be stripped, insulation put on the external wall and all replastered with lime plaster – my grand-daughter starts work on it next Monday – she is used to working on building sites and has done some demolition work so should be well suited! I’ve also been preparing the wood for one of the secondary glazing frames as a trial. In the gun line, I’ve made a new spring for one of the Richards pistols out of a modern mainspring – I welded a ‘flag’ on to space it off the bolster – my welder wasn’t set up very well so its not visually perfect, but it is sound and it all works well. I can’t get that abrupt right angle that the old springs had at the start of the ‘hook’ that engages with the tumbler, but never mind, this one works very well. ( I think I don’t have a hot enough flame). I’m now working on the sear – you can see from the photo what the difference in the sear shape is for the two pistols. I tuned up the welder so it started at a lower current, but now it doesn’t really have enough electrode current to strike a proper arc when you just turn it on with the pedal, but does start the high voltage discharge that is supposed to initiate the arc – the high voltage discharge is a bit fierce and seems to blow the tip off the electrode. I’ll have to have another go at adjusting it, or I might just put in another potentiometer to allow me to adjust the start current. Nothing is straighforward – I suppose I should have bought a proper TIG welder with a pedal control and pulse drive instead of modifying a cheap one! Anyway, be that as it may, I did manage a bit of blob welding on the sear without destroying any vital bits, and am now filing it to shape – its a slow process as I must avoid taking too much off! I think there is a problem with the contact point for the sear spring which means that I may have to file down that area to get it to work. I had a meeting with the head of ‘my’ school yesterday about restarting my STEM club after half term, and what we would be doing. There is a bit of a problem as the school has moved over to Chromebooks instead of laptop PCs, and the they run an operating system based on linux but not standard linux, so only a few programs can run on them – unfortunately our favourite Python front end (Mu python) is one that won’t run for the BBC microbits, and its an essential part of our plans! We’re suffering a bit due to the ‘petrol’crisis as Penny’s car is almost empty and so my Land Cruiser is getting a lot of use! I did try to syphon the diesel out of mine as her car does about twice the mileage that mine does, but mine has a crafty anti-syphon block at or near the tank and I can’t manage to get a pipe into the fuel, even quite a thin one…………………. Oh and I just spotted what I think is my first visitor from the Falkland Islands on this website – welcome!
The one on the left is the ‘wrong’ one – its too short so the cock doesn’t clear the frizzen at half cock – also you can see the bends in it.
25th September – I spent the afternoon sawing and planing up the oak for the first secondary glazing frame for the kitchen window – I just had enough oak in stock to complete the job with oak that was a reasonable match to iteslf, although it’s very light compared to the existing frames, which were quite dark to start with and have darkened in the last 20 odd years. I got round to some work on the bits of the Richards pistols I have to restore – the locks were a little pitted in places and I scraped off a bit of rust from the insides and stripped the works to check everything was OK and wire brushed the whole lot with my 3 thou wire brush to even up the finish. The No 1 pistol needs a new mainspring – I think I have a modern one that can be cut down and modified to fit – I have annealed it and begun the work – I need to weld the pillar that engages in the slot in the bolster on the short leg, and shape the hook on the long arm. Cleaning and checking the No 2 pistol I found when I tried to put a flint in it, that at half cock the top jaw collides with the frizzen. I also found that it was very hard to move the sear. You can also see that several attempts have been made to bend the sear arm, and you can also see that the angle the sear spring makes with the top of the sear is too steep so there is too much friction when you try to lift the sear. All this can be put down to a replacement sear that is too short in the nose where it engages with the bents – it needs the nose extended by some 1 1/2 to 2 mm to work properly, or a new sear made. In all probability the sear was a poor working life replacement, as was (probably) the top jaw screw on No 2, which is just not quite right. What to do about the sear? The pistol is not a shooter, so it doesn’t really affect it directly, but its up to the client – I’ll email and see what he wants me to do.
22nd September – In keeping with the spirit of the age I’m preparing to double glaze the leaded windows in the kitchen, living room, library and one bedroom. I made the frames and leaded windows around 20 years ago – each is slightly different as the openings were not identical, having been originally made around 1800 when the old 17/18th century house was given a makeover. I plan to make additional internal frames for secondary glazing. I was looking on the web at prices and performance for toughened glass, perspex or polycarbonate when I came across a strange product that is a very thin sealed glass unit claiming a performance better than most double glazing. Its intended for replacing the glass in wooden window frames as its not much thicker (6.7mm) than normal window glass, but gives you an insulation performance better than 20 mm thick sealed units. Yes, I was sceptical too! It does this using very thin glass (3mm) and a .7mm vacuum gap with glass micro pillars keeping the two sides apart. It is of course quite expensive at about £280 per square meter, but I’m intrigued. I’ve talked to the UK agent ( its made in Belgium) and am waiting for a sample. The snag is an 8 week delivery delay. My plan is to use this glass in the secondary glazing, which should give a very good insulation – I’ll keep you posted on progress – if I get a sample I’ll run my own insulation test! I got the gun with the sheared off tumbler bolt and ratty looking hammer to fix, so that is a job in the queue. I also have a couple of business card sized plates to engrave to go on presentations, so I ordered a couple of bits of 0.8mm sterling silver from Cooksongold. When I took the protective film off them the surfaces were strongly marked with striations all over. I put one surface on the buffing wheel but that just made the surface look worse. Obviously a major cock-up somewhere at Cooksongold. I phoned and they asked for photos, which I sent and I’ve been trying to ring them all day but there seems to be something wrong with their phone…… Off tomorrow for a quiet shoot at Cambridge to see if I can hit anything – I’ll use the little Nock 16 Bore single again, I am so comfortable with that gun – and its light to lug about (5 1/4 lbs) – I shoot 2 1/2 drams of Czech powder and 1 oz of shot. I guess it kicks a bit, but fortunately I am not particularly sensitive to it – I have noticed a strange phenomenon – I can shoot that load at clays or game all day without noticing it, but if at the end of a game shoot I need to clear the gun by firing it into the air with a normal hold, it kicks like hell….. others have noticed the effect too. Must remember to take the taped glasses!
This was supposed to be polished silver!
19th September – Most enjoyable shoot on Saturday. I put a bit of clear sellotape over the top of the left lens of my spare glasses – I only use that bit of the lens when shooting (the glasses have big round lenses) so I can see normally the rest of the time. The sellotape just fuzzes the view enough to make the brain switch dominance to the right eye but not enough to make one conscious of it. Anyway it worked and I had a sucessful day – I was back to my ususal habit of shooting really well for the first couple of stands, and then not quite so well – the same happens in competitions at clays. Using a single barreled gun is bit limiting on a game shoot, but I am very quick at reloading as I am using semolina in place of wads – very few of the ‘gang’ who tried semolina still use it, although as far as I can discover the reasons are not related to shooting performance. I reckon I can reload in less than half the time it takes wad users to load a double. It was a beautiful warm day with mostly gentle breezes – absolutely lovely to be out in the country – it has really boosted my mood and I’m feeling dynamic – just as well in view of my pile of work in hand. Nick sent me a couple of photos of a very small flint pocket pistol in a pretty poor condition that he’de found in a flea market and asking my advice on whether to buy it – I thought it would make a good project, and as it was pretty cheap it might be a good opportunity to give it a more thorough makeover than I would if a pistol had more intrinsic value. Final decision will wait ’til its in my hands……. Among the jobs in hand is possibly replacing some of the silver inlay in the pocket pistol. I had hoped that I could draw silver wire flat, but it doesn’t really work – there is no substitute for a set of rolls, which I don’t have – so I either have to get some rolls, make some, or get someone who does have jeweller’s roll to flatten the wire for me.
17th September – Shoot tomorrow – I am a bit concerned about my ability to hit anything after my last outing at clays as I still have a left eye dominance problem so I am reverting to my most reliable percussion, my little Henry Nock single. In previous posts I described converting it to flint, and it worked well, but I’m not confident to use it on a game shoot as a flintlock so I have swapped it back. I converted it by making a new lock plate etc and just used the mainspring, tumbler, bridle, sear and sear spring from the old lock ( I made new screws as I couldn’t match the threads of the old lockplate) Anyway it was the work of half an hour to swap the touch hole for the drum and nipple and swap the bits over to the old lockplate. I got used to shooting a single barreled gun and I do find it more pointable – which is why under and over breech loaders have more or less completely taken over from side by side guns. Using a single has the disadvantage, of course, that you can never get a nice left and right, and you do miss having a second barrel at times, but on the other hand it saves that terrible dilemma with a muzzle loader – whether to reload after one shot if there is a lull, or hang on a shoot both barrels before reloading. Reloading one barrel is a pain as you have to remove the cap from the ‘live’ barrel, which is always a fiddle, even with my design of decapper. I saw my Oncologist today and asked about my level of immunity to a second dose of Covid – answer, more or less, is my guess is as good as his but probably not great – its a good excuse to avoid what I don’t particularly want to do but not enough to totally avoid what I do want to do! Simple really.
15th September – I seem to have a couple of restoration jobs about to come in – both with a bit of a story behind them! One is a fairly basic Birmingham Percussion single that has a replacement cock/hammer that doesn’t fit very well. The owner went to unscrew the cock screw that holds it onto the tumbler and the head came off ‘ in his hand’ without any great force. I was able to reassure him that we had all been there several times before! There are two possible causes – either the screw is fractured or corroded and so has very little strength left, or that has already happened to the last owner and he stuck it on with glue.! I’ve had both. In this case my friend tried a thread extractor in a drilled hole in the remains of the screw, and broke off the extractor. I have to say that I have only used a thread extractor once on a gun as far as I can remember, and that wasn’t very sucessful either! The basic problem is that the screw/stud/thread extractor forces its way into the remains of the screw and in doing so expands the screw to ensure its an even tighter fit in the threads – the harder you screw in the extractor, the tighter the screw gets…. obvious really! There are in my view a very limited set of circumstances in which an extractor is any use – its a fine balance in keeping the hole for the extractor fairly small compared with the screw root diameter so there is enough metal in the remains of the screw to resist the radial expansion, while at the same time getting a big enough extractor that it won’t break. Maybe some people have better luck with them on car engines etc. Given the existing situation there are a couple of possible solutions – 1) heat the tumbler shaft up and anneal it to soften the bit of the extractor and try to drill it all out and retap the hole, or mount a bit of bar in the chuck of the lathe, drill a hole for the back bearing of the tumbler and araldite the tumbler to the block, then cut off the squared bit of the tumbler shaft and drill the tumbler out, then turn up a new shaft and silver solder it in, taking care to get the orientation right when you file on the square ( although you can always heat it up and try again! The second job involves a mainspring that broke due to mild thermal shock – again I’ve had a mainspring break because I looked at it, or at least that is how it felt at the time. I also put a mainspring in my derusting tank and came back 10 minutes later to find it in 3 pieces in the bottom of the tank – when I looked at it there were loads of laminar cracks in the spring – the odd thing is that I’m sure it worked before I took it out of the lock! I do know about hydrogen embritlement but that is only supposed to happen quite slowly as hydrogen diffuses into the metal and then only on high strength steels….. I finished the browning of the single barrel as the surface was getting slightly rough – I probably left it too long, but my patience was stretched! If it was a proper job I’d have paid a bit more attention, but its a rough old gun anyway! The onset of Autumn brought the usual plague of small rodents entering the house (heaven knows where they get in) – I got 7 in 3 days which give me a short lull to go round and find any ways for them to move between rooms – the standard test is that a mouse can get through any crack you can push a pencil into – obviously there has to be some width….
13th September – Following my comment about cateracts I had a very helpful email from a regular viewer of this website – he recommended that when I have my discussion with the opthalmologist I mention that I shoot, as it is possible to specify different lenses for different applications. Driving lenses are apparently designed to limit dazzle but lenses suitable for shooting are brighter. I will definately have that conversation. One of the tricky aspects of this blog is deciding just how much personal stuff to include – like cateracts. I am sure some regulars would prefer that the site was exclusively about antique firearms, while I believe others do enjoy a more rounded view of what I do! Talking of which, I am gearing up to renovate a bedroom – move a wall, insulate the outside aslls, redo the floor and redo the lath and plaster ceiling and walls, and at the moment its rather full of furniture that ought to go to the saleroom, although none of it is worth much. Anyway one nice item is an oak roll-top desk that we have had for some time – the tambour (the roll bit) came apart in me hands, honest guv, so after a quick check on the web I took the desk apart and retrieved the tambour, which had clearly been patched up half a dozen times already – that left me with a choice – do I take all the canvas off the back and start over again or patch the worst bits – in the end I opted for patching – I’m not sure it was the right decision but it should work well enough. If the renovation sounds like a big job, it is! I re-roofed that part of the house about 20 years ago – its basically an attic with sloping walls – and left the old roof timbers holding up the plaster while I planted a new roof and new wall plate on top. We didn’t need the room then so its still as I left it after the re-roofing…. should be loads of fun! I’m still browning the barrel of my single gun – I didn’t give it a dunk in copper sulphate, which I should have done, so it took around 12 rustings before it would put any colour on the lighter bits of the metal, and even then only if I steamed it after each rusting…. I think its getting there now but I haven’t checked the last rusting. I started off using Blackley’s Slow Brown, then moved to my ex printed circuit solution and then tried Dyson’s slow brown – but as I was using the same bit of sponge to put it on with, and didn’t wash it out between rustings I was clearly using a mix of all three for all the latter rustings… better go and have a look at it. And I’ve got some bread rising too. I had a long conversation with a shooting friend who had been very ill and lost a lot of weight, as I did with Covid – Like me, he had to carry a cushion around as he couldn’t sit on a hard chair, but he is now recovered enough to be shooting and playing golf again. We are both a bit surprised at how even at our age you can ‘re-inflate’ muscle if you eat enough – maybe we should try extreme bodybuilding to see if it works for us!
9th Septemeber – Shooting today at Cambridge Gun Club – hopeless! I did a lot worse than I did at the helice (which wasn’t particularly good but it is develish hard) and just couldn’t get on the clays.. When I got home I think I found the problem – I have cateracts in both eyes – not bad enough to get them done on the NHS, but progressive, and my left eye seems to be taking over. I have used glasses with a piece of sellotape across the left lense to supress the left eye in the past when it has been a problem, but I didn’t think of it this time as I didn’t identify the problem – stupid really! Anyway I think on general grounds I am going to have to get them done, even if I have to pay the 2.5K each eye will cost – have to sell some of my best guns! I guess I’ll have to wait until I can find a several weeks when I don’t need to drive. I may need to slip off to CGC for a private check before the game shoot – with sellotaped glasses! On the plus side I found my box of card/wad punches right in plain view….. Definately time to get my eyes done!
8th September Disaster – I’m shooting (clays) tomorrow for a warm-up for the next game shoot and I’ve mislaid my box of card punches and I’m not sure I have enough overshot cards. I know I have seen them fairly recently, which makes it all the more maddening! I was thinking I might shoot my 11 bore Westley Richards for game shoots, but I got it out of the cabinet but found it much too heavy although last time I’d handled it I thought it would be OK – probably my arms/shoulders were a bit tired from swimming – it does weigh 8 lbs which is a bit much for swinging about after partridges! I had an email from a chap in Canada with some photos of a pistol by H W Mortimer and Son that he had bought at auction asking about restoration. It got me thinking about what is a good candidate for restoration and what is not, at least from my perspective. In most cases if something is missing, broken or not working then, provided its viable from a cost perspective or has some personal significance, then it’s reasonable to fix it. Similarly its obviously valid to clean active rust and remove dirt from metal and wood, but one needs to exercise care if that destroys the original finish or a patina that has developed with time. Beyond that, its a matter of judgement – for instance, one often finds a pistol with the barrel in a worse state than the lock and furniture – the barrel being soft and the rest hard or semi hard – if the barrel has deep rust it can be a mistake to try and refinish it – you may end up making the rust stand out, but if a light striking off refreshes the surface rebrowning may well enhance the result. I don’t belong to the school of thought that likes to see antiques restored to the condition they left the maker, patina and the odd dings are part of the gun’s history, but each situation needs careful thought – sorry there is no easy answer! I spent this morning doing silverwork – my sister in law had 3 napkin rings that she wanted worked on, one to remove the badge of the Clacton on Sea Bowls Association and the other two to cover the inscription/name with a silver plate so I could engrave the names of her grandchildren. I had just enough .7mm thick silver to make plaques, and some ‘easy’ silver solder paste – it melts at 680C, well below the melting point of the silver., so now I just have to engrave the names on them. I’ll do a few test engravings in copper to get my hand in – its harder than the silver but near enough. We are having a few days of late summer – I have managed a swim on the last 3 days, the water in the pool is gradually rising from about 19C last week and its now about 22C – the surface gets a bit hotter after mid-day – I think tomorrow will be the last hot day.
5th September – Family birthday party today – outside in lovely weather for a change! Lots of fun for my grand daughter of 11 playing with the boat we made at school on our pool, joined by adults too. On my birthday I started a course of drugs for my CLL (Chronic Lymphocytic Leukeamia) – I currently don’t have any effects from the CLL but my specialist thinks I soon will so is keen to get me popping Acalbrutinib. So far no side effects, touch wood. I’m still undecided whether my first partridge shoot should be flint of percussion, but I am moving towards a percussion as my good flint is only single barreled and that is a bit of a disadvantage. I resoldered the rib on my ‘Tim Owen’ single percussion as it came off recently – I think its on OK, although not the most elegant job. I really hate resoldering barrels as its so difficult to clean up the metal to get it to tin properly, Now I have to re-brown the barrel, – it has a nice damascus pattern (I think) so I am wondering whether to ‘flash’ it in copper sulphate to etch the surface a bit and bring out the pattern. I still have the Venebles to re-do, I soldered the barrels but it subsequently sprung the rib (its a double so double trouble!) so I’ve to do it over again. I do get asked from time to time if I do restorations for clients – the answer is I do, I’m careful about what I can offer to achieve, and prefer not to do work that doesn’t ‘earn its keep’ by adding to the value of the gun. I won’t do deliberate faking – like changing the maker’s name etc, and I prefer work I can put on this blog, even if sometimes I hide the maker’s name. I don’t do work on licensed breech loading firearms or modern repros, and I ask anyone sending me an antique to remove it from their certificate to ensure that it is a Sect. 58/2 firearm (an antique that can be held without a license) as I am not a registered firearms dealer.
2nd Sept – my birthday today! So I can be allowed a rant! The latest report of the Independent Inquiry into Child Sex Abuse was published yesterday and makes pretty sickening reading – almost all of the major religions in the UK have significant failings in parts, for instance some don’t accept some reports of child sex abuse ( one requires 2 witnesses, would you believe it !) or try to cover them up, so the remarks I wrote yesterday before I saw it do look uncomfortably near the truth. Rant over! ………………………………. Apart from tidying up the garden for a party on Sunday , I did manage to nickel plate the trigger of the cigar cutter- it seemed to lay a thin coat of nickel, then a thicker coat that didn’t properly attach to the thinner coat and peeled off if scratched with a finger nail…. not sure what happened, but it looks about OK against the abraded plating on the rest of the pistol, so I’ll leave it.
You can download the full ‘child sex abuse in religious organisations’ report here;-
1st September – bit of a pause as I had to go down to Wales to set a memorial stone on mum in laws grave in a field, then it was the bank holiday. I have been playing around with silver wire, and built a little adjustable jig for flattening silver wire – works quite nicely – I can get 0.4 mm wire down to strip about .16 thick which should be OK for the superimposed pistol butt. I have also been doing some preliminary experiments with nickel plating. You can use an electolyte made by mixing spirit viengar (basically aceatic acid) with a bit of salt and passing a current through a couple of nickel electrodes ’til the vinegar turns nicely green. I did an experimental plate which seemed to work, but the finish was not perfect – I shall use a lower voltage and colder solution and see how it comes out. I’ve been reading an account of Cook’s voyages by William Kingston, published in about 1880 by the the Religious Track Society. I find it mindblowing how arrogant the author was in regard to ‘converting the heathen’ , and his objection to Cook’s complete omission of any ‘missionary’ activities. Although the book is now 150 years old I guess we still unfortunately see that sort of blinkered religious belief in parts of the world – and sometimes close to home…… One of the (6) leaders of a religious group present in the UK ( I won’t name it!) is reported in today’s Times as saying that it was an offense under their religious law to report child sexual abuse unless the victim was under 12 or 13!
25th August – a fun day filling a skip with rubbish! I managed to get the cigar cutter trigger to work after silver soldering a couple of bits to it – I looked at ‘cigar cutter pistols’ on ebay – one for £185 and one for over £400. Probably somewhat better than mine, but it does justify the time spent making a new trigger! Perhaps I’ll sell it when its finished….
The bad joint is OK on the other side – just a bit wonky – quick job…
24th August – did a bit of work on a trigger for the cigar cutter – think I have filed off too much, may have to hard solder a bit back on! I was looking at an antiques website that hosts sales from dealers across all sectors – the site claims to have done over 100 million pounds of business this year. Anyway I was looking at a pair of duelling pistols at some fairly high price, I can’t remember the details or the maker but that doesn’t matter as I’m not trying to shame anyone. As always I was looking at the biggest photo I could get of the pair, and idly scanning for hints that the pistols had been restored – now dealers have one of three approaches to work done on antique firearms – be open about it, keep it quiet or not look too carefully! Or of course they may not have the experience to tell. These pistols looked pretty genuine, and then I started looking in detail……………. Its very common for top jaws and top jaw screws to be replaced – but its actually quite tricky to make a really authentic looking top jaw screw! – I had fun making one for the superimposed pistol below because the shape is quite critical to the eye – a few thou here and there can make all the difference. Anyway this pair of pistols had top jaw screws that were subtly different in the washer bit that bears on the top jaw. One had a fairly narrow collar that was slightly tapered, the other had a deeper collar that wasn’t tapered – my eye immediately called the second one into question – didn’t look right. I don’t know if that was the replacement, but no decent gunmaker would sell a pair with that much difference. Still its a common repair and not that important…. but you need to keep looking …. so then the rollers on the frizzen springs were different sizes – very noticably so. Again no gunmaker would put out a pair with that difference. This is a more serious sign as other bits must have been replaced for it to need the roller replaced, so you don’t know where it will end! So these pistols have been ‘worked on’ – maybe even a reconversion to flint – maybe the dealer knows this, maybe not – but now you know and can walk away……………………………. happy hunting!
23rd August – Bit of garden tidying today! The following is for UK viewers! ………….. Browsing the web for something or other I came across a circular on the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 – this is the regulation that for the first time defined ‘antique’ in terms of firearms. Most public comment in the gun business as about the removal of half a dozen cartidges from the list of Obselete Calibres, meaning that a number of interesting early revolvers jump from being antiques to be prohibited weapons under Section 5 of the Firearms Act. As a sweetener 41 cartridges are added to the Obselete Calibre list – mostly for long guns. The argument for this is that these revolvers were occasionally used in crime by obtaining ammunition. In truth that much was to be expected, if a bit of an over-reaction since possessing the ammunition is itself an offence. One small paragraph at the end did however cause me some alarm – stuck on the end of the regulations was the extension of Section 126(3) para 19 and 20 of the 1968 Firearms Act to include antique firearms – this is important to everyone who owns or handles any antique firearms for it means that under 19 it is now a criminal offence to have any antique firearm in a public place without a reasonable excuse despite it being perfectly legal to own, display, buy and sell ( but not to anyone with a crim. record!) them – another opportunity for the police to bother us if they are so minded. Under 20 its now also a criminal offence to trespass with an antique, although its not a criminal offence to trespass in itself.
I also had a look at the Firearms Security Handbook 2020 – its quite interesting in the way its framed, implying that the details of security are up to the owner, but then piling on the suggested regulations, while leaving a lot of room for individual firearms officers to interpret them as they see fit. It does however suggest that all licensed muzzle loading firearms may be excluded from any counting exercise used to determine the security level demanded… n.b any muzzle loading firearm made after Sept 1939 is NOT an antique and must be on either a Shotgun license or a Firearms certificate.
The transition period for getting rid of newly declared Sect 5 pistols etc under the Antique Firearms Regulations 2021 end on 21st Sept 2021, so not long.
They can be found here;-
https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/circular-0012021-antique-firearms/circular-0012021-antique-firearms-regulations-2021-and-the-policing-and-crime-act-2017-commencement-no11-and-transitional-provisions-regulations or just Google search for ;- circular 001/2021 Antique Firearms
Happy collecting – while we still can…………………………………
22nd August – The little Rooke pistol I made a new trigger for was occasionally refusing to drop the trigger and cock, so I stripped it (again!) and found that the trigger was maybe 10 thou too short on the lumps that the cock moved to drop the trigger, and was jamming. I had to weld tiny blobs onto the tips of the trigger arms which are only about 1 mm x 1 1/2 mm – I managed it by switching my modified TIG welder on and off with the foot pedal for maybe 1/2 a second or less and wearing 2 pairs of specs, and managed to fettle it all up so it works – no room for error – I’d love a better welder! Anyway that job seems to be done satisfactorily. I welded using piano wire as a filler rod and the resultant blobs were so hard I could only shape them on the diamond hone – a file wouldn’t touch them. Phew… Reading ‘The Handgun’ by Geoffrey Boothroyd this evening I discoverd, re my earlier discussion about cock positions that allowd a cap to sit on the nipple without falling off, that Irish percussion pistols, particularly those made by Rigby, often had 3 bents in the tumbler for that purpose. Always something new to learn………….
21st August I found a box that might do for the pair of pistols by Rooke if I don’t make one. It had in it the parts of a small nickel plated ‘pistol’ that turned out to be a cigar cutter, rather badly bashed about. I straigtened it out as best I could and put it back together – its missing a trigger, but otherwise seems to be OK and more or less works. It is a rather fun thing, so I think I’ll restore for a bit of light amusement, which will involve making a trigger. I assume from the chequering on the hammer and its shape that it was single action thumb cocked, so I’ll try to remove the hammer so I can check dimensions etc. Another little distraction – I used to do nickel plating when I was a kid, but I didn’t keep the chemicals and can’t remember what salt to use – time to check the web! I’ll file the trigger up out of brass – I have a suitable bar, just need to mill it down to the right thickness and maybe rough it out…… You put the mouth end of the cigar in the funnel shaped opening on top of the cylinder and the hammer cuts a V shaped notch in it. I’ve posted a new Post on pocket pistols – not finished but some photos – I’ll do more as I get round to doing the video….
20th August I finished the trigger detent spring and hardened and tempered it and put the mechanical parts of the pistol together and it worked perfectly – the full and half cock were even it the right places! I did a bit of patching on the butt where it joins the metal, and sorted the plate in the butt that carries the screw from the top strap – its a common weakness in these little pistols -they have a small steel plate let in under the top of the butt that is tapped to take the screw and it isn’t visible from outside and never gets oiled or protected so it rusts. As its usually let into a tight fitting recess in the wood, when it rusts it expands and forces the sides of the front of the butt apart, causing a split. One of the Rooke pistols had one, and this superimposed pistol does too, see photo. I took the metal plate out – its held by a small woodscrew that sheared off, and cleaned up the metal plate and put it back with a drop of instant glue – it only needs to be held in place until the top strap is screwed on. I clamped the split up as best I could and flooded the inside with more instant glue. I’m now looking at doing some work on the silver inlay. I have ordered some silver wire of 0.3 and 0.4 diameter and will experiment with making a draw plate to pull it through to flatten it. I also ordered some low viscosity instant glue to fix the inlay as I had run out. I realised that I have repaired and restored a number of these little pistols and that I ought to do a video on how to take them apart and repair them – they are tricky little pistols, quite difficult to work on because they mostly haven’t had any attention and the screws tend to rust in and, being small are tricky to undo and prone to shearing off if not treated carefully. It’s a knack to take them apart and put them together again – I think it used to take me ages – and still does if the screws won’t obligue. I only had one difficult screw on the superimposed pistol, one of the ones holding the top plate on and it eventually came out using the following treatment: The secret of removing obstinate screws is a) clean any rust around the screw head carefully with a modelling knife and clean out the slot b) soak them in penetrating oil for a couple of days – c) if you can get any movement in the parts that it holds together, move them. d) apply penetrating oil/acetone mix as it penetrates better. e) Only use a perfectly fitting screwdriver – if necessary grind/sharpen it so its blade is sharp. f) work the screw in both directions – if it unscrews a bit and is tight, just keep working it back and forth, going a little further each time and making sure you have plenty of penetrating oil around. g) don’t over force it, even a minute amount of movement if ‘worked’ should eventually get it out. Heat may help, but too much can damage the finish, – it works better on screws that go into wood. If those don’t help you are down to filing off the head/drilling it out and all the fuss that follows! …….. Oh, and another thing I realised about this pistol – the tap has a depression for a pan of its own, so if you prime it generously with the tap open to the bottom barrel and then close it, you trap a priming charge in the tap barrel, then when you have fired the front charge using the remains of the priming in the main pan, you open the tap and its ready primed for the breech end charge …. crafty.
These inserts are a pain – they rust and crack the butts!
19th August – I cleaned up the bits of the superimposed pistol and made a blank for the top jaw and filed it up, and made a top jaw screw. I case hardened these parts, then decided to temper the top jaw to add a bit of colour, but not having the AGA I used a torch, and it came out a brilliant peacock blue, which isn’t quite authentic! took it off with 0000 steel wool and used a bit of slow brown, plus steam and it looks good. I’ve now just got to make the little spring that retracts the folding trigger, and put it all together – I don’t even think I need to make any new screws, pins or nails for a change! I had a look at the silver inlay on the butt – the strip that was used was about .15 mm thick x 1.5 (?) mm and I can only get .3 mm thick x 3 mm – the right way to do it would be to get some wire of about .3 mm and run it through jewellers rolls, but I don’t have any – I could either make some, borrow some or try flattening wire in a press – to be decided! first I need to get the wire – but I do have a draw plate. In the photo of the top jaw you can see how I rough sketch the parts I need on a card so I can take it into the machine shop – I keep the cards in case I need to refer back. I have quite a pile! Much of the shaping is done by eye in the end……
18th August – I’ve now stripped the current pistol and had a good look at how it works – the barrel comes unscrewed in two places, the part next to the breech is removed using a ‘normal’ ring spanner with a notch to fit over a lump on the barrel, and the muzzle end is unscrewed using a star wrench into the bore. SO obvioulsy you remove both bits, put powder in the breech, drop the ball in and put back the breech end barrel, then load that and put on the remaining bit of barrel – simple as! I also realised that the touch hole going to the front charge (which must go through the removable breech section of barrel) is always open, the tap merely shuts off the touch hole to the rear charge. Still seems to be nothing to stop you firing both barrels together – would be interesting to see what happened if you did (NO, I’m not going to fire it!). Stripping the action revealed that indeed the head of the sear had broken off, and also the spring that acts to close the trigger had broken, leaving only a small part and the retaining screw. I spent most of the day on the stripping and machined a blank for the sear and new top jaw and filing the sear to fit – as I explained for the Rooke pistol, the trigger and sear have so many functions that need to be adjusted that it takes ages to fettle them to work. Anyway I think I have got the sear right so I hardened it – the sear edge is quite fragile as it has to fit tiny bents in the hammer. I was a bit worried about heating it to red heat to harden it as the edge could overheat, but once coated in Blackleys colour case hardening powder it was somewhat protected – I had better temper it or it will break, which is tricky as the AGA is not on.
For scale, hole is 2 m.m. diameter
17th August – I’ve now finished the Rooke pistols, and very nice they look too, although whether the impovement really justifies almost 6 days work is a mute point! Luckily I don’t have to pay myself…. I may get the urge to put them in a case – not because they would originally have been cased, but because it makes them easier to store, and I enjoy casemaking! Below is a before and after. I’m now starting on another job in the queue – even more unusual than the ‘cap guard’ (aka top hat – not a good name) pistols. It is a flintlock pocket pistol, somewhat larger and has a tap action. What makes it unusual is that there is only one (turnoff) barrel, so what does the tap do if it isn’t switching between two barrels – the answer is that its a superimposed load pistol – you load the barrel with one charge and ball, then put another charge and ball in front of it. The tap controls two touch hole paths, one to the first charge loaded, and the other to the front, superimposed charge. I haven’t stripped it down yet, but there doesn’t seem to be any mechanical means to stop the back charge being fired while the front charge is unfired, which would appear to be a bit of a defect! I do have a French superimposed pistol of large bore by le Page, but that is percussion and does have separate cocks for each load and the trigger is cunningly controlled to make sure the front charge fires first. I guess this smaller flint pocket pistol only fires a small charge, so perhaps it isn’t such an issue if you fire the back charge and push out its ball plus the front load? Still I guess it gives the firer a bit of a jolt, and can’t have much range – plus if the powder from the front charge ignites in the barrel or as it leaves it will be quite a firework! Anyway this little pistol has a broken action (I think the sear is broken – a very fiddly job to replace) and the top jaw is missing and the top jaw screw is broken off and rusted solid. Probably a couple of days work – maybe more if I try to replace the silver inlay in the butt. I’ll strip it down and probably electolytically derust any screws etc that are badly rusted. The rest will clean up with a fine Vertex wire wheel on the grinder. I have a problem with the wire wheel from time to time – they are very soft and so don’t hurt if you use your fingers to hold small parts, but are still effective at cleaning the parts of loose rust and reducing sharp burrs. My problem is that from time to time the wheel gets a grip on the part and takes it out of my fingers and it ping onto the floor and it takes ages to find. I’ve now made a catcher to sit under the wheel and hopefully stop the part bouncing onto the floor. It may still allow the parts to bounce out, in which case I’ll have to fill it with water! At least having sorted the Rookes I’m up to speed on the mechanics of these posket pistols – they are all very similar inside and out….. and all very fiddly! Its a bit of an art stripping them and assembling them, so I might do a video………………
16th August 2021 – you learn something new every day! At the helice we were looking at an Egg single conversion from flint and I noticed a screw head under the butt half way between the butt plate and the trigger guard that I hadn’t noticed before – I said it looked as if there had been a sling swivel there as for a rifle, but the friend viewing it with me said that it was more likely to be a spare side nail, and that a few guns had this. Indeed when I got it home and had a well fitting turnscrew to hand it was a spare side nail, and fortunately not rusted except for round the head. There you are – another piece of gun lore from the blog! On the subject of information my correpondent who is researching ‘cap guard’ pistols commented that I correctly hadn’t assumed that the Rooke pair were conversions from flint. I have to admit that I hadn’t really examined one before, and the flip-up cap guard gave me a moments pause, although it soon became clear that they had been made as percussions for two reasons; first, there was no trace of a pan ever having existed, and second that the whole pistol was ‘of a piece’ as antique experts might say. He has identified 220 of these little ‘cap guard’ pistols by various makers – all were originally made as percussion. My restoration continued… Ithe first pistol has enough of a nipple to fit a cap on and fire, but the second had a mashed up nipple, so I decided it deserved a new one. By design there seems to be nothing to get a wrench on, or any othere way of turning the nipple, and a thread extractor did nothing so I drilled it out, trying not to cut into the brass. The resultant hole looked OK for a 1/4 inch tap and I was going to use the standard 1/4 BSF x26 t.p.i tap, but thought in the brass a finer thread would be better, so I opted for 1/4 BSEF x 32 t.p.i. which worked well and seemed to be the same as the original thread (?) (actually, to be honest, I couldn’t find a 1/4 BSF plug tap but did have a BSEF – Extra Fine !). So a new nipple was made and fitted. I have now made the pivots and put the mechanical bits together, and finished repairing the butt. Now just got to sort out the screws for the butt cap and to fix the body to the butt, and its done… Another friend at the Helice was telling me he had double gun by Forsyth dated to 1822 (he was sure about that date) that had been made for percussion caps, not pellet lock conversion. I was sceptical, as the earliest date for caps is generally taken to be 1823 and I didn’t expect Forsyth to be the first to use them. Indeed D.H.L.Back’s book on Forsythe puts the earliest caplock made by Forsyth as about No 3327 in 1826. Which make my friendd’s gun very important, or the date or details wrong. Sometimes a really good conversion done by the original maker not too long after manufacture will effectively be a rebuild with a new beech plug and a new lock and will be very hard to distinguish – and may well have kept the original number. There is seldom any absolute certainty in such cases – one of the attractions of the hobby is the detective work that collecting involves.
15th August Helice yesterday at the Rugby ground sandwiched between the M1 and a windfarm. I was shooting a gun I hadn’t really ever shot in ernest but I did hit 4 out of 20 – in case you think that is bad, half a dozen of the 25 odd shooters did worse – I was reasonably satisfied! Tom hadn’t handled a gun since 2018, and hadn’t shot that gun for 8 years and had only shot Helice once before but managed to hit 8 including a some of the very difficult ground hugging ones – he’s pretty quick, age on his side! Anyway only half a dozen or so shot better than he did, so he was rightly pretty happy. Anyway a good day was had by all. I finished the escutcheon of the first little pistol – left me wondering what, if anything, I should engrave on it ? I started to repair the butt of the other pistol – a bit of the wood had broken off rather messily. I was going to try gluing it back on – which I know from past experience only works (sometimes) if the break is recent, new and clean, which this wasn’t – but I was saved the dilemma as I couldn’t find the piece anyway. I found a bit of dark walnut from my scrap drawer and cut and glued it on with superglue and shaved and filed it to an approximate fit – it’s much better job and the wood matches pretty exactly. I just have to finish the final shaping and recut the chequering onto the new piece, then make the screws and pivots for that pistol and put it together. I thought someone might like to see what’s on my workbench when I’m working on the guns so I’ve included a photo. There are a selection of tools including half a dozen screwdrivers (mostly watchmakers for such small pistols) and a couple of dozen files plus chisels and modelling knives etc. Drills and machines and gas torches are elsewhere, I just use this bench for ‘fettling’ by hand – taps and dies are in the tray to go to the machine workshop. Plastic trays from packaging get a second lease of life in the workshop!
Last job on the first pistol;- I need to fill the crack – I can’t close it without removing metal inserts inside.
I shudder to think how much I spent on the finer files – they can be up to £35 each.
13th August Visit to the dentist to have a tooth extracted – not too bad – I’m shooting the Helice at the Rugby Clay ground tomorrow with Tom, so I hope it has settled down by then! I started to make the silver escutcheon for the completed Rooke pistol – I decided that it didn’t merit all the fuss of casting as I had a piece of silver sheet and am happy to epoxy glue it in place, so I made a former and am peining it into shape. As I have only got a piece of silver just big enough its difficult to shape it, so I will probably have to make the female part of the former to get it curved enough. I made the replacement screws and filed the heads to profile – its quite tricky as you can’t file them in situu without damaging the brass body of the pistol, and also because the slots have to end up fore and aft. I then case hardened them and heated them to colour them a bit. So the first one is all together and working – just waiting for the escutcheon. I’m taking some of my spare pecussion doubles with me tomorrow on the offchance someone is in the market – they have all been restored and Ive tried them all – I’ll put them on the page on this site when I get a mo.
11th August Still working on the little pistols. I coloured up the top hat of No 1 and finished the hammer pivot and the top hat pivot. I tried to make a No 2 UNF screw ( 2.2 mm OD) to hold the spring on the top hat, but the metal I was using just would not let me cut such a fine thread – I ended up finding an old steel 10 BA pan head screw and using that. When I came to make the pivot for the top hat I found a short length of bar that had been a part of something or other that turned and threaded much better – I will keep it safe for small threads! anyway that pistol is now mechanically complete and functional – it just needs the butt restored. The screw holding the but cap was securely rusted in place, and the screw on the under tang had been beheaded but was still firmly embedded. I filed and drilled the butt cap screw to get the head off, then made a small coring drill 5.5 mm O.D. with a 4 mm hole in the middle and filed some teeth in the end and cored out the remains of the screws so that I can plug the holes for new screws – I had to take the butt cap off as it had loads of the white powder (brass polish??) under the edge so it didn’t fit flush. Now got to sort out the chequering (very fine) and make some new screws – it really doesn’t work to use ordinary woodscrews, even old Nettlefolds slot headed screws, on guns, they never look right, for a start the slots are always too wide. I usually turn up a short untapered screw and cut a UNC or Whitworth thread on it and put a point on the end, which is how most gun screws were made anyway. I am still prevaricating about the extent of any recutting of engraving to do. I will touch im amy damaged engraving, and very gently go over the light lines that have disappeared – i.e. some of the serifs, so that the lettering can still be read. Anything more will stand out unless I cut it deep and then polish it down, which will likely loose some of the original stuff – you then get of a cycle of more recutting, polishing, more recutting etc… better not to start!
Arrows point to new bits- mostly pivots and screws plus the ‘cap guard’ upstand.
9th August – Another day fixing up the little pistols, with a break for an eye test ( result – I need my cateracts done sometime – optician can’t quite understand why I can see as well as I can! ). So back to the W & S Rooke pistols…… If I add up all the time I will have spent restoring them it will, in the end, come to at least five days, so its hardly a bargain. Of course, profit is not my motive, but a better return would be good! The main time consuming part has been a replacement trigger – in these little folding trigger pistols it has a lot of interacting surfaces that have to do their job, The trigger spindle also carries the sear that engages the bent in the hammer. it has a stop against the trigger to lift the sear out of the bents when the trigger is pulled. The hammer has a projection that has to hit the back of the trigger when the pistol is cocked with the trigger retracted to open it, but the trigger must clear the hammer once it is extended. The stud on the side of the trigger head engages with a small spring that acts over-centre to retract the trigger into its recess and to spring it open – All quite complex on account of the whole firing mechanism only having 3 parts and 3 springs, and of course all the bits have to be quite accurately fitted. Although the pistols are clearly a pair and match I was surprised to discover that there was a 2mm difference in the length of the triggers so it isn’t safe just to copy parts from one to the other. Anyway the replacement trigger is now made and in so far as I can test it, works. I’ve also made new hammer pivots. Both pistols had the hammer pivots sheared inside on the left side of the hammer (Note that the hammer pivots and the knockout pins like the trigger pivot all go in from the left side as is usual on guns) – this meant that I had no means of extracting the bit through the hammer , and no way to strip it down further because almost the first step is to remove the hammer. So the pivot had to be drilled out very accurately to avoid damaging the hole in the hammer or the right side of the body….. All very time consuming as I’m not familiar enough with the works of these pistols to sort things without a bit of messing about! One little triumph today ;- Dick and I both use very fine wire brushes on our grinders to clean up light rust and polish up steel parts without removing the patina – they are so soft that you can hold parts in your fingers without any problems. When I moved my workshop back in January I couldn’t find the wheel, and worse, couldn’t find anything similar in the UK. As I wanted to use one for this job I had another hunt on the web and found a company – I think called The Polishing Co or something similar, that sold exactly similar wheels – they go by the name of Vertex wheels and have wooden hubs and wires of 0.1 or 0.08 mm diameter ( 4 or 3 thou) and cost around £25 and fit on taper screws – I got two and am now a happy bunny! I feel the need to make another video soon – I was going to do one on restoring the little pistols, which would be interesting but doesn’t lend itself to short films as its mostly tinkering. I have a couple of unusual percussion shotguns with totally enclosed mechanisms – one by J R Cooper that I believe is the only example known, and one a Jones Patent – they would make a good youtube video. Also the Satorius might make a video… We shall see. I was thinking about all the toools and machines I use, and wondering if I should do a post of suggestions for someone setting up to do the odd restoration – one constraint is that the most common job in any restoration is making screws, which really involves at least a small metalwork lathe of reasonable quality. I am lucky in that I did quite a lot of prototype building as part of my instrument development company before I took to the restoration racket, and it funded all of my metal and wood working machine tools – there is no way restoration as a hobby would justify a £5000 lathe ( a fairly big Axminster Chinese lathe with digital readouts, not the smoothest but adequate!).
The arrow points to the sear that pivots independently on the trigger pivot (the long temporary rod) Each of the surfaces on the trigger and sear has a precise function!
8th August – One of the nicest parts of running this website (when I have time!) are the contacts I make with other collectors and antique gun owners around the world. Many contacts are requests for information or owners wanting restoration work or advice, but a number are from collectors adding information on guns I have featured, often from people who have specialised in that particular class of antique and know much more about them than I do, which is always welcome. I had a couple of those recently, one relating to my Satorius Carbine from a US collector who is making an inventory of all the Satorius patent guns he can find. He has amassed quite a list – most are sporting guns not putative military weapons like mine. The odd thing is that the serial numbers of the military types are spread over the complete distribution of numbers, implying that they were not produced as a batch for a single customer as I had assumed. I’ll add the additional information to the Satorius post in due course when I have his consent. Another email concerned the pair of percussion pistols I am currently working on. He points out that the makers are W & S Rooke, not H & S as I misread it. Blackmore says they were active in Birmingham from 1820 to 1837 and marked their guns London, but my old book by Merwyn Casey gives ” W & S Rooke [1770 to 1820] Under Royal Government contract made flintlock holster pistols with swivel ramrods, also cased flintlock coach pistols. Shop in London” Obviously the little percussion pistols were made well after 1820 so I incline to believe Blackmore, but Casey is very specific, and Google images has a pair of fine flintlock duelling pistols (probably early 1800s) and a blunderbuss (attributed to the late 1770s) – looks like both could be more or less right although its doubtful if the same people ran the business for 67 years. De Witt Bailley and Nye don’t mention him among Birmingham gunmakers but Nigel Brown says “est 1810 Gun & Rifle makers Whitall St B’ham 1820 -21, Bath St 1822 – 1836, Samuel only 1837 – 392” You pays your money and you takes your choice as the saying goes……. My correspondent points out that the flipping bit that surrounds the nipple is meant to be down when the pistol is fired to stop shards of cap escaping, and it therefore doesn’t allow the pistol to be carried capped with the hammer resting on the ‘flipper. He thinks that ‘cap guard’ is a better name for the hinged part, rather than the common ‘top hat’ and I agree – it is a much better description. Anyway if he consents I’ll put all his information on the blog. It is surprising that there are not more common ways of making a pistol safe to carry with a cap in place given the fiddle involved in capping it – if the half cock position is close enough to the nipple to stop the cap falling off it would be too close to allow the cap to be put on, and anyway it would still be unsafe as half cock can fail if the hammer is hit. The only safe system I have come across is that on the Hanovarian conversions of the New Land Pistols taken back after the Napoleonic wars when the Austrian troops returned. They use a bolt through the breech that intercepts the hammer just above the nipple – a very substantial stop (see the Post on this pistol on this website. I did a bit more work on the little pistols – I’ve started to freshen up the wood and get rid of the remnants of brass polish that are all over the place, and am planning to make new escutcheons in silver – I’ll probably cast them, either in lost wax, which is a long and tedious job as it atakes all day to make the investment, or maybe in cuttlefish bone and clean them up afterwards – it will probably be a lot quicker, I just need a brass pattern ! I’ve started to make a new trigger for the second pistol – quite tricky! I’ve got a chunk of steel in the milling machine so I can make a blank…
7 August – back at last! Its been a busy month and I am sorry that the blog got left at the bottom of the queue! The Pop-up Workshop went very well and the kids enjoyed it and we made a great boat – we built the boat – making most of the parts in the tent with my small CNC machine, and used the radio control systems I had programmed up to control it, Dave had programmed up a voice syntesizer so that the childern could write messages for broadcasting from the boat, and it happily sailed around my swimming pool making a string of announcements and siren noises. Great fun and fortunately it worked first (and only) time they had to try it. I (mis) spent a week afterwards trying to get the Microbits to work with a GPS module, but couldn’t get it to work well as there is not enough memory . It was then time for our annual sailing holiday in Scotland, so off we all went to Oban to take over Pollyanna, a Dufor 425, for 10 days or so. The weather had been quite settled and we had hopes of making it to St Kilda as the trip 40 miles out into the Atlantic needs settled weather, but no sooner had we got out of the marina than things changed and it wasn’t clear what the weather was going to do. In fact we had mostly very light winds and quite a bit of sun , which meant that we didn’t get much exciting sailing, but had several lazy, sunny sail/drift days. We didn’t get as far North as usual, but went over to Eriskay and up South and North Uist as far as Loch Maddy, then across to the West coast of Skye and back via the Small Isles and the West coast of Mull. All in all a good time was had! Now I’m back and determined to get catch up on the gun restoration! I had an email for John O’Sullivan (author of the Wogdon book) saying nice things about my reconstructed Wogdon, and asking for some hi res photos, which I will send. Anyway the first job on the list is to restore the pair of brass pistols (see diary for 2nd June). I had got as far as to remove the butt of one and discover that the pivot screw for the flipping nipple guard was broken somewhere along its length and wouldn’t come out. So after fiddling for half an hour to be certain I couldn’t get it out, I set the pistol in the machine vice of my milling machine using hardboard packing and gripping it tightly and very carefully lined up a small centre drill – I’d filed what was left of the screwhead flat so I could drill it more easily. Using the mill is much better than using a drill press as the traverses let you line it up exactly. Just don’t try starting with a normal drill or it will surely wander – use a small centre drill to start. Anyway I then drilled a 2mm hole through the shaft about 3/4 of the way through and then opened it up to 2.4 mm which allowed me to break the flipper out. I decided that I wasn’t going to be able to put a drill right through as I didn’t think I could line it up well enough, so I have left a bit of the old screw in the far end, and I’ll screw a shorter screw into the head end = a bit of a fudge, but it should be OK. The flipping nipple guard on that pistol had lost the mock ‘steel’ bit that acts as a lever for opening the flip, so next job was to weld a new bit to be filed into the right shape. That went reasonably well, except that the battery on my welding mask was dead. I changed it for a new one but it seemed far too dark and the mask has no adjustment – I shaped the bit but I can’t finish that part of the job as I need some smaller taps and dies, so I ordered some UNF 2 and UNF 3 taps and dies from Tracy Tools – I guess I had not made such small screws before – I don’t even have metric taps and dies that small although I think somewhere I have a 10 B.A. tap….. I’ve stripped and cleaned that pistol and checked that things should work when it all goes together – I still have the stock to sort out. The other pistol of the pair has a broken folding trigger with most of it missing so I’m going to have to make a new one. That will be very fiddly as there is quite a lot of critical shaping – the top of the trigger has a slot into which pivots the sear, and a pin sticking out of the side that the trigger retaing spring bears on. It also has an edge that presses on the sear to lift it from the cock to fire the pistol……………….. Not particularly easy to fabricate! Here are some photos of last month;-
Hulls made from blue foam painted with Farrow and Ball emulsion in a tasteful shade, cabin cut from 1/16 ply on the cnc machine.
Here is my ‘patent’ motor mount for easy alignment – just pushed onto the 8mm diameter prop shaft tube, with a tension spring for a flexible coupling.
On a mooring in Loch Scressort, Rum. Mostly we anchored – this was not a particularly comfortable place to be – a bit rolly at times
despite the fact that there was almost no wind – I should have anchored nearer the shore out of the fetch.
Bits ready to clean etc. The long rod in the centre is the drilled out pivot.
4th July – another month gone by and the weather pretty unsummery – our plastic bag swimming pool is not getting used as its pretty cold in there! I have been working flat out getting my school project ready – its now called ‘The Fantastic Pop-up Workshop’ and today Marin and Claire came down and kindly brought me their 3m x 4m magic tent that they use for the MLAGB shoots at country fairs etc. Looks fantastic and just right – its the first time they have put the sides on, its usually just a shelter. I was going to have two tents but when I saw how big that was I decided we didn’t need the second on, My fellow engineer Dave and I have been working away at getting the project sorted – I think I have now written all the G-Code for cutting out the hull interiors and the decks, hatches and cabin sides and windows, and built and programmed the control systems for motors and rudder. I made a neat motor mount that clamps on the propeller tube and keeps it all lined up, and my own take on a flexible coupling using a section of compression spring filled with set silicone compound – hope it works, its very flexible! Dave has written the draft code for the audio link – a second controller will send phrases to a speaker on the boat, and operate a blue flashing light and siren. In all a fairly major task given my state of knowledge when I began. Anyway tomorrow is the start of the Pop Up Workshop, and the back of my Landcruiser is filled with boxes of materials and tools, my CNC milling machine, computers etc. so we will see how the kids enjoy it. I was talking to Martin about upcoming shoots – I really enjoy the Helice shoot in Rugby and Tom is keen to come. My only problem is that I sort of decided only to shoot flintlock from now onwards (apart from the odd fun breech loader shoot – i.e. at clays with a bolt action .410 with 2 1/2 inch cartridges. So I’m undecided whether to do the Helice with a flintlock or give up on my intentions and revert to percussion – very few people have done the helice with a flintlock – it requires quick shooting, but I’m usually not that good that it will make much difference! Besides my favourite percussion gun (the H Nock) is now converted to flint. Thinking back over my comments on shooting clays and live quarry in the last post, I realised that you can break clays at much greater range than you can kill live quarry because 1 pellet can chip a clay and count as a kill, whereas one pellet is unlikely to drop a pheasant, so you need to hit with, probably 4 or more pellits to stand a chance of a live quarry drop. Also the pellet energy (mass x velocity) and momentum (mass x velocity squared) are much less with a blackpowder gun that a with modern cartridges and you need more energy to penetrate the body of a pheasant than to break a normal clay.
24th June – A long time without posting here – I apologise! I have been getting ready for a week long project at ‘my’ primary school where I have volunteered to run a project for a group of year 6 ( age 10) children who are not going on a course at the British Racing School involving ponies and riding, so have to be given an equivalent value activity at school! There are only 4 children involved so it can be quite intensive, and my STEM club partner Dave will be helping so we can be ambitious. My plan is to build a working model boat with radio control – the boat will largely be constructed on site by the children using parts that they will make on my small CNC milling machine out of XPS foam or 1.6mm ply (I have written the cutting programs in advance). The radio control will be using BBC microbit computers that are programmed in Python to control the boat from a hand held microbit transmitter. The children will help wire it all together and be involved in loading the program and putting together the final stages of the software from modules I have written, plus they will program a second radio system to operate lights and sound on the boat, and possibly get feedback from the boat. So I’ve been writing the programs for cutting out the hulls and deck and cabin etc in ‘G’ Code, as well as learning to program in Python and writing all the control modules. Since its about 15 years since I last wrote any computer code ( in ‘C’) it has been a steep learning curve! Anyway I’ve made good progress, and I’ve arranged to borrow a couple of big tents to house it all in from Martin Crix, plus some tables so it is coming together – so I haven’t been wasting my time – at least in my view! I did go shooting with Bev and Pete today at CGC – I wanted to prove the Nock flint conversion, and in particular the re-welded frizzen that failed on my initial tests. The three of us had a very enjoyable morning, and I managed to fire off 50 shots with only 4 or so misfires due to the flint being so worn it was not sparking at all and none that were ‘a flash in the pan’. You can usually get away a couple of times re-working the edge of the flint in situ by tapping with a 1/2 inch brass rod, but eventually the edge of the flint gets too steep an angle on it and cannot be pursuaded to slice slivers of white hot metal from the frizzen. I did hit a few clays including a couple that evaded Bev and Pete on their first attempts, Bev brought a range finder with him and we checked the ranges of some of the fixed points around the place to get an idea of the ranges to the clays. Our conclusion was that many (most?) of them were in excess of 40 yards, some we thought up to 60 or so yards. Given that we were all shooting flintlock guns of over 200 years old it is amazing that the others managed to break most of the clays! I have said before that I think the shooting grounds have upped the difficulty of clays since I started some 8 to 10 years ago – I’m sure there were lots of clays that more or less landed in your lap! I’m not sure why that would be, maybe our shooting grounds are hosting more and better competitions and so need to compete at a higher level? We agreed, I think, that we would not attempt to shoot game at some of the ranges that the clays were persented at – it being generally held to be unsporting to shoot at live quarry at much more than 40 yards with a cylinder bored barrel. Today certainly made me much more confident shooting my flintlock – although its easy with a couple of experts in attendance! Oh, and my ebay selling of bits and pieces from the loft is going well – old (vintage!) computers go well but I have also got rid of a few bits and pieces left over from my electronics business – so far I’ve made enough to pay for a basic percussion gun, not that I need another! And anyway I’m spending the money, or some of it, on the school project…….. As an afterthought its sad to report that visits to this blog both direct and via search engines almost halve if I don’t post for this long – serves me right!
4th June More views on this blog than for a while – up from about 150 to 200 per day – must be because I’ve started a restoration project! I did some more on the Rooke pistol I am working on – its quite a challenge! The cock pivot that I mentioned had broken leaves behind half its length so you can’t remove the cock, and the bit left in is of course threaded into the brass – can’t be knocked out with a pin punch, don’t know what I was thinking yesterday! I shifted my attention to the flipping top hat – the screw for the pivot turned about 30 degrees easily but is also broken somewhere along its length and the head section will not come out despite it turning its 30 degrees freely back and forth- not sure why at the moment. So not a very productive day! I can’t find my can of acetone – I’m now a firm believer in parallel universes – there must be one in which all the items from my workshop that I can’t find since using it as a temporary kitchen have migrated – some are key things like my very fine wire brush that can’t be bought anywhere on the internet in the UK! I had to use model aircraft engine fuel as a penetrating oil but its not really up to much… I shall need to have a strategy for sorting out the broken / stuck screws – the key issue is not to damage the brass body of the pistol, the screws themselves are (fairly!) easily replaced – even if they come out, the heads are often messed up. If the flip top hat didn’t need welding I’d not bother to take it apart, but clean it in situ, but I will need to remove it from the pistol and take off the spring before it can be welded so as not to damage things. I’m reluctant to use heat here because I don’t want to have to retemper the spring I’ll post some pics tomorrow…… Harking back a year to my Covid, I had a CT scan for other issues, but the radiologist reported that I had lung damage consistent with Covid-19 – my consultant said maybe I was lucky to have survived – I’m pretty glad I managed to sort out oxygen and so avoid hospital in the very early days of the pandemic – I think there is a story to be told there, but I guess it has been/will be buried.
3rd June – I couldn’t resist starting on one of the Rooke pistols below. The finish on much of the steel is the original bluing, worn in places and with patches of rust, but still quite distinct from the finish you get from electrolytic derusting, which basically removes all oxides, including those responsible for the bluing. So that means basically the rust has to be removed by hand in a way that only affects the rust patches. My technique is to scrape the rust patches gently with the back edge of fine modelling knife held at shallow angle to the surface. To make sure that I don’t put any scratches on the surrounding blued finish I hone the back edge of the blade on a static ceramic wheel with 0.5 micron diamond paste, and gently round off the corners slightly to reduce the risk of scratching. It is a surprisingly effective if laborious technique, it works because the bluing is basically harder than the rust. It is a good idea to apply WD 40 or AC 90 as a lubricant. I am working on one pistol first, I’ll do the second later, first step was to remove the wooden butt – as usual it is held by two screws, one at the top through the back strap, and one below through the tail of the bottom tang. First step is to clean out the slots with the modelling knife – which gave me a warning – the slots are very deep and narrow, and go down as far as the shank of the screw. The top screw came out easily enough with an accurately fitting screwdriver (it is tapped into a steel plate in the butt) but the bottom screw wouldn’t shift ( its a wood screw) even with a bit of low viscosity fluid with a drop of oil ( I had cellulose thinners to hand). Before I could put any real force on it, the two sides of the head had started to open out, and one broke off leaving half a head. Its not possible to get hold of the remaining half, so I ground it down a bit with the Dremel (equivalent) with a dental burr until I could get the remains of the head through the hole. It came out but I’ll have to unscrew the bit of screw left in the butt before I can refix it. Having got the wood out of the way I gave the metalwork a good spray with WD40 and left it for a few hours – much to my amazement the pistol cocked and fired without any more work – the only fault is that the hidden trigger doesn’t come out unaided when the gun is cocked – it’s a bit stiff and needs a hand. I tried to remove the cock pivot but although half of it came out easily, half of it is stuck in the brass body on the right side of the pistol – it will probably come out with a light tap from a pin punch. I’ll finish stripping the lock and cleaning up the parts with my modelling knife, or possibly in the electrolytic tank if they are bad, On this pistol the frizzen like protrusion on the ‘flip top hat’ that gives you something to use to open it with is broken, so I’ll have to make a replacement part and weld it on, or have a more expert welder do it, which would be a better idea as it is very fiddly. The engraving is pretty worn so I have the usual dilemma – should I recut it or leave it? My instinct is always to do the minimum in the way of intervention, so for the moment I’ll leave it. The wood will take a fair bit of work to patch the missing corners, and I’ll probably freshen up the chequering a bit (not too much) as I’ll have to blend in the repairs anyway. All in all my impression is that the pistols are really in good shape under a bit of rust and a build-up of brass polish, and won’t take too long to get back into good order
2nd June – Oh dear, quite a gap in the diary! I have been trying to get my head round programming the BBC microbit in Python and building servo and motor drive circuits, as well as taking advantage of the hot weather to attack the fallen walnut tree with a 20 inch chain saw. Hopefully that will change over the next few weeks as I had a visit from a friend and fellow collector. I’d fixed a little double barreled pistol for him and he had found and bought a little pair of pistols that need A LOT of work – he bought them to pass on to me, so I could put the work on this blog, and kindly sold them to me for what he paid for them. They were a decent and pretty pair of brass percussion muff or small ‘turn off’ pocket pistols signed H & S Rooke and engraved ‘London’ on the other side. H & S Rooke were Birmingham gunmakers in business from 1810 to 1836 who were known to mark their pistols ‘London’ to increase their appeal (and value). They have the flipping ‘top hat’ covers that hinge down to allow the pistols to be carried safely with caps in place and be ready for firing by cocking them and flipping the cover. It is a similar mechanism to the frizzens of little flintlocks and I suppose might lead one to believe they were conversions of flintlock pistols – I don’t believe these are, but as everything is seized solid with rust and gunk I can’t be certain. Obviously they have been seriously neglected rather than heavily used, as where the rust hasn’t got at the barrels you can see a nicely blued surface. The escutcheons on the butts have been picked out, so presumably they were gold. It will be interesting to see how to go about the restoration – at the moment I haven’t really formed any plans – were they all steel I would remove the wood and chuck the whole lot in the electrolytic derusting tank so I could strip it down but I’m not sure how the brass would react to the process – maybe have to experiment first. They are also pretty bunged up with the residue of brass polish, including the chequering and there is some damage to the wood too….Obviously first job is the separate the wood from the metal! My friend also bought an unusual pocket pistol, a bit larger – it looks like a typical bog standard flintlock pocket pistol with a turn-off barrel, until you notice the tap on the side and look in the pan. Its a superimposed load pistol, where you unscrew the barrel and load the breech end twice. The tap diverts the flame to the charge nearest the muzzle first, then you operate the tap to feed the flame to the rear charge, The rotating part beneath the pan allows a priming charge to be rotated with the tap and stored while the first charge is fired with the priming in the ‘open’ pan (closed by the frizzen). These pistols normally used tiny charges, which is just as well because there doesn’t appear to be any interlock to prevent the back charge being fired first. ( for another example of a superimposed load pistol see the post on this blog) .The pistol is pretty much OK, but needs a top jaw and top jaw screw. If I feel really daring, there is a bit of the silver inlay missing on the butt (I’ll post photos and a better description of this pistol later). I think I will make a few videos of the restoration of the little brass pistols on YouTube – I get quite a few views and subscribers – people who wouldn’t find cablesfarm.co.uk, and there are very few videos of work on real muzzle loading antiques – besides, I quite enjoy making them…..
The top pistol is missing the tab on the ‘flipping’ cover that look like a minature frizzen and is needed to flip it.
I think one cock may have a crack – mostly hidden. Crack and some missing wood on the butt of the upper pistol.
one trigger is broken off and missing
22nd May – I’m feeling bad about not actually doing any ‘gun stuff’, just reading on the sofa in the evening! I’ve been reading a US book on how to engrave historic guns by John Schipper. John is an excellent fellow and has made and engraved many splended guns, both American, mostly long rifles as most American gunmaking does, but some English style sporting flintlocks. Whenever I pick up his book I puzzle at how, although the engraving is technically fine, I could never in a thousand years mistake it for English antique gun engraving. He does almost all his engraving with a hammer driven graver, mostly square gravers, but the key is his aim to keep all lines even and of the same width throughout, with a few tapered lead-ins and outs. He does occasionally refer to ‘bright cut’ engraving, and says it is difficult and he only uses it on script letters – bright cut is where the tool is rolled to give a modulated width and, properly, when applied to jewellery it is intended to create surfaces that reflect light at different angles ( and requires highly polished gravers). The problem for his engraving is that all English antique gun engraving is actually a form of bright-cut engraving ( but without the reflections as the metal surface dull in time) – the graver is more or less only kept upright for straight lines, all curves are basically bright-cut. The result is that all the engraving in his book lacks movement. I think that tends to be a problem with (?all) hammered graver work. Interestingly I think that work done with the air gravers, Lindsay and GRS etc. tends to be too fluid as its so easy to cut sweeping bright cut curves, so although it looks beautiful, it isn’t convincing English antique gun engraving…….. If you want to see my engraving, I think some of the YouTubes I did have a running commentary that says when I cant ( roll ) the tool. With hand push engraving its actually quite difficult to cut curves, particularly tight curves’ with the graver upright – rather like riding a bicycle round a corner without leaning into the corner, except the other way, the graver rolls outwards. I’m not really a professional engraver, and I’m not really enough of an artist to be one, and my engraving is rather light compared to the engraving you see on old guns, mostly I think because I’m using tougher steel – one reason why its a pleasure to do barrels as its like cutting butter compared to my usual test pieces!
19th May – I’ve been on a mission to repair the obselete stuff in the attic, so I can sell it as something other than the junk it currently is! The Web is an incredible resource – I don’t think anyone born in this century can have any idea about how difficult it was to find out obscure details and bits of things before. Want to fix the power supply of a BBC micro? a helpful site will sell you the 3 capacitors you need plus a full colour guide to fitting them. Trying to find the output transistors for an old (1980s) Radford amplifier? again a handy website will tell you what substitutes you can still buy and give you the circuit diagrams, and ebay will sell them to you for a tenner. Want to know how to connect an obscure 1980s computer to a modern screen ? – there is a site that specialises in all the bits you could need. Need a drive belt for a 35 year old turntable? Takes 3 minutes to find a supplier on the web, and for £7, which seems reasonable – 10 minutes to fit it and you have a turntable as good as new and better than many on the market….. I’ve been carrying on my searches for information and blogs on old guns etc – trying to see what the competition is like out there ( there isn’t much!). Nice article on Ammoguide stating that duelling pistols were sometimes made in handed ‘pairs’ – one left handed and one right handed and illustrating this with a photo of a perfectly normal cased pair – I suppose if you are not used to looking at pairs of pistols in cases you might make that mistake! Not sure how you would use a handed pair of duelling pistols – first shot with the right hand and second with the left, only duel with left handed opponents? The mind boggles! There is also a lot of rubbish about Wogdon and his bent barrels which makes claims that defy Newtons laws first and third laws of motion – time to make a video on the subject – I can feel it coming on………….
16th May – Put some of my bits and pieces on ebay this morning, but I’m disapointed that I’ve only had one offer so far for my Sony Professional Walkman – still if I sell both of the ones I have at the offer price I’d be able to afford a cheap gun! Hunting around in the attic I found the Spitfire gun camera I’d mislaid some time ago, unfortunately just after I’d sold it on ebay! Time to list it again… I also discovered that there is a market for all the piles of electronic components that litter the attic.I have been reading a few books and posts on duelling pistols, and I read some pretty inaccurate stuff! One source, a US blog said that duelling pistols rarely had sights and that set triggers were a secret advantage and not common. Another in a book by Wilkinson, who wrote good books on various gun related subjects like the post office and the early police stated that some duelling pistols had a piece inside the lock called the detent which stopped the gun firing when it was pointing in the air, which is clearly a muddling of the detent, which is a small lever on the tumbler to stop the sear entering the half cock notch in the tumbler as it passes it on firing – while this isn’t a problem without set triggers because the shooter naturally holds the trigger, and thus the sear, for long enough for it to pass the half cock notch, with a set trigger, as fitted to most quality duelling pistols and rifles by the end of the 18th century, the sear is only tapped momentarily by the inertia of the blade of the set trigger, and may be free to fall into the half cock notch on passing. The tap is because the blade of the set trigger needs to fall back from the firing position to allow the lock to be put into half cock while it is still unset, and also because the set trigger blade has to function as a normal trigger blade when unset, so the pistol/gun can be used normally without setting the trigger. Since a sporting gun ( shotgun) is fired in a totally different action, set triggers were never used on them. Wilkinson was presumably confusing the detent with Joseph Manton’s patent gravitational safety catch that was on the outside of the lock just in front of the cock and swung back to block the cock when the gun was vertical. I presume to stop the gun firing while it was being loaded, which would always be done in that position, rather than to render overhead birds safe! It didn’t catch on, presumably because the threat it purported to prevent wasn’t that likely, or that overhead shots were wanted, or that the pivot got gummed up by residues and it didn’t function well – grip safety catches were a more sensible solution although they were not that common. Anyway, I think I had better do a video on duelling pistols some time, maybe for the Wogdon video No 7 which somehow got missed – can’t afford to miss one out of the sequence. I do get some nice comments for the videos – there isn’t much on restoring old firearms on YouTube except for some enthusiastic ones from the US which mostly deal with breech loaders. Come to that, there is very little on the web either – I think this blog/website must be by far the most comprehensive/largest in the world – quite a thought! (let me know if you know of a better/bigger one). Penny had her titanium hip fitted on Friday morning and they are threatening to send her home tomorrow – You would think it would take somewhat longer! They have her walking already, and tomorrow the physio will ‘do’ stairs with her! Driving is in six weeks… I’m going to be busy being a nursemaid for a while so don’t expect too many posts………..
14th May – Slightly distracted for the last couple of days as Penny has gone into hospital to have a hip transplant, or more accurately a replacement of titanium done by robot. Anyway having access to my office again meant I could get a couple more Wogdon videos finished and uploaded – Wogdon Project 8 & 9 ( see VIDEOS page- not sure why there isn’t a No 7 – a bit of an oversight). Casting round for any small jobs on guns that needed doing I found that my nice Barbar holster pistol was missing one of its side nails – not sure if it ever had one or I lost it. Anyway checking the existing one showed that it had 22 tpi and about 4 mm diameter. The only 22 tpt standard thread in small diameters is 3/16 Whitworth (4.76 mm dia.), a good 0.7 mm bigger diameter. I figured that if I squeezed the die in the dieholder til I closed up the gap, assuming it didn’t break, I could get somewhere near. Since the ‘nail’ is more than 35 mm long it was necessary to turn down sections of it at a time so that there was never more than 10mm of small diameter being actively turned. I found that the thread could be pursuaded to fit by running round the first couple of threads with a triangular needle file a couple of times. The first one I made too short, so I made a longer one, which I then stupidly filed down until it too was too short – obviously not used to files that cut – actually I think it was that I’m used to working EN8 steel and this was freecutting EN1 and much softer. Third time lucky, so heated it up to red heat, popped it in Blackleys colour case hardening powder and reheated it then dunked it in water, cleaned it and popped it on the hotplate of the AGA under a piece of aluminium foil for 10 minutes. Perfect. I’ve started to dig out all the old computers and bits and pieces to put on ebay – I found the Spitfire gun camera that I mislaid a couple of years ago, plus several old computers. One was an OQO Model 1+ of 2008 that was the smallest full blown PC made at the time, about 4 1/2 x 4 inches, a fully functioning Windows XP with internal hard drive and all the connections for USB, Firewire, RJ45, VGA etc and a slide out tiny keyboard. It cost me almost £2000 and I bought it when I was doing consultancy in the US so I could carry it in a pocket and just plug in a full sized keyboard and screen when I got there – they are now very rare collectors items! Mine still works, although the battery won’t hold much charge. One of the best engineered bits of kit I’ve seen in the PC business.
Depending on your screen, this is about life size – not for the visually impaired – I’d need a special pair of glasses to use it now!
10th May – Having, I hope, sorted the lock of the H Nock below, I remembered that the touch hole was damaged. I had thought that titanium would make a good material for touchholes as I have used it for a long time for percussion nipples on my own guns and those I’ve re-nippled for other people, and never seen any evidence of any form of damage. However, in making the touchhole for the Nock I had put two holes in the face for a tool for unscrewing it. I had drilled out the back of the metal so as to leave only a thin bit for the actual touchhole to penetrate as this gives speedier ignition. Unfortunately one of the tool holes got very close to the back relieving and was quite close to the touch hole itself so after a dozen shots the metal between the three holes had disappeared – presumably burnt away. There was some classic gas cutting on the outside thread of the touch hole, although fortunately only a slight mark on the thread in the barrel. I do know that titanium in thin sections burns – Ive seen swarf on a lathe catch fire and the fire brigade having to be called (many years ago) so I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised. Anyway, although I still think its fine for nipples where there are no thin sections, I will no longer use it for touchholes. So I replaced it with one made from stainless steel. It took me two tries to manage cutting the thread on the lathe ( its an odd size ( 9.0 mm O.D. and 22 t.p.i.) as the feed on the saddle has to be kept permenantly engaged and the tool worked backwards and forwards by switching the motor, while adjusting the depth of cut and retracting the tool in the reverse direction- I managed to loose the saddle alignment the first time…. Anyway I decided that a screwdriver slot was easier and safer than the holes. Although I mainly have a microscope for engraving I use it quite often for checking parts – like the damaged touchhole – on x25 magnification – its got good lighting and makes it easy to see damage and do forensics on gun bits. One think I find it very useful for is checking the pitch of screw threads – just screw a matchstick or bit of wood into the hole and check it against a thread gauge or a known thread.
I remembered that I’d browned the Wogdon barrel and steamed it to get rid of any corrosive browning fluid but hadn’t done anything about oiling it, so I popped it in the bottom oven of the AGA ( around 120 – 150C) and then rubbed it over with a block of beeswax. I love the finish it gives to metal and tend to use it on all metal parts – it has a lovely sheen and initially a nice smell – I don’t know if its a good defence against rust and corrosion but I haven’t had problems with past use. I do use gun oil on moving parts and when cleaning working guns and on the bores. Thinking about the barrel of the Wogdon, I’m now thinking that it actually was a wrapped barrel from an original manufacture in the past when such things were normal – the structure in the metal revealed by the browning strongly suggests it.
9th May celebrated having finished the Wogdon (at least for the time being) by mowing the lawns, planting out some of the plants that had been protected from the frosts and taking the chainsaw to some more of the stump = there is some very nice walnut there, its about 3 ft in diameter, but the inside part has a lot of concentric cracks – the usable part is about 8 to 10 inches obetween the rotten outside and the cracked core! But I can see a few pistol stocks and some bowls. I booked another shoot for September (thanks Bev) and thought I should do a bit more to my Nock back conversion so I can shoot flint on at least one of the shoots. Anyway I had case hardened the lock and cock in a steel can in my furnace at 730 degrees C – no colour but a decent grey – I tempered the cock at about 300C but left the lock plate hard. Before that I’d added a bit of engraving on the tail of the lock and a sunburst by the cock as it looked a bit bare. I have now repaired the frizzen, although I had better give it a thorough test before I do a game shoot with it. It now all looks a bit less raw than it did!
Henry Nock Lock – a replacement for the percussion conversion for shooting.
8th May At last I’ve got the Wogdon together – and more or less finished unless I can find a better cock! I browned the barrel, which turned out to be quite stripy and looking a bit like an original wrapped (not twist) barrel which is better than a bland piece of steel. I made another ramrod – out of ebony this time, and silver plated the brass powder measure end and it fits beautifully – I was a bit worried as the prototype didn’t fit snugly. So now I need to make its mate some time, and also make a case for the pair. I had a comment from a maker of biaze https://www.baizewoolfabrics.co.uk/ who is including a link to this website on his, so that would be guncase makers can get information. nice. My photo ‘studio’ has been taken over by Penny as her work at home office, which accounts for the drop in the standard of photos recently. I did have an alternative, but the ceiling lighting has failed and I haven’t yet replaced it. Anyway here are a few photos of the finished pistol;-
5th May I spent yesterday in school with two groups of children telling them about earthquakes and plate tectonics – it made me realise that almost everything we talked about had been discovered since I was born, and in fact sea floor spreading and plate tectonics was confirmed and understood after I went to work at the Geophysics Department at Cambridge in 1966 where the work was being done, so I was part of it. Anyway the children enjoyed it all. I did some more work on the Wogdon today – I made a silver front sight out of a lump of pure silver that was part of one of the silver casting sprues and cut a dovetail slot in the barrel. I had filed up the sight to the right size and shape, and I cut the dovetail, intending it to be a bit small so I could adjust the fit of the sight, however I had been too precise in my sizing and the sight fitted exactly but left two very small lines across the joint as I didn’t have any spare metal to adjust the dovetail angles. Anyway it looks good. The main (only ?) way in which the parts I have for the pistol differ from an original Wogdon is that all of Wogdon’s duelling pistols had two side screws holding the lock on, whereas the locks I have are fitted with a ‘clip’ on the nose of the lock plate that engages under a screwhead in the lock pocket. I did wonder whether I should remove the clip and use two screws, but the clip is riveted in and it would probably show a mark if I cut it off. The screw to receive the clip was a pain to install and get right! My ‘Wogdon’ is also ‘wrong’ in that a silver mounted Wogdon would have had a silver casting of Britania seated on the heel of the butt – if I can find one to take a mould from, I’ll make one.. Anyway its coming along – it needs a few more coats of ‘slacum’ to complete the oil finish, but I thought I’d put those on with the furniture in place to help hide the joints where my inletting is a little less than perfect ( the walnut I was using was a bit open grained and not easy to get very clean cuts – at least that is my excuse…….). I think the remaining jobs are ;- engrave the name on the barrel and brown it, and remake the ramrod with a better piece of wood, possibly ebony although that is probably not traditional and certainly not Wogdon…plus more slacum……..
I might try to get a better cock, that one is too fancy, and I got the square slightly wrong so there is not a lot of space between the cock and friozzen at half cock.
1st May – Welcome to May and May Day! Apart from appying more coats of ‘slacum’ to the Wogdon stock I’ve been engraving a small brass memorial plaque for a bench at the school. I carefully got some engraver’s brass for this sort of job, but it really is horrible stuff to work with. I don’t know what I do wrong but it is a beast! Some of it I do hand push engraving and some I use the GRS tool for. The worst aspect of it is in the depth control of the tool – if it decides its going to go deeper I tend to loose control of it and have to stop the line. I’ve tried putting longer heels on the tools, but there is a limit to how big the heels can be before it gets messy round curves… Anyway I’ve finished it now and it doesn’t look too bad but it was painful! I think my GRS tool is not working properly as I don’t seem to have good control of its intensity and sometimes it stops cutting entirely. Its really annoying because I can pick up a graver and cut a 2 inch line in steel of uniform depth and width without any problems, but not in brass! I’ll put up a photo later – at the moment my camera is in the shed ready to photograph a casting session tomorrow – I’ll try to get a good brass casting of my owls – its quite a hefty casting by my past experience – about 300 grams. I’ve also been ‘inventing’ activities to keep 65 children amused and learning on Tuesday – I’m quite good at coming up with things and I enjoy doing them with the kids, but I’m not used to herding cats, or children, although it has to be said that these are very well behaved and amenable! Fortunately Dave, my STEM club co-runner, is coming along to help, and there will be teachers and teaching assistants so it will all go smoothly!
30 April – Busy few days – I’ve been trying to make a wax of my little owl carving – I made a silicone mould but filling it with wax has proved more difficult than I expected. I have been using a 50 ml syringe but its difficult to get the wax hot enough and transfer it to the syringe without something going wrong! The wax seems to set in the syringe nozzle or the plunger and render it stuck, then when I do manage to inject the wax there are bubbles or voids. Anyway I have now trashed the syringe by trying to heat it…. I think I have got a couple of waxes that I managed to repair, so I’ll have another go at casting in the next couple of days. My previous attempt to cast the owls went wrong because I put too much borax in the crucible and it ended up in the casting – one lives and learns…. I offered to go into school and gives the year 5s and 6s a talk on earthquakes as that is their topic for this half term and I worked on earthquakes, chasing aftershock swarms, many years ago. Anyway things escalate,, so I’m now doing it twice, adding years 3 & 4. So that will be 4 sessions and last all day… It will be great to be back in school and see the kids again, its over a year since I was last in school. And I haven’t given up on the Wogdon pistol! I’m at the stage of putting the oil finish on the stock, and as anyone who has done it knows, its a very, very long process. I put on a Van Dyke stain and a couple of coats of thinned red oil and then a couple of coats of boiled linseed oil plus beeswax plus a little Terberine driers with some talc stirred in. Each coat is smeared on with a finger and then rubbed off several hours later. I forgot one coat for two days, so it had gone pretty tough – I was able to get it off with 0000 steel wool lubricated with raw linseed oil and a lot of elbow grease, and that filled the grain fairly well. I did another coat today and that went tacky in about 6 hours so I rubbed it off with cloth and oil – I have now left it to harden up for a day or two and then I’ll change over to the oil/wax/driers mix without the talc. It will probably need at least half a dozen coats at one or two a day, possibly more………….. I’ve been attacking the stump of the walnut tree with my new 20 inch chainsaw – how anyone manages to sell such a beast new for £127 is a mystery to me. Its very wet inside so the wood is incredibly heavy but there is some beautiful grain along with quite a few splits and patches of rot on the outside. I should be able to get a few pistol stock blanks out of it, plus some bowl blanks – I’m hoping to turn up a big bowl of about 18 inches diameter – I’ve done it before but its a bit of a struggle, not least because I can hardly lift the blank to get it onto the lathe – My lathe will take it = I did once turn up a mould for a fibreglass shape that was 4 feet across on the back of the headstock. All good fun.
Not a bad colour, and the grain is filling nicely….
25th April – Yesterday I helped Tom put in a 50m extension to his internet wiring down to his office/workshop – using CAT 5E cable there is no loss of speed at 50 Mbits/sec so all good. I am back to the Wogdon. The stock is now ready for finishing – I steamed it to raise the grain and get rid of a couple of small dents, rubbed it down with 800 grit paper and Ive put on a brush coat of VAn Dyke crystals in water with a little ebony water based stain ( it is actually not a stain but a colour pigment, the Van Dyke crystals do make a stain derived from walnuts) and wiped it off with a tissue fairly quickly. It tones down the rather light wood – it actually looks a bit muddy but the oil finish will get rid of that. I’m now putting on the first oil coat using boiled linseed oil that has had Alkonet root steeped in it with 50% pure turpentine to dilute it. I haven’t put driers (Terbine) in this coat as the idea is that it should soak in as much as possible. The Alkonet root dyes the oil a deep red, which brings out the colour in the rather pale walnut. I’ll keep putting on this oil for a while – it won’t stop soaking it up for maybe 24 hours….. If I had a suitable vessel and enough oil I might soak the stock in oil for a day or so, but I haven’t, so that isn’t an option. Here is a photo of the gas cut nipple I mentioned a couple of days ago. The thread is a little mis-shapen as the original 1/4 by 26 thread in the nipple hole appears to have been recut with a 28 tpi tap. It is all sorted now using a 9/32 x 26 tpi tap that I ground off to cut to the bottom of the hole which removed all traces of the past threads – it did pick up the thread at the top so kept the old and new thread in sync.. When I made the titanium nipple to fit I used a die that I’d modified to grind off the usual lead-in by grinding the face against the radius of the wheel to create a concave surface. I also undercut the top of the threaded portion with a 1.6 mm parting tool. I’m not sure about the material the breech block is made of – it was a bit too easy to recut the thread compared to many breech blocks I have done the same thing to. I got a comment on this website claiming that I’d breached their copyright with some photos = it is a well known scam to get you to click on a link which presumably downloads something bad to your computer. I wish there was a system in place whereby one could report such plishing attempts and have the person sending them cut off from internet access.
Gas cut nipple
23rd April – Shot the Nock flint conversion at CGC – I managed a dozen shots or so with one misfire (worn flint) , so my hardening of the saw blade frizzen face (without tempering it) was a success. However my weld in the arm of the frizzen opened up – I hadn’t got sufficient weld peretration, I had meant to go over it again but forgot – anyway that is fixable, so it looks like a working gun. I did manage to hit a few clays, although I was with a group of crack shots and the targets were not exactly easy. I also noticed that one of the holes I had put in the titanium touchole to accomodate a tool for unscrewing it had opened up into the main touchole and into the larger diameter hole behind the touchhole. I’m not sure if that was due to a thin web of titanium burning, or just to the effects of the explosive pressure. Anyway that needs to be sorted – maybe I’ll try a stainless touchhole – a platinum one would be good but a bit on the expensive side! I had a go at colour case hardening the cock and false breech of the Wogdon – I didn’t give them so long in the furnace so they are not as deep a grey, but still no real colour! I’m looking for my fine rotary wire brush that got moved when the workshop was a kitchen, so I can try that on them. Photos to follow….
21st April – Sorry about the absence of diary entries – I had to go down to Cornwall to check out the cottage – we hadn’t been down for two years and its due to be let. We were greeted by a chunk of the bathroom wall that had fallen off, ttwo out of three storage heaters not working and a dripping lavatory systern, all to be sorted in 4 days including sourcing 3 new storeage heaters. I got it done – just! The current generation of storeage heaters need both off peak and peak electricity as they have a ‘brain’ that controls the amount of heat they take in – all very clever but extra wiring! When I got back I did a bit of tiling for Tom in his new house – I only got half of it done so left the rest for him to do…. I am going to try the converted Nock flintlock tomorrow – when I finished it a couple of months ago I couldn’t get a spark from the frizzen, but left it. Since I want to shoot it I cut a bit off a saw blade – an ordinary cheap hand saw and bent it to shape and glued it to the frizzen face with epoxy. That didn’t spark enough to set off the priming powder regularly, so I took the face off and hardened it and glued it back on – its much better now, although I’m not sure its really up to scratch – anyway I’ll take it tomorrow to Eriswell and see how it goes. ( Or is it CGC – better check… I tried to colour case harden the Wogdon lock in a mix of wood and bone charcoal, heating it up to 760 celsius. My furnace popped an element and blew the trip but I figured it had had enough time so I tipped it into a bucket of water – it is as hard as glass now, but came out a pretty uniform dork grey, not what I wanted at all. Anyway I have reduced it to a medium grey with 0000 steel wool – not sure if I will leave it of take the finish off and have another go – I’ll have to sort the furnace, the elements just sit in grooves in the firebricks, and tend to pop out and short on the load in the centre…
9th April Tidying up a few odd jobs – engraved the side nail, breech tang screw and cock screw and case hardened them and the barrel bolts to bring them to a less bright tone. I bit the bullet and engraved the lock plate – I found it quite difficult engraving all the loops ( ‘o’s, ‘d’ and ‘g’) when I had to cut the left hand side upwards, instead of turning the work and cutting those curves downward – it means cutting a fairly tight curve clockwise which I don’t find easy – still I did get away with only one small slip that burnished out. Anyway I think it turned out as good as I could have hoped, and probably as good as some of the Wogdon effors but not as good as the best! It will do! Now that just leaves the barrel signature. I recut the engraving on the cock – it isn’t really a Wogdon style, but the Blackley casting has quite deep impressions of the engraving, and I figured that I would loose too much metal if I filed it all off, so I recut it – strange style, like nothing I’ve seen before. I do have a ‘proper’ Wogdon cock on order but I’m not expecting it any time soon. I used conventional designs for engraving the side nail and cock screw etc – I didn’t use a tudor rose as in the end it didn’t feel appropriate. I am wondering about the finishing of the lock plate and cock – I will probably heat them up and sprincle a bit of Blackley’s case hardening on them to tone them down a bit. I did wonder whether to pack them in charcoal and bone charcoal and seal them in stainless foil and fire them in the furnace at 800 C. I also ought to do something with the false breech as traditionally it would be pretty hard. One problem with any heat treatments is that there is a danger of too much oxidation leaving scale on the surface, which is a pain to remove….. Anyway I have to go over to Tom’s new house tomorrow, so limited time to do anything……
8th April I tackled the false breech tang engraving this afternoon – the metal wasn’t particularly friendly but I did the design with a hand graver and cut the background with the GRS – its not as good as some of my trials, but I’m reasonably pleased with it. A few bits need tidying up and a bit more engraving in front of the sight bar when I can work out what to do. That just leaves the names to do! I have done lots of practive Wogdon script signatures and I can do it fairly well on a test plate, and I am fairly good on the spacing (some of Wogdons spacing isnt perfect!) I d need to sort out the LONDON for the barrel – I can’t make up my mind whether it should be in script or block caps – Wogdon used both at different times. I incline to block letters….. The script on the lock presents a bit of a problem as the pan projects into the area from which you might want to cut any strokes going down, so everything will have to be cut upwards – I have practiced a couple of times but its not perfect yet…. I’m going to have to put the Wogdon project on hold next week as I have a little secret project for my school – I won’t put it on the website just in case anyone connected sees it – its meant to be a surprise….. I am also having to spend time helping son Tom, who is moving into a pretty little thatched cottage over the next couple of weeks – I’m definately NOT going to spend 3 month’s working on it as I did his last flat, and Giles’s flat ( & our kitchen), but I said I would do some tiling in the kitchen if he takes the old pink and green tiles off. I will then think about re-surfacing our drive, which is a mess, and tackling what is known as ‘bedroom 6’ – a junk room with the plaster off the walls and ceiling – probably about 3 months work AGAIN… Oh and I have half a dozen vintage computers to get rid of on ebay…. I thought when one retired one was supposed to take it easy – maybe a little golf occcasionally, read the papers, sit in the sun…………… some hope! I did actually once try golf at a hospitality w/e at a posh hotel in Norfolk – my first shot landed a couple of feet from the hole, which I thought wasn’t very good, but when I was told it was brilliant I decided that there was no chance of my ever repeating the feat so I stopped there and then and have never been tempted to try again. The same thing happened to me with slot machines in pubs – I was desperately bored in London for a navigation exam and idly put my first ever coin in the slot and won £5 (when that was a useful sum) – I figured I’d got the maximum profit I was ever likely to get, so I have never been tempted since. Maybe I’m deficient in addictive instincts!
Its not fully in position, the inletting is somewhat better than it looks here! It now needs case hardening to tone it down a bit.
7th April – couldn’t put of the actual engraving any longer! I did the rear ramrod pipe first – not quite bold enough, I might try recutting it deeper, then the finial, that turned out OK, and the bow of the trigger guard looks OK to me – I didn’t go for one of the very elaborate Wogdon patterns as they have a lot of work in the borders, and I think anyway they look a bit fussy. I’m currently marking out the false breech tang, and I will probably video that – there is a slight risk that I am distracted by the filming, but I do need something to put in another Wogdon video – we are getting quite close to the end – I might make it to 10 videos with luck…. I am using the GRS Gravermax quite a lot lately for a number of different reasons – I have been using it to remove the backgrounds in my practice false breech tangs as its quicker than the push engraver and its easier to avoid running into the raised bits. I used it on the finial of the trigger guard as it is much easier to control on curved surfaces as it is easier to follow the (convex) curves – with push engraving if you judge the curve wrongly or fail to follow it, you skid off into the distance and leave a nasty groove, with the GRS you are not really putting any force on the tool so you don’t skid. The bow of the trigger guard used both, but again the GRS lets you handle the curvature better. The false breech tang is pretty tough metal and I’ve only just atarted on it – I used the GRS for putting in the borders – they are long pretty straight cuts so its ideal. I still don’t think that the results from the GRS are quite right for reproducing antique engraving, but at times its better than making a mess of things as I don’t have the control that an antique engraver would have had. The Wogdon No 6 video is now on the VIDEO page as well as on YouTube.
The cuts on the acorn were easy to cut with the GRS, I’d have found it impossible with a hand graver due to the curvature.
6th April – Cold cold cold – its is even snowing here! I editted Wogdon video No 6 on lost wax casting today and its downloading at the moment – will be another couple of hours….
Link when its loaded ( should be around midnight GMT ).
5th April – More practice engraving today… I was looking at the statistics of my visitors, which always has me wordering how many are regulars. I could probably write a script that would tell me how many repeat visits I get, or even download the information and look at it in Excel – I did do it once but it took ages and I’ve forgotten what I did ( or I could just pay a service to do it, as they do for shop sites)… So I just have to speculate! Given that there must be around 1 billion people in the world who could look at this website if they chose to, its surprising that the number who visit each day is quite constant – over the last 30 days it averages 155 per day, lowest day being 126 and highest being 172. Of these around 45 per day come via a Google search, although some people just use the search instead of typing the website address in. The average visitor clicks on around 8 posts. The variation in google searches that lead people to the website is a bit more than the variation in the number of visitors, it averages around 50 and varies from about 35 to 120. Most visits are from the US, with the UK next followed by China, Germany Russia and France plus just about everywhere else on the planet at some time or another – as you might expect other English speaking countries like Canada, Australia and New Zealand are well represented! A lot of visits are from bots collecting links for search engines and from foreign countries trying the site for weaknesses ( lots of Russian attempts) but I don’t think these are counted as visitors by the software. My favourite attack was on the post on the Hanovarian conversion of the New Land Pistol, where the comments have had a total of 24000 visits from would be hacking bots, mostly in Russia – fortunately my software defends the site effectively. The attacks are from a series of ‘bots’ placed on innocent computers by the hacker, that he/she then commands them all to access the chosen site – I just changed the name of the post and that one stopped. I can usually spot the bots as they follow certain ‘habits’ that are recognisable as bots – one might be an exact number of tries at the same post from several different computers one after another. I did manage to spot an i.p address that seemed to be the hacker himself as it always came before a swarm of attacks, so I emailed his internet service provider ( you can find out) and it stopped. All good fun…….
4th April Glorious day if a little cold. I did a bit of outside work as it was so nice, fixed the chainsaw and got it going with some difficulty and attacked the felled old walnut stump but decided that the noise was too much for a peacful Sunday so I packed that up. I want to cut the log up but its more than twice the diameter I can reach with my little chain saw, so I might be forced to buy a bigger one. I was going to get this one serviced but its only a cheap one and the service will cost over half the price of a new cheap one with a big enough cutter bar. I feel bad about it though – a moral dilemma! Anyway I reverted to working on the Wogdon – I pinned the ramrod pipes to the stock – not a very elegant job but OK. Pinning the trigger guard was a bit of a mess but I hope to get away with it as its inside the lock pocket…..! Anyway it is all together now, except, I just realised, for the foresight. Now its is ready for finishing – I’ll have to sand it down a bit as its rather grubby from all the handling, and it has gathered a few slight dings but nothing that won’t come out with a little steaming. That means that I can’t keep pushing the engraving to one side! I will have to have another quick run through Wogdon’s signature for the barrel, and another go at doing it for the lock where I can only get access from the bottom and ends of the signature as the frizzen is in the way. As I’ll strip down the pistol to finish the stock I can do the engraving before putting it all together again. Penny asked if I was going to feel like doing the second one when I’d finished this one. The answer is maybe I’ll leave it as a project for next winter -if I have any ‘indoor’ time before then I might make a case. I do need to do a little piece of casting for the children at ‘my’ school as a thank you for a lovely card they sent me before the holidays.
Sorry about the poor photo, its late!
3rd April – I had my second Pfizor Covid jab a couple of days ago and it left me feeling a bit sluggish (or else it was something else). Anyway I set too and made another wax for the rear ramrod pipe as I was able to get the muzzle end one and the side nail collar out of the ‘failed’ casting of 30th. I made the investment and cast it yesterday – I was determined that the metal would be hot enough to flow well into the investment so I think I pushed all the temperatures up a bit – anyway I got a complete silver casting. The surface finish wasn’t very good but the slight roughness was only superficial and as I needed to file all the surfaces to fit it , it wasn’t a problem and the result is perfect for my requirements. I think from looking at the web for casting faults, my problem was related to temperature – I may have got the invstment too hot while melting out the wax so it boiled, or I had the flask too hot when I poured the cast….. still, no harm done. Today I filed up the casting and inletted it and the front pipe – it took me most of the day! Anyway that is now all the bits of that Wogdon pistol ready to go, I just have to put in the pins through the stock for the trigger guard and the pipes.. If I ever manage to get my hands on a real Wogdon with the Wogdon cast silver butt cap I might make a mould of it and cast one, but for the time being I will leave the butt unadorned. I went to visit Dick yesterday – I hadn’t seen him for ages and he is in the middle of moving, but he showed me a Wogdon pistol that looks very similar to mine and the ones in the book, only the barrel seems a bit light. It is pretty much a wreck – Dick was trying to buy it but seems to have ended up offering to restore it for rather less than I thought would have been reasonable – its missing a cock, etc, the slide safety is broken off, the rear ramrod pipe and ramrod are missing and there are several cracks in the stock and a great chunk under the barrel is missing, plus the rest of the stock is dented where someone used it as a hammer? I would take me at least a week to fix…… Part of the consideration when pricing jobs like that is in estimating the added value of your work, since it’s possible that the client is going to try to make as much profit from your work as they can! I am always careful to explain to clients when work they want done is going to cost more than the value gain – they often still go ahead for personal reasons, but I think its important to be up front with the information. In the case of this pistol there is some ‘headroom’.
30th March – I did the 4th casting attempt today with silver but it didn’t flow well into the investment, partly because I forgot to turn the vacuum on, but also I think the silver maybe wasn’t quite hot enough – there are ‘crease marks’ in some places ( it was pure silver so 1050C melting point) . Anyway it failed to fill the rather thin shell round the breech end ramrod pipe. I can salvage the muzzle end pipe – it is fairly chunky and has metal I can file off. I also got the cup for the side nail that is OK, so that just leaves one ramrod pipe to do! I may just try to mount the failed one to see how it would fit, then I can make the next wax with a bit more certainty that it will fit….. I did a bit more engraving practice for the false breech tang – it is coming along – I made a tool for marking the borders out of two needles glued into a small piece of fine copper tube spaced about 1.5 mm apart……… Tomorrow we are having a bit of a family gathering to fell the stump of the old walnut tree, followed by a barbeque.. I am hoping that there will be some good wood for stocks in the stump – its well (12 year) seasoned but of course wet, but by the autumn 3 inch thick planks will have dried out a bit…..
29th March – Didn’t take advantage of the lockdown relaxation, but I might go and see Dick some time this week. I’m now ready for the casting of ramrod pipes in silver tomorrow, then I will be able to do the final shaping of the stock and start fitting and engraving the parts – exciting! I had a go at engraving something to put on the tang of the false breech – Wogdon seems to have allowed his engraver a free hand in the design for is tangs – each pair has a different disign, so following in that tradition I won’t try to copy one of his. When I’ve engraved gun bits for Fred in the US he usually asks me to come up with a design that is like an original design but different – I tend to think that means that while it takes the general form of period engraving it is sufficiently different that someone used to looking at originals would not confuse it as an original. I though that was a good basis for the tang, and I wanted to include a bit of a 3D effect – sometimes seen on old engravings but rare. Anyway this is what I came up with – the two bits are part of the same tang – I just did the screws differently – I’m quite partial to the Tudor rose ( yes, I know the centre is too big!), but its more likely to be used on a modern gun than and antique (? A Stephen Grant ?) I’m not sure how the metal of the tang will cut, so may need to simplify the design. I have been using the GRS pneumatic graver for cutting out the background – I am getting a bit better at not letting it run away with me….
Some work still to be done on the ‘folding’.
28th March – I’m writing this while waiting for the investment to cool to 500 degrees C ready for pouring – I had it up to 730 C (1350F) for 3 hours or so to cure(? bake?) the investment. The chemistry of the investment is interesting – it mostly seems to consist of a silica – crystobalite, plus, I guess, other magic stuff! Crystobalite is one of those silica minerals that can give you silicosis and in the investment its finely ground, so I am very careful mixing and using it – one its wet or solid its OK. I did a couple of small jobs today while waiting for the casting – I have made a proper job of the false breech tang screw and filed it in, plus I made another cock screw – I think it isnt quite right, so I may just trim it up a bit in the lathe – Wogdon’s cock screws have a quite large flange with a curve up to the top, which is fairly small – mine didn’t have quite a large enough flange, I think. Its difficult to get these things right from not very clear photos and with little in the way of measurements, but if it isn’t right when you’ve made it, it shouts at you that its wrong! So I got everything ready for casting – fixed the propane burner torch in a bit of a stand with an adjustable flame control so I didn’t have to keep waving it around – got the flask on the vacuum table ready and the brass red hot and sparkling in the crucible, and remebered that you were supposed to heat it for a minute more after you think it is ready, so I did… When I poured into the flask it looked lumpy and I thought it was not hot enough again, but I poured as much as I could in. I was pretty sure I had another dud, but when the metal was no longer visibly hot I dunked the flask in a bucket of water and swished it round to disolve the investment, then felt around to recover any casting bits….. Much to my surprise/relief all of the cast was complete and good – there were three tiny bubbles on one bit – much smaller than a pin head and easily filed off , but even the file marks from a No 6 file on my waxes were visible, and as far as I can see, no detail was lost, so I feel reasonably confident to try the silver casting – after all I can always remelt it and start over.
Straight out of the flask with a quick brush with a fine wire brush in the battery drill to get rid of the investment
I haven’t done any further shaping as that would wait for fitting if I was going to use them – which I don’t plan to.
27th March – I cracked the bubbling investment problem this morning – I was wondering where the bubbles kept appearing from and wondered if at the very low pressure generated by the vacuum pump, the water in the mix was evaporating – i.e. the water was ‘boiling’. So I put a glass of tap water in the vacuum chamber and after a few seconds it started to bubble, and carried on more or less without stopping for as long as I watched – the same happened with deionised water. In both cases I’m sure the volume of air coming out was much more than was disolved in the water (just realised I should have tried boiled water too). Also as soon as I shut off the vacuum pump – the vacuum in the chamber was more or less unchanged as the chamber is very well sealed, it will hold a vcuum for hours – the bubbles stopped instantly. I guess the water vapour pressure builds, or the slight change in pressure is enough to stop the ‘boiling’. Whatever the physics, I now know that you achieve nothing by waiting until the bubbling stops – it doesn’t! The reason I got big bubbles in my first try was that I was still pumping vacuum as the investment set, so the bubbles were trapped. Anyway I did my investment and baked it out over 9 hours as per the instructions, and heated 100 grams of brass. Unfortunately I didn’t get the brass quite hot enough when I poured it and it solidified as I started to pour, filling the feeder of the flask – so a write off! I have scheduled another try for tomorrow using a couple of gash waxes and brass! I had the video camera set to record that one, which is always a mistake – I should get things to work before trying to film them – not sure if the camera distracts me or its just bad juju, but I will avoid filming new things in future! Anyway I have remade the ramrod pipe waxes to be better copies of the Wogdon ones and will do a silver cast of both pipes together when I’ve had a sucessful brass cast! Oh, and I got the trigger guard back from the Edinburgh Assay office with a row of tiny hallmarks deeply impressed, so if I need to reshape the tang I still have a bit of metal to play with.
26th March I’m itching to get to the silver casting stage! I did another mix of investment, taking care to get the invest,ment powder and tap water more or less at room temperature – I followed the instructions and thought it was continuing to bubble for a bit longer than I expected, but I stopped the vacuum and poured the investment into a couple of yoghurt pots and it went solid in about 30 minutes from the start – there were no bubbles in the pots, so maybe that has cracked it. Some of the instructions say use deionised water, so I got 5 litres later – it has the advantage that it can be kept in the house at room temperature – today’s investment mix was just a bit cooler than ideal but near. I didn’t cast anything this time. I made another breech end ramrod pipe as when I came to look at the two I’d made, they seemed a bit heavy and large. Anyway that freed up one of the earlier ones for an experimental cast with brass tomorrow. The 5th video is now up and running. I noticed that my video on how to strip a flint lock has had 1500 views – that’s good. I’ve been trying various ideas for engraving the false breech – I quite like the idea of doing arcanthus leaves with some 3D feel to it, plus perhaps a shell?
25th March I cleaned up the brass ramrod loop just to see if it would be OK – I decided that the casting is accurate enough that I can make the waxes as exact replicas, and bypass the need to file them up. I am now left with several jobs to do on the Wogdon that are more or less irreversible, and so require a lot of psycing up to tackle – mostly the engraving of the lock, barrel and trigger guard bow and finial. Edinburgh Assay office rang me and asked for another £12 – so its cost me £27 to get the trigger guard hallmarked, which I suppose is OK, we will see what it looks like when it comes back shortly. Wogdon’s silver trigger guard bow engraving varied from the elaborate with very fine egg and dart borders and a floral motif with cut out background to a very plain floral pattern in the middle of an plain bow – I will probably make a better job of the latter so will go with that – beside which I prefer it. The cock I found is an old Blackley casting with some quite decent engraving cast into it – its a rather strange design – almost abstract but not unpleasant. I could file it off and leave the cock plain or put on some other engraving, but I incline just to recut what is there, in which case I’ll steal a bit of the design for the tail of the lock….. I tackled my Wogdon 5 video – the version I uploaded to YouTube has the first section blank 0 I’m not sure what happened as the video editor also blanks the first part and gives incomprehensible messges – anyway I’ve tried to generate a new one and will upload that when its finished. I’ve got a couple more test runs to do before I dare to cast up the silver ramrod pipes – that involves aroumd £80 worth of silver, although I can probably salvage most of it if the castings go wrong… I will put my investment powder in a warm place tonight and use distilled water at room temperature to eliminate those as possible problems causing the bubbles and slow going off.
24th March Disaster last night – I went out to check and turn off my furnace with the investment being baked out, only to find that the heating element had become dislodged and shorted and broken. I left it til this morning to tackle, which meant stripping out the old element and putting in a new one – then I hunted out an A.C. voltage controller – a little electronic gadget, so I could under-run the element as it has more than enough power for getting up to 730C – it has a PID controller as well but I wanted to stop the element getting so hot.. That done I baked out the investment some more, then let it cool to about 460 for a couple of hours – that’s the temperature for fillling it. I’d bought a propane blowlamp for melting the brass – wow – made my butane torch look pathetic, anyway I poured the molten brass and had a problem with the vacuum pump and so didn’t put a vacuum on the investment until the metal had solidified. You then take the very hot flask and investment etc and as soon as the metal is no longer glowing red hot dunk it in a bucket of water, at which the investmetnt falls out and leaves the brass object to be cleaned etc,,,,,, Much to my surprise the casting had filled and picked up all the details from the wax impression! There were plenty of lumps where bubbles had formed in the investment, which I was expecting, but those are additions and can be filed off, so if it had been a (much) more carefully made wax, and cast in silver it would have been usable. But I do need to find out what went wrong with the mixing and degassing of the investment. I did buy 18 insulating firebricks to make another furnace for melting the metal, but given how vicious the blowtorch is I don’t really need one. Oh and the Wogdon Project video 5 is on Youtube and in the VIDEOS page here – if you do watch it to the endyou’ll see some nasty looking injuries to my knuckles – I got those not from some dangerous engineering activity, but from making tea! The AGA lid fell on my hand as I held the kettle handle! Just goes to show you never know where danger lurks – be warned…….. Video link to Wogdon Project 5 is https://youtu.be/-_n6Unq1Ro4 Seems to be a problem with the first part of the video… will need to look into it tomorrow……
Apart from the add-on bubbles, the defects in the quickly made wax are faithfully reproduced ! Success, up to a point….
23rd March.. I’ve been busy on the project – getting sorted to make the ramrod pipes using lost wax casting. Now I am puzzled! I did what one does nowadays – googled lost wax casting, looked at loads of YouTube how to videos and manufacturers recommendations, so I thought I knew what to expect! The wax ‘models’ have to be set in ‘investment’ effectively a special plaster that makes a cast round them, which sets, is heated to melt out the wax, then heated to 730C to drive out the wax residues and prepare the investment for pouring the molten metal. All the advice says you have 9 minutes to mix the investment (powder and water) and set it in a vacuum chamber to bubble, then when it stops to pour it into the flask round the wax, then vacuum that, after which the investment should go more or less solid at minute 9 or 10 and you can begin to heat it after a couple of hours of hardening etc… Well, I did the mixing, then put it in the vacuum chamber where it carried on bubbling for about 45 minutes, thern poured it into the flask and put it back in the chamber and it didn’t seem inclined to stop bubbling – eventually I think it stopped bubbling because it got too stiff after about an hour… I am sure the investment is now full of holes where bubbles didn’t have the energy to rise through the thickening investment… So what went wrong? The investment powder is new and should be fine, the water was tap water, the vacuum was around -30 inches of Hg, so good – the only thing I can think of is that it is quite cold in my workshop and the powder was also cold……….. Anyway I have gone ahead with heating it up to 730 degrees to bake it out.. all the messing about means it is too late to finish tonight, so I;’ll turn off the kiln and restart it in the morning, so I can pour at about lunch time with luck. I have to say I’m not expecting much luck, but fortunately this is only a dummy run and I’ll cast in brass to save the silver I have. I will have to do some trial investments into plastic pots so I can see if I can get things right before I try any more waxes – I can just saw them open and look for bubbles….. I will try to keep everything at a better temperature and might use distilled water if there is any in the tumble drier! I have done the next video – No 5 – I will upload it asap, it usually takes 24 hours.
17th March – Managed to take a few photos to p[ut in the blog today…. One unusual feature of Wogdon’s duelling pistols was his ramrods. When he made a pair of duelling pistols (all pistols were normally sold in pairs) one had a plain ramrod with a horn tip, and the other had a powder measure/loading cup on one end and a ball pulling screw on the other’ . The meausure/loader was a substantial feature, although how useful it actually was, I don’t know, although I suspect not very! The purpose of the rod end was twofold – it provided a powder measure so that the charge loaded was always exactly right, and it allowed the loader to insert the powder right into the breech rather than pour it down the barrel from the muzzle (you hold the pistol muzzle down and insert the rod fully, then turn them muzzle up). This technique is common in competition muzzle loading rifle shooting as it keeps the powder from contamination and losses in the barrel, but I would question how important an exact charge is in a duelling pistol that is normally snap shot. It probably indicates that duelling pistols were used more often for target shooting in galleries than duelling. Anyway, I need one for my Wogdon recreation, so I thought I’d quickly make a tryout to workout how to do it. I figured that I could get away with a 6.1 mm hole in the measure, which let me use a 9/32 x 26 BSF thread. I should have screwed the two parts together before I tapered them, but I cut them separately, setting the top slide to about 1.5 degrees of taper, which I calculated would be right. Because of holding constraints I cut the tapers on the two parts in different directions , setting the adjustable top slide as near as I could in each direction. As it was a trial I didn’t spend a lot of time on the details – it was just to make something to check the ramrod pipes and groove before I got too far with the finishing. Having said that, it turned out much better than I deserved! I checked how much powder the measure holds – around 0.7 drams – probably a bit low, I would have guessed 1 dram as a good load…..but I was using shotgun powder, not the fine pistol powder so that might account for the difference, or at least some of it. I made another wax ramrod pipe – I’m still waiting for the investment powder H S Walsh rang me and said the parcel had been returned to them by the carrier with some bits missing, so they are sending another.
Reversed for loadng
16th March. Time I put up a few photos, must take some tomorrow! I was looking at Tony Gibbs-Murray’s book ‘British Gunlock Makers’ last night – it has a lot of useful information relating to the gunlock industry, mostly percussion and later. I did know that most lock parts were hammer forged not cast, casting requires higher temperatures than could be readily achieved by most small workshops as you have to melt the iron, whereas forging is done at red heat, and he shows a few examples of hand forged parts. Two things struck me, the first is how cluttered the lockmakers benches looked in the photos from years ago – made me feel much better about my own bench. The other was in the detailed description of making a mainspring – they had a nifty jig for putting the bend in them – I would copy it if I did enough mainsprings, The account said that when filed up, the spring would be opened on a bunsen burner to allow the inside faces to be polished. The test of a good, finished, spring was that if the ends were forced together the tapering of the spring arms should be such that a 20 thou feeler gauge could just be run all the way between the two leaves. That does make sense of the shaping of mainsprings, along with the need to avoid contact with the barrel. I started to look at making a top jaw for the cock of the Wogdon, but the more I looked at the cock that came with the pistol parts, the less I thought it fitted, Holding it up against the 1:1 photo of the pistol I’m recreating it was definately a bit too small. As luck would have it, my box of spare castings collected over the ages produced one that fitted the photo perfectly – I think it was one of Kevin Blackley’s rejects as it had some blemishes, but it cleaned up OK. I drilled and tapped for the top jaw screw, using 1 B.A. as 12 UNF was a bit big and 10 UNF a bit small, and then made a quick cock screw and filed up the top jaw that was part of the cock casting – OK except that I didn’t look at the Wogdon top jaw screw and used the design from the Hutchinson, so I’ll need to change that sometime. I then had to file the square hole for the tumbler shaft – The way I do it is as follows:- Find the lowest workable position for the arm on the tumbler, this was before the tumbler hit its end stop and when the spring contacting arm is not running into the edge of the lock pocket – I fixed the tumbler in this position with a small wedge of wood. In this position the cock stop should just be hitting the top edge of the lock. I cut a neat hole in a card to exactly fit the tumbler square, then take it off and apply isocyanate adhesive and activate it – this makes the card round the hole rigid. Now refit the card on the tumbler square and mark the top edge of the lock where the cock stop will hit and draw an extended line along one side of the tumbler square with a ruler. Now cut the card along the mark for the top edge of the lock and pin prick points along the extended line. Now you can put the card on the back of the cock over the preliminary hole you’ve drilled in the cock, with the cock stop on your cut line and prick through the extended line onto the back of the lock – you now have your reference for the square to be filed. This assumes that the stop on the cock was in the right place, of course – it was in this case! Once ithe cock is nearly fitted, I squeeze it in the lead covered jaws of the vice to swage it onto the tumbler. Job done….
15th March. Later. The Wogdon is beginning to look like a pistol at last. I’m waiting for the form to send off the trigger guard to be hallmarked in Edinburgh, and getting on with the rest of the work. My intention is to cast the ramrod pipes in silver using the lost wax method so I’ve been making models out of carving wax. With care it is possible to turn bars of the wax on a lathe, so I’ve been casting bars in bits of plastic conduit. I made the breech end pipe – its rather large, but it can be filed down when its cast, although that is a bit expensive in silver – I reckoned it will weigh about 45 grams at around £1 per gram! Anyway I have to find a way of making them! I also need to make the cup for the head of the side nail in silver – I might try a cuttlefish casting for that, and then glue it onto a rod and turn it to shape:?… I need to finish off a few jobs on the lock too – I found a couple of frizzen springs that almost fit – the locks have the holes drilled for frizzen springs I don’t have, and they were about 1 mm closer together than the springs I do have. Its really difficult to re-make holes that are almost right as it involves drilling into the edge of the old hole – in practice it is not even worth trying! In this case I was able to put a 5 mm end mill through the lock plate in the correct position for the new frizzen screw hole and take out the old 3.2 mm hole completely. I then hammered a slightly tapered (1 degree) peg into the hole and fused it very lightly on the inside with the welder. I was then able to put the new hole through the centre of the plug. If I had been confident I’d have drilled the plug in the lathe with a pilot hole. Anyway, I drilled the frizzen spring and tapped it No 4 UNF and made a small countersink screw and it all fitted – I cleaned up the spring and hardened and tempered it and it all works well – the boss on the frizzen spring exactly covers the plug I put in, so it doesn’t show.. The early Wogdon frizzens had a very small roller in the lobe that runs on the spring – it works without the roller, but I will probably fit one for authenticity! As far as the locks are concerned that leaves me with a top jaw and top jaw screw to make, and the cock to bend a little to clear the flash guard. At some point I need to make the ramrod fittings, but I guess that can wait till the pipes are installed. I waited ages before I began to shape the stock, now I have to wait ages before I can start to apply finish……..
15th March. The next Wogdon Project 4 video is on YouTube at
12th March. A day of further shaping of the stock (and shopping etc) so I’m now beginning to think that it is approaching its final state. Today I made the barrel bolts to hold the barrel through the loops I put in under the barrel. There are (at least) three ways to make barrel bolts – you can heat up a suitable strip of metal and hammer a head on it, you can build up a large blob of weld on the end of the strip, or you can take a sheet of thicker metal and mill either side to leave the head at the end. All ways end up filing it to shape. If I have a suitable thickness of strip I normally use the welding method, as I did with the Wogdon – I begin to think ‘blob welding’ is a speciality of mine. If not, or for larger barrel bolts I machine down a strip and file up the heads. Any way you then have to cut a fine slot down the middle, which I do by drilling a few small holes of 1.2 mm diameter and fretsawing between them with a very fine blade. My thinnest files are about 0.9 mm thick so I can usually get a start, but otherwise a fine disk on the Dremel lookalike will get you started. Depending on the slope of the stock the head will be filed at an angle – the one near the muzzle has a distinct slope, the rear one is pretty straight. Anyway that is another job done. The bolts can be adjusted by filing the loops or slightly bending the bolts until the barrel is held and the bolts don’t fall out. The ones I made need a bit more tidying up, and the heads are probably a bit on the bold side, but they can always be filed down. I made a list of all the jobs still to be done apart from finishing the stock and engraving the lock, barrel, false breech and trigger guard I have to sort out the ramrod, pipes and ends etc. I got to thinking about Wogdon’s manufactory and the work involved in making one of these pistols. It is thought that Wogdon and most London Gunmakers bought their locks in, probably from Birmingham, and that probably included the set triggers ( see the Wogdon book for this opinion) They may well have bought in the steel furniture. They certainly bought in all the silver furniture as Gunmakers were not allowed to work in Silver, and it’s always stamped with a silversmith’s mark. Wogdon made his own barrels as his method of getting them to shoot accurately (a false belief) was a secret and involved putting a very precise bend in the bore – how he did this is not known, but probably involved bending red hot barrels round a jig (I won’t be emulating that!). He also put his engraving out to an engraver – at some point to William Palmer. So by making the silverwork and doing the engraving myself I’m doing work that Wogdon didn’t do. I discovered today that the person I had been sitting next to last March at interviews for a new head teacher developed Covid 19 at about the same time as I did – I wonder who gave it to who? I also saw research that said that if you delay the second dose for people with my CLL its only 11% effective – depressing! On a more optimistic note I ‘won’ an auction for a vacuum chamber and pump on ebay so I am committed to going down the vacuum investment road – besides, a 22Kg bag of investment powder arrives next week! I did plan to make a manual pump and a chamber, but when I got to thinking about how many days it would take to do a half a***d job I figured a bid was a good option.
Barrel bolts and pins to hold furniture ALWAYS enter from the left.
10th March. More remedial work – the AGA (oil fired cooker) died, or at least was in its death throws. It happens from time to time as its a very primitive machine. The filter clogs up every time the tank is refilled as it stirs up sediment, but I did that last week. The other regular problem is the burner which needs de-coking to get rid of a buildup of carbon and gunk. It is just an open wick system so it just needs the burner taken out ( one union) and a long drill rod put up the oil pipe and the carbon chipped out of the oil reservoir – takes about 45 minutes but the AGA needs to cool down first, and then get up to temperature again. All done by lunchtime. I made a test barrel bolt yesterday and got both slots working, so I felt entitled to get on with shaping the stock at last. I rough shaped the butt on my belt sander and did the rest with Japanese wood files and old metal files The expensive wood files are OK on some directions of cut but difficult on others, and don’t leave as smooth a finish as I had been led to believe – not my idea of a bargain! Anyway I got all the preliminary shaping done so most of the excess wood is removed and the shape is basically defined. I then sanded with 120 and 240 so that I could see any faults and also run my fingers over the surface – touch is much better at exploring the shape than sight on wood where the surface has grain and is matte. I did a bit of detailed work around the lock, but there is more to do, and I haven’t yet filed in the false breech or the trigger guard tang, plus I think there are a few minor shaping issues. The Wogdon duelling pistols were unusual in the shape of the butt – the book helpfully gives the dimensions of each pistol – the one I am working from has a very wide end to the butt – I have made it a bit smaller than the width given but its still a lot bigger than most of the duelling pistols of that era – the Hutchinson is very slim by comparison. It is all coming together now and looking good – I am left with tackling the ramrod pipes – Giles has 3D printed one in PLA that should be usable in an investment casting, and I’m going to try to make some in wax tomorrow. Then I have to make a vacuum chamber and get or make some form of vacuum pump and get my furnace going and find a decent gas torch. I’ll try and do a video of the casting……
9th March. Had a chance to minister to my ailing desktop PC in its agony. Turned out to be not so bad, although rather long winded. A quick ‘Google’ (on my laptop) got me to the Microsoft site that offered a download that would make a USB stick that could be used to boot up the defunct beast. My only problem was finding an empty USB stick with enough space on it. But it all worked, and to my surprise there was no requirement to show that the computer had a legitimate copy of Windows 10. It seems as if Microsoft has such a big and solid chunk of the market that they have dropped the paranoia over licenses, thank goodness. The downside of reloading Windows is that it lost all my installed programs, but as the alternative to breathing life into that machine would have been to buy a new one, I was no worse off, and saved £500. Looking at Hallmarking the trigger guard I saw that you need to register with an ‘Assay House’ (London, Birmingham, Chester or Edinburgh) and have your own mark made at a total cost of a couple of hundred pounds! Anyway a quick phonecall to Edinburgh Assay House provided the information that I could get up to two items hallmarked without registering at a more reasonable cost ( probably about £25 including return postage) – not sure if the other Houses do the same deal. I am homing in on shaping the stock, and finishing off a number of small jobs that need to be done before then, including fixing the false breech with a screw I have already made (No 8 UNC) and making and fitting the barrel bolts. I guess I ought to pin the trigger guard in place, but I may leave that as I might want to inlet it a bit more when the shaping is finished. Idly reading the Wogdon book after dinner, as one does, I spotted that most of the duelling pistols actually pin the trigger guard tang through the butt, as I was expecting. The one I’m basing mine on seems to be an oddity in that I can’t see any trace of a pin. If I hadn’t had the Hutchinson to hand I would probably have pinned it, but the hook is good – they were hooked under a tab let into the butt, but I used a screw with a large flat head to engage the hook, which has the great advantage that I can readily adjust the holding by screwing the screw in or out 1/4 turn. In the background I’m thinking about how I will cast the ramrod pipes in silver using a lost wax process – I will have to make a setup to do it, possibly using vacuum casting – I have already ordered the powder to make the investment moulds so no going back………. Oh, and I checked in Kaye and Laby – the physicists bible – and discovered that silver is the most thermally conductive metal bar none – I had a feeling it might be….
8th March. Unfortunately my desktop computer is terminally ill and will need some serious attention when I get time. Has fun getting the hook made for the tang of the trigger guard, and then getting it to work properly. Then the real fun was silver soldering the parts of the trigger guard together. Holding them in place while I soldered them required a jig, so I used the original trial stock I had made and cut slots for the tang tab and the finial tab and wired both to the stock after cutting out a piece in the middle around where I had to solder. There were three little problems in soldering! 1) my torch is really not man enough for the job. 2) silver has a very high thermal conductivity so lots of heat runs away up the bow which is a good radiator of heat. 3) wood is inflammable. Anyway I managed it, only the tang and finial ended up about 3 mm too close to fit the stock, so I had to resolder the tang joint. Altogether a major trauma! But its done and after a whole lot of cleaning up of oxide and flux etc it looks good. I have been looking up details of getting it hallmarked – a legal requirement if you want to describe it as silver. So at some point it will have to go off to an Assay Office to be Hallmarked at a cost of about £24. The original £130 worth of silver is now about £75 worth due to shaping, much of it ending up on the floor in fine filings – if it was gold it would probably be worth carpeting the workshop and burning the carpets! Next job is probably shape the tang when the stock is shaped, then polish and send for hallmarking, then engrave. I’m not sure where to have the hallmarks put – possibly on the inside of the bow? Some old guns had them in conspicuaous places, occasionally they were inside, but, I think, not often?
7th March. My desktop computer is trying to repair itself – it tells me it will take over an hour! Hope it hasn’t trashed all my videos. I am editing g this on my tablet. I was a bit concerned that my trigger guard wasn’t authentic, but when I rechecked with the Wogdon photos I found that the shape and single rolled edge were in fact correct. I roughly filed the trigger guard tang to curved profile and bent it and inlet it, then had a look on the photo and the Hutchinson to see where the pin that held the tang in was positioned, but couldn’t see any pins so I took the finial fixing pin out of the Hutchinson to see how the whole trigger guard came out. Turned out the tang is held by a hook similar to the hook used to hold the tang of the butt cap on long guns. I must have known this once – I’m sure I had the Hutchinson to pieces years ago. Anyway I got a bit of scrap silver and made a tab and silver soldered it onto the tang in the middle. I was being particularly stupid and left the lead jaws in my vice while I soldered. That made a bit of a mess and got some lead on the silver. Now need to cut a slot for the tab and make something for the tab to hook under. I had a thought that it would be fun to make the stock for the second pistol out of the walnut tree that is now just a stump. It was taken down 20 years ago as it had honey fungus but the wood inside seems fine and should be well seasoned although very wet. When I was doing a lot of wood turning I used to ‘season’ wood in the microwave – You could take green wood, rough turn it, give it half a dozen bursts in the microwave till its moisture content was reduced enough by weight, and it was then completely stable for finishing. You just have to be careful not to scorch the wood as it can get too hot.
6th March – Last post was after midnight yesterday. Made good progress with the trigger guard bow as well as a weekend job of attacking the stump of the rotten walnut tree with a chainsaw as its about to fall down (the stump is 10 ft tall) – at the moment its clad in almost a foot of old Ivy and bark and rotting wood that is stopping me get at the remaining strong part. . I bent up the bow round a selection of mandrels, it took a while to get right as when I got one end right, the other end was wrong! In the end I think I got a reasonable shape! Putting the rolled edge on wasn’t as difficult as I anticipated because the curvature allowed most of it to be put on with a straight flat file with one dead edge with minimal work with the riffler files. It has quite bold rolled edges – I might fine them down a bit, the originals usually had two rolls, the outer larger one and a fine one inside, but I am not sure that my techniques will allow that degree of refinement and I’d rather end up with something that looked smooth and workman like rather than mess it up – we’ll see! I am happy to leave the bow for the moment while I do the tang and inlet it, then I can see how they solder together, and see if the bow needs any more work before joining the bits. It will need a decent bit of engraving, but I can’t really do that until I’ve soldered the parts, as the oxide layer from the heat needs to be cleaned off and that would degrade the engraving. An interesting thought- on Tuesday the Rijksmuseum put a super detailed (40 GByte) photo of Rembrant’s ‘The Night Watch’ on its website ( google ‘The Night watch’). Apart from the fact that it was called that late in its life because the varnish had darkened it, I was interested to note that the soldier holding the matchlock has his finger down the barrel! Everything in a Rembrant painting has a meaning – what is the reason for that detail? Incidentally the gun is a matchlock with a lever tricker (later ‘trigger’)and appears to have a rather elaborate brass match holder. Have a look, the photo is an amazing piece of technology in its own right. Oh, and my blog has now had over 3 million visits since I started it……………
6th March Sorry for the gap in posts – I’ve been busy on the pistol and am now making the trigger guard from sheet silver, which is interesting. I realised I hadn’t ordered enough silver to make the tabs on the back of the finial and tang so I thought I’d cast up some scraps into a flat sheet and use that. I had bought a small crucible and a graphite mould from ebay so I got out my small oxy/gas torch and had a go…. I can just about melt the silver but only just, so when I come to pour it, it solidifies as I pour it out – still I did get a bit that I was able to flatten out on the anvil and make a tab with. I soldered it on the back of the finial that I had filed up with ‘easy’ (680 degree) silver, but after I had done that I realised that I will have to solder the bow of the trigger guard too the finial near to that joint – I should have done the first joint with a higher temperature silver solder so it doesn’t melt when I do the second – I’ll have to try to keep the first joint cool somehow…. I’m generating lots of silver filings, but can’t find a good way of collecting them – it goes against the grain to start with 40 grams of silver and end up with 20 – luckily the price of silver had gone down to £1.09 a gram when I finally bought it, rather than the £1.20 it reached a couple of weeks ago. The spring I made last week works very well and looks good – I now have to make the frizzen spring or adapt the castings I have – they are an almost perfect fit, but that creates a difficulty because there are two holes in the lock plate, for the fixing screw and the peg, and the distance between the holes is just about half a peg diameter less than the separation on the castings – thats a problem – as I can’t just drill a new hole – I think I’ll probably drop a 2 or 3 mm end mill over the existing peg hole covering both the old and new hole positions and then peen in a peg and weld it on the back, that will let me drill a new hole in ‘clear’ metal. An alternative would be to make a spring from scratch – I have done it, but its easier with slightl bigger springs as it involves welding the bit for the fixing screw….. Looking at the lock again, I see that the peg hole is pretty near the hook on the back of the lock that holds the front of the lock in place, so there isn’t a lot of room to weld… Maybe think again… Doing this pistol is one long adaptive process! I finally got round to pruning this blog and transferring last year’ stuff to a separate post so the scrolling works better….
Bits of the trigger guard in various stages. Finial still needs a bit of work and then engraving…
27th February – difficult to believe that ten days ago it was freezing! Bit the bullet and made a mainspring for the Wogdon lock – it fits and looks OK and the lock seems to work but I lent my infrared thermometer to Tom so I couldn’t do the hardening and tempering safely, so I avoided playing with it too much. I cut a strip off a circular saw blade for the next one, but that is only just over 2 mm thick so its slightly thinner than I would have liked. I do have one piece of 3 mm spring steel left but I like to keep that in reserve! I was trying to find suitable strip on the web without much joy – however there is one spring steel supplier that claims it will supply small quantities so I’ll try them on Monday – I’ll also ring Kevin and see if my a miracle he has some in stock. I keep looking at the Wogdon stock and itching to start the rounding, but I have to finish getting the profile in plan and elevation right before I can do that, or else I am just making problems for myself. I reckon there are a couple of mm to come off each side of the barrel area in plan, which will make drilling for the barrel bolts a bit less risky. ……… I have to go tomorrow to look at a thatched cottage that Tom is in the process of buying, by way of a survey – I have more hands-on experience of the pitfalls of old property than most professional surveyors (as far as I know none of my work has yet failed!), and am not easily scared by a few minor issues – and I should get my thermometer back! I’ll be glad when March 8 arrives and we can legally meet one person in our gardens – I am being compliant, but I’m sure a lot of people are not taking much notice – it is very difficult in the nice weather and having had ‘the jab’ to keep to the rules, but overall I think it is sensible for the long term. Oh, and the swivel clamp for my vice (see 21st Feb) is in use all the time!
I hope it works because its one of my better looking springs!
26th February – My Land Cruiser had run out of MOT and is due for a re-licence on Monday so I was a bit concerned, but fortunately it passed with just a couple of bushes on the stabiliser bar. I’ve been busy on the Wogdon No 1. The ramrod hole is now drilled – I didn’t have a tapered drill as the old gunmakers used so did it with an 8 mm D bit I’d previously made. This took the breech end of the hole very near the bottom of the barrel groove – close enough to just break through, so I let in a bit of wood to repair the weak patch. It isn’t deep enough to impede the ramrod. I milled out the dovetails in the underside of the barrel to take the loops for the barrel bolts – I milled flats with an end mill and then very gingerly cut the dovetails with a rather fragile looking 60 degree dovetail cutter – but it worked brilliantly. I cut the dovetails with a slight wedge shape by moving the barrel in the vice when I cut the second side, then filed the loops to fit – then I locked them in place with a centre punch. I think they are secure, as they fitted very well and had to be tapped into place – I guess if there is a problem later I can solder them as well. I cut the holes for the loops in the floor of the barrel groove, and I’ve marked where the barrel bolt holes need to be. I’m pondering how to make the slots as the bolts are less than 1 mm thick – I can just get my finest flat needle file ( 1 mm thick) through the slots on the Hutchinson dueller. I guess it will have to be a series of 1 mm holes drilled, although the holes will be through around 10 mm of wood and 1 mm drills do have a habit of wandering – and should I do it while the stock is in the square, or when its rounded and there will be less wood to traverse? The false breech wasn’t a good fit against the stock – this is an important area as it transfers the recoil of the pistol barrel to the stock, so I cast some epoxy/walnut dust into the gap – its more or less worked but I used clingfilm to stop the false breech sticking, and its left marks – but its very firm and will work – its hidden by the false breech anyway! I am now making a mainspring, I made a blank but got the shape wrong so I made another that I’m filing up after bending it.- I am running out of 3 mm spring steel so for No 2 I might try cutting up an old circular saw blade, its supposed to work…..I think I ordered some from Blackleys several years ago but haven’t had it ( I think I may even have paid for it!
24th February – I’ve been quite busy fettling the Wogdon – I decided to concentrate on the first pistol, so I could make al my mistakes on that one and move on to No 2 when I’m a bit further on. If I have to fabricate any parts for No 1, I’ll make the parts for No 2 as well. I inletted the lock plate, snd then mounted the bridle and inletted those, then the tumbler and sear and sear spring, so now the lock is complete inside except for the mainspring, which I fear I’ll have to fabricate – I have made several so I know it my method works! Having got the lock in ( its perfectly lined up with the touchhole, fortunately!) I could then position the set trigger and mill a slot for it with a 10 mm cutter so that the blade lined up with the sear arm. I thought I was going to have to sink the set trigger into the stock by a couple of mm to get the right engagement, and I knew the stock was a bit too low there so I ran the underside on the belt sander and took off around 1 mm ro 1 1/2 mm and set the trigger plate flush. It works, but the trigger blade is too high when fired to let the sear back into the bents on the tumbler – that can easily be cured by slightly cranking the sear arm upwards. I put the ramrod groove in the stock, not quite perfect in that it is a bit close to the barrel at the breech end, but I think I can cope with that! I now have to drill the rest of the way with a 7mm drill I’ll have to make, or use a ‘D’ drill that is very slow at cuting. I machined blanks for the barrel loops that take the barrel bolts to hold the barrel to the stock, and I will let them into dovetails in the bottom of the barrel. I did buy a small dovetail cutter bit but it looks awfully frail! The fun part will be cutting 1.5 mm slots in the loops – I can put 1.5 mm holes and perhaps fretsaw the slots? My 1.5 mm milling cutter only has about 4mm of cutter and then gets to around 6mm diameter, so I can’t use that. Keeps me out of trouble all this…………………………………………………………………
Here are 4 blanks – the base is a bit thick, it has been filed thinner (Hutchinson barrel behind.)
21st February – Saturday was spent catching up on domestic jobs that I’d been putting off – one or two still to do. The new power supply for the spindle motor on the router seems OK – I did a couple of test runs. I’m jut tweaking the code for the barrel inletting and will, I hope, test that tomorrow – its in several parts – cutting the raw rectangular shapes, and then trimming them for the swamped shape of the barrel. Each time it needs the zero point carefully set up, so I’m in the process of putting them all together into one run so I know all the zeros are exactly the same. I got fed up with juggling with bits of packing while trying to hold tapered or slightly irregular bits in the vice for working on the stocks, so came up with a simple clamp that works very well on the stocks in the square – it consists of a block of wood that sits on the bottom of the vice slide and has a bit of 1/2 inch rod behind it so it can swivel – the face of the wood is slightly dished on the sander so it can bend a bit to give a grip at the ends – works briliantly…..
I finished the third Wogdon Project video and am in the process of uploading it to YouTube, which takes forever – so far 24 hours and still got 1% to go! thats about an hour to uplioad each minute of video! the link is;-
19th February – Its really nice working in my re-vamped den! I have now routed out the profile of the third stock, so that is ready for its barrel to be inlet when I can pluck up the courage to have another go. I started the lock inletting of No 1, and cut out the pocket for the ‘bolster on the lock and the hook on the front, so now the lock plate (without the ‘works’ on the back) sits down flush on the wood ready for the next stage of inletting. I can now see how far the lock has to be let into the stock for the bolster to rest against the barrel (about 3 mm) – the width of the stock in the lock area is fixed by the barrel width plus the lock, and any taper in the stock there is defined by the swamping of the barrel, the stock on the other side of the gun opposite the lock being shaped to match. When you come to make a gun you realise how interdependent everything is, and you actually have very few degrees of freedom. Its why you have to do things in the right order of dependency or you come unstuck…. I am keeping my fingers crossed on that one! I got the new power supply for the cnc spindle motor, which is a rather good quality surplus supply from ebay. It is rated at 48 volts at 5 Amps, making a total of 24o watts, which is a bit mean for the 400 watt motor but it is a massive improvement on what was there before, and I can’t slow the motor appreciably by hand, so I’m happy – it is, after all, around 1/3 of a horsepower for a 4 mm cutter running at 12000 r.p.m.! – plus it is independent of the stepper motor drivers. I have rewritten the G Code for cutting the barrel inletting to avoid high loads on the spindle, although it will now take ages to run! I had a go at writing some simple code for clearing a pocket for inletting the lock, just leaving a little round the edges to be nibbled away by the neat mouse, and it seemed alright on the test piece, but I decided that by putting in a few more points (24 in total) for the cutter to follow I could give the mouse less work to do = so that is another thing to test. I did it by photographing the lock plate on a piece of millimeter grid graph paper and picking off the cooordinates for the ends of the cutter paths – its quite quick and will give a uniform depth of cut with perhaps 1 or 1 1/2 mm to trim off. I put the coordinates into a spreadsheet (Libra Office) and use that to compose the program using formulae and copy and paste for multiple passes, I then export it as a .csv text file and check it in G Wizard, which shows the cutter paths in 3 D and highlights errors and lets me edit out any stray points etc. Its then saved as a G Code file (.nc) ready to run in bCNC, which sends the G Code over a usb connection to the cnc controller. bCNC itself lets you look at the tool paths and edit the code, but its not as clever about it as G Wizard. I’m really getting into this cnc business – wish I had one capable of working in steel!
You can see the false breech needs to close up on the barrel – this will bring the tang down a shade.
The contact between the lock and the barrel in this area defines the width and taper of the pistol here.
18th February – Pretty dramatic change in the weather = the kitchen jumped from struggling to reach 18C with the underfloor heating working hard to touching 23C without the underfloor. I made a few bits for the next video, which I’ll edit over the weekend when I can get into my office! I profiled the replacement stock and started to inlet the lock of pistol No 1 – I’m not very confident about doing it – in the past I have managed, but there is a tendency for my inletting to look as if it was very neatly gnawed out by a small mouse. Although the wood I’ve used for the stocks is good straight grained walnut of a reasonable density it is difficult to get it to cut sharply in spite of all my tool sharpening efforts. I think I probably need some thin bladed tools with a very gradual taper! I’ve ordered a couple of Japanese wood files which are supposed to be very good – they are certainly expensive – to do the shaping of the stocks – it is coming on apace! My new workshop layout is much better, especially since I’ve put away or thrown away a lot of clutter – I did a quick video tour for the next video. The new power supply for the cnc spindle is due to arrive tomorrow, so I can fix that up and test it on the offcuts from the stock blanks, of which I now have several!
17th February – Disaster – when I had finally got all the cnc runs completed for the barrel inletting of No 2 after many stops and starts it turned out that some of the attempts had displaced their axes and cut the basic groove too wide, so that stock is a write-off unless at some point I can find a very heavy barrel! Anyway I wasn’t happy with the way the cnc router was working, so I did a bit of investigating as the cutter seemed to lack power despite the fact that the one I put in had a 400Watt power rating. Checking the voltage and current to the motor revealed that kills the supply at a power input of around 60 watts = the supply is not capable of more than about 1.6 Amps! I kept the original power arrangements but never thought that they could be that feeble! I suspect that the spindle motor may also causing the power supply to the stepper motor drivers to drop and miss steps when the load on the spindle motor reached a high. At least there is an easy solution to the problem – I found a cnc spindle drive module that claims to give up tp 48 volts at up to 10 amps – I’m waiting for a power supply that is capable of providing the raw D.C it needs. As a break from fussing about the router I decided to take advantage of the warmer weather and rearrange my ‘indoor’ workshop while I could work outside to cut up the workbenches etc. My original arrangement had lots of useless spaces, and a beautiful Edwardian specimen cabinet with 27 drawers that was more or less inaccessible. A bit of reorganisation and I now have three decent working areas – a design/computer space, a heavy workbench with vice and TIG welder etc, plus a decent general ‘clean’ working area, as well as the top of the specimen cabinet that is ideal for the cnc router. The room was the old dairy, and the windows were originally unglazed with screens and shutters – one is still shuttered, so I’ll buy a big sheet of Perspex or Polycarbonate and glaze it while leaving the screen in place. I’v got the benches etc sorted and am going through all the junk that has built up over the last 8 years since I moved my workshop in there. I found another stock blank that will do for the replacement stock for pistol No 2, and I’ve set it up for routing, so I’ll do that tomorrow – I won’t try cutting the barrel groove til I’ve fitted the new motor drive and tested it very thoroughly on scrap timber!
14th February – Happy Valentines Day ( I forgot, my excuse is that its not essential and therefore not allowed under lockdown!) I’m still struggling with the cnc machining of the grooves – the cutter is barely powerful enough for the job and stalls easily – I must have had about half a dozen attempts to cut the rough pockets for the barrel without getting more than half way through! Aside from that I have been inletting the false breech of the No 1 pistol – I had to put in a patch as I inadvertently cut out too much, but I’m hoping it won’t show. As I mentioned, the tang of both false breeches was bent to the wrong curves for the top of the stock, so I had a couple of goes on the ‘original’ one and got it pretty well on the right curve – it will be blended in when I’ve finished by filing both the wood and metal together. I wondered about the false breech tang screw/pin as usually its a pin ( i.e a machine screw ) that goes right through the wrist of the stock into the trigger plate in front of the triggers, but the set triggers don’t have a boss for a thread and I couldn’t see from the book how it worked. Fortunately my Hutchinson duelling pistol is very similar to the Wogdons and has a similar set trigger, so I unscrewed its fales breech tang screw, which turned out to be a woodscrew about 16 mm long – problem solved. I am wondering if it would be worth getting a ‘proper’ cnc machine for metal – you can get a secondhand small mill of the sort sold to educational establishments for around 2.5K but as they stand they are not great, for a start the software to run them is proprietory and isnt sold with the second hand machines – also its supposed not to be great at machine control as it drives the axes via the old style printer port of a PC. But assuming the basic mechanics is OK, I can probably use the same controller thats runs my little cnc machine ( I upgraded it to a more modern board) – just add beefier stepper motor drivers and a spindle drive, and then I could run the same software, and much less of a learning curve…. possible. I’ve got lots of videos queued up to be edited – hope to get one out in the next few days…….
11th February – Just put in my night’s input and lost it as the editor played up! Yesterday I finished playing around with my programs for cutting the barrel groove on my cnc machine and decided the time had come to bite the bullet and set it running – slight problem as the whole job takes 5 separate programs of cutting and it required very careful setting up to zero the cutter between each one – but I got there in the end, except there was a raised ridge down the middle of the bottom. No problem , I’ll just input a few coordinates and run the cutter down the middle – only muggins got the X and Y coordinates mixed up and sent the cutter sideways into the wall of the barrel groove, almost through it…. Much gnashing of teeth and calling down of demons! Then I realised that I had forgotten to cut off the 12 mm extra I’d left on top of the barrel due to the shaping of the jig, so, thank goodness, after cutting this off on the badsaw I’d removed most of the damage – just a trace left that will either be sanded off or can be filled with a sliver of wood. But of course I’ve now got to run all 5 programs on the cut down area………………….. I had better luck with the false breech. I fitted the pot in my pedal control so my welder was working again, and welded up the parts (see 4th Feb) that I’d clamped to a piece of aluminium angle. I had chamfered the joint so that I got good penetration to make a strong joint as it is subject to a lot of stress if the pistol is ever fired. I tacked and then deep welded the joint and over filled it to ensure no signs of the weld would show when the surface was filed off. That all went well, and I’ve now filed the shape to match the barrel profile and trimmed the hole for the hook on the ‘hut’ of the breech. Much to my surprise (I shouldn’t confess this!) the barrel and false breech fitted perfectly after a little tweak with a minute (1.5 mm) dental burr in a (fake) Dremel. I shaped the tang on the mill with a 12mm cutter to get the corners right and put on a little draft to aid inletting. I bent the tang at red heat, and its better than the original one in terms of fit, but both will need tweaking when they are inletted. So tomorrow’s job is to recut the barrel groove in the second stock – then probably clean up the profile of the top of both stocks on the big disk sander to inlet the false breeches along with final inletting of the barrels. Then think about shaping the sides of the lock in the square to provide the platform to inlet the lock into. I will have to inlet the edge of the lock by hand as I can’t at the moment get its shape into my cnc software, but most of the area of the lock can be milled out by feeding in segments of straight lines, and the deeper parts can similarly be inlet using an appropriatelu sized end mill. The lock position depends on the eventual position of the touch hole, and once the lock is in place I can locate the set trigger mechanism and decide if I need to crank the sear arm. Once that is settled the underside profile of the pistol can be fixed, and at that point the ramrod groove and hole can be put in. At this point I will have to make the ramrod pipes and the trigger guard – annoyingly the price of silver has gone up from £1.07/gm to £1.20/gm in the last few days – serve me right for not buying it when I’d worked out how much I needed!.
The sight blade on mine is a bit thick, and the tang could be a bit thinner although that won’t show.
9th February AT last I got a result from my ‘programming’ labours – I managed to get my cnc machine to cut a near perfect groove for the swamped octagonal barrels in a test piece of hard walnut – I had one or two small problems as I’d specified too big a cut in one or two places and it tripped the spindle motor, and I put the wrong sized bevel cutter in to begin with, but the end result is not bad – needs a bit of trimming – maybe up to .3 mm around the breech, but I think I’m now ready to run it on the real stock. It may seem odd to spend so long just avoiding a bit of hand work, but its an investment in learning how to use the machine – I think I could now program the cnc for a lot of other jobs – probably even for inletting the locks, which is a job I hate as I can never approach the sharp result that the old craftsmen achieved. The other though that occured to me is that I can get a reasonable sized benchtop cnc milling machine that will handle mild steel at a fairly sensiblle price second hand, although the software to run it is not free! Next weekend I’ll pass 21 days since I had my jab, so I will at least be able to do the shopping, which I’ve avoided recently – but online shopping is not the same as far as food is concerned so it will be good to browse and only buy fruit and veg that looks good!
The dots are the points for measuring to check dimensions.
8th February Busy on various peripheral tasks to the Wogdon pistols! I have spent a couple of days getting to grips with my small cnc machine as I think it will do well for cutting the barrel bed for the second pistol – it is coming on well – I have written 3 G Code programs for different aspects of the barrel inletting, and am in the process of doing a dummy run on a piece of walnut worktop – it looks good and was going well, but my program for shaping the groove for the barrel swamping had a bit of a hicough just now – I’ll leave it till the morning to tackle that problem,,,,, I got a new potentiometer for my welder pedal, so I can get on with welding up the second false breech, And I still have a lot of video recordings for the next Wogdon video to be editted…. I suppose I’m lucky to have so many things to do in lockdown, but I am feeling a bit housebound – I get this feeling that if it goes on much longer I’ll become a recluse! I hope to have a couple of photos to show for my work tomorrow! One good thing about this blog is that it does constitute communication with the outside world!
5th February -I decides it was time to sort out my wood milling – I have a small Chinese cnc router/mill/engraver that I have tried to use in the past but have never really mastered, and milling the barrel grooves in the stocks seemed like a good reason to persevere. The main problem I found was that for even simple jobs I had to produce a CAD model in software, then convert that to tool paths, and then convert that to G=Code, which is the simple language that the machine used to move etc. Anyway I found a piece of software (G=Wizard Editor) that lets me make simple G-Code programs without the model = once I get the hang of it I can machine simple shapes or write G=Code for more complex shapes, so I am planning to use it to profile the barrel groove, Anyway that is the plan! Another big problem I had was establishing where the machine thought its home position was – I would think I knew were it would start cutting, but it would have other ideas and go wizzing off to somewhere else and start there = sometimes dragging the tool through the wood – I bent one motor shaft that way….. First I need to get some kind of dust extraction working on the machine. then I’ll do a dummy run on a scrap of wood and then probably try the ramrod groove in the first stock – I need an 8 mm ball ended cutter. I’ve got the fabricated false breech set up for welding, but I am waiting for delivery of a replacement potentiometer from RS Components to get the welder foot pedal working. The second of the Wogdon recreation videos is now online see VIDEOS in the header or search for Wogdon or Cablesfarm on Youtube. I will try to do the next one during this week, but its a bit tricky to do and film at the same time – there is a tendency to be aware of the camera and loose concentration!
4th February – I set up to mill out the barrel groove in one of the stocks yesterday but was thwarted by the digital readouts on my miller which were jumping about for some reason, probably damp in the workshop. I did get it partly done and I’ve now finished it off by hand, getting down to smoking the barrel so I could see where it was touching – at one point I noticed that the barrel was slightly canted over so that had to be corrected – anyway that one is now done, leaving the blank stock and my hands very black! I inlet the barrel without the false breech ( also known as the standing breech) as I only have one for the two pistols, and that one isn’t quite the right shape to match the curve of the butt. So I started to make a second false breech – Given a suitable piece of angle iron it is possible to shape and bend it in one piece, but I don’t have a suitable sample, nor do I have a big enough block of metal to make one from solid, so I will weld one up out of two pieces of plate – that has the advantage that I can make the recess for the barrel hook ( also called the ‘hut’) in the flat top piece, without having to do it through the opening where the hook goes, if you follow me. Anyway I machined up a piece of metal for the top, complete with a rib for the backsight, and a bit for the front – now I have to weld them – I still haven’t got a new potentiometer for my welder control pedal so it won’t be as easy as it should be – my welder has a broken current indicator so its a matter of trial and error to get the right current. I decided that I’d make the first pistol, or at least finish the stock shaping and inletting before starting on the second – that way if I screw up, I’ll know better when I do the second one, and I can always make another stock – I still have a few stock blanks. I went to Dicks yesterday – he is moving so has to clear his workshop so I brought back a box of ”junk’ including 4 flintlock pistol barrels of around early to mid 18th century that would make a fun project if I could get suitable locks and furniture!
2nd February – More Wogdon.. I checked the photos in the book to see if he cranked the sear arm to provide for the set trigger – in fact there are four or five photos of the insides of locks, and only one is cranked – so he did do it, but not often? I started to think about machining the barrel groove – its quite a challenge to do an octagonal groove by hand – round ones are easier as you can use gouges and sandpaper round a rod and they are not as shaped (swamped) as octagonal barrels often are. So I decided that it should be possible to machine it on my little milling machine, although it won’t be straightforward as the barrel is quite heavily swamped with quite a significant ‘waist’ in the middle, probably amounting to a deviation from a straight line of almost 2 mm. Cutting a simple parallel groove won’t avoid a lot of hand work. I think that it should be possible to machine an approximation to the swamping by measuring the shape of the barrel and converting it to a table of offsets. I tried with my dummy barrel and it sort of worked, but for it to work properly one needs three hands, one for each axis of the milling machine. I do have simple digital readouts on all the axes, so I suppose I can do it all slowly – shame about the lockdown or I could get someone else to be the ‘y’ axis! My trial with my scrap stock was not altogether a failure, and did reveal a few weaknesses in the system, If the worst comes to the worst I can always cut the shape in a series of steps and smooth them by hand… At the moment I’m uploading the second Wogdon video to Youtube – should be there by morning…
1 February – Another month… I ventured into the woodwork shop today to rout out the stock blanks using a guide bush and a 1/2 inch cutter 50 mm long using a template – plenty of opportunities to get things wrong! Anyway I did a dummy run on a bit of the block walnut from the kitchen worksurfaces which ironed out a few potential problems, and the two blanks came out OK. I checked them against my template from the Wogdon book and they looked OK – perhaps a bit deep in the body, but that can be adjusted later (maybe needed, see later..). I started to mark out the blanks for the various cuts – the barrel groove, ramrod pipe fixings, barrel bolt loops etc. and had a look at the lock and the set trigger mechanism. I was concerned that the position of the sear arm in my locks meant that the set trigger mechanism came a bit lower than could be accommodated in the woodwork from the book photo – I wasn’t unduly concerned as my blank is a bit deeper than intended there. However I was puzzled as the Wogdon I’m copying also had a set trigger, so I got out my Hutchinson that is almost a dead spit of the Wogdon and had a look at that. It has an identical set trigger mechanism to the ones I have for my pistols, and I assume to the ones in the Wogdon – When I took the lock out of the Hutchinson I could see how that got round the problem – the sear arm is cranked upwards at the end where it contacts the set trigger blade by a couple of mm. If I do the same with my locks, I think I can get the same profile as the Wogdon in the book, but I’m left wondering if that also has a cranked sear arm….. And the other Wogdons illustrated? I wonder if Geoff Walker has a pair of Wogdons that he could look at for me! Onward and upward…Or can anyone viewing this post offer any insight?. Hope to have a video ready tomorrow, just got to tidy it up a bit…. and the next one is in the pipeline too.
Sorry, not very sharp photo this time, my camera is overhead and I can’t see the focus!
31st January Gently working away on the pistols and the next video. I’m keeping several strands going at once – routing out the bassc stock shapes, working out how to do the furniture in silver and getting up to speed on engraving. I have a couple of old stock blanks from Holts in 2016 that will do fine – I’ll put them through the thicknesser to a couple of mm over the maximum thickness, then run round them with a big router using a cut out jig and a guide bush. I figure that once they are profiled a couple of mm oversize and square I can inlet the barrel and cut the slots for the ramrod pipe tabs and barrel loops, and possibly for the set trigger. I have been working on my script engraving, which is going well, and I’ve started on the false breech tang to find possible designs – the false breech engraving is all relief engraving, while the rest of gun engraving is normally intaglio. I think of the two types in terms of early word processor terminology wisywig ( What You See Is What You Get ) – intaglio is wycywig ( What You Cut Is What You Get ) and relief is wiliwig (What You Leave Is What You Get) – well its a thought anyway! I did a couple of examples of wiliwig tang engraving and re-discovered broken tips to gravers! Its easy to do when trying to dig out the background bits….
28th Jan. Busy with bits for the Wogdon pistols – I realised that if I put it all in my blog it would detract from the videos, so I will keep most of it for the weekend when I’ll post the next one. It was much warmer today so I did manage a foray to the woodwork shed so I could run my stock blanks through the planer to expose the grain properly and let me choose the right ones and the place to put the stocks. The blanks look promising – nice straight grain. I did a bit more engraving and decided that the 5% cobalt gravers were a good thing, so I thought I’d buy a few more blanks so I can offer them on this website, and have half a dozen to work with. I use MCS for ‘proper’ tool stuff, but I only have an old catalogue and their website isn’t particularly user friendly – on the other hand they are very helpful on the phone so I rang and ordered 10 bits of 1//8 square x 2 1/2 long – just right for gravers. They only had 9 in stock but they were on offer at £1.38 instead of £4 odd this month, so I back ordered to make 20 – they come from India. I noticed today that if I’m not careful the cobalt gravers can loose their tips, but the seem to loose only the very small tips, not a big chunk like HSS does – it can be more difficult to see that something is wrong, but the fingernail test shows it up ( run the point up your thumb nail under its own weight – if its OK it will catch immediately, if it only catches occasionally its no use……) My first Wogdon video has already sold one copy of the Wogdon book -I understand Bonhams still have a few in stock so hurry if you want one – if you speak to David Williams tell him it was me that pumped it! Anyway, I am getting some of my engraving fluency back – it takes a lot of practice – borders and repetitive pattern are good for re-training the hand and brain to work together.
27th Jan. Thinking about the different materials for gravers I realised I had never done a comparison experiment, so I set up a line of border engraving – what I might call barleycorn, lots of cuts – and got an HSS, a cobalt steel and a Glensteel graver and did a comparable length of border with each – the cobalt steel won hands down – after an inch of border it was still capable of fine lines and was only slightly worn and cutting well. I didn’t get to an inch out of the HSS before it was worn to almost unusable and was incapable of anything but rounded cuts, although along the way it had for a while been cutting very smoothly as it hit its sweet spot. The Glensteel was not quite as good as the Cobalt steel in terms of wear and was quite difficult to use at the end. All this was in the soft mild steel, not even cold rolled steel. Verdict;- for the soft steel, the cobalt (5% cobalt, M35?) was by far the best! I did try to pre-wear a cobalt graver by touching the keel on my 3M fibre wheel for a second but it wore the keel down to a gentle curve and I had to put in a lot of work to get it back to a usable shape, which made me realise how much longer it takes on the diamond hone to shape the cobalt steel compared to HSS. I’m not sure why I haven’t been using cobalt before – I did have one in circulation but it wasn’t easy to distinguish from the HSS. I guess with the more difficult steels there is an increased tendency for the points to break off and here I doubt the cobalt has much advantage. Anyway, as well as playing with gravers I did a bit more practice on Wogdon engraving in soft steel, including a very small version of the ‘swags’ signature – it turned out smaller than I intended, I calculated that it should be 18 mm across, and did the lettering first, with block letters 1 mm high and carried on from there, but when I had finished it turned out to be 15 mm wide – a bit small! But it looks rather good at that size. I did a very careful copy of a Wogdon barrel signature that was beautifully executed in the original (some are less so) and I was quite pleased with the result. I need to have a go at some false breech tangs some time – they are mostly different from the other gun engraving because they tend to involve cut away backgrounds within a border. I have had a lot of positive feedback for my start to the Wogdon project so no option but to keep up the videos – its a bit of a problem as my office with my video editing computer is used as an office by Penny during the day so putting them together will have to wait for the weekend. I have been following a series of videos ( 90 in all ) on the reconstruction of a 1910 sailing vessel Tally Ho, which are so well produced that subscribers are now funding the restoration. When Leo, whose project it is, was talking about the videos he said that it took him about 10 hours each video just to edit it once he had all the footage! I’m afraid mine won’t get that much attention ( & it will show) !
26th Jan. Still beastly cold (for England!) so I didn’t go into the main workshop, just my engraving and fettling workshop where I have a small woodburning stove – it gets pretty snug. I did a bit more engraving of Wogdon related things. I remembered that I’d had a batch of black mild steel strip surface ground by a friend, so didn’t need to use the cold rolled stuff – the process of cold rolling work hardens the outer skin and leaves a surface that is not only harder but also is patchy – as you cut with a graver the resistance varies awkwardly . I had a revision of different metals for gravers – most of my gravers are simple High Speed Steel (M2?) from China at £1 a pop but some are GRS fancy Glensteel or Carbide ( up to £25 a pop). I also found a couple of blanks of cobalt steel (M35? ) I had bought some time ago. I made one up into a graver to see if it was different from the HSS ( it was more like the GRS materials) . Historically the High Speed steels were developed because old fashioned carbon steel is useless above 200 degrees C, but HSS can go to around 500 and M35 to even higher before they soften, thus revolutionising commercial machining speeds. This is,of course, completely irrelevant to hand engraving unless global warming gets completely out of control, but as a byproduct they are also more wear resistant, M35 being even more wear resistant and harder than HSS. Carbide tools are even harder and more wear ( and heat) resistant but tend to be more brittle. I have tried all of these over the years, many times, including special steels for gravers from GRS (Glensteel and C-Max). The HSS gravers wear quite quickly, but I like them because they quickly wear to a ‘sweet spot’ and if you change them as soon as they get too worn ( BEFORE they start to skid) they are pleasant to work with. The other materials wear less in use, some quite noticably so, and are better for fine line engraving as they continue to cut a narrow V for much longer whereas the HSS quickly rounds over. I wish I could get these other materials to have a sweet spot like the HSS, but keep it for much longer – it may be possible to artificially wear them to start with, enough to get to the sweet spot? I wonder if my liking for the HSS tools is that when worn in they cut a wider line – maybe one of the harder tools sharpened to 105 degrees as is quite common, would suit me better – its just that all my sharpening is predicated around square gravers… Depending on the material I’m engraving I can generally cope with any gravers, but I do need to change the HSS gravers very often on harder surfaces like cold rolled steel. Anyway I engraved a few examples of the signatures from Wogdon locks – starting off about twice as big as they would be on locks as its easier to see errors. I did a very quick copy of a fancy signature in an oval with swags around it – I don’t intend to use it on my locks but I need the practice – one of the skills of the old engravers was achieving a particular appearance with simple cutting. Anyway here is my first try, very quick and freehand and about twice full size, plus a photo of the Wogdon version – he used this design with variations including making the oval a gold inlay with the name on it – it was used on his fancier pistols.
CLICK ON THE PHOTOS FOR A BETTER VIEW!
The original is about 18mm from side to side.
The third line is about the right size for a lock – the W tail may be too high. London has poor spacing!
Typical breech patterns from Wogden pistols – he used many different patterns.
25th Jan. I’ve started the Wogdon Project – to make a pair of duelling pistols in the Wogdon style from a set of very old gunsmith made parts. Its made possible by the splendid book ‘Robert Wogdon Gunmaker 1734 to 1804 by John O’Sullivan and de Witt Bailey. The book has such a lot of technical details plus details of around 20 to 30 existing dueling pistols and pairs that I can find enough information for a pretty complete reconstruction. I’ve made the first of a series of videos that I hope to make as the project goes on – I imagine it will take some time! I’ve done the necessary stock drawings – I would start work on the stocks as I have some perfect old walnutstock blanks, but to be honest its too cold in my woodworking shop for me to spend any time in there so I have been doing other parts of the project – The barrels are good but need striking up a bit finer, and then working through a few grades of paper – I started on the worst barrel today. I checked all the different script signatures that Wogdon used on his duellers over the years, and copied the ones I could find into my drawing book – I had a few goes at engraving them – I started off much too big and on the third try got down to about the right size – I am engraving on some annealed cold rolled steel strip, but its tough old stuff – I had the surface ground off but it needs more taken off to get through the ‘skin’. Anyway the first of my videos is now on the VIDEO page of this site and on You Tube – probably a search for Wogdon will bring it up.
23rd Jan. Just had a delivery of logs, so I’ll be OK in the workshop for a while! Here is the method of checking the strike angle of flints on frizzens, taken from an old copy of Muzzle Blasts. It clearly assumes that the cock is right for your lock so that the flint hits the frizzen somewhere near the top – usually between about 3/4 of the way up although the article doesn’t cover that aspect. You can either do the drawing on a good photo of your flintlock, or on a blank piece of paper – to do a paper drawing you need a school compass – draw a line and mark point A, measure of the distance between the cock screw and the frizzen pivot using the compass and mark on your line as point B. Use your compass to measure from the top of the frizzen face to the frizzen pivot and draw a bit of a circle on your diagram. repeat from the centre of the cock screw. where the circles cross is the position of the top of the frizzen – label that point C. Do the same for the base of the frizzen face – label the crossing point D. You now have all the information relating to your gun that you need. You will need a protractor or a 60 degree and 30 degree template, which you can make easily by cutting the corner off a square piece of card such that one side is 60 mm long and the other is 104 mm long. ( Tan-1 of 104/60 being 60 degrees). Now you can do the rest of the construction following the instructions on the photo. If you have lost your school compasses (careless, you’ll get a detention!)) then first draw in the 60 degree line, then mark along it a distance equal to the distance AD using a scrap of paper – that’s E. Job done…. ( detention: copy out one of the posts on this website in longhand, hand it in by Wednesday)
22nd Jan Got a phone call from my surgery offering a jab this afternoon so I got Phizored ! I have to say that for all the kind and helpful staff and volunteers around the centre, there was a certain lack of systematic organisation that almost certainly reduced throughput significantly. Having finished the Nock flint conversion I’m gearing up to start on the Wogdon project – to build a pair of ‘Wogdon’ duelling pistols from an old set of gunsmith made parts I bought years ago from someone who had had them in his workshop for donkey’s years, who had acquired them from an old boy. They were obviously made by a very skilled gunsmith – the handmade lockwork is not castings and is up to Purdey standards – just needs polishing up. Before I get going I’m making full scale drawings of the stock taken from photos in the Wogdon book by de Witt Baily and John O’Sullivan (Robert Wogden, published by Bonhams) and my own Hutchinson duelling pistol. I thought I should tidy up a few bits and pieces before I get too far into it, and discovered Viking’s little pistol waiting patiently on my bench for attention. It has to be said that its not a thing of great beauty, or much of a credit to the gunmakers of the mid 19th century. As is usual with these primitive little pistols the sear, which is part of the trigger, had worn away and would no longer hold the tumbler, which is part of the cock – all parts are made of junk metal and none are hardened. This example must be the most basic I have come across – just look at the parts laid out below – the pin that is the pivot for the cock also holds the top strap in place and is a plain rod, with a slot cut across one end to look as if it is a screw. The trigger pivot is another rod – its had a bash with a hammer to flatten it a bit and make it stay in place – any way I put a few blobs of weld on the trigger/sear and filed it up and forgot to photograph it. The bents on the hammer are pretty poor, but just good enough to function, and as no-one in their right mind would expect to use the pistol so I left them. It now cocks and fires, but I wouldn’t encourage anyone to try it very often as I’m not sure it will survive much more abuse. Since I can’t imagine that it has been fired very many times, I guess the sear gets eaten away pretty quickly. Aside from that, during my evening read of old gun magazines I came across a 1960 issue of Muzzle Blasts, the US equivalent of Black Powder, the MLAGB magazine with an article on flintlock geometry with a construction involving making a diagram of a flintlock using a school compass to check whether the flint will strile the frizzen at the correct angle – the argument being that if this angle isn’t right the lock won’t spark well. The author also recommends using a piece of a wood saw blade to reface recalcitrant frizzens – he says harden it in water and DON’T temper it. I may try this for the Nock, I used his diagram for it and got the correct cock/frizzen angle… so it should work! I’ll put up the method and a diagram later.
19th Jan Had a few days of going through the last year’s papers and trying to make sense of my tax return! Each day I reward myself if I make it to 16oo hrs with a cup of tea and an hour or so in the workshop. My project was to make a tool for unscrewing the Nock touch-hole – basically two tungsten pins in an EN 8 steel tool, mounted in a wooden ( Indian Ebony) handle with a brass ferrule. I made the first attempt, but the cheap digital readout on my little milling machine played up and I got the spacing of the pins wrong, so I had to make it again. I did find one other problem with the first one – I wanted to put the pins in with epoxy glue, but there was no way for the air in the holes to escape, so the pins kept coming out until I put it in a vice. So on the second try I was very careful to set the spacing of the holes right, and I drilled a small hole through the side joining the bottoms of the holes to let the air out. The shaft, brass ferrule and handle were of a classic 19th century design, but held together with a modern epoxy glue. Job done – I’ll put a few coats of Osma Top Oil on the finished wood – its a rather good oil finish that I used for all the worktops in the kitchen – it goes on as 3 or 4 very thin coats and dries as hard as iron ( well, nearly).
14th Jan Almost done all I can to the Nock until I can get out and shoot it – I hardened the steel, as the upright part of the frizzen is, or was, called but I still can’t get a spark – I will have to dig out a better flint. I may yet have to put a face on the steel. I made a touch hole today – I really only meant to do a trial run as I’m not very confident about screwcutting on my lathe and the thread isn’t anything you can buy a die for, being 9 mm diameter and 22 t.p.i – both pretty precisely. Anyway I fiddled about with the gearbox and gears and sorted out directions of travel etc. and chucked a piece of 10 mm titanium rod and did a test pass of a 55 degree tool – OK – it is 22 t.p.i, which is a good start! I started off putting a taper on the internal face with a centre drill, and drilling a 4 mm hole about 6 mm deep followed by a 1.7 mm drill in excess of the required length of the touch hole. Fortunately the thread I have to cut doesn’t have a shoulder so I didn’t have to start the thread abruptly, making it much easier as I could keep the leadscrew engaged all the time. I did a few passes cutting a bit deeper each time until it looked about right. If I had a collet set I could take the rod out of the lathe to test the fit and be sure to get it back exactly, but my chuck is not fantastic, so I took a chance and stopped the cutting. The thread was a tight fit in the barrel, but as the breech block was dead hard I didn’t mind using a bit of force to screw it in, and it seemed to go as far as the drum it was replacing had gone. Once I’d got it well in, I filed it off flush with the breech block and drilled a couple of 1.7 mm holes for pins to screw and unscrew it. I hope it works – the good news is that the touchhole finished up with the 4 mm drill ending about 1 1/5 mm back from the face – pretty well ideal. It fits the gun well, perhaps 1/2 a mm high in relation to the pan, but I hope nothing serious…. I guess a titanium touch hole is good? I’ve never had problems with titanium nipples so it should be OK, and I do love working with titanium! I now have to make a tool for unscrewing and screwing the touchhole – at the moment I’m using 2 TIG welding electrodes of tungsten – 1.6 mm diameter held in a pair of pliers!
It looks as if the peaks of the thread were the tight bit – old threads were much more rounded in thread profile.
11 th Jan – One of those days when things don’t go to plan! I found I had to move the hole for the sear pivot in the lockplate by about .75 mm as I couldn’t get things to work. moving a tapped hole by a small amount is tricky, so I dropped a 5 mm end mill onto the new position and made a tight fitting plug with a slight taper and tapped it in from the outside and filed it flush on the inside so I could run a weld round the joint. My welder has a home made pedal controller on the current and it chose that moment for the potentiometer to go open circit and deliver 130 Amps when I touched the pedal with pretty dramatic consequences to both sides of the lock tail! I swapped back to the internal control and recovered the mess with a judicious bit of welding and a file! The I managed to break off a No 4 UNF tap in a hole – luckily I was able to extract the end of it! Then I drilled the hole for the peg on the mainspring and got it in the wrong place so had to plug it, weld over the back and drill a new hole. Last job of the day was to file the square in the cock – its a tricky job because there is not much tolerance on the angle of the square, or you get the cock positions in the wrong place, or the mainspring hangs below the edge of the lockplate when the cock is on its stop – there are fudges to put things right ( see other posts) but its nice to get it right first time. Its also tricky to get a good fit on the tumbler square and takes a lot of careful work with a square file. Anyway for once the square in the cock is dead right! If its a straightforward fitting of a cock onto a tumbler then I usually get it near and press fit them in a vice to form a tight fit, but in this case I want the tumbler to be usable with the percussion lock parts, so don’t want to deform it. I did have one other annoying problem in putting it together – I had very carefully marked the positions of the bridle, tumbler, sear pivot and sear spring using a steel jig but when I came to fit the sear spring I found that the lower spring blade was too long and hit the radius part round the pivot – I did grind a bit off on the grounds that it would still work with the percussion parts! I still have a little tidying up to do as the tail of the lockplate doesn’t fit snugly into the wood – the lockplate is a bit bent in the wrong way – not sure how I’ll tackle that as any bending of the lockplate will throw all the alignments off, but we’ll see.. I also have to make the touch hole – I’ll turn it out of titanium with a 22 t.p.i thread – I don’t think I can put any sort of head on it as I can’t/don’t want to touch the breech block (Its dead hard, and fits the nipple barrel for the percussion use). Anyway the lock fires well, the cock hits the frizzen and the frizzen flies open – I don’t get any sparks as the frizzen doesn’t have a hard enough surface and the flint is no good, but there is no reason why it shouldn’t spark well – there is lots of snap in the mainspring, and the frizzen flip point is just right…. we shall see… Altogether it has been an interesting project – given that I was just copying an existing percussion lock and using the internals you would think that it would all go together easily if you just copied the positions of the holes exactly – but for some reason, perhaps due to minor discrepancies or slight curvature of the plate, it was a real pig to get things to work! ( Of course the pan and frizzen and frizzen spring were items from the ‘spares ‘ box)
9th Jan – Started on the ‘works’ for the lock – I decided to begin by trasferring the parts from the original lock to my lockplate – I can replace them with new later. I made a spring steel jig from the original lock by making bits of steel rod into punches that exactly fitted the screw holes in the lock and marking and drilling the holes, then transferring the plate to the new lock and marking and drilling the holes in the lock plate. Unfortunately there is not a handy thread size to match the original screws – they are 3.05 diameter and 40 t.p.i. – between UNF 4 and 5, so I settled on 4 (2.85 OD) as it has to pass through 3.05 mm. holes – bit of a fiddle as the shanks are now slightly bigger than the threads so another diameter to turn… Anyway I made the 4 screws necessary and it all fits together – I probably need to remake the sear pivot screw as the shank is a bit slack, but that can wait. One of the things I find really tricky is getting the slots in the heads of screws exactly in the centre – I put the slots in by hand using a bit of hacksaw blade ground down to a tapered edge – I have a number of different degrees of grinding for different slot widths. Now I have to make the hole in the lockplate for the tumbler. Despite my very careful jig making I am not absolutely certain that the pilot hole in the lockplate aligns perfectly with the back bearing in the bridle – I realise I should not have put in a pilot hole, but left it til the bridle was in place and then drilled the lockplate through the bridle, but I’ll sort it – I may have to do a bit of adjustment of the hole position as I enlarge it to 7 mm for the tumbler ( I think it can only be 1/4 of a mm out.). Still its getting there! I will need to find my knife gravers to make the slot for the tab on the sear spring – everything got spread around when I vacated my workshop to be the kitchen!
Jig is clamped and held by running instant glue round the edge.
I was quite pleased with the slots in the heads, I don’t usually get them that central! They are a bit too fine.
8th Jan – I retraced my screw making steps of yesterday! I managed to remove the bit of screw from the outboard frizzen pivot support by heating it with a tiny flame and cutting a minute slot and unscrewing it. I made the new frizzen spring fixing screw bigger, UNF 5 as the boss was big enough to accomodate it and it does take a lot of strain. Frizzen springs are attached at the lock plate face, but the force on them is where the frizzen heel touches the roller – i.e. outboard, so there is a force rotating the frizzen spring away from the lock – you often see it on flintlocks, not usually bad enough to worry. Anyway its all working nicely now. The spring closes almost completely when the pan opens – if I were making the lock again with the bebefit of hindsight I would have tilted the pan casting up at the front of the lock so as to leave a bit more room, but it seems to work. I’m still puzzled as to how the screws got to be so hard! I tempered the bit of the frizzen pivot up to 300C for a good 15 minutes but it still snapped when I tried to bend it. at a rather low level of force. I didn’t harden or temper the new screws! I ordered a selection of EN8 round bar so I have a stock of known material in future. I tried silver steel but its a pig to get a good finish when turning so I used the previous material. I reckon I can just get away with the cock in the same place as in the original lock – that will mean that I can copy all the internals ( or I suppose, use them interchangably between the two locks if I’m feeling lazy). Looking at the photos I’d say the cock was a bit big for the lock, but its not so obvious when looking at the real thing – I often see things when I come to put photos on the website that I miss in the flesh. Its good to have the photos on the blog – so often one (I) takes dozens of photos and never looks at them. Reminds me of the joke about some foreigh visitors – husband says “look at this fantastic view'”, wife says “just take a photo and I’ll look when we are back home”.
Initial contact may be a little high, we’ll see how it works when finished.
7th Jan. – Its getting near to the time when I have to do my Tax for the year – but for the moment I can afford to play! Todays jobs went OK . I drilled and tapped the frizzen pivot hole and turned a pin with a UNF4 thread tapped into the outboard support. The inside hole was very close to the edge of the ‘bolster’ so it has a minimal head. I fettled up the frizzen spring and centered and drilled the hole through the boss and turned up a UNF4 pin with a countersink head to fit the outside of the frizzen spring boss ( an unusual arrangement) and turned up a small roller to bear on the toe of the frizzen pivot. The Frizzen pivot is quite low down on the lock plate and by the time the spring has a roller mounted there is not a lot of room for the spring to open and close. I closed the spring up in the vice so that its natural opening was a bit bigger than it would be with the frizzen open, but not excessively so – a bit of a guess! I heated the spring up to red heat with my oxy-gas torch (the one that supplied my Covid oxygen!) as my regular butane torch wasn’t hot enough when I brought it in from the freezing shed to properly vaporise the gas and dumped it in water, then polished it on the buffing wheel and found a spot on the AGA hotplate that was about 305 degrees (using a radiation thermometer) and put the spring down, covered with 3 layers of aluminium foil and closed the lid for 10 minutes to temper it. The screws and the roller were hardened using Blackleys colour case hardening powder – I stupidly tried the frizzen pivot screw without tempering it and broke off a bit of the threaded end in the hole – fortunately leaving enough to work, although it may give trouble in use. I just didn’t appreciate how hard/brittle EN8 could be! The tricky part was getting the holes to mount the frizzen spring in the right place so the bump on teh frizzen pivot goes through the null point at about 30 degrees opening and thereafter throws the frizzen back covincingly – I did manage to get that right although the spring might benefit from opening a bit to give a bit more snap – we’ll see when it sll together and we have the cock and mainspring etc working. Bother – I was sitting there opening and closing the frizzen when the frizen fixing screw sheared off – even after I had tempered it to 280 degrees, not sure what is going on – will sort out tomorrow and get some photos!
6th Jan Since we are now in lockdown I couldn’t go and get Jason our expert welder to weld in the pan, so I did it myself – it made a bit of a mess of the lockplate but it has cleaned up reasonably well given that the pan section didn’t have much of a margin and was thinner than the lockplate. It will work… Next job was to sort the frizzen – the nearest casting I had didn’t quite fit – it was either right for the pivot hole and wrong for the pan, or vice versa. I araldited the frizzen into the correct place for the pivot and drilled a 2.4 mm hole for a pin – just as I started to drill I saw that it wasn’t quite right, so had to pop the lock in the AGA to soften the araldite and start again. Having got a good pivot hole in the lock and frizzen, I cut the frizzen halfway between the pivot and the pan and filed the joint so that I could glue the pivot and the pan in place and tack weld the frizzen back together – that worked rather well, and even cleaned up reasonably – my only doubt is whether it will be strong enough in use. I filed up a rather large top jaw casting to fit – although why I didn’t just start from a bit of 6 mm plate as I usually do, is a mystery… Anyway that is done so I set up the cock and ran an end mill down the back of the top to clear the cock screw and tapped it No 12 UNC – I’d have preferred UNF but I don’t have a die for that size. I turned a matching top jawscrew from a scrap of EN8 16 mm round bar. With a bit of judicious filing on the back of the frizzen it now fits perfectly and holds a flint nicely, although I need to raise a few spikes on the gripping surfaces. Now I can see how the flint hits the frizzen and decide where to put the tumbler hole. I had a look at the lock of my John Manton double flint gun which has a similar shaped pan but a cock with a ‘spur’ – semi French ? – I have a very similar cock that I was thinking of using, but the spur cock would need the tumbler nearer the flash shield so it could act as a stop. I did some measuring – the arm on tumblers that carries the link to the mainspring defines the leverage and tends to be more or less the same length on all similar sized locks. This arm has to clear the ‘bolster, whose rearward extent is fixed by the poition of the side nail – this means that the distance between the side nail and the tumbler axis needs to be more or less constant. In my Manton the side nail is quite a lot closer to the touch hole than on my Nock lock, so the tumbler axis can be nearer the pan, hence the spur cock will fit. If you didn’t follow that, never mind, its another example of the inter-relationship between all the different bits of the lock – its no wonder that the designs stayed the same for long periods. With the frizzen in place if I put the cock on the original tumbler position the flint strikes the frizzen a little near the top, although I think it would work OK ( I seem too remember about 2/3 to 3/4 of the way up is usual – however, I’ve just had a look at the Manton and it strikes at exactly the same place on the frizzen as mine, so I won’t worry and will keep the same tumbler centre. Next job is to make the proper frizzen screw – The screw obviously passes through the frizzen as a plain shaft but can either be tapped into the outboard end of the frizzen support, or into the lockplate end. The Manton has the screw head on the outside and the thread in the lock plate, but I think its more usual to have the screwhead on the inside of the lock and the tapped thread on the support arm. I think I’ve also seen the scewhead on the inside of the lock, and a tapped larger thread in the lockplate so the end in the support arm is plain. I will probably copy the Manton. The screw that holds the frizzen spring can similarly either be tapped into the spring itself with the screwhead on the inside ( the more common arrangement ) or screwed in from the outside with the head visible. I have little choice as the spring casting I’ve got is intended to have the screwhead outside and I’m not sure there is enough metal to file it into the other pattern.. After that its the inside ‘works’.
I did a bit more filing before welding but you get the idea….!
Cock is in the position is in the original Nock lock – I think it is OK…
I rather wanted to use this spurred cock as on the John Manton but it won’t fit!
4th Jan I bit the bullet and engraved the name on the lock – more or less OK! I made the hook on the toe of the lock to go under the screwhead that retains the front of the lock – the lock plate is slightly curved so that the lock can be fed under the screw – I hadn’t noticed that before. My technique for the hook is to build up a pile of weld, then file it to shape – it ended up with a curved back as that is what the weld did – it works perfectly! I tacked the pan into the lock plate – it was a bit of a mess as I made a few mistakes that I had to weld over, but it turned out OK in the end – I have just left the critical joint under the pan on the front of the lock – I’ll need to be feeling confident to do that – my TIG welding is not very expert and I’m a bit out of practice. It all looks as if it is coming together – I need to make a top jaw and top jaw screw so that I can see exactly how the cock falls on the frizzen before I drill the tumbler hole, and put in the pivot for the frizzen. I’m not sure if there is enough metal in the frizzen in the right place for the pivot. I’ll araldite the frizzen to the pan and drill a small hole through the support bracket, frizzen and lockplate to see how they align. I’ll need to do a bit of sorting on the tail of the frizzen to get the lump that engages the frizzen spring to go through the slot cut in the pan support – another complication…… Makes you realise how complex and inter related all these bits are! And that still leaves all the internals and the frizzen spring……….
Photos not up to my usual standard, not sure what happened – sorry!
3rd Jan Still quite a lot of messing around finding all the bits of my old workshop that got moved out when it was a temporary kitchen, and putting them back. I had tmy engraving microscope, but not the hone that I need by it for sharpening gravers. I put the TIG welder and Argon back but then had to find the rinder to sharpen electrodes, and so it goes on! I filed the bevel/chamfer on the lock plate – more or less Ok, and did a bit of practice engraving on EN 8 to make sure I could cut the border lines well enough – I decided I could, so they are on the lockplate too. I cleaned up the cock so I could see how it fitted – I want to keep the same tumbler position as in the original Nock lock as it enables me to copy the shapes of all the internal components. I can’t, for instance, move the tumbler towards the pan as that would not leave room for the arm on the tumbler that carries the link to the mainspring, and shortening the arm would call for a stronger spring…. Its all interconnected! if I were just making a flint lock for display or a an ‘antique’ it probably wouldn’t matter too much, but my aim is to make a gun that shoots, and that has implications for the internal mechanism etc. The main issue for me is that some flintlocks fire really fast and are good to shoot, while others don’t seem t obe amenable to tuning for fast ignition – and it would seem that this is more art than science – indeed a black art!
2nd Jan – Dry fitted the pan into the lock plate, which took a lot of filing and trying – Its important to get the pan positioned correctly in relation to the touch hole – which is a little tricky as the touch hole itself hasn’t been made yet and the hole for it is 9 mm diameter. Its important that the touch hole is slightly above the pan because for fast ignition its the flash from the burning powder that ignites the main charge via the touch hole – the flash travels much faster than the burn rate through powder, so if you pile up powder over the touch hole you may get more reliable ignition but it will be slower than flashed ignition. my double Manton has little ‘shutters’ on the frizzens that cover the touch holes and push any priming powder away from the touch hole. The shutters have a small hole to allow air to escape but will (probably) keep any powder from the main charge from entering the pan. It was a Manton patent but never caught on. Anyway the pan is now ready to weld, but I think before I do that I’ll file the chamfers on the lock. I did try a cut with a graver on the lock material, but the EN8 seems harder than I remember, or else its so long since I engraved anything that I’ve forgotten what it feels like! (I probably need to anneal it! what a pain) I’ll probably put my name on the lock if I can cut it as I am not trying to pass it off as the work of Henry Nock!
1st Jan. 2021 – HAppy New Year – lets hope it improves rapidly, although the signs are not particularly good at the moment. Just hoping we don’t all go the way of Essex! I spent a few more hours filing and fettling on the Nock Lock – first core was to take a blank of 8 mm x 50 mm EN 8 steel ( this is moderately hardenable – ? about 1/2% carbon) and mill out the lock plate 3.5 mm thick leaving the bolster, then cut it out with an angle grinder and 1 mm disk. I clamped it on the bed of the milling machine and nibbled away some of the edges, then filed it to fit – have to be careful to work slowly and avoid damaging the edges of the lock pocket with burrs thrown up on the metal. Once profiled I put it back on the miller and thinned the tail down to about 1.6 mm and filed a concave step to match the original (its a common feature). So we now have a fitting lock plate with stepped tail and bolster in the correct place to receive the pan. At this stage its worth marking a centre punch for the side nail, as that will fix the plate relative to the gun – an easy way to do this accurately is to grind the blank end of a drill that just fits the hole in the stock and use it as a centre punch – it will not make a particularly good mark as its probably too soft, but you can see it clearly. At this point I could see that the bolster plus plate is the correct thickness and is touching the breech block – the breech block is slightly domed around the tapped hole for the barrel so I may need to recess the bolster to match as I can’t touch the breech block its – too hard. I eventually selected a pan casting that had already been cut down, and I’ve go a couple of frizzens that will probably fit, plus a couple of cocks. The net step will be to cut the lock plate to receive the pan casting – I may need to juggle the bolster and casting in the region of the frizzen pivot to make sure the pin is secure and works properly – the casting has been cut a bit close to the hole.. Having cut the plate for the casting I’ll clean up the plate properly and put a chamfer round the edge and do any engraving that is needed – its easier to do that before the pan is fixed in – I hate trying to engrave/re-engrave complete flintlocks as the pans always get in the way. Once the pan is welded in, or at least tack welded, I can finally sort out the frizzen, and then I’ll be in a position to select a cock – I have two possible ones, I think one is a little on the small size and the other may be a smidgin too big, but once the pan and frizzen are installed it will be easier to choose. It may be possible to open up the small one. Then I’ll be able to see where to put the tumbler hole – I have marked the original location from my card template but it can be altered slightly, although it can’t be pushed too far towards the tail of the lock or there isn’t room for the sear spring. There are so many variables to be sorted, and with a limited range of parts at my disposal, and only having made a couple of flint locks before it is a challenge – still that is why one does these things!
Possible parts – when the pan is in it should be easier to choose to best fit.
30th December – OK, its the new flint lock for my little Henry Nock – the pistols can wait! I got out my drawers of bits and pieces and had a rummage – I have 4 or 5 pan castings that Blackleys make for reconverting percussion back to flint from full lock sets, and several frizzens and cocks. Its a matter of sorting out which are most suitable period wise, and which are near enough in dimensions to fit – The original lock on the Nock looks as if it had a semi rainproof pan, not one of the very tiny pans that went with French cocks – I do have a set of castings for a late Mc Knight double with tiny pans and French cocks ( I don’t want to break up the set) – the cocks are tiny compared to earlier ones. I also have a pan section taken from the same lock and a somewhat larger flintcock with a spur that might do with the Mc Knight pan, and a frizzen that can be made to fit. Since I want the gun to be interchangeable between the new flintlock and the percussion lock, I dont want to modify the lock pocket or any of the woodwork, certainly not the opening. This means that the main defining dimension of a pan section is the overall thickness, as the pan needs to touch the breech accurately to avoid sparks getting iside the lock, while the outside of the pan casting lock face needs to be flush with the level of the existing lock face. I also have a pan casting that has been cut down ready to weld into a lock, but I’m not sure about it as the cut is quite close to the pan etc and I’m not sure if I can weld it neatly enough – I suppose I could get Jason in Haverhill to do it, but I’m trying to stay away form people while the pandemic rages! I guess that as I want the flintlock to shoot and am not trying to fake it back to flint, function is more important than looks!
Strightforward drum and nipple conversion so not too difficult to make it into a flintlock that I can shoot.
These are the parts I picked out that might work for the Nock.
26th December – The Kitchen was finally properly finished ( bar a ittle bit of snagging) at 4 p.m. on Christmas Eve when I finally got the gas hob conneced and working, so just made it to finish Penny’s Christmas present with 8 hours to spare! Pretty pleased, so now I can relax for a couple of days. After that it will be time to reclaim my workshop from its temporary use as a kitchen and think about a project – I have some bits ‘in the white’ to make a pair of duelling pistols in the Wogdon style, and a couple of walnut stock blanks, so maybe that will get my attention, or I might just warm up by making a flint lock for my little Nock single barrel 16 bore so I can interchange between flint and percussion……. Or I might just have fun and start my disinformation campaign on social media – the revelation that the latest mutation of the covid 19 virus can be spread by email, Twitter, Facebook or WhatsApp……………………………… some people will believe anything!
22nd December – Oh dear, I’ve been absent for too long in the rush to finish the Kitchen. Well, after a major move back that involved a complete turnout of the larder ( including replacing the lights that I had cut off when I removed the old kitchen wiring). Anyway I just about made my deadline of 21st and we are now using the new kitchen – we had our first meal there at dinner tonight. I’ve started a separate post on the Kitchen, with a description of what we did if you are, by any chance, interested! Anyway here are a couple of photos of the finished kitchen before we moved in and cluttered it all up!
‘Sideboard’ made by Matthew with my design of handles.
December 9th. At last the grouting of the floor tiles is complete and we can get the units in to work on the tops and fix the main unit. It took around 4 man days to grout the floor – about 1 1/2 hours per square meter! Anyway it now looks good – I’m in the process of sealing the tiles – the sealer is special in that it is permeable – like everything else in this floor – the instructions say keep applying sealer every hour until the floor is not absorbing it – I’m not sure how long that will take, but I have put on 3 coats and its still soaking it up – perhaps I’d better go and put on another coat! We had been working on the kitchen for 3 months as of yesterday (excluding my construction of the main unit )- I’m hoping that we will finish by 21st December so we can be in by Christmas – not that there will be much of Christmas. Anyway the pressure is on! When we have finished I’ll gather up the bits of this post and make a dedicated post and maybe put up the costings if I can bear to add it all up.
December 6th. Had what is probably my last shoot of the season near Beccles on Saturday – luckily a fine day after the rain and snow of Friday. Shoots are a bit out of practice at the moment because lackdown put a stop to them, so things were perhaps not as slick as usual and there was rather a lot of hanging around, but at least it wasn’t too cold. We were doubled up on pegs so Pete and I shared a peg. We had a pretty barren first three drives as we were well out of the action, but the fourth drive was fine and I had a few good shots – overall I got 4 hits for 8 shots, which was pretty good going for me. Anyway it made a nice break from the kitchen! Things in the kitchen department are moving to a close, but slowly…. We got the extractor fan installed, and a lot of cleaning up done, and today I sealed about an eigth of the floor and grouted it, and painted all the woodwork in a nice dirty white colour. I designed a grouting funnel – a 12 inch long by 6 mm wide funnel for putting the grout into the gaps between the tiles as it really needs to be quite runny to get to the bottom of the gaps – about 25 mm deep, and it seems to work pretty well. I need to get Matthew to make a variation with one vertical side for grouting the gaps round the edges of the floor. Based on the time it took me to do about 24 tiles today, sealing and grouting will take around 20 hours more, so we’ll both have to go at it… One good thing is that with the cold weather the relative humidity in the kitchen is below 40 % and the temperature is raised to about 20 C, so things are drying out nicely.
December 3rd – The pressure hots up to finish the kitchen – at the moment the key holdup is getting the floor dry enough to put the sealer on the pamments so we can grout them – if you try to grout without sealing the very porous pamments, you stain them badly, or so I’m told. It’s interesting watching the colours change with time – when the tiles arrive they are very pale whitish pink , when wetted they go pinker, then as they dry out they get paler and then after a day or two go yellow – quite a bright yellow. I think that fades slightly as the floor dries out, but most are still quite yellow. While waiting for the floor we have fixed the rest of the wiring, cleaned and very lightly polished the wooden doors and put in some of the plumbing. I had fun bending a pipe to carry the propane to the gas hob – obviously as its a gas pipe I was keen to avoid joints as far as possible but a few are necessary as the pipe run is too long for one length of tube – any way I managed to put 8 bends into the pipe and still had it coming out where I wanted it! I got the lights fixed yesterday – I’ve now ordered some G10 bulbs with 120 degree beams instead of the 35 degrees of the IKEA ones. I am tempted to fire up the underfloor heating to try and dry out the floor – the makers of the heater say 6 to 8 weeks for the screeds to cure and dry out and the top screed only went on a month ago, so I guess I had better wait a while! I’ve had several emails from viewers of this blog asking about guns they have, and possible repairs. I am often asked how much a gun is worth, usually on the basis of a simple description and no photo – obviously its more or less impossible to give a meaningful estimate. Even with a couple of not so good photos (why is it so difficult to take a decent phot given how good modern phone cameras are?) it is usually almost impossible to see the condition in sufficient detail to be accurate. I can usually guess a minimum price assuming its in poor to fairish condition – usually a few hundred pounds if it’s reasonably original. After that the price doubles for each step in condition – x2 for reasonable condition and fully functioning with mostly original parts, x2 again if in good original condition, and x2 again if it’s in near original condition and cased, or if its rare or otherwise interesting. The name on the gun can make a big difference to the starting minimum price. So you can see the difficulty in estimating effectively blind. The best advice is to look through current antique firearms auctions and see if you can find anything similar as a starting point.
November 29th – more laying of pamments on Friday – tried to tweak the mortar mix and pre-wet everything, and added a bit of lime putty to increase the plasticity – it did work a bit better, and we got another half of the floor done – that leaves about a quarter to do, but it will involve a lot of cut tiles so it will take the best part of a day. Unfortunately some of the tiles didn’t bed properly – I hadn’t noticed but several of the tiles were very bowed down in the middle and didn’t seat properly as the overall mortar thickness wasn’t enough to accommodate the bowing ( up to 5 mm) and they didn’t bond round the edges so when I walked on them 24 hours later they rocked. Interestingly the tiles turned bright yellow around a day after they were laid, except where they were not properly bonded where they stayed white/pink – tapping them reveals any bits that don’t have a proper bed under them, so I’ll go over them and see what needs to be done – poorly bedded ones can be lifted and relaid, or if there is a poorly bedded edge I might be able to run in water followed by thin grout. It will be sorted in time! I put in the lighting fixtures today – I had to modify them as they were intended to be fixed to a plate screwed onto the ceiling but the fixing needed to go into the side of the light base and the beams get in the way. Fortunately I’d glued disks of wood to the laths for each fitting, so could screw up into them. The lighting is a bit overkill, at least I suspect it will be when its turned on, as I was overcome by how cheap the IKEA TROSS triple G10 fittings were ( £7 each) and I’ve put in 8 fittings – with 3 LED bulbs of 5 watts each that is a massive amount of light. I will put in the IKEA smart bulbs so I can control at least some of the fittings. Even the cheapest unsmart bulbs cost more than the fittings, which incidentally are very well made – smart bulbs cost up to 5 times the fitting cost!.
November 26th – Got the limewash on the walls eventually, so now into floor laying. This turns out not to be as straighforward as I hoped. Conventional commercial tile cement is a complicated mix that is formulated to hold its water and remain plastic while you move and level the floor tiles, and works well – the only problem is that its pretty impermeable and so won’t do if you want the floor to breath, which I do as it prevents the moisture being forced outwards to the walls, which have no damp proof course, nor any possibility of fitting one, being flint, clunch and lime mortar. So I was advised to use a lime mortar to bed the tiles. I made up a fine mortar with NHL 5 lime and kiln dried block sand as being fine and so not stopping the tiles bedding down fully if necessary. The only trouble is that the tiles (pamments) are dry and super absorbant, as is the floor, so any mortar has its water immediately absorbed and doesn’t give any scope for positioning. In the end we managed to lay the tiles by flooding the floor where we wanted to lay mortar and spraying the pamments till they were wet and using the mortar almost in the consistency of soup. Its still necessary to get the tile in almost the correct position and its not really possible to do any fine levelling – if the tile goes down unlevel it has to be prized off ( they stick within a minute) and the whole process of laying started over again. We managed about 20 pamments an hour once we got it organised, probably a quarter of the rate with ‘normal’ tile cement. Still we did get almost 40 laid in the afternoon after messing about a fair bit working out a method. – we have a total of 204 to lay, about 20 sq meters. I’m wondering if we have the best mix of mortar – I might put in some lime putty which might hold the water a bit longer….. To add to the fun of laying them, the size varies somewhat so its impossible to get completely uniform joint gaps – we are aiming for 7 mm minimum, but the variation in tile size appears to be 2 to 3 mm at times – I’m glad we didn’t go for a smaller joint gap, I wish we had gone for a slightly wider gap – 8 m.m. would look more even, but when grouted it will all look fine – if we had wanted a perfect, regular floor we wouldn’t have spent a fortune on hand made pamments!
November 20th – Now down to all the niggly jobs that come with prep for decorating – we decided to get as much as possible done before laying the floor tiles so they don’t get messed up with splashes of limewash and its a slow series of annoying jobs cleaning and filling etc. The walls will be limewashed in colours that I’ll mix myself – acrylic pigment intended for art can be bought in half litres and that is enough to colour many litres of lime. The lime putty is mixed with water to the consistency of milk, preferably a few weeks before its needed to let some of the lime disolve in the water. The pigment needs to be mixed with plain water so that it is thorougly mixed and no lumps exist – stirring it in a jam jar with a 1/2 inch paint brush works well – it can then be poured into the lime mix. The acrylic in the paint doesn’t disolve properly if you put it directly in the lime, it forms small lumps and the finished limewash paints streaky. Limewash is a lovely finish although it needs a lot of coats to cover well – we have 5 coats of white on the ceiling to cover the plaster. One technique I used before is to finish off the limewash with a straight coat of clear limewater which then basically turns to limestone on the wall. The stuff I put on the walls 25 years ago is hard and smooth and can’t be washed off – any attempt to remove it brings off the plaster with the paint, but as it makes a firm base coat there is no point in removing it. We moved some of the new units through the kitchen to get them out of the way and they look fantastic – can’t wait to get the floor down and the units installed. The units are all built on carcasses of 16 mm ply that a friend has as scrap from his business which he kindly biscuit joins for us – the unit below weighs in at around 35 to 40 Kg without the 38 mm black walnust top, so moving them around is quite a sweat!
Matthew’s side unit
November 15th – a bt of a pause while we worked away on the kitchen… Its getting round to all the small details while we wait for the floor to dry out sufficiently to lay the pamments – probably another week. Each evening I lay a newspaper somewhere on the floor with flat plastic hawk on top of it, and in the morning the degree of dampness in the paper is easy to judge – its gradually getting dryer day by day, but still there is obviously water rising through the floor – not sure if it will decline to zero any time soon! I levelled off the section of wall to be tiled behind the hob and set the worktop level with a batten and tiled – I couldn’t decide whether to tile up to the beams or stop one course down, but when I’d got it tiled to the beams it looked wrong, so off they came. There was an oak frome round a set of shelves next to the tiling, I stuck masking tape over the oak to keep plaster splashes off it, which made us realise how much better everything looked if it was a paler colour – so it will be painted in due course. Things are beginning to edge towards the decorating stage in the sink unit half of the room – I’m contemplating tiling the floor in two halves so that I can still work in half of the room while the other half dries. Anyway things progress – Matthew dug a French drain on the outside of the North wall, which had been very damp – we thought we should do it before we finally leave the EU on 1st Jan as presumably French drains will be banned thereafter……… I suspect we shall be in for a period of chaos then – Felixstowe docks is already delaying unloading container ships by up to 10 days so who knows where it will all end – probably in tears! I’m still mystified about the ructions in No 10 – none of the ‘explanations’ in the press make any sense to me. The photos show another ‘good buy’ from Screwfix – mains powered 20 Watt Led worklights are great, specially since they fit neatly onto clamps on the beams. We have 2 in constant use.
One way and another there will be enough wood around without the frame!
November 8th The top screed went in just fine on Tuesday – added about another 2 tons of sand to the floor, but it came out pretty flat and was quicker than the first screed – it was not so thick so less waiting for the mixing in the small mixer we hired – 25 mixes exactly for this screed. We have so far used 6 tons in total. By Thursday it was OK to walk on and Matthew returned to his cabinet making and I tidied up the edges of the floor. First and second fix of wiring for the services has now started, and there is a lot of it! It is amazing how many electrical bits and pieces a kitchen has – a fair number can’t easily be accomodated by sockets above the worktops – so extra circuits are needed for oven, hob, extractor fan, water softener and underfloor heating, plus dishwasher and fridge. Add in a generous 9 or 10 double sockets spread around and that is quite a lot of wire and boxes to be let in and wires burried or preferably put in trunking! We can’t leave the wiring any longer as I am at a stage where I need to do the tiling on the wall behind the units, and the sockets sit in the tiling……. So we have another lockdown – this time it doesn’t seem to have stopped things like the first one did – there is still plenty of traffic about and most work is still going on. Not everything about the lockdown is clear – there seems to confusion about what is or is not allowed. Organised game shoots are off, but rough shooting is allowed, Angling is off, but fishing is allowed (work that one out if you can!). Matthew can still come and work because I am paying him and it is therefore work, whereas if I wasn’t paying him it would not be allowed ( we are working in different places – he has the workshops, I am working in the old kitchen). Our salvation is that Screwfix is still functioning for pre-orders online. I now have most of the appliances lined up, although I’m waiting for the sink and tap, and the worktops are not due to arrive for a week or so. Anyway its all going well, and the floor is drying out nicely so we are on schedule to lay the pamments in around 2 weeks, which gives us time to finish off most of the other jobs that can be done before the floor is laid.
There is a handy space for the services in the recess where an old outside door was.
November 2nd – I laid the heater cable on the floor in the rather poorly attached plastic strips, not easy as I couldn’t put any tension on the cable to straighten it, and my plastic strips were rather widely spaced as I didn’t order enough! Anyway with Matthew’s help unwinding the cable it all went down. I was pleased that the length worked out almost exactly right for the layout I had planned – we laid the 105 meters and I only had to shorten one loop by about 600 mm to get it all to fit perfectly. I nipped over to Anglia Lime to get more NHL 5 – Natural Hydraulic Lime – used in place of cement (OPC) for greater permeability. as the first screed was a bit sand rich. Anyway tomorrow is THE screeding day – about 2 inches to be laid, and it must be level enough to lay the pamments on with between 6 and 9 mm of mortar and get a completely flat surface – quite demanding! The first of the appliances arrived today – the oven.
1 November – Seven weeks to finish the kitchen! We finished off the first screed last week, but everything was setting and drying out so slowly that I put on the Aga and a 1 kW fan heater and the dehumidifier 24 hours a day – it has been drying out much better, the first coat lime plaster has now gone hard and the floor is giving up its excess moisture – the dehumidifier is pulling around 10 to 12 litres per day from the air and just about managing to keep the RH around 70 percent or a little lower and the temperature at 24 Celsius – in a day or so we will lay the 2 inch top screed on top of the in-screed electric heating wires. I marked out the heating cable layout – its a loose cable not a mat – and stuck plastic guide strips to the floor with Fix-All . The floor has a very loose top surface so the bond is not good, but probably enough to hold the wires in place while the screed is laid. The heating cable I was supplied with is a ‘single core’ cable, which means that power is connected across the cable from end to end so it has to make a complete loop – I have spent some time tring to work out a path that is the exact length of the cable, with a part that can be adjusted. The only thing concerning me is that we have to be able to barrow the limecrete to the working part of the floor – we’ll put down boards which will rest on the plastic strips but might displace them – I’ll think about using some wooden packing pieces to support the boards. I plan to put wooden battens to level the screed to so that it is a reasonably flat surface to lay the 12 x `12 pamments on to without having to use excessive amounts of mortar to lay them. I’m hoping we can carry on the work during the lockdown – I ordered all the materials, appliances and worktops last week so they should be delivered shortly. We will finish the screed on Tuesday, which is the only 2 man job apart from lifting the worktops at the end. I think Matthew will continue working – it is construction, which is a permitted trade and we don’t need to work in the same space – half the house is a building site! He says last lockdown he got stopped by the police and asked where he was going! Anyway he can always claim that he is going to assist his frail old father!
Strips for locating heating cable – I didn’t buy quite enough, hence the gaps!
26th October – Went to the AML clay shoot at CGC on Sunday – I wasn’t shooting very well and found the targets monotonous and a bit repetitive, and a bit too much hanging around waiting for University gun club members taking their time with some indifferent ‘coaching’. I was shooting in a squad with friends so that bit was enjoyable, but I don’t think I’ll be going to the AML monthly shoots very often – I prefer shooting with a couple of friends without the competition structure. The Kitchen progresses – on Friday we got most of the first layer of the floor screed down but at 5:30 with about a square meter more to do, we ran out of sand. My screeding wasn’t perfect, but its only the first layer so it doesn’t have to be perfectly flat – I did manage to get it smooth within about +- 4 mm over the main floor by laser – I’ll have to do a little better on the top screed so the pamments lay flat. We have to wait til Wednesday for more sand so we are getting on with sorting out bits and pieces – replastering bits of the walls, tidying the wiring and sorting out the main window cill and surround. I realised we have been seven weeks on the job and only have another 6 to go before we are supposed to finish for Christmas, although what sort of Christmas we will have in the present Pandemic remains to be seen.
9 hours on my knees screeding!
21st October -Floor materials arrived yesterday and we barrowed in 4 big bags of Geocell glass foam (at least Matthew did) – quite a job to spread it evenly, and in the end we didn’t have as much depth as we anticipated. Today I hired a wacker plate to consolidate the floor material but it was not a straighforward job – the wacker works fine going in a straight line, but turing corners it skids round and throws up a ridge on the outsside. The Geocel doesn’t really compact like a normal fill as its not graded very well – its made up of bits that would pass a 30 mm seive but without much fine stuff . I spent the morning chasing ridges round the floor and didn’t get where I hoped to be, and ended up with a surface some 20 to 40 mm below what I was aiming at and certainly not fit to lay electrical underfloor heting on. I did a small experiment running the wacker on top of a bit of the geotextile barrier sheet and that certainly helps to get rid of the ploughed bits, so we’ll do that tomorrow. Given how difficult it is to compact the fill, I won’t order any more, but instead will make up the shortfall with a thicker slab which we’ll lay in two goes with the heater wires between – I think the geocel will still give adequate insulation.- most of the floor will still have around 150 mm of fill, and some will have the wine bottles as well. Yesterday we put in all the electrical conduits that go under the fill – we had to lay them with the wires threaded as they are long runs with lots of bends.
19th October – I was expecting a large load of materials for insulating and laying the new kitchen floor today, but it didn’t materialise. I had a bit of a shock – trimming round the walls to get the earth from the foundations – large stones and flints in old lime mortar going down at least a foot and a half , I realised that the old chimney bricks were resting directly on the ground at floor level without any foundation and I’d cut the ground away flush with the brickwork – since it was likely to dry out a bit when I put in the foam glass ‘gravel’ insulating infill, I was a bit concerned that it might crumble away and destabilise the chimney. As the ground at the bottom of our excavation was as hard as iron I decided that I could just underpin it to that level, which I did with 4 courses of brick – I did wonder if I should dig out for a proper, deep, wide footing, but the chimney is about 3 bricks thick and I only really needed to underpin the outer skin to stop the earth crumbing away. Anyway it all went well and not a single brick of the chimney came loose apart from one bit of mortar facing. I’ve learnt over the years of messing around with old houses that it pays to avoid trying to make radical changes to structures as its easy to get carried away and end up with an impossible amount of work and doing more damage in the process – in this case I think the chimney probably dates from around 1700 or earlier and hasn’t moved in the last 100 years! I am not easily frightened by building problems! Matthew put in my wine bottle insulation in part of the floor – it will be covered by about 150mm of the glass foam chips. The whole floor is designed to be breathable on the principle that if the floor is a vapour barrier the ground moisture is diverted to the walls. Doing it this way makes life a little more complicated (& expensive) but it is a known technique for old houses – so there is around 150 mm of the glass foam chips followed by 80 mm of ‘limecrete’ – basically concrete made with hydraulic lime instead of Ordinary Portland Cement. That will be followed by the unglazed pamments which will have a permeable coating – I have yet to decide what that will be. I am putting electric heating under the 80 mm limecrete so it will function as a storage heater and can be run off off-peak electricity – it will have to heat about 4 tonnes of limecrete so its not going to respond very quickly! Matthew put my ‘patent’ floor insulation in a depression in the centre of the floor, to go under the glass foam chips;-
My patent additional insulation – should amuse anyone who digs up the floor in years to come!
Starting to dig out under the chimney wall – will it bring the whole massive chimney down ?
17th October – Frantic activity! Managed another shoot on Monday near Bures – very good day, and the weather held. We managed to dig out the kitchen floor to a depth of about a foot in 3 days – got rid of 4 trailer loads of soil etc. The local farmer kindly takes it for his landscaping so we keep it well sorted from rubbish. I now have to put in the conduits for electrical wiring, and trim round the edges and get a few bits sorted before putting in the insulating wine bottles and the glass foam insulation to a depth of around 6 inches. The material is scheduled to arrive on Monday along with 27 bags of natural hydraulic lime for the screed, and 3 tons of sharp sand, so altogether it will be a rather busy day. I hope we will get most of the floor laid by next weekend, then it will be a case of letting it harden for a couple of weeks – I hope no longer! As soon as its part gone off I’ll put boards down and get on with the walls etc. and take them up when I’m not working. Fun weekend threading conduit under the living room floor is in store!
The last shovel full of kitchen floor!
Last of 4 trailer loads of earth!
9th October – Finished the plastering of the ceiling – a few of the panels at the end cracked a bit but I managed to rework the lime plaster to get rid of most of them, and put a skim of lime and chalk over the second coat plaster. Matthew has put together the carcass of the cabinet, and is now working on the front frame, so it will be mostly completed shortly. I’ve been levelling up some of the walls round the window with hydraulic lime mortar – its lovely stuff to work with as it sticks to vertical surfaces – you can either flick it on or smear it, and it stays on and doesn’t slump, at least up to about 2 cm thickness. We have now run out of excuses for putting off the digging up of the floor, so next week should see that started. It is a major job as we have to excavate 300 mm deep over 20 sq meters of very compacted earth – given that when you break solid ground you end up with 2 or 3 times the volume it could yield at least 12 cubic meters – probably 6 – 8 tons! All to be sifted by wheelbarrow. I have no clear idea how long it will take the two of us! I’m off shooting on Monday so we will probably start that job on Wednesday or Thursday – I’m guessing it will take about 8 to 10 days to complete then we’ll put a layer of wine bottles as insulation, followed by some foamed glass, an 8 cm slab of limecrete, and then some electric underfloor heating and the pamments – Oh and put in the electric and gas somewhere under the slab!
Someone suggested that it would be ‘better’ to use plasterboard between the beams – he hadn’t seen them!
7th October – got most of the plastering done, thank goodness – with luck tomorrow should see it finished – its tricky plastering between the beams, I’ve used several rolls of masking tape in an attempt to keep the beams themselves free of lime plaster – might put a photo of the job tomorrow if its done! Matthew has been making the drawers and doors for the next cabinet – he was pretty amazed at how quick it is to make dovetail joints with the Trend jig and router. They have the advantage that the joints are rigid and aligned when knocked together, so don’t really require any other fixing or clamping, just a check that the drawer is square – i.e. drop in the bottom, and a squirt of glue. I was given a nice little gun related gadget by a friend – a brass and boxwood shot gauge by Robinson. I’m not really sure of the date, I don’t think its very old – my guess would be 1920 to 1940 (ish) but I’d be interested to hear from anyone who can shed any light on the date or on Robinson. I checked it with modern shot and it reads very accurately. Reminds me of old school rulers. And what was the ‘Patent Shot’ referred to on the second scale ? I re-stocked on 1.2 mm and 2.2 mm HSS drills for making nipples – from my favourite supplier Tracy Tools – they are only 50p each so I bought 15 of the 1.2mm and don’t mind if I have to use a new one for each nipple I make.
The shot in the gauge is, as it shows, No. 7 1/2 shot.
4th October – Apart from getting myself covered in plaster from head to toe, I’ve had a couple of other little problems to attend to – my radial arm saw, the basic tool for all the work Matthew is now doing on the second cabinet, blew up – fortunately only a short in the wiring where it flexes when you cut, but it took a fair while to strip it down to get at the wire to repair – done now. Also my hone packed up and had to be stripped and modified to cut out the variable transformer speed control as it had expired – so now its on full speed, which is more or less how I always use it anyway. I’ve had to buy a dehumidifier as the plaster is taking weeks to dry out and I need to get on with the final coat. I had an interesting gun job – make a pair of nipples for a John Manton shotgun. I took the old nipples which were a bit oversize for No 11 nipples and made new ones to the same dimensions, as I thought. When I came to fit them in the barrel I discovered that the flanges above the thread need to fit inside a recess – so the flange diameter is critical – mine were slightly too big. I haven’t seen breech blocks like that before, they usually have a raised rim at the top of the thread so the flange diameter isn’t critical. – it also had the side nail through the breech block (I have seen that) and a vertical sear. Anyway I was able to turn down the flanges, but I decided anyway to make another pair of nipples that fitted the hexagonal driver that came with the gun. I got carried away and decided that a video on making nipples was overdue, so I hope that will surface soon… Oh, and I had a request for a personalised decapping tool – I’m nearly out of blanks….
1 October – Lots more work on the kitchen – the new stapler arrived and just about worked – next time I’ll get an air driven one- so the laths are up and I’ve put on the 1st coat and started on the finishing coats – I have a shortcut techniqe for lime plastering that seems to work although its not an approved method – after the first coat of sharp sand and lime putty 3:1 with goat hair (really!) and scratched up with a pointed lath has hardened ( almost a week at the moment) I put on a second coat of lime putty and plasterer’s sand with a bit of calcinated clay to form a more or less smooth surface over the dampened 1st coat – after an hour or three when that is hardening up a bit ( its lime so doesn’t set like gypsum plaster) I skim very lightly over it with a lime putty and chalk mix to smooth off any depressions, then after that has hardened up a bit I go over it with a damp sponge to get rid of any obvious marks. The effect is to leave a surface that isn’t clinically flat, but is very slightly undulating. Well, I like the effect although I’m sure it would give a professional plasterer the heeby jeebies. Matthew started work on another kitchen cabinet – to match the other one the doors needed a central panel of elm, while the rest was oak. It is not easy to buy elm as Dutch Elm Disease got rid of most of the timber years ago and timber merchants laugh if you ask them, but I managed to get a very nice plank from ebay that has enough timber for three cupboard door panels – it turned out to have a very good grain, and should give two matching outer doors and a fine central door – a win and not unduly expensive. I actually did a bit of gun work – a client reminded me that I was supposed to be doing a bit of engraving for him and I couldn’t face using the microscope in my rather ramshackle metalwork shop so I moved it back into a corner of the temporary kitchen and did a bit of engraving – a trigger guard tang and a couple of screws – as usual I forgot to take photos…. I also had a couple of pairs of nipples that were a bit too big for modern caps to try to slim down to get them to take 1035 caps – they were superficially hard so I ran them against the linisher belt in the chuck of a battery drill – unfortunately I took a bit much off a couple and they were a little loose, so I made a new pair of titanium nipples. The bit that always makes me nervous about the operation is putting the 1.2 mm hole about 3 mm deep into the threaded end – I put a pip in with a small centre drill and then drill with the 1.2 mm drill, but if you get it wrong or the drill is not sharp it just work hardened/polishes the bottom of the hole – you have very little feel from the tailstock wheel and you can sometimes see the drill bow under the pressure – it usually means using a new drill bit – I reckon I average about 1 drill bit per two or three nipples. If you are unlucky the tip of the drill breaks off in the metal so its best to drill the hole before any other operations so that you can just face off the rod ( 10 mm dia. offcuts of titanium T5 from ebay) and start over.
22nd Sept – bit of a hold-up on the kitchen – the replacement staple gun won’t be here til Friday so Matthew has a lie-in and then built a roof over part of the yard to house the working area when the weather is no longer so perfect. I did a bit more of the first coat plastering- about 20% now done – its slow as much of it is detailed edge stuff. Got to find another two or three day’s work to occupy Matthew until the stapler arrives! Mystery on the Covid 19 front – Penny went to have an antibody test today ( she had not had any symptoms when I got it and she was in the house looking after me) – the pharmacist initially said she hadn’t had it, then saw a faint response and said he had only seen that response once before ( me, but he didn’t know we were related), so we are not greatly enlightened! My friend and fellow gun restorer is moving and giving up the game, so I’ll go and see if I can buy any goodies from him – there are a few breech loaders I have borrowed that interested me, including the Collarth and the Gibbs and Pitt. I might rescue some of his stock of castings for flintlocks. I’m still unsure whether I’ll bother to look at Bonhams tomorrow – I should be working but I might put my tablet on in the old kitchen and see if anything cathces my eye!
The work shelter Matthew built in 2 1/2 hours.
21 Sept – Slightly chastened by a follower of this blog lamenting the absence of gun related stuff, I had a quick look through Bonhams catalogue for this Wednesday – quite a lot of interesting stuff, and if I dared to go and have a proper look I might be tempted to overspend. There is a very nice cased Forsyth scent bottle gun with all the bits if you have a cool £8000 plus premium minimum. Several pistols caught my eye – and mostly at almost affordable prices if you forget about the premium! I have this idea, probably completely wrong, that cased pistols are better vale than uncased – The little cased Egg is neat and so on………. It is interesting to see what has happened to antique firearms prices – the very low interest rates in general have attracted people to what are euphemistically called ‘investment grade’ pieces, particularly buyers from the US, and there is interest across the wider market, although auction prices haven’t shifted much over the years, and if you take into account the high premium charges that are now the norm, you would be very lucky to get your money back unless you are a very canny buyer, or just lucky. Better go and have another look at the on-line catalogue – I have already registered for on-line bidding so that is a danger sign!
21st Sept – Fantastic shoot on Saturday, good strong breeze and sunny and lots of birds – perfect conditions and very well run. My trusty little 16 bore Nock single rose to the challenge of the fast targets so I was well pleased. I weighed my powder flask when I got home, then after I’d filled it to the top to check how many shots I’d fired in the day – worked out at 21 excluding the final unloading shot, so a hit to shots ration of 1:3 which for me is a good result. I quite like using a single for game – takes away the tension of whether to reload a double after the first shot or wait til the gun is empty. Problem with reloading a single fired barrel of a double is that you have to remember to remove the cap from the loaded barrrel or you risk loosing a hand if it fires. A lot of experienced shooters can recall an occasion when they reloaded without removing the cap, including occasions when the gun was still at full cock. Makes the blood run cold! I made my little decapping tool to make it simple to remove the cap, but it is still possible to forget. We were pressing on with the kitchen and had about a quarter of the ceiling lathed up ready for plastering when the stapler we use for fixing the lathes stopped working upwards – it was still happily firing staples downwards but elevated above the horizontal it stopped firing. I stripped it several times and did briefly get it going with a squirt of WD 40, but it soon failed again. I tried several tricks to try to give the solenoid more umph, but none worked and we had to abandon fixing laths – a new one won’t be delivered until Friday so that is almost a week lost… I have started to plaster the laths that are in place with 3 coat lime putty plaster – its quite tricky as the beams have only about 13 or 14 inches between them, which precudes the proper plastering technique of laying on the first coat at 45 degrees to the laths, so it is a bit of a hit and miss affair and quite slow, especially around the bosses I have put in for the spotlights. It took me a while to get my hand in and find the right consistency for the plaster and the right amount of goat hair to add, and of course you can’t really see if the plaster that is squeezed between the laths has folded over to hold on to the laths. One has a nghtmare that in the morning the whole lot will have detached and be lying on the floor! ( it has to be said the the patch I’d put in some years ago was all very firmly attached when we took that bit of ceiling down)
Old laths cleaned and fixed between joists – boss for spotlight.
17th Sept – Penny’s birthday – fortunately I did remember! Busy on the kitchen – and for the next two months at least, I guess. Matthew finished the tricky job of fixing up battens along the beams and joists to carry the laths for the plaster. We had intended to replace two beams as they didn’t quite match although they were old, but when we came to investigate it turned out that they extended almost all the way through the flint wall, leaving only a single layer of flint on the outside – to remove the beams would have meant a lot of rebuilding of the wall as the outside would have fallen out if disturbed, so we left them – two green oak beams will now go in stock! We did have one short beam to replace as it was itself a replacement and not very sound – we made a beam by laminating a couple of bits of seasoned oak and put the date and our initials on it as a memento. I rebuilt the wall around the hole for the fan – a bit of flintwork on the outside – I’ve done quite a bit of repairing and rebuilding flint walls in the local vernacular so it comes quite easily – the secret is to go back after a couple of hours with a small tool and cut back the mortar to leave the flint proud by 6 to 10 mm, and then brush it all with a stiff brush to clean off the flint and expose the sharp grit on the surface of the mortar. I’ve put in all the wiring for the lights, so the next job is fixing the laths – I have a neat electric stapler – Tacwise – that fires staples about 6 mm wide which are perfect for fixing the old split laths, two staples each end, so that job should be quite quick – although most of the laths will have to be individually cut to length. There are just a couple of really dirty jobs to do – chasing in another light switch and a water pipe, plus a bit of mortaring around the top of the walls where it was previously above the ceiling but now is below the new ceiling level. Two pallets of floor tiles have arrived, so its all looking very exciting – I should be able to start plastering on Monday and maybe finish the ceiling next week? There is a certain amount of discussion about how to finish the exposed joists and beams – painting them in with the ceiling would expose all the imperfections in them, and the broken off lath fixings would soon rust through. Options are then to leave them as they are, wax them, oil them or stain them – all except the first are non reversible! I guess that decisiion can be left til we see how the ceiling looks……..
Matthew fixing the last of the battens on the new beam.
16th Sept. OOps – missed a few days while I was in Wales helping to clear out Penny’s family house to put it on the market. Managed to get over 30 dustbin bags of rubbish out! Had a litttle scare as my car has a feature that if you unlock the car with the remote and then don’t open the driver’s door, it relocks after a minute of so – you can guess the rest – I went to a side door, put my keys on the floor and after getting what I wanted stood back and the door shut. Penny didn’t have her keys with her. Didn’t fancy doing any damage that would be costly to put right, but walking round found a way in that just required a 10 mm drill, and could be put right with a small replacement part, or one made in ten minutes in my workshop. If I hadn’t had to get a lift to Screwfix to buy a drill bit it would have been a 3 minute job to recover the keys – I’m not advertising how to do it! The kitchen continues apace – having decided that we are going to leave the beams & joists exposed, thus raising the ceiling by about 3 inches, Matthew has been cleaning them off and attaching battens along them close to the floor boards above so we have something to fix the laths to – this turns out to be a long and involved job as most of the beams and joists are from the edges of the trees and are rounded on top. A couple of the joists don’t look right so I collected a couple of green oak replacements 100 x 150 mm in section today. The floor tiles arrived in the yard next door, they won’t be needed for a month or so. I have put in the wiring for the (now 9) ceiling spotlights. Matthew and I are getting qite excited aboutthe job! My shoot on Saturday is set to go ahead- some people are a bit unhappy that people can gather for shooting but not in the park – but it has to be said that we re mostly spaced about 40 yards apart! Its interesting that the law specifically exempts any activity that requires a firearms or shotgun certificate from the rule of 6 – I guess that means that the arm of the law will have no excuse to bother us!.
9th Sept. Matthew arrived late this morning, his car loosing water from a broken plastic fitting that he hadn’t quite managed to repair with superglue. It was a hose nipple screwed into the water pump carrying water to preheat the fuel/air ? Much to his amazement I found a bit of suitable white plastic rod and turned up a replacement with an M8 stud – it fitted perfectly after I’d run an M8 second tap into the hole to clear the plastic residue. Not often you can make a car part in 30 minutes! The rest of Matthew’s day passed in washing down the beams while I got rid of the old wiring and planned where the new was going to go – Turns out I reckon on 8 sets of spotlights each with 3 LED bulbs – at 5W per bulb that is a total of 120 W, which is probably what it was before, but now groups will be able to be turned off, leaving a central group of 30 W, a bit more reasonable. I also put in another order to Screwfix- its so easy and each one costs around £30 – £50 so it is a significant part of the cost of the work. Cost control is quite lax as I’m not paying stupid prices for the bulk of the work, and materials for the floor will be at around 1/3 to 1/2 of the final cost. I’m hoping that the end of next week will see the ceiling ready for plastering, so I had better visit AngliaLime to get a few more tubs of Lime Putty and a few bundles of hair to put in the first coat to strengthen the ‘nibs that get pushed up in the gaps between the laths and stop the plaster falling down – I suspect that the ceiling we have just taken out failed because it had rather little hair in the base coat so the nibs broke off and the plaster sagged away from the laths. There was one patch we took down that I had carefully repaired some years ago – the plaster brought the laths down with it, the laths were tied with galvanised wire to a cross lath so the whole thing was a rigid sheet – and quite difficult to get down.
8th Sept. Decided to take down all the laths and leave the joists exposed below the ceiling, which we did today. Next job is to put battens around the edges of all beams and joists to take short laths for plastering. We need to replace a couple of beams that don’t look right, so I’ve ordered a couple of lengths of 4 x5 inch sawn oak to do the job – I found a firm in North Walsham that offered to supply them for a reasonable price. Before we can put the laths up I have to run in wires for all the lighting. At least having got all the ceiling down the dirtiest job is finished so we can clean up a bit! One of the joys of restoring old houses is the occasional puzzle – you know something must have been done for a purpose but can’t see what it is. In this case there is a trimmer between two joists with a central joist in two parts supported by the trimmer. The puzzle is that all those beams look original and have chamfers that run out at the crossings, and all had the same finish so look as if they were made like that. Trimmers are usually associated with openings for stairs etc, but that isn’t the case here. Matthew suggests that maybe the central joist was found to be too weak / cracked so they put in the trimmer as they didn’t have another joist. Possible, some of the other joists are more or less branches with the bottom surface flattened off, but still originally shown below the plaster level.
The spine beam on the left is cantilevered out and supports the other beam – both probably reused timbers from an earlier house.
7th Sept Demolition of the kitchen began in earnest today as Matthew came to help. We stripped almost all the old plaster off the laths and Matthew cleaned off the backs of them with a reshaped washing up brush – we took out a couple of laths every foot or so to create the space to get at the backs. Having got a glimpse of what was above them we reckon that we can remove all the laths and leave the ceiling beams exposed, setting the plaster back a couple of inches. The ceiling is very low, so this will generate the impression of a higher ceiling and be a return to how it was originally – you can actually see the original plaster finish on the underneath of the upstairs floorboards in one place. It will be a bit more work but worth it. It looks as if half the room originally had unpainted oak beams, and the other half somewhat narrower beams painted in with the ceiling. A couple of the beams in one bit of the ceiling have been replaced with wood that doesn’t match, so I may have to take them out and replace them with new oak beams. I’m not sure where to get sawn green oak now as my favourite source no longer exists – I did have a supply of old 5 x 5 oak posts, but that got used up for the new kitchen door frame. I started to unpick the old wiring, a mix of twin and earth grafted on to old rubber covered wire without earths – I guess it will all have to be replaced – I plan to use wireless bulbs to simplify wiring – I think the IKEA system looks OK, we used it in Giles’s flat and it works and is cheap – the only thing that I didn’t like is that if there is a power cut all the lights come on when the power is restored regardless of the state they were in when the power was cut. I got some amazingly neat spotlights – 3 on a bar- from IKEA, for the princely sum of £7 – less than the cost of 3 normal LED bulbs for them.
Old riven laths make an interesting surface to plaster on to – I have done it successfully by wiring in intermediate laths across the gaps.
The original plaster ( date unknown but possibly 18th ) is just visible between the laths, which would have been 19th or early 20th century.
6th Sept. Splendid day’s shoot in beautiful weather on the Essex coast yesterday – flat as a pancake and a nice breeze and loads of birds – we had a modest shoot, just 6 of us AML bods – I felt I had done myself justice! I’ve fished out a little double barrelled percussion gun by Probin that has had its barrels cut down to a just legal 24 1/4 inches, and weighs 5 1/4 lbs, the same as my Nock single. I really liked having the Nock yesterday – I’ve not completely recovered my stamina as I discovered, and as there was a fair bit of walking I was glad of the light gun, so it would be handy to have a matching double. With barrels that short I will probably opt to use Swiss No 2 powder as the faster burn rate compared to Czech I normally use should compensate a bit for the short barrel. I am now using semolina for all shooting and find it perfectly satisfactory and much handier to load for clays and game – I have no intention to revert to wads…. I re-plumbed the main house incomer to accommodate the new water softener and get rid of some of the visible pipework- by the time it was all installed with stop cocks to allow the water softener to be removed when we do the floor it added up to around 35 compression joins in 22 and 15 mm pipework, mostly 22 mm. When I turned the mains on (slightly) one joint blew out as I’d forgotten to tighten it at all, and another 10 weeped (wept?) very slightly and took several iterations to get it all leak free – at least I hope its now leak free – I left tissues on the floor to see of I got drips, but if there are any leaks they are probably not much faster than the evaporation.
We look more like a bunch of bank robbers than anything else!
Not really sure why I don’t use soldered joints – or pushfit copper!
3rd September – Yesterday was my birthday – 21 again! Cracking on with the kitchen, although I did spend this morning up at school doing my safeguarding training. I always find when I come back to building type work that things have moved on a bit, and there are new ‘inventions’ that I haven’t come across before. Two very simple but clever things I picked up at Screwfix – the first was a simple sheet of black plastic that rolls up and slips inside a rubble sack to turn it into a bin that you can throw, drop or shovel rubble into – you just lift the sheet out when the bag is full, and use it in the next bag! Its called a rubble mate – and is brilliantly simple and effective. The second is a roll of coated fabric that you tape over a door- it has a zip panel in the middle so you can go in and out while its properly dust sealed when its zipped shut – again, simple and effective – it’s called a Dustguard Dust Barrier. I’ve been sorting out how I’ll fit various bits – particularly an extractor fan and the water softener. I ordered a cheap cooker hood/extractor fan (£80 would you believe) and it arrived in a very large box that rattled ominously as if full of gravel – which is what the glass hood had become! Anyway they sent me a new one and I got to keep the damaged one for spares. They look perfectly good – I’m prepared to bet it is identical internally to units costing 3 or 4 times as much – looking at appliances and reading reviews it seems that what used to be premium brands are now just premium prices with more or less the same old tat inside as the cheap ones – or am I just becoming an old cynic as I age? Got my first proper shoot of the season on Saturday, so an early start – it will be the single barreled gun for me this time – I’d better put a seat back in the Land Cruiser in case I have to use it as transport given the virus issue…… I went on the firearms website and filled in the form to put the Nock back on my certificate – but haven’t had any feedback. I notice that Cambs and Peterborough are demanding medical certificates for shotgun, firearms and explosives licenses – why can’t they make the explosives licenses coterminous to save us an extra expense and them the bother? I sold the microscope for £360 – I’m well pleased as it cost me £420 new.
Full marks to whoever invented this!
28thAugust – A lot of time spent on the new kitchen ‘walking around the job’ ! One of the real benefits of doing it all yourself is that you can let the job evolve as you turn it over in your mind – I had a layout for the units that I’d carefully drawn up and was expecting to make, but marking things up on the floor I came up with a much better arrangement that still fitted with the unit I had already built – in fact it fits much better as the lpg gas hob will now fit centrally over the built in electric oven. Because the walls are potentially damp, or could be without adequate ventilation, it is advisable to have a permeable floor so the moisture isn’t forced by a concrete floor slab into the base of the walls – this is achieved by using a foamed glass ‘gravel’ that is strong enough to replace hardcore and also a good, permeable insulator, and a slab made of lime cement which is much more permeable than Ordinary Portland Cement. All that of course adds to the expense and complications of the job – but should give a warmer floor – I’ll put electric underfloor heating under the pamments. Here is a picture of what I hope is the worst bit of the wall. I’ve had to remove the old window cill and the plaster above the window as they were level with the glass and it looked wrong. I replaced all the windows in the house with leaded lights in iron casements some 20 years ago – actually in truth there is still one to do – I’ve made the frame and got the blacksmith to make the iron casement etc when I did the others but for some reason that one has escaped, I think because its only in the boot room and isn’t actually rotten (yet). I think I still have to lead up the actual windows – its a bit of a fiddle, the worst bit is finding suitable glass – modern float glass just doesn’t look right. I have a collection of old, mostly Victorian, glass which is about right – when I started I used to buy modern handmade window glass but it was very expensive and mostly too distorted – the distortions are called ‘ream’ and the little bubbles ‘seeds’. The cheapest, and least reamy handmade glass was made in Poland, the most expensive was French or German. Tom (son) and I once re-leaded a whole Elizabethan manor house that had retained a fair amount of very old, probably original, glass – taking each window apart, marking where every pane of glass came from, finding matching glass ( mostly very slightly coloured) for broken panes, and putting the whole lot back together with new lead ‘cames’. Tom got very good at it – he is more patient than I am, and spent a whole summer doing every window in the place beautifully.
I’ll have to re-plumb the pipe running across the wall before I can do more – it is the mains water feed for the whole house.
27th August – how time flies when you are having fun – in this case demolishing the old kitchen and fixing up the new temporary one. It turns out that most of the walls of the old kitchen are in a poor state – its old lime plaster onto the chalk rubble inner face ofthe wall, and some patches are hardly adhering at all – plus some clever clogs had the brilliant idea of combatting dampness in the walls by sticking on some bitumen backed material and although most of it has been removed there are still patches of bituminous residue that require the surface of the wall to be removed in order to get rid of them. All good fun. I went shooting clays again this morning at Cambridge Gun Club with Pete and Bev – most enjoyable, not least because it was a nice day, and I managed to hit more clays than I thought likely! I’ll post some kitchen pictures some time just to make you realise how much sounder your dwellings are!
20th August – I seem to be getting back into blogging! Pete and I went to Eriswell to get ourselves in gear for an upcoming partridge day – I literally hadn’t touched a gun for 6 months and Pete had only shot a flintlock (very well!) and wanted to get back to his percussion. I started with my normal Samuel Nock double 16 bore but it didn’t feel as if I was going to hit much, so swapped to my little Henry Nock single – this is a ridiculous gun for an adult – single barrel 16 bore with a 13 1/4 inch pull ( a full 1 inch too short for me by the book) and weighing 5 1/4 lbs and a 28 inch barrel. Suffice to say that it came good, and I just about kept up with Pete overall, so I guess I’ll use that on the shoot. I’m happy to use a single barrel as it removes the dilemma of whether to reload when you’ve fired one of your two barrels! All in all a good day – but I’ve just remembered that both guns are still in the wagon uncleaned – oops, and its nearly bed time……… Done them – just time to finish with a thought – Pete and I were speculating that the standard of clay shooting must have gone up over the years, because both Eriswell and CGC include more difficult clays than we remember – some, like the incomer from about 70 yards that hit the ground about 35 or 40 yards out are almost beyond the reach of most percussion guns (they have cylinder bore, more or less) and there were a several really sneaky fast clays that we could hardly get our eyes on, let alone get the gun onto. Even the driven, that I used to knock down, now seem much higher – or are we just getting older……..
19th August – If you are interested in the AmScope x7 – x45 microscope for engraving its now on ebay – an auction starting at £220. A bargain!
18th August – Managed to get the workshop temporarily wired for the cooker, so its all ready to move into. I got an email saying the pamments for the kitchen floor will be ready at the end of next week, so I’m running out of excuses for starting the job. Lot of interest among the muzzle loading fraternity at the idea of doing high speed photos of a number of different guns – problem will be to keep it organised and make sure all possible variables are accounted for and documented for it to have any value. I’ll talk to Elenor about it, and draw up a list of parameters we need to standardise and those that we can leave as variables. We do have a number of crack shots with flintlocks, and they spend a lot of time tweaking to get fast ignition, so we can probably get a good range of speeds.
17th August – Ah well, now wet here too! I’m busy converting my workshop into a kitchen for a few months use – very disruptive of my gun activities. A friend came round yeserday with a high speed camera so we took a film of a little pocket pistol priming being fired (without a projectile) – it looks rather beautiful, so I put it on you tube with the link below. I had to move my spare microscope to make room for the kitchen so I think its time I passed it on – its a new AM_SCOPE chinese trinocular 7 to 45 zoom magnification microscope on a very good stand for engraving – more or less unused, except that I turned up a support for a headrest for it. New they cost around £420 – I’d like to get £350 including carriage for it if anyone is interested. Its a good engraving microscope – I do prefer my WILD with my mods, but the AM_ACOPE does have a bigger eye relief, and a new WILD will probably set you back several thousand pounds! email me via contacts if you are interested.
12th August – I never thought I’d come back from Scotland and miss the cold and damp, but the heat down here saps energy like you have a puncture! I’m busy as the heat allows turning my engraving and gun workshop into a temporary kitchen. I did take time off for a swim but I managed to set up a new engraving station in my main workshop – I just got it set up when a packet of bits to engrave arrived. I ventured out yesterday and had a haircut (first since Christmas?) and an antibody test at the pharmacy. The initial impression from the test was that I hadn’t had Covid, but then both Ig M and Ig G showed up but rather weakly. The pharmacist said I’d definitely had it but he had never seen a result like it! Oh well, let’s hope I never find out if I can catch it again. Why is nothing to do with Covid clear cut?
8th August – No sooner back to work than the restoration work starts to come in – a gun barrel to recut, and a bunch of parts to engrave/re-engrave – I’ll put pics up when I receive the parts. Plus emails with questions about guns that need identifying or my opinion on what they are or what to do to them – all good and interesting stuff. It does present a bit of a problem as I have to vacate my gun workshop to turn it into a temporary kitchen and I’m not quite sure where to relocate my engraving to – probably best to avoid rooms with carpets as engraving generates lots of little bits of sharp metal as you might expect. Probably have to be my general workshop, although it will be pretty cold in there soon, and engraving doesn’t involve enough movement to keep warm! Also that will block any more furniture building for the time being…..
7th August – Sorry for the silence – apart from some hectic work here we have been up in Scotland sailing around the Hebrides in a 13m yacht in pretty varied conditions – but usually pretty cold, wet and windy compared to home territory. Once you get out to the Outer Hebrides its pretty much still shut down – we did visit a couple of marinas that were nominally closed, but that just seemed to be no loos or showers, and no charge – not a problem as the boat had a super shower and we could still get water. We visited 6 islands in total and only had to miss three or four days due to strong wind forecasts from the wrong direction. Really nice boat from Alba Sailing – the only charter company left on the North West. So back to work – getting ready to move the kitchen temporarily while I demolish the old one! I also have to pick up a gun and get some practice as I have several shoots at the beginning of the season. More details of the sailing on separate post.
Tucked up in Loch Maddy while the wind blew 30 knots ( not while I took the photo!) The cockpit tent came in for a lot of use.
Loch Dhroma na Buidhe, at top of the sound of Mull.
19th July – the month rushes on and I am up to my neck in other work…… I spent a couple of days mucking out the workshop – I’m afraid that is literally true as the rats had been active some time ago – I hope no longer around. Son Tom is back in Cambridge and he and Giles brewed up a plot to build a woodfired pottery kiln in our back garden since neither has the room. Not only does this involve taking over a chunk of the garden but also using up my store of several hundred frostproof bricks – the up side of that is that I gain some more space in my woodwork shop – or at least I would have if Giles hadn’t turned up with an electric potter’s wheel he had bought – a bargain he tells me! The clay shooting is well underway, but sad to say I haven’t taken part yet. Saturday was the Helice shoot at Rugby Clay club, one of my favourite events, although I have never come far from bottom – but work kept me here, so I didn’t make it this year for the first time in ages. ‘My’ school has broken up for the holidays, and I wasn’t able to go into school and say goodbye in person – no visitors allowed – so I made a video to say goodbye. I guess I will have to spend the next couple of weeks preparing to move the kitchen into the gun workshop, so we can destroy the existing kitchen. Not sure where I’m going to put all the junk! May be a week or so before I get back to this computer!
12 July – Better weather today – if only the last week’s low temperatures hadn’t taken all the heat out of the pool, I’d have had a swim! I just finished the small table for the new kitchen that will have a marble top. I seem to be busy all the time and can only steal moments to go into the gun workshop. There will be a problem in the Autumn when as it will have to be turned into a temporary kitchen while the main one is destroyed and rebuilt! Not sure how I will manage – I may take my gun activities out to my shed where my metalworking machinery resides, but that has no heating so will not be very comfortable for sitting still for hours. Another problem to tackle! I’m tempted to put in a woodburner but that means making a hole in the roof and quite a lot of fuss( and expense) for a temporary arrangement……
6th July – blustery weather continues and the swimming pool is feeling neglected…. I’ve moved on to making a small table with a marble top to go in the new kitchen as part of the work surface. Trying to cut mortices with my cheap 1/4 inch router drove me mad – it keeps momentarily dropping out and then continuing with a shower of sparks from the comutator. I think I have now learnt to buy middle range power tools – I used to swear that it was better to buy cheap ones and throw them away, but it is tedious when you come to do a job and the tool isn’t up to it – I had to replace my 1/2 inch router recently as it burnt out the motor! The cheap ones come with less facilities, and soft start on a router is almost essential in my books. Anyway thanks to Amazon a new 1/4 inch router and 10 mm cutter should arrive tomorrow. I got round to doing some engraving this evening – I’ve been going into the workshop and ‘playing’ on and off – mostly breaking the tips off gravers but I have a job to do so forced myself to concentrate! Here are a couple of early test pieces for a simple flintlock engraving;-
Both lock tails are based on classic designs – the bird got rather a long beak ( a slip!) so not sure what species it is – wookcock?
28 June – Lovely weather last week – bit blustery today. I have now done all I can to the kitchen unit, so it will sit there til the rest of the work is completed in September, and I’ll get on with some more kitchen furniture. I am trying to swim every day (in our plastic bag of water) if the weather is at all decent as my daily exercise – my attempts to build up weight have slowed somewhat – I’ve been trying to work out how much one needs to eat to gain weight, although I do realise that most people have the opposite problem ( see My Covid post for more on that). Here isa photo of the cabinet – its made of oak with elm panels in the door and handles made of bog oak;-
Sorry about the perspective, there isn’t room in the workshop to stand back!
21st June – just about got as far as I can with the first kitchen unit – just got to fit the drawer slides and door hinges. I’m now making the handles out of bog oak – part carbonised oak that has spent hundreds (or thousands (?) of years submerged in a fen bog. It is black but still shows the grain, and cuts and polishes well. I’ll put up a photo later. I made a couple of new sharpening jigs for a client, I’ll put the revised design on the sales web page. Here are a couple of photos ;-
15 degree sharpening jig – from 1/2 inch stainless hex bar
16th June -The gun world is catching up on me – a client reminded me that I had a lock of his to engrave from early March. He had seen on the website that I had Corvid-19 and very kindly didn’t pester me until yesterday. I also got a request for gravers and sharpeners so I had better get myself in gear. Yesterday I made a panelled cabinet door for the kitchen units – lots of messing about with the home made router table – height of cutter is set by an old car jack! Anyway I put an Osma Polyx finish on at lunchtime so had to vacate that workshop to avoid dust. So I retreated to the gun workshop for the first time in 3 months, and made some more gravers. It takes a good half hour to grind and handle one, so I managed 4 and still had time for a swim! Now I have to get myself back into engraving – there is quite a lot of muscle memory involved, ad it has to be refreshed if I don’t do any for a week of two, after 3 months I am bound to be pretty rusty – the main problem being the frequency with which I break off the points of gravers – I soon end up with a pile to sharpen, and there is a lot of metal to grind off after a bad break.
12th June – I haven’t been idle these last few days! My carpenter/joiner friend who made the new back door was making a pergola for a client and asked me to turn up a finial for the top of the rather fancy roof. I hadn’t done any serious turning for years, so had to do a practise run on a gash bit of pine, but he was pleased with the final iroko version. Ive been putting up some trellis in the back garden – why is all the stuff you can buy a horrible ginger colour? I couldn’t find anything to take the colour down, I suppose time will do that, and a good covering of plants. I have now finished a set of drawers for the kitchen unit, and am starting on the framed cupboard door – as I’m not a bona fide joiner there is a lot of slow learning involved – it tend to be a case of making it up as I go along, sometimes it corresponds to conventional practice! I’m still eating for England to get back my weight baack after Covid-19 – tonight I had some very fine Maldon oysters – must do that more often! I’m currently averaging about a Kg a week, I hope its mostly muscle!
8th June – Now have a pile of 4 drawers ready to have their finish applied – I am using OSMA penetrating oil, followed by OSMA Polyx microcrystaline wax as it seems to give a pretty durable finish – I probably ought to go for a simple polyurethane varnish, but hey, let’s be different! I actually had a bit of a break from the units and installed 4 lengths of trellis on top of the garden wall sawing up the 4 x 4 posts was good exercise for the arms. I am working hard to make up for the ravages of Covid-19 – I think I lost more than 10 Kg. including most of my muscles! Normally I don’t take any notice of my diet or exercise on the principle that they must be OK for me to stay fit, but I am having to make a bit of an effort to get back what I have lost! So far I have got back 5 Kg in 6 weeks and am getting my muscles in trim slowly – I’m active and on my feet most of the day, and fit in a walk of at least a mile each evening, plus I bought a set of resistance bands to strengthen my upper body muscles – most unlike me! I am told that I no longer look like a walking skeleton!
6th June – Now got the shed a bit sorted, and started on the kitchen units – I decided to start with the drawers – as I have all the material for them. I struggled a bit to get my head round the dovetail router jig – its fine when you are used to it, but I made a few mistakes when I started and had to remake a few bits. The fronts are Oak, but the rest is made from Cherry from old library shelves from a Cambridge College – I got a load when a big library was gutted and did our library shelves and paneling, but I still have 40 or 50 shelves left – perfect for internal joinery and about 30 years old so very stable!
2nd June – The year rushes on – almost half gone and still the news is all about Corvid 19. We are desparately hoping that our yacht charter in Scotland can go ahead in mid July – probably touch and go, in the lap of the gods, or Nicola Sturgeon at any rate. I am busy clearing out my shed so I can gt on with my kitchen units – so far I have come across the mumified remains os 2 rats and assorted other evidence of their existence! Anyway a skip is called for to dispose of the rubbish that is accumulating in the yard. The weather makes me glad we got the swimming pool up before they ration water! My daily swims show up just how unfit Covid 19 left me – I get breathless after a couple of lengths, I think last year I could do 10 straight off and 60 in a session. It is getting better every day so there is hope.
Here is the new back door!
29th May This lovely weather keeps me busy outside, so I have nothing gunwise to report. It looks like we are able to shoot clays again – with the proviso that we book slot – I guess we still only get one companion to button for us! I might think it worth the hastle, or again, I might not – summer is not my favourite season for clays, I’d rather be out roost shooting pigeons….. I have been busy lately – more or less back to full activity. Richard and I installed the beautiful solid oak back door and frame – I swear in a hundred years the door frame will be holding the house up! Today I made combined finger plate and escutcheon etc from some 1/8 inch thick brass sheet I had. It is amazing how much stuff one keeps just in case! Giles and I put our 10m long swimming pool up last Monday and it is now filled with 30 tonnes of water. It is just a very big plastic bag, and is now 12 or 13 years old – each year we erect it with trepidation in case it has sprung an invisible leak. This year it lost 1 inch in level overnight, but it turned out to be a leak underneath the pump due to a perished rubber elbow. No chance of getting a replacement, so a bit of attention with rubber adhesive and self amalgamating tape might just work – will fit it tomorrow and see. Part of the leak anguish is that you can no longer buy such a long bag pool, and 10m is only just long enough to swim to and fro in. Maybe tomorrow I’ll have a first swim, although the water will still be cold.
20th May I apologise for my absence from this blog, but my habits have changed and by the end of the evening when I used to add to the blog I’m pretty much wiped out as I am trying to get back to my usual activity levels during the day. Apart from trying to keep the garden under control I have restarted the Kitchen renovation project – The main phase of taking down the ceiling and digging up the floor is scheduled for later in the year, but I am currently designing the custom units and making up some trial bits to check my construction techniques. So far I have made one drawer with dovetail joints- and run off a few trial frame sections. Before Covid 19 (hereinafter referred to as BC) I ordered up a load of oak and my joiner friend Richard started to make a new back door to my deisgn. He has now finished it so I’m making ready to help him fit it. I had a few years ago lowered the outside ground level by about 6 inches so the threshold will also be lowered in the new door. I had slightly arbitrarily decided by how much to lower the cill, very fortunately when I took out the old cill and the wall below it, I found that the very solid flint foundation were about 2cm below the bottom of the new cill. Not sure what I would have done if the foundations had been any higher, as I dont expect Richard would have relished shortening the door frame and door at this stage. Anyway it goes in on Tuesday next. I found a splendid company in Norfolk who make hand made pamments (unglazed clay tiles) -at least the daughter seems to make the pammets (either spelling is OK) and the mother runs the office – a nice family business and they are made in Norfolk, not Spain or Eastern Europe. As you might guess they are not free! Fortunately its not a very big Kitchen – about 14 ft square – they should be made by early September. The Coronavirus rumbles on – we seem to lag behind most of Europe in getting ourselves sorted out – while the WHO and every other country recognised a suite of symptoms we stuck to 2, then rather grudgingly and only after being shown up by an academic on the radio, added two more – still well behind the rest of the developed world – well done Boris!! I do think we haven’t had our eye on the ball with this whole affair, although the NHS staff on the shop floor have done a brilliant job in circumstances that were more difficult than the needed to be.
9th May. Giles and I discussed back and forth how to do the camera zoom, and I settled on a model servo linked to a short arm fixed to the camera lens, and did a few sketches. Giles 3D printed them for me and I had a go at fixing them up. It should have worked but the torque required is really high and would probably need a high torque servo that draws a lot of current which is not really compatible with a system that is supposed to run off 4 AA cells! Anyway I think the project is now on hold awaiting inspiration! See photo below. I’m certainly feeling a bit livelier and yesterday I got out the big petrol strimmer to attack stuff growing in the yard – it hadn’t run for 10 months and was bit of a job to start – I managed to bang my elbow on the recycling bin, which slowed me down a bit but I did manage to get a good bit of work done – a first since I got the virus, so a red letter day! What a fantastic day – just like the middle of summer, it felt like a sin to go indoors, especially as the forecast for the next few days is cold and cloudy! P.S. I picked up a graver yesterday and doodled on a bit of steel – pleased to discover that I hadn’t completely lost the knack! Of course I broke the tips of a couple of gravers, but that is par for the couse if I haven’t practised for a few weeks – so hopefully more or less back to normal…………..
Torque required to turn zoom is too much for my little servo, but a bigger one would consume too much power – stalemate!
6th May. Finally getting my mojo back! Finished the next post Covid youtube – it was something I could do without getting too flaked out! Not sure how many more will happen. I started a little project – my camera for all my stuff is a Canon M50 and I thought it would be good if I could zoom it without touching it. All it needs is a small, geared electric motor coupled to the zoom barrel. I have got a suitable geared micro motor but the drive is the challenge. I tried with an O ring on a small pulley on the motor rubbing on the barrel, and with a longer O ring round the barrel of the camera and the motor pulley but the friction in the zoom is greater than the drive friction. I am now thinking about a 3D printed gear round the barrel and a pinion on the motor – I think Giles has resurrected Tom’s old printer so I have emailed him! He has an M50 too so should be able to see the problem. I guess as soon as I have the motor working I’ll want it wireless!!!
3rd May. Uploaded my Post Office Pistol video – I got a couple of dates out by 100 years, I’ll have to sort it out some time but it can survive for a while as it is! Still thinking about the next one – quite a lot of work to find all the examples I need!
2 May. Had a few messages from regular viewers of this blog wishing me well. It’s really good to see how far round the world my little blog extends! I did a couple of takes for the next one on my Post Office pistols – just need to check them out and do the edits and add some stills and it will be ready to upload. I’m using the free version of VSDC to edit them – it is a bit overkill for what I need and driving it is complex, but it does the job nicely. I am now trying to sort out in my mind what to do for the third Covid-19 video- possible the history of the devopment of the flintlock in England 1750 to 1825 or something like that – cover all the little tweaks that made the English gun makers the best in the World. We shall see – I’ll have to go through aĺl of my collection to sort out examples. I am a bit weak on the early stuff but I do have a wheellock without the gun. Still making progress- nice walk today and my appetite is getting better. Just read that it takes 12 to 28 days to build immunity to a second infection – I hope that is from when you get it, not from the end of it!
Anyway, a big thank you to everyone who has sent me good wishes – It does make a difference.
1 May. My first post Covid-19 video is now complete – I sound a bit breathless, which is, I guess, a leftover from the virus – it seems to come and go a bit. Anyway its in Videos on this site and on you tube. I took my car out to the local shop for a bottle of milk this morning ( first time in 7 weeks) and boy did I feel daring! I kept expecting to be stopped by the Police and interrogated, but it didn’t happen.
30th April. Did two sections of my pistol video – just got to sort out a bit of editing and it will be done. Then I’ll do the little Post Office pistols I restored as they have a nice bit of associated history. Feeling a lot better and went for walk – not in the garden. Might see if the car will go tomorrow. Daring stuff!!
26th April. Must be feeling better to post two days running! Still sorting the pistol video – I am still a bit breathless so tried a draft. Probably Ok. They are lovely little pistols and get me wondering about their early history. There must be more information on them somewhere – as far I can tell there are not many around – at a guess somewhere between half a dozen and a dozen, unless there is a hoard in the National Firearms Archive or some other similar collection.
25th April. And still here, Getting to feel like doing things at last, which is a big change – still not up to speed yet as I lost a lot of weight, but definite progress. I thought I would make a couple of youtube videos as we are all living our lives through the internet now. My first targets are the two Public Office pistols from Bow Street. They fit somewhere in the story in Wilkinson’s book Those Entrusted With Arms, but I can’t really get chronology from there. He mentioned that the Bow Street run Horse Patrol started in1805, but illustrated a pistol engraved for the Dismounted Horse Patrol and dated 1794. (One assumes that the Mounted Horse Patrol was founded about the same time as the Dismounted?). Anyway I hope to have a convincing story soon. I was shocked to see how much his book on the History of Guns was – I got stung £90 for a second hand copy -as bad as buying the Manton book!
18th April. l am still here! Slowly, Slowly making progress. I am now spending time downstairs, rather than spend all day in bed, which makes a nice change. And the nice weather helps too. It will be some weeks before I am out and about though. Covid 19 is a lot nastier than is generally acknowledged if you are oldish or vulnerable or male, so redouble your efforts to avoid it.
10th April ST=tll not ckear of the woods properly, made an Oxygen dispenserfrom my oxy-gas torch yesterday to give me a shot of o2 after exersions. Today I got my hands on a REAL oxygen extender to help me sleep. Thats my biggest problem – a coupe of hours a day is all I can get…..
Thanks for all the good wishes from my regulars – didn’t know I had so many friends out there!
9th April…… Onwards and upwards! even if it doesn’t hospitalise you it can be a real black dog…….
6th April, still battling – see My Corvid-19.
2nd April, Well, maybe you guessed that I had a nice(!) attack of Covid-19 that has pretty much laid me out for the last couple of weeks. I don’t want to turn this blog into medical account, but I am pretty cross at the misleading and partial infomation put out by NHS and BBC news, so I thought Id open a separate sub post – MY COVID-19 for a) the very few people who might be intersted im my suffering and the very many more who might be interested in their own.
13rd March – I have had a nasty fever for the last 6 days that has laid me low – back as soonas I can.
17th March – I suppose this beasly virus is an excuse, at least for a delay in getting on with things. Actually it will be a bit more than a delay as I am confined to barracks as being too old & damaged to venture forth. The nett result is that I am having to do a bit of urgent remodelling of the house – sticking a new staircase in my workshop for one thing and turning the workshop into another kitchen — fortunately nothing major, but no serious work for a week or so! I have also said that I’ll run a STEM/Computer class online when our local primary closes – as it will inevitably before the beginning of next term and possibly sooner. I was contemplating escaping to our little cottage in Cornwall when it seemed that it might only be for three months, but the reality is that there is really no clear endpoint. The virus stops either because around 60% – 80% of people have had it and got immunity, at which point it becomes a manageable background endemic problem, or someone comes up with a vaccine and makes enough of it to stop the pandemic. Either way the best guess is that we are in it for at least a year or 18 months…………….that’s an awful lot of toilet rolls to squirrel away – Penny’s college allows one per student room per week, so you had better have around 75 to 100 each – thats a lot to store…..And the food too……or maybe just believe the supermarkets when they say it will all pan out in the end………… Oh and we got our new head teacher – we were delighted to appoint the deputy who had been acting head for a while. Onward & upward, and don’t weaken…..
12th March – more excuses – I have a two day interviewing session for a new head teacher for our Primary school that is currently occupying my time. I’m also gearing up for the work on our kitchen which is taking up a fair bit of time. I hope to get a moment to do some gun stuff but the pressures build… Plus some of the old film cameras I put on ebay are selling. busy busy busy….
7th March – At school all day helping the class make electric or wind powered cars, so no guns. Sorry!
5th march. Busy few days – I’ve been sorting out bits of the planned Kitchen renovaation and putting in time at school too. I got involved in coding a project for the year 5/6 class using the BBC microbit computers to run a voting system based on radio links – I was quite pleased because the whole thing worked with only one iteration of minor debugging. It will be interesting to see how the kids get on with it. No-one has come up with any suggestions for the photos below – I have no ideas!
1st March – Another month gone! I made a couple of bits for the lathe so that it kicked out the traverse if it was about to run into the end of its travel – I have had damage a couple of times when the saddle had hit the buffer, resulting in a bent gear shaft and a sheared pin – I think it will now work, although I did run a tipped tool into the chuck while setting it up – bang went the tip. Anyway I nearly froze to death in the shed so it was a bit of a rush job. I went to look at a pile of oak planks that a friend has – they are warped like mad but I may be able to find enough straight pieces for drawer fronts. They have been air dried for many years, but in a barn so I’ll have to see what the moisture content is, and possibly build a drying chamber. Looks like the kitchen is going to be an all consuming project for the summer! I got an email today asking if an item was gun related – I couldn’t identify it, although it looks as if it might have something to do with rifle cartridges – here are the photos;– Any ideas ? I can’t find .293 listed as a known calibre.
28th February. Went in search of old style flooring tiles (pamments) for the kitchen floor. One place was a large industrial barn on what had once been a farm with one person surrounded by massive piles of drying tiles and fired tiles and kilns and clay – turned out she did the whole thing herself – nice tiles too – think I might use them – a lot cheaper than sourcing antique pamments which cost an arm and a leg, and are difficult to get in large enough batches to cover 20 square meters. Driving to Norfolk was a nightmare in the heavy rain – worse coming back because the wind was blowing from the east and sending the spray from lorries across the fast lane. Geoff collected the last of the Smiths that I had converted to conventional nipples – he is threatening to go on a shoot with all three guns and two loaders for an experiment in 19th century shooting – he will have to hurry before lead is banned!
27th February. I sold the pair of Belgian percussion pistols today, which was nice, although I can see all my spare cash being channeled into the kitchen renovation! I’ve been sketching kitchen units and looking at sink tops – all too domestic really. Still after 26 years it does need an overhaul…. I do occasionally creep off into the workshop, put the woodburning stove on, wait half an hour while the temeperature gets bearable, and do a bit of engraving – I’m practicing script signatures at the moment – its very difficult to get them right – I am not sure that I have a naturally good eye for it, so it requires a bit of concentration on my part – I can see what is wrong when I’ve done it, but not while I’m doing it!
25th February. I went to see a possible shoot yesterday as two of our best muzzle loading game shoots have closed. I had a very good discussion with the keeper, but it turned out that they really cater for bigger bags than we normally expect, and he didn’t think he could make it work for less than 170 to 200 bird days, with the cost working out at twice what we are used to paying for our 80 to 12o bags, I think his costings are much more in line with the normal shoots, and we are lucky to have access to the small bag days. In any event, I’m not sure how long we’ll be able to go on shooting muzzle loaders as a lead ban seems to be increasingly likely. One good thing came out of my meeting with the keeper – I’m going back for a deer stalking session with him in April, something I’ve been meaning to do for some time. I haven’t started any work on my own guns, although I do keep toying with the idea of making a pair of duelling pistols – I have most of the parts, mainly because I am getting round to sorting out doing the kitchen up. I got the oak for a new back door today – my joiner friend had advised I got laminated engineered oak, but to my surprise one of the uprights arrived seriously bowed so will have to be changed. It is a major project as the old and fragile lath and plaster ceiling will have to come down and be repaired or replaced with similar, and the floor will have to be dug out to a depth of 200 m.m. and insulated and a slab laid and underfloor heating wires installed, then tiled in reclaimed pamments if I can find a source – then I have to build a whole lot of units from scratch as I don’t want chipboard units……. I’ll try to get people in to do most of the work, but will probably end up doing a whole lot myself as, infuriatingly, I know exactly what I want! I’d better steer clear of gun auctions for the forseeable future to fund the kitchen………. Anyone want to buy an 11 bore Westley Richards double percussion – nice….
23rd February. I collected my Dremel cutting disks from Screwfix this morning – really useful service, I ordered them on Saturday and they were ready to pickup locally by noon Sunday. Not sure what I’m going to do with a kit of over 50 cutting disks of 25 m.m. diameter, but at £16 it doesn’t really matter! So this afternoon was spent getting the two nipples out of the last of the Smith’s Imperial cap guns. The first was moderately OK – I cut a nice slot across the nipple around 2 m.m. deep and put a screwdriver in the slot, but couldn’t turn it, found a brace and screwdriver bit that was a perfect fit, but still couldn’t shift it so applied a bit of heat and eventually shifted it. The other one I cut the slot, heated it several times, shocked it with cold water, but still couldn’t shift it – eventually broke the screwdriver bit rather spectacularly (see photo) – I tried using a punch and hammer to drive it round, but no luck. In the end I cut the slot a bit deeper and broke off half the nipple top with the punch and hammer and whacked the rest with the punch until it started to turn – by the time I got it out the nipple was a complete mess, but most importantly the gun was completely untouched by all the messing about. It’s my No 1 rule with old guns – do no damage, unless you mean to, and then only the minimum. This means ALWAYS paying attention to the holding and fixing of the part you are working on – damage usually results from careless handling or inadequate holding. In getting the nipples out I held the hooks on the breech in my lead lined vice jaws with the barrel supported on a padded surface, with a bit of cord to stop the barrel turning and pulling the hooks out of the vice, and with a pad under the barrel near the jaws in case it dropped out. That meant I had both hands free to work on the nipple, and could use any necessary force without risking the barrel coming free. There was a lot of muck in the nipple holes – one wouldn’t blow through, so I stuck my steam cleaner down each barrel and then did the water pumping thing with tight fitting polyester wadding on a jag until it cleared. It now seems clear so I fitted the new titanium nipples and its ready to go. I nearly got to the point of drilling out the nipple, but that is a very last resort as it is likely to damage the threads, and that would make the gun less safe to shoot. I must check the other two guns for blocked flame passages. (Of course I had the owner’s consent to destroy the original nipples if necessary – I got the first 4 out intact)
Slot for screwdriver cut with a Dremel disk.
At this point it had just started to turn, having broken the rust joint. Note the fracture surface – the nipple was pretty hard too.
21st February. Geoff bought the other two Saml and C Smith guns over for me to fit the new conventional nipples and modified cock noses that I’d made and checked out on the gun I had. Unfortunately the gun I had seems to have been made later than the other two, which were made as a pair, so we had a bit of a problem stripping out the Smth’s parts. We eventually got the nipples out of one of them, wrecking my tool on the way, and got all 4 noses out with some difficulty using a Mole wrench and lead sheet to protect the old nose – one needed a burst of flame to get it hot then a drop of water to cool it suddenly. But we completely failed to shift the nipples from one of the guns, even with heat. Geoff is quite happy to destroy the nipples in the process, so I’ll get a minature cutting disk and put a screwdriver slot across it so I can get a big driver on it. If that doesn’t work I’ll have to think again! I’m pretty sure the thread is not rusted up, it is just the two surfaces that mate….. For some reason my new noses that had been a snug fir in the gun I had, didn’t fit fully in the other cocks and had to be tweaked – a pain but no harm done…… Had some disappointing news today – the Valley Shoot at Royston is closing – I shot there for the first time this spring and it was one of the best shoots of the season. My other favourite shoot in Hertfordshire is also stopping, so we’ll have to hunt around for new areas……
20th February Had a look inside the saddle of my lathe today and found the source of the drive problem – a 5 m.m. rollpin had sheared but was still providing enough drive for most, but not all, of the revolution of the gear. Anyway, a bit of fiddling and I was able to knock out the broken bits and put in a new one.. All working now. I put together Nicks little double barrelled pistol – the one I had trouble browning. I think it is now OK but we’ll see in the cold light of day! Its now quite a pretty pistol and the cocks line up and work! I ordered oak for a new back door – my friendly joiner (who is going to make it for me as my machines are a bit puny) recommended ‘engineered’ timber, i.e. laminated from several layers, as its much more stable. I don’t want to paint the outside and it faces South, so it will have its work cut out to stay flat! – and that’s the prevailing wind direction too. Then I have to tackle the new kitchen units (I’ll make them) and a new floor as the current floor is two layers of plastic flooring laid on old uneven quarry tiles skimmed with self levelling compound but no longer level, set on ash and sand – that is going to be some job! In the mean time I’m playing around practising engraving lettering…………. The other two Smiths are coming over tomorrow, so I can see if all the bits fit. Not sure how much to charge, always difficult…….
19th February – Offers for shoots next season are starting to come in – I’m off on Monday to see a keeper nearby who wants to put on a muzzle loading shoot – lots of interest everywhere in getting away from the breech loaders! I set up a mini production line to make the new nose pieces for Geoff’s Smiths guns to replace the noses designed for Imperial caps. I’d ground up a tool to do the profiled bit, and the special UNES No12 x 32 die cuts the right thread, so it was straightforward. The only problem, if problem it is, is that my knurling tool ran properly in 2 of the noses, and in the other 2 it doubled up the indentations so made an even finer knurl. I always wondered how the knurl managed to synchronise to impress evenly – now I know – it doesn’t always! Anyway one of the trio of Smiths will have a finer knurl on its noses. I do not intend to remake them!
They have had a dose of Blackley’s colour case hardening, a wire brush and a tempering on the AGA plate at 270C approx.
18th February I had an appointment in Cambridge at 9:30 this morning, so anticipated having to leave early because of the disruption caused by Extinction Rebelion, but actually I got into Cambridge in about 25 minutes instead of the anticipated hour or more! Amazing. When got there I found that they had changed my appointment without telling me, so it was all in vain! Gile’s girlfriend Elenor is a keen archer and wanted the tips of her arrows to weigh 120 grains insted of 110 grains, so I had a go on Sunday at welding a piece of 4 mm rod on the end – but it has to be a good fit in the shaft and I couldn’t line the extension up well enough so I made a jig today and did a batch, which I hope will be OK – I didn’t mind making the jig as it will serve for those occasions when I want to weld a new head on a side nail. I did a bit of practice engraving of lettering – I’ve been making a microscopic survey of the lettering on my guns to see how the cuts are done. I got frustrated with the photographs I was getting – not sure if it was vibration from manually pressing the button, or limits of the 18-135 Canon lens, so I reverted to my very expensive fixed focus Canon Macro lens and got bluetooth firing, and got much sharper pictures. I also wanted to see how long it took to engrave lettering. The bottom one – ‘PUBLIC OFFICE’ has the stressed strokes made with 3 cuts with a ‘square’ graver – i.e. the normal one for most work, and then gone over with a flat graver to take out the ridges. The whole bottom line from marking the lines and setting out the lettering to going over it and tweaking any mistakes took 15 minutes – about 12 minutes for the main cutting and tweaking. The steel for this one was very nice to cut and I didn’t chip or blunt any gravers. I’d expect a nineteenth century engraver to do it in half that time. Tomorrow’s job is to make another 4 noses for the Smiths cocks ( I know that they were normally called hammers in the percussion era, but I prefer calling all of them cocks!)
Arrow head ( and Side nail) jig
Letters are 2 m.m. high, the normal size for lock engraving 1780 onwards, except for very long names.
14th February One of the aspects of gun engraving that interests me is it’s importance to the overall desirability of the gun to its early users. How did the gunmaker and the client see the importance of the engraving – does it add much to the value of the gun, and what is its cost as a proportion of the gun’s selling price. Over time these factors changed enormously, although its somewhat difficult to look back and judge early antiques. In the early days – around the mid 17 century the engraving was simple, and didn’t differ much between makers – it can’t have been a significant part of the cost then. There was a period in the 18th century where the attention was in the silver mounts and there was often very little in the way of engraving – elaborate silver mounts must have been an important differentiator to mark out better quality weapons and clearly added value. In the third quarter of the 18th century the engraving was typically common across all better guns – many good makers used William Palmer as their engraver so it didn’t serve to differentiate makers – although in the 1820s Joseph Manton started to use a better class of engraver ( probably Leykauss and Gumbrell ) than his contemporaries. In 1794 John Manton had a double gun engraved by Palmer for 8s 6d but was charged 12s for a ‘silver mounted gun done well with with a border round bottom of heelplate’. I am not sure how much he would have charged for the finished gun – probably of the order of £30 or so – so the engraving was something like 1/50 th of the cost. For the most part engraving hadn’t become a ‘key feature’ of gun sales at that time. It wasn’t until the side by side breech loader designs stabilised and several manulacturers were turning out equally good mechanical designs that the engraving began to be used to differentiate weapons of comaparable quality as Purdey, Boss and etc developed characteristic engraving designs. Even then my guess is that the cost of engraving was not too far out of the traditional fraction of cost. In Christopher Aubyn’s book he quotes several instances of the gunmaker paying 24s for engraving a best gun – rising to 28s if the customer was likely to be fussy! This was coupled with a 24 hour turnround time! Not sure what a best gun from a less well known maker would cost around 1910 – I guess again the proportion isn’t so far different. Modern gun engraving can be a more significant part of the price once the customer steps away form the ‘standard’ designs. A top engraver might work on gun for 3 months, so the cost probably accounts for a bigger fraction of the overall cost. I got into this when I was thinking about lettering of guns and how long it took to do – I think all those 18th and 19th century guns were engraved very rapidly without a great deal of finesse – when you look under a microscope at almost any engraving of the period, you see great economy of effort! Lettering is usually cut with 2 or 3 strokes for stressed verticals and one cut for unstressed, and all letters are cut in one cut direction before the work is rotated to cut any other cut directions. There is almost never any going over of cuts, or ‘messing about’ – every cut is rapid and instinctive. I tried cutting the name ‘PARKER’ to see how long it took me – I’m slow, because I only do lettering occasionally, but I reckon it took me 4 minutes in quite hard steel, and I would be surprised if an old time engraver had taken more than 2 minutes. Add 100% for setting out, fixing and sharpening, and a journeyman earning 30s a week for a 60 hour week is well inside 1d ( 12d = 1s) for the name. My Bow Steet pistols have 40 letters each, so that’s still only about 10p with overheads! Mind you, it needs to be cheap as the pistols sold for £3.0.0 per pair. ( 1£ = 20s). And I got time to make another nipple for the Charles and Samuel Smith gun – I didn’t break the 1 mm drill, but I did bend it – 9 to go………
13th February – Continuing my discussion on engraving, will try to put my ideas on a post soon… Hunting around in my box of caps for a cap for Dicks pistol, I came across half a dozen Smith’s Imperial patent caps so had a look at them in relation to the nipple of the gun I am working on – picture below.. One interesting thing is that I have a fired cap, and the central pimple is blown through – I wonder if that is designed to happen. Now here is a puzzle for visitors to this blog – what are these caps for? they don’t look deep enough to hold themselves onto any nipple I’ve ever seen, and don’t have an anvil so don’t look like primers. They seem to have a healthy load of priming ? Are they caps at all – I don’t know of any caps except the usual range, plus the Smiths, and the Jones (which I have never seen despite having a gun for them.)…. Help…..
What are these???
12th February – I had an email from a visitor to this blog concerning the Public Office (Bow Street) pistols I bought at Bonhams – his friend had been the underbidder. He raised the issue that many of those pistols had been (rather badly) re-engraved with the Public Office and Bow Street attribution and had just been plainParker overcoat pistols – he also thought it unlikely that a genuine one would remain unissued – both good points. Anyway it made me get the pistols out and look very carefully at all the engraving under my microscope at x30 magnification – this convinced me that all the engraving on both pistols is completely original and all by the same hand. The slight corrosion and rust build-up in the letters, and the slight rounding of the edges is exactly what I see on old guns where there is no question of faking. The pistols may have been issued and had very light use – there is some wear on the steel, but other than a few scratches from slips of the turnscrew and a little wear to the corners of the barrel they are matching and only lightly used – a fine pair of rare pistols. Even the insides of the locks are pristine. I cannot find any figures for how many pairs Parker supplied, but he was the sole (?) supplier to the police and also supplied their other arms – truncheons and swords. I’d be interested to know if there were a lot of these pistols around that are not marked for public office etc. Thinking about engraving lettering and re-cutting or re-engraving on antique firearms, I came to the conclusion that every gun engraver of the day must have done the same things over and over again, and very quickly too, so that he (or she?) did it by muscle memory not conscious thought – which makes it difficult to ape their stokes. Its still true that one develops particular hand movements and tend to produce lettering and scrolls that have a particular look. You can adopt different styles, but it tends to require more fiddling to get it right and that shows. Its a bit like trying to copy someone’s signature, particularly if its like mine – an indecipherable squiggle. I did a bit of simple engraving on a few parts for Dick – touching up a brass lock, and putting scrolls down a cock, and a line round a pair of small cocks and engraving a couple of cock screws. Here is the splendid old yacht I bought back too……
Bow Street Pistol
11th February – Its been a long time! I went down to Wales to clear out the first installment of ‘stuff’ from my father-in-law’s house before it’s photographed for the sales brocure. 4 days that filled an 8 yd. skip to the brim (I hope they will take it!) – Tom came with me and oversaw a massive bonfire that burned nicely for 4 days – he rather enjoyed wielding the axe on junk furniture. Anyway I drove back through the storm on Sunday – OK because most of the traffic skulked along in the slow lane and my heavy old Land Cruiser doesn’t mind a bit of spray and water on the road. Collapsed for 24 hrs when I got back though -bug but not the coronovirus. Now ‘in circulation’ again. I bought back an old sailing yacht that needa a bit of TLC – its old enough to be an interesting display piece so I’ll try to get round to fixing it. Also a load of old cameras – Pentax- and lenses – they do have some marginal value so I suppose they will have to go on ebay. A number of gun jobs have appeared – mostly small engraving jobs for Dick. I couldn’t remember where I left off when I went to Wales, but the packet of 1 mm drills in the post reminded me that I have the Smiths nipples and cock noses to finish. I must pay attention to the undercutting of the thread at the shoulder of nipples etc as I end up having to ‘adjust’ them by hand to get them to go down fully. I’ve been reading ‘English Guns and Rifles’ by J N George (1942). He also wrote ‘English Pistols and Revolvers’ in 1938. George was killed in the second World War in 1942. Its a very comprehensive book and probably the best I’ve read at explaining the general history of antique firearms and the chronology of development and invention – well worth owning if you are beginning a collection and want to be able to date guns fairly accurately. He was quite young by the standards of most experts – he died at the age of 39 – so I suppose its not surprising that its not perfect in every detail but overall its very well worth a read and fairly cheap second hand as there was at least one reprint. I was a bit confused to read that true damascus was first made by Rigby of Dublin – I’m sure he is wrong there although Rigby did use it in a unique way. I’m sure Liege would contest his view! Since a copy will set you back £10 – £20 it’s a bargain………I haven’t read the pistol book of his properly yet.
2nd February – Went to see my brother today – had a look at the pair of Griffin and Tow pistols he acquired from my father’s estate – absolutely beautiful silver mounted horse pistols in fantastic condition – boy am I envious! Not much time for anything else, although we did pick up a sheet of 3/16th brass that he didn’t want, which will no doubt be made into something by Tom. I was talked into going into the yr 1/2 class in school (5/6 yrs old) as a character from a book, Bob the Astronaut – I did checkout the book to see what was expected of me, and I have to admit that I was a bit shocked at how unscientific it was! Get up at 6 a.m., have breakfast (2 eggs) take off and arrive on moon to start work at 9 a.m. – gosh, you are hard pushed to get to work in Cambridge, 15 miles away by that time! Its about 17 thousand times as far to the moon (minimum 240,000 miles) which usually takes 3 days……. And Bob was expected to return to earth at 5 p.m. each day. Elon Musk eat your heart out!
1 Feb – the year rolls on! Frustrating afternoon in the workshop – I decided to make a video on the Smiths nipples, and try to include some machining, so I fixed my camera up on my lathe and started to make the titanium nipples – fairly early on in the process I like to drill the 1 mm hole which is at the bottom of the threaded part – it is logical to do it early as there is a chance the drill will break off in the hole and I’ll need to start again as its impossible to get the broken bit out. Anyway I hadn’t broken a drill in around a dozen titanium nipples so far, but I broke off 3 in a row today! Not sure why – probably I let up in pressure on the drill and the titanium work hardened and the drill snatched when it restarted? I did manage to make 2 in the end – you have to put just enough pressure on the drill to keep it cutting and not stop the feed, which is tricky with the tailstock. Another order to Tracy Tolls for ten 40 thou drills at £1 each. I haven’t checked out the video yet – I’ll have to edit out the language when the drills broke!
31st January – I was looking through my library to see where there were holes in the literature that I could usefully fill in my hypothetical book on collecting and restoring – there is a lot of very good information from people who know a lot more than I do, so no point in repeating it, but I couldn’t find much about sporting guns, particularly shotguns. There is plenty about very early antique firearms, and fancy persentation stuff, a fair amount about pistols, loads about military stuff and a lot written about American firearms history, but the sort of guns that most antique collectors, particularly beginners in the UK might get hold of are quite poorly represented. Most of the coverage is in books specific to makers, who by definition, are at the top end of the market and beyond the reach of many collectors. Having said all that, maybe I am missing some good books? Let me know if so, thanks. Looking round for the next little job, I came back to the cock of the Barton musket that has the stupid flower engraved on it – looking under the microscope the cock could be original, but not from this musket – the engraving doesn’t look right for anything but is hand cut and not the impression from a casting. I do have a blank casting that would fit, but the existing one would be fine if it wasn’t for the engraving! I had a look through the Wogdon book to see what Wogdon and Wogdon and Barton and Barton mostly put on their pistols (the book is short on long guns and has no muskets) and I found a few cocks with bits of engraving on them – some fairly extensive in the 1790s style of flowers in a cutout background and fully engraved locks, but most had entrirely plain cocks except for the normal border lines – this cock would look much better if it didn’t have the engraving. Its not really thick enough to file off the engrving as its quite deep, so I might have to have the face welded over – might take it to our speciality welder as I don’t want to end up with hollows that would require the face to loose thickness. Trouble is the alien metal will show up when I colour down the cock – one of the problems with it at the moment is that it doesn’t match the finish of the lock – it needs a bit of rust! One of the Wogdon cocks had a few scrolls around a somewhat similar flower – it would disguise the flower but I think plain might be better – can’t make up my mind….. I’ve been slowly trying to brown the little d/b pistol barrel – about 4 rustings with both my copper rich browning and Blackley’s it isn’t much different from last time – I am having difficulty in making any impression on the steel bits of the twist in spite of having etched it a bit in copper sulphate. I think they had accidentally invented stainless steel!
30th January – A bit of engraving but not much other work – a contact bought me some percussion double guns with loose nipples to see if I could make them secure to shoot, but I’m afraid I didn’t think any of them were in a safe condition to be used even with the nipples fixed – a couple seemed to be ‘bittsers’ – one had repro locks and one had an old but non-twist barrel – I havent seen one of those on a percussion sporting gun for a while – they were only ever used at the very bottom end of the market. In my view they were only fit as wallhangers so the nipples might as well be Araldited into the barrels with some glue run into the connecting chamber to stop any bright spark setting them off! So that is one job I didn’t take on – I was quite open with my assesment! I’ll probably end up doing a bit of timber conversion tomorrow as Tom is set on making a cabinet like one found in Tutenkhamun’s tomb – don’t ask me why – and I have a big slab of cedar up in the workshop which is apparently the correct wood.
29th January – Excellent days shooting near Maldon today – 5 muzzle loaders and some breech loaders walking and as back guns. The season ends on 31st so its the last shoot over that ground and was intended to thin out the remaining cocks before the breeding season. A small shoot and a small bag, but most enjoyable although the wind was quite fresh – my new Merino wool inner layer kept me nice and warm, and I thoroughly enjoyed the day and more or less got my share of birds. As there is no ‘gun bus’ on the shoot I took my Land Cruiser round – It was fatal to wash it a last Sunday as its now filthy! Viking showed me a photo of a splendid PWLV medal that was sold at auction – beautiful engraved feathers etc on the back. He also said that it was not unusual for some well heeled (junior ?) officers to have muskets – I expect it added to the fun during practice. Information on the Volunteer Company continues to come in! I gave Bev back his engraved cocks and etc – another satisfied customer and it paid for my shoot – thanks Bev!
27th January – more information on the volunteer musket trickles in. There is a fine painting of the PWLV in 1803 in front of a splendid building, all in fine uniforms – it was sold at auction in 2009 in America and the photo on the web is unfortunately too faint to show the inscription properly ( wish I owned it!). I also found that Bonhams sold documents including 10 musters for PWLV in 2014. I found the name Mr Jones of Cecil Court associated with the PWLV in an entry for a donation to the Patriotic Fund of £278 odd – a lot of money in 1803. Around 1803 there was a lot of interest in Volunteer units because of the perceived invasion threat from France ( they did actually invade in 1797 – the Fishguard Invasion) – initially the government looked as if it was going to arm Volunteers, but very quickly their enthusiasm declined ( they were always a bit sniffy about ‘troops’ not under their control) and they left it to the volunteers to arm themselves. Most Volunteer Regiments were composed of Gentlemen officers and troopers of the ‘middling sort’, so at least the officers could afford their splendid uniforms and weapons. Given the probably location of the PWLV (St Martins area ) they were only a short walk from the Haymarket premises of John Barton, gunmaker, who had taken over sole ownership of the firm of Wogdon and Barton on 14th June 1803 so that fits quite nicely. I would like to see the musters that Bonhams sold to see if Charles Mackintosh is named – I understand that the Grenadiers were the elite of the regiments, but if Charles carried a musket that might indicate a rank below officer level, as officers would probably only have been armed with a sword? Well heeled commanders often purchased arms for their troops. I saw somewhere that PWLV had a number of companies – can’t recall where. Thank you to my respondents for all that information – keep it coming……..
26th later … I had a reply to my request for information on what PWLV might mean on my Musket – Prince of Wales’s Loyal Volunteers was suggested, which sounds reasonable. I had got as far a Prince of Wales – hence the engraving I did below yesterday, but the only POW volunteers I could trace were the Lanacasters formed in 1958 so not them… tonight I found a reference to PW Loyal Volunteers (St Martin’s branch) in 1803, in documents sold at Bonhams, which is closer to the right dates – I’ll keep on following up these clues…..
26th January – I stripped the saddle of my lather this afternoon but couldn’t see anything wrong, and it seemed OK so I put it together again and it still missed some leadscrew motion. I have now don a bit more diagnsostics and know a bit better where the problem must lie, but I guess I’ll have to strip it again – its not a very terrible job if you use a bit of brute force to separate the slide assembly from the gearbox. Another job still to do – but I did manage to wash 2 cars today – almost unprecidented, but they were so horribly muddy that it was impossible tobrush past them without getting filthy, and if you take them to a car wash with a thick coat of dirt it just damages the paint surface. More practice on the Barton signature – it annoys me when I can’t get it right so I have to keep at it until I get my eye in! Actually the more I try the worse the original I’m copying looks! original engraving usually has plenty of faults when you look closely, although there were a very few engravers who did perfect work. I might recut the engraving on the musket barrel, but its difficult as I have to keep rotating the barrel and there isn’t room on my bench. I’m still browning the little d/b pistol barrel but don’t see any sign of the steel rusting yet! bother!.
Prince of Wales feathers from a gun in Sandringham.
25th January – I had a look at photos of Barton’s signature (in the Wogdon book by John O’Sullivan and de Witt Bailly) and they are very similar to the traces of signature on my musket – I can’t decide if I will recut the engraving on the barrel and lock, but anyway I know it takes me a few iterations to get it right so I had a few practice goes – starting oversize and getting down to the correct size not too bad in the end – I’ll try a few more, and the London too. I’ve put the stuff about titanium nipples on a separate post ;- ‘ Making titanium Percussion Nipples’
The bottom one is the last – converging! Its about he same size as the one in the photo, I think.
24th January – At last – something for visitors to this site to get their teeth into! I bought a musket today ( I must remember to pay for it!) that is quite interesting, so it would be good to hear from anyone who can offer any additional information. It’s a volunteer i.e. privately purchased musket that is based on the 1777 short land pattern Brown Bess (?) with a different lock and different shaped butt. It has a 42 inch barrel, 4 pipes (2 tapered) and a foresight doubling as a bayonet stud. I think it is pretty genuine, in that it hasn’t recently been cobbled together out of bits. The only markings on the gun are the London proof marks on the barrel, the side plate with inscription ‘ Charles Macintosh Grenadier Company BWLV or PWLV’, and a faint signature ‘Barton’ on the lock and an identical faint signature and London on the barrel and a stand of arms on the lock tail. The script signatures are definitely those of John Barton, and are exactly as they appear on other firearms by him – they are genuine and completely original as far as I can judge. the stand of arms also appears on pistols by him. The lock is somewhat rusty and the cock looks like a replacement with a rubbish engraving, but the inside of the lock is in very good condition and quality with quite a lot of original blueing. The barrel is fixed by 4 bolts, rather than pins as in the Brown Bess style – the loops on the barrel have been properly fitted by a gunsmith but look to be more recent then other parts of the gun. The slots in the fore-end for the bolts are cut quite roughly and not well finished off, as if someone stopped in the middle of the job. I haven’t been able to find a likely Charles Macintosh – it isn’t Charles Rennie Macintosh, or the inventor of the raincoat. John Barton was apprenticed to Robert Wogden, the very famous duelling pistol maker, and was a partner of his when Wogdon retired in 1803, at which point the firm’s name changed from ‘Wogdon and Barton’ to ‘Barton’. While that would put this gun post 1803, I seem to remember reading that it is thought that some guns with just Barton on them predated the 1803 change – its possible that Wogdon didn’t want to get involved! Or Barton might have been running a side show. The brass butt plate, trigger guard and pipes seem right for the 1777 pattern as does the barrel length – but if the gun was made after 1803 then the current service issue would have been the India Pattern of 1796 , although after the Peninsular war when the pressure came off the trade, some short Land Patterns may have been made. The lock has a rainproof pan, which puts it well after 1777 – probably into the Barton name period. John Barton sold his business in 1819. In any event, John Barton was amongst the top London makers, which, with the side plate inscription make this musket interesting. Military stuff is a bit beyond me, although I have the books! I’m hoping someone will identify ‘Grenadier Company BWLV or PWLV’ for me. I’ll see what tidying up I can do without spoiling its originality, and possibly change the cock for one that is a bit less like a sporting gun – I do have a better one in stock with bigger jaws for the flint. The lock has a lovely feel, and I’m sure it would shoot really well…..
24th Jan – the little barrel is possibly ‘working’ more time needed.. I found another job waiting to be done for a client – a replacement pricker for a combination tool – not sure what its from. Anyway I fiddled around trying to match the thread and eventually settled on 2 B.A. which it obviously wasn’t, but 3/16th seemed too big. 2 B.A. is 31.35 t.p.i which is pretty much the same as UNF No. 10 32 t.p.i. over a shortish thread length but on a slightly smaller diameter. The job is anyway pretty forgiving as I’m putting a brass screw in to a steel thread. It worked. The pricker I made out of an old steel knitting needle I had lying around – I try to keep a collection of such things, and big needles etc to make pins for holding older guns together. I just need to blue the spike and then that’s crossed another job off the list!
23rd January – Not much to report as I was out of actin yesterday, I have started to rebrown the little pistol barrel – I gave it 30 seconds in copper sulphate to ‘wake it up’ and its on its first browning now. I always have a bit of a problem with copper sulphate as there are usually one or two bits of the barrel that get resolutely copper plated, but I think we’ll be OK. Tidying up my papers after doing my tax I came across an exploded view of the saddle of my big lathe that I downloaded when it went wrong last time ( I ran it into the end and bent a gear shaft – Axminster told me it was the last spare they had) Anyway it has developed another fault – on longitudinal travers the saddle stops and waits and then restarts – I don’t think its a bent gear, probably a pin holding a gear onto its shaft has got displaced – I can still use the lathe but it tends to leave a mark where it stops, so I ought to strip it again. I’m reminded that next Wednesday is my last shoot of the season! I’ve had some really enjoyable days – 6 or 7 I think, of course all muzzle loading. My offer on the musket Dick has was accepted so I’ll go and pick it up tomorrow. It is a private arm, not a tower musket, so I’ll see what I can find about it.
22nd January – I saw a You tube video of sharpening carbide tips for lathe tools the other day, so I thought I’d try – it involves making a holder so you can present them to a hone – I have an old tool grinder with a fine diamond wheel so I just tapped an M2 hole in the end of a rod to fix the tip on. I used my x25 microscope to see what was going on and realised why you can’t make very fine cuts with a tipped tool if you are cutting titanium – the tips are sintered carbide made presumably in a press tool and have cutting edges with a noticeable radius – so below a certain cut thickness the radius just burnishes the surface – and the minimum cut thickness is significant if you are trying, for instance, to get a perfect fit of a percussion cap on a nipple. It is possible to make finer cuts with a freshly honed HSS tool, or for very fine cuts I believe its necessary to use a carbon steel tool. Most of my lathe work has been fairly crude, so its taken me this long to learn what others probably knew from to start! In truth I probably don’t often take deep cuts that merit carbide tipped tools
21st January – I went to Dick’s to get the cocks of Bev’s gun chequered, so he lent me a No 1 chequering file, which did the job pretty well – amazingly efficient tool. I then finished the spurs off with the Gravermax, putting a line round as a border and tidying up any bits where the file had missed. I then ‘took the edge’ off the cut surfaces as they were very sharp. Job now completed. Dick had an interesting old musket with a presentation plate – I need to check it out as it seemed like a reasonable price for what it was – I’m not very good on the Military stuff as the value/price seems to depend on precise details and rarity, and that needs specialist knowledge to judge. Anyway I made an offer, which will be passed on to the owener in due course, so we shall see.
20th January – A most frustrating day! I bit the bullet and finished my tax calculations, only to find that I calculated that I needed to pay within a few pence of last year’s tax – given that its made up of lots of different items it was a bit disconcerting. Anyway I tweaked it so the coincidence wasn’t so obvious in case anyone thought I just copied last year’s figures again! Logging in was a pain – I had what I thought was the right Gateway code so I negotiated the many checks of NI number, passport, inside leg measurement etc and got logged into something that looked OK, but when I clicked on the bit to enter my tax it said that I was using a different (wrong) Gateway for that, so I let it tell me what the ‘right’ Gateway was and the same thing happened, so I went round and round in ever decreasing circles until it popped up and said “ring this telephone number” – more automated questions and then, believe it or not, a helpful chap who said , in effect, that the web system was crazy and he’d give me yet another Gateway, which he did and it worked! It took me 2 1/2 hours to do what should have taken 25 minutes. Zero marks to the Tax system, full marks to the chap on the end of the phone. Anyway then off to school to play – I will get into trouble tomorrow as the children made a bit of a mess with the hot glue guns! Some have started to play with the radio communication built into the BBC Microbits, so I had to spend the evening getting up to speed so I can stay one step ahead!
19th January – Had a break from struggling with my tax – I had an email from Bev that reminded me I was going to engrave the cock screws of the locks I had engraved the cocks for. The screws didn’t look right – and anyway the threads were pretty much non existent – so I decided to make a couple of new screws. Screwing a matchstick into the hole in the tumbler gave a pretty good match to 48 t.p.i. which is the pitch of No 4 UNF, and the diameter was about right too, judging from the almost stripped threads of the old screws. The usual pattern for cock screws of that era (around 1850 +/- 10) is a domed head with a small flange – I made the flange O.D. 9 mm. and the rest I judged by eye. I engraved them with a few radial slashes – the domed head limits what one can do as its not really possible to engrave too far round the curved surface. When making screws that don’t have long shanks or threads and therefore can’t be held in a 3 jaw chuck I have a set of chunks of steel bar with threaded holes tapped into the ends. I turn a rod down the the final O.D. of the screw head, then turn the diameter for the required screw thread and cut the thread – I either put the die in a normal holder and steady it with the tailstock chuck rim, or use a tailstock die holder with the Morse taper of the chuck just disengaged so it is located but can rotate by hand to cut. I then indent the flange and clear most of the spare material around the head before parting it off, then screwing it into my holder and shaping the head in the lathe by eye, using a file to finish it off. I then cut the slot while its still in the tapped holder, and engrave it. I then heat it up to dull red, dip it in Blackley’s colour case hardening powder and reheat it and repeat and then plunge it into water. The screws are made of low carbon steel so I’m not bothered about them becoming too brittle, but I did give them and the cocks a bit of a blast with the calor torch, taking them a bit above blue so they end up greyish brown rather than shiny steel. I still ought to borrow Dick’s chequering file!
17th January – After ‘walking round the job’, and attending to every possible distraction, including going into school to put up a notice board, I finally got down to sorting out my tax return. The tax return is much more difficult now that I have de-registered from VAT as I used to have to make up my accounts every quarter, so I still mostly remembered what was what. Now I am dealing with things from 2017 and early 2018 that are well out of memory on account of my tax year being misaligned with the ‘normal’ 5th April one. Maybe tomorrow I’ll take a break and get back to the little d/b pistol that needs browning after the my failure to get an effective finsish last time I tried.
15th Jan – Not really sure where today went, but I did manage to get an hour or so to make a new nipple key – I didn’t harden this one as silver steel is pretty durable, but I did pop it under the lid on the second AGA plate and forget about it – its now a lovely deep blue that changes colour with the light – making tools is one of the best bits of gun restoring!
14th Jan -I decided that I needed to make a well fitting nipple key for the Smiths nipples so I made one out of silver steel rod, hardened it and thought I’d tempered it at 260C on the AGA hotplate for a good while, but when I came to undo a very tight nipple from my turning and filing jig I got a classic fracture – that will teach me to be more thorough with the tempering! 260C should be OK for screwdrivers, so I thought it would do for a nipple key, but I think I didn’t temper it for long enough, anyway I’ll have to remake the shaft, although the handle with built-in nipple pricker can be reused. Not pleased with today’s work! Never mind, next time I can get the detailing right on the body and maybe not bother to harden it.
14th Jan – No time today (13th) for gun stuff unfortunately – I’m sorry if that is what you visit the site for, which it probably is – you’ll just have to settle for revisiting some of the quarter million other words on the blog! My morning was spent at the lab archive in Cambridge and my afternoon was spent with Dave running our Stem Club at the local primary school – it was the first session of the new term and I had told the office that we would take 14 children as they had been well behaved (we usually limit it to 12) – anyway somehow we ended up with 12 children registered plus 5 from the previous term who hadn’t bothered to register – so 17 in all. But they are so good – Dave and I were amazed – we have a range of materials including the BBC Microbit computers and everyone including the new 7 year olds settled in 5 minutes and spent the hour working away at making things with almost no involvement from us – I’d like to take some credit, but that would be unfair! I got involved in house buying this evening – it’s turning into an impromptu auction that we intend to win – Penny gets a bit stressed by situations like that, but I view it all as an expensive game so can think strategically ! And I had a loaf to make…………………. Oh, and I started to think about chapter headings for the book on gun repair and restoration that I might one day write………….. And I was thinking it might be time to take up Pilates – I might get a bit buff (whatever that means)………………
13th Jan – I finished the nipples and cock noses for the Smiths Imperial replacements – Although I had got basically the correct screw pitch and diameter, I still had a job to fully seat the parts, and I couldn’t work out where in the thread the problem lay. It’s always a problem to sort out the shoulder for things that screw up against a surface as the top of the hole is rarely adequately relieved to take the runout of the thread cut with a normal die. I have two fudges for the problem, one is to undercut the male thread blank against the shoulder before cutting the thread – I have a parting tool ground up to do that – and the other is to grind off some of the lead-in from the face of the die, in which case it pays to have two dies, one to start the thread and the other to finish cut up to the shoulder. On the nipples I couldn’t see where the problem was, even under the microscope I couldn’t see any signs of excessive contact. Since it is vital to keep as much engagement in the thread of nipples as possible I don’t like taking any more than essential from the thread diameter. I managed to get them sorted eventually by slightly shortening the thread and filing the last turn under the shoulder – I did wonder in the end if the female thread in the ‘hut’ was slightly tapered? I also noticed that the two sides of the gun were not identical in terms of thread fit. Anyway I got a very secure fit on both nipples in the end, and wrapped them in ptfe pipe tape as we normally do. I had similar problems fitting the cock noses, only in this case the threads play a minor role, and provided they don’t fall out under gravity they are performing their function – having said that, the eventual fit is a good as for the nipples !
12th Jan – finished the main engraving on Bev’s percussion cocks… Have another batch of marmalade to make tonight – last night’s was only 12 jars and that is not enough to keep me going until the next Seville orange season!
11th Jan – I started on the engraving of a pair of percussion cocks for Bev. They are castings of indifferent metal, which makes it difficult to get smooth curves as there are some hard patches, so I resorted to the Gravermax – I’ve finished one and started the next. I’ll have to visit Dick to borrow his chequering file for the spurs – I can sometimes recut it with the Gravermax, but only if I can see enough of the original to follow – in this case there is almost none visible so I’ll do it with the proper tool – I’ll put photos up tomorrow – I was a bit short of time tonight as I had to make a batch of marmalade – Seville oranges being in season now – I have my own recipe as I haven’t ever found a commercial marmalade I like as much – perhaps I ought to put the recipe on this blog!