This site contains details of what I do – it does not mean that it is safe or legal for you to do the same, and I accept no responsibility if you do. You are responsible for ensuring that what you do is within your capabilities and is safe and legal in your country. Guns, even antiques, can be dangerous and if you don’t know what you are doing get expert help. Many antique guns are of historic and/or financial value, and its your responsibility to find out if what you want to do will damage their value. Remember, leaving them as they are won’t diminish their value but inappropriate repair might well make them worth less, maybe much less! If in doubt don’t do it.
I assume he is holding the sling out of the way with his left hand? from Ezakial Baker’s Practice etc..
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Welcome to my site – you’ll find this post is a sort of diary where I put things I’m doing that are (almost) relevant to the subject – they ‘fall off the bottom’ after a few weeks – bits from the diary may get put into existing or new posts when they fall off. Please feel free to contact me via the comments box in each post or by my email as per the CONTACT tab at the top. If I can I will respond – email will usually get a quicker response.
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So now you know why the photos in the normal view look a bit murky! Just click on them for a better photo.
___________________ DIARY _____________ _________
19th May – More school today – a visit to see how the school is doing with its maths progress. The children in the top class had made cards and presents for Dave and I for doing robotics with them – really touching! I went shooting this morning – it was meant to be a ‘have a go’ session that we run for the Cambridge Gun club for corporate groups, but the group had cancelled and they had forgotten to tell us, so we got a free mornings shooting as a compensation. I took my flintlock and am sad to report that I couldn’t hit anything with it – well, actually one clay! It was firing a bit slow but that isn’t an adequate excuse… I swapped to my percussion for the last few shots and was back in my usual somewhat erratic form – bother, I was hoping I had got somewhere with the flint – I did better last time. I’m still browning the Joseph Manton barrel – its being very slow but I think its getting there. One lock still needs a mainspring but I think I’ll go and have a poke through Dicks box again to see if I can get one that fits without having to drill a new hole for the peg. I picked up a handful of mainsprings with a short top arm – as from modern locks – and they are all more or less identical – just about 1.5 mm too long between peg and claw. Apart from cleaning the two guns, all I had time for was sharpening the 15 gravers that I bought back blunt or chipped from the NSS. There is another Anglian Muzzle Loading shoot on Sunday but I don’t think I can face using the flintlock as its just too depressing! I’ve got to ship some engraving bits to Australia, but unfortunately they have to be picked up and its not easy finding a day when I am in.
18th May – A morning in school invigilating the dreaded SATs exams! Dick has finished the Manton hammer and made a new nosepiece, he didn’t have the rest of the gun and didn’t know which way up the nosepiece opening should be, so they need unscrewing and changing. He has, as usual, made a fantastic job of copying the good hammer – I just need to engrave a couple of lines to frame the chequering on the spur and it will be a perfect match when its coloured down. The barrel is coming along well after about 4 or 5 brownings – I guess it will take 10 or so. Now I need to replace the mainsprings with the ones I found in Dicks junk box – he says he found another box of springs if I want another poke around – and to think I used to make them…. Dick will do a bit of work on the wood round the lock pockets, I cleaned up a couple of pistol barrels that need rebrowning – I hope I got a reasonable finish – I refuse to strike them down to the bottom of the pits as that will seriously remove metal. I talked at the NSS to a gunsmith who wanted a Purdey replacement foreend iron engraved – I have never done any Purdey style engraving, or indeed any modern style engraving but I said I would have a go! Probably regret it! I had a look at some Purdey foreend that Dick has, and looked on a couple of auction websites so I have a fair idea what to do… I’m off to Cambridge Gun Club tomorrow as we (Anglia Muzzle Loaders) are putting on a ‘have a go’ event for CGC and I am needed on account of not many people have flintlocks and are familiar enough with them to let them loose on the public. For the first time I actually checked my flints and replaced them BEFORE starting to shoot – this is probably a big mistake and I probably ensured that they won’t spark well!
You have to admit, that is a pretty good copy!
A couple of barrels to rebrown so that they don’t look rebrowned!
An old Purdey forend – most are not quite so closely worked – I will see what I can do!
17th May – Back in harness, so to speak. I have finished preparing the Manton barrel (and unscrewed the foresight) and put on the first browning which went quite slowly but looks very promising now I’ve rubbed it off with 0000 wire wool – I will probably make a warm box as the cellar really takes too long – I can do pistol barrels on top of the AGA in a tub but long gun barrels need some better method than hanging them in the cellar. I am now preparing the barrels of a pair of over and under flintlock pistols – they are slightly pitted (as are almost all antique barrels even when the rest of the gun is immaculate) and needed a gently rebrowning, but it would not be appropriate to strike them off to get rid of all the pits – I have run them through the derusting tank to convert all the red rust in the pits to black and wire brushed them – I then work on them with 400 grit paper on any bad bits but mostly with 600, followed by 1000, then 3000 and 000 wire wool. It’s fiddly because there are ribs between the barrels and a rib underneath and each has two right angled edges to be cleaned out. I run them under my fine wire wheel (0.03 wire) to brush the grit and dust off between grades of paper. The engraving on the barrels looks fine and isn’t even filled with rust, so just a very quick going over to clean it out before browning. I spoke too soon about filling my shooting calendar for next season – I got another lovely invitation today that I can’t miss. The only problem is that its on Penny’s birthday and I’ve already ducked out of a party and a May Ball for the Scottish shoot – I am expecting the divorce papers any minute………………………………………………….
16th May – Bit of a surge in visitors to the blog – I gave out about 50 cards at the NSS so I guess some new people are looking – Welcome if this is your first visit – hope you enjoy the site.
16th May – Busy trying to sort out my ‘clean’ workshop, which is anything but. I’ve now got a bit more swinging room around the microscope, although the support for the microscope will still get in the way, but it only blocks an angle of about 10 degrees so not too bad. I had invitations to another two muzzle loading game shoots next season, which just about fills my shooting calendar! I think I now have 7 lined up – they are getting more and more popular as people get a bit jaded by the big bag breech loader shoots – It’s going to grow significantly as a sport – we are already seeing a steady increase in the numbers shooting clays with muzzle loaders. At the moment its difficult for newcomers to get into the muzzle loading game shoots as only a few people are organising them and they always get filled up quickly with the ‘regulars’. It can’t be a very attractive commercial proposition for the shoot, as the bag is much smaller than for ‘normal’ shoot, and hence the gross take is a lot less – having said that, the shoots I go on all seem to be very popular with the keepers. I am going to see how well I do with a flintlock next season, as its getting a bit common using a percussion gun – nasty new fangled things! Checking my calendar, I’ve had to duck out of a birthday party and a May Ball to go up to Scotland to shoot the National ML championships with my son Tom, but it is great fun, even if I don’t hit much – Tom and I are about equal as he only shoots once a year and I am a lousy shot anyway. Last year I missed the Samdringham Game fair, which I love, but this year I should make it. I probably won’t be at the Fenland Country fair – its my least favourite as its only 10 miles from home so none of the fun of camping there! I popped over to see Dick and look at the hammer of the Manton he has been filing up – Jason did a splendid job of welding – much better than my welding – so that is almost done – I just need to brown the barrel now.
16th May – Back from Harrogate… The Northern Shooting Show was pretty hectic viewed from behind my engraving bench – not sure of much that went on outside a radius of about 15 ft! Lots of interest in what I do, particularly in engraving and re-engraving antiques, and I am sure a lot of work will come my way as a result. I came totally exhauseted after talking all day for both days! People seemed to like the assurance that I understand the importance of not over restoring guns, so I am becoming ‘The Ethical Restorer’! Quite a good strapline… I did get to wander round on a short lunch break – its an amazing show, I’m not sure in our urbanised south of England you could put on a big show that had Shooting in the title, we just tag guns onto ‘Country Fairs’! Several of the enquiries that I had related to restoring the engraving on barrels, and I have a couple to do already, so while I have my microscope etc all packed up from the show I have decided to re-organise my engraving bench so that there is room to swing a barrel – this means extending the bench and cutting away the bottom part of a set of shelves, so that is today’s job – I do have a couple of pistol barrels and a double shotgun barrel to re-brown, plus a few other bits and pieces, but I do want to get the bench sorted so I can get all the boxes off the floor and have room to move!
10 May – A website regular emailed me to say that he did his browning on the back of his AGA so I thought it might be worth a try. I’ve been browning the little pistol barrel hanging over a jug of water in the bottom of a steel barrel about 2 ft high in the cellar so I just took it up to the kithen and perched it on top of the cover of the AGA hotplate and wrapped a piece of silvered bubblewrap round it – that really turbocharged the browning and finished it in one go – beautiful! Thanks Chris. I can probably get each rusting done in a couple of hours like that – now I need to sort out how to do the same for a long gun barrel. The little pistol is now together and looks superb – I wish it was mine. I’ve now loaded up my truck with all the stuff for the Northern Shooting Show – I’d forgotten what a long drive it was until I did a reccy on Google maps – about 4 hours. I’ll have to get there in time to build my setup and display – it takes a while to get the microscope set up with the turntable as the field of view needs to be aligned with the centre of the turntable an perpendicular to it or I keep loosing the object as I rotate it, which of course I have to do all the time as you can only cut in a very limited range of directions. The NSS opens at 8 every morning so its an early start, although I only have to travel from where we camp on the shooting line to the show hall. I haven’t been able to get a map of where on the site the MLAGB stand is going to be, or how much space we will have so I’ll have to play it by ear. I’m still not quite sure what to take in the way of guns – I’ve been asked to take some pistols for the main display and I’ll take a couple for my own display of restored things, and my restored Lancaster oval bore as that is my best bit of restoration so far.
Here is the little pistol – I can’t claim any credit for restoration – it is entirely original!
9th May – Sorting out labels for the NSS – I’m still browning the little barrel and it still has some way to go, I’ve lost count of how many brownings its had but judging by the number of wads of used 0000 steel wool lying about on the bench it must be around 8 so far – I’m still using Blackley’s slow brown as I don’t want to make the finish any blacker at this stage by using my solution with copper in it. I nipped over to Dicks to have a look at the Manton hammer – it is looking good, a little bit more work needed. As I expected Dick has had to file through the weld I put on the front of the spur in order to match the existing one, so he will take it to Jason for a bit of delicate welding – probably a bit fiddly for me to do. He found a chequering file to cut the spur surface, so that will match the existing one, I’ll have to do a bit of engraving around the chequering but it should be good. I must get on with the Manton barrel smoothing with 600 grit paper, then 1000 then 3000 ready for browning.
8th May – Spent most of the day sorting stuff to take up to the Northern Shooting show on Friday – as well as all my engraving stuff, microscope, power hone, lights etc I had to sharpen about a dozen gravers and find my microscope camera etc. I have 2 tables & trestles plus mounted photos and bits for a display of restoration to sort out, plus a notice or two about restoration as I haven’t got any. Clare emailed me this evening to bring some pistols for the main MLAGB display – so that is another thing to sort out – I seem to have mislaid my Colt Navy that I usually take – probably gave it to Tom – it was a bit ropey… I did wonder about getting some section 7 pistols for my collection – it stops rather abruptly after the Adams and associated percussion revolvers – apart from a couple of little rim fire .32 Smith and Wessons which are as common as dirt. I carried on browning the little pistol – still some way off, but I’ll keep at it. I did a bit of cleaning up of the Manton barrel – that will brown nicely when I get round to it. Dick says he has nearly finished filing up the hammer spur and reckons it won’t need any more welding, which would be good. I’ll probably go and see it tomorrow – he is quite excited because he has just got another dog so I”ll be shown that too – another black lab bitch that was rejected as a gundog!
7th May – went to Dick’s to show him the Manton and hand over the filing of the hammer spur to him – he has a better eye for shape than I do and is better at filing – he did a proper apprenticeship while I am just a bodger! He was as amazed as I was at the nature of the surfaces of the break in the Manton springs – I can’t believe they were the original springs. There is a bit of a mystery there – if you scroll down a bit and look at the two photos of the lock you will see that the top arm of the mainspring rests on a little ledge on the inside of the lock plate, and on the outside there is the end of a pin where the ledge is fixed through the lockplate – this seems to me to be a bit unusual as the top arm usually rests under the thick piece of the lock that rests against the barrel – i.e. its normally quite a bit longer. It looks like the lock may have been modified with the ledge added to take a replacement spring – The springs with the short top arm are now associated with ejector springs. Anyway at DIck’s we sorted through his collection of mainsprings – he has lots of ex Purdy ejector springs and various assorted springs including a number of mainsprings recovered from old percussion guns. We managed to sort out half a dozen possible springs – they are almost an exact fit, except that all bar one has the peg that locates in the lock just about 1.5 mm to far towards the muzzle to fit directly – I did contemplate filing off the pin and welding on a built-up peg, but I’m not sure if that would be strong enough, so I’ll probably do what an old gunsmith would have done and drill a new hole and plug the old one – I might just try a blind hole. I’ll then have to block the old hole, either welding it or, more authentic, riveting in a bit of steel rod. Anyway its good to know I won’t have to make springs from scratch… Browning of the little pistol barrel is being slow – Dick complained that the last pistol he browned took him 15 rustings, so I shouldn’t get depressed as I’ve only done 4 so far.
Obviously the ones with red clay are the originals – the right hand lock on the right. The peg on the RH original lock is further from the ‘elbow’ than it is on the LH lock
This is the best fit spring for the LH lock – it may be a bit short, causing it to hang down below the lockplate, but I can’t be sure as Dick has the hammers and they form the stop. This spring is more traditional and rests on the main bolster, not the pegged in ledge arrowed. Most locks had the bolster extending further forward? The photo also shows the line where the flashguard is joined into the plate rather than being integral.
6th May – I got my microscope camera rigged up today and took a few photos of the broken springs – it works very well but needs to be in place of one eyepiece so you can’t use the microscope while the camera is in place. Anyway you can certainly see why the springs fell apart – its just difficult to see how they ever held together! I tackled the job of welding the replacement spur on the hammer of the Manton. I could not see how to get a weld across the whole face of the joint, and the lump I welded on is somewhat oversize so I tacked it in place – it took a couple of goes to get it aligned right. Now it needs shaping, and if that gets near to taking away the weld I’ll just go in a bit deeper with the weld – I’ll just have to make sure that there is always enough weld left somewhere to hold it all together. I’m browning the little barrel but its being a bit recalcitrant – I had to hang it in a bucket over a jug of hot water to get it to rust today. I get the urge to try my browning solution on it, but I’ll keep going with Blackley’s for a bit. I’ve been in correspondence with a friend from the AML who is browning a barrel and not getting a great deal of joy after half a dozen rustings – he has now added some dilute copper sulphate to his bottle of Blackley’s Slow brown to emulate my used printed circuit etching solution – signs it might help. I’m off to the Northern Shooting Show on Friday so I have lots of things to sort out. I will be doing engraving demonstrations and giving engraved screwheads to small children as usual, but I thought I might make a change and do a static display of restoration equipment, parts and tools and a job in progress ( I have lots!). I’ll take my power hone for sharpening this year as I get through the gravers at a rate of knots – I made another 4 this afternoon – I usually sell a few at Harrogate. I bought a very cheap belt sander and some silicon carbide belts which is ideal for preliminary shaping of the points, and other shaping jobs as it doesn’t heat things as much as a grinding wheel. I mean to get a coarser diamond hone disk but the 80 grit ones are very expensive, and anyway I need a new 260 grit wheel at some point. All these tools cost a lot. I am doing a quite few restorations for friends and via the blog but I have to work out costings each time and don’t always get it right so I thought I’d try to make a price list – at least with a range of prices for each job so people could judge whether it was economically viable to do a particular piece of work on their gun.