1July. Another month gone…. I went sailing in our 16ft dinghy today as it was such a perfect day! I had an amusing encounter where I pay to launch the boat – last time I said 16ft as the length and they said lets call it 14 ft 6 inches as that is cheaper, so I agreed. This time I said 14 ft 6 inches and they said lets call it 3 meters as that is cheaper – presumably this will continue until the boat has infinitesimal length and costs nothing – or is 3 m the minimum cost? Watch this space to discover…. The owner of the rifle reminded me that I was also going to recut the trigger guard – I’m afraid it has slipped my mind, so that is something to look forward to. I got a letter from the Firearms Licensing people for Bedfordshire ( our licensing is now joint) telling me the latest storage regulations for Black Powder and asking for photographs of my box etc. There is a bit of a problem here – while the maximum contents of the box has increased to 15 Kg ( I think 10 Kg is the max on the license) it still has to be stored in 550 gm max per bottle and the bottles have to be plastic / polythene or paper or cloth and the plastic must not ‘induce static electricity’. All my BP comes in 1 Kg antistatic bottles of which I have plenty but it is nigh on impossible to buy 500 ml antistatic (usually black) plastic bottles anywhere on the web. Since you need to leave 30% space above the bottles the box gets a bit ridiculously high if you just half fill the 1 Kg bottles, which is presumably perfectly legal – you can’t count the 50% space withing the bottle towards the 30% either. So I am in a bit of a quandary – I am thinking of cutting the existing bottles down and gluing them back together, or using sticky tape. My current box takes 500ml poythene bottles but it looks like I’ll have to make a new one – heaven knows where it will fit in the house! Here is the extract from ER 2014 – I’ll try to track down the full thing when I have time.. On second thoughts, keeping the BP in paper bags of 500 gm is obviously quite legal and much cheaper …………………….. Suggestions welcome!
click here for ER2014 summary:- Black Powder regulations
30th June – I picked up the barrel of the rifle that I engraved the patch box for from Dick today – he has done a nice job of browning it – a good chestnut brown – he struck up the barrel a little to get rid of some of the small scale pitting, but didn’t take it too far so that it looked as if the barrel had been worked over. There is no engraving on the rifle at all, although it is a nice quality piece – it is thought to be outsale from Joseph Manton very late in his career – it is a little unusual that it is unsigned, un-numbered and without a barrel makers mark, as its a decent quality Birmingham proofed gun. Dick and I had a mutual ‘senior moment’ when putting the backsight back – we couldn’t remember which side the folding leaf was normally on – we did get it right as I checked on my Purdey rifle when I got home. I had to take out the foresight and file it down a bit as it didn’t fit very well. Anyway its ready to go back to its owner, which is more than can be said for the little pistol Dick is STILL working on – it must have taken the best part of a week to do – far more than the pistol is worth! I’m going to have to have a try at shooting the Venables – it seems to fit pretty well with its 3/8th cast off.. I do have a problem that I always think almost any gun I pick up fits me, unless the comb is too high for me to see down the barrel rib, in which case I can usually shoot it with a leather butt pad fitted. The secret with the leather butt pads is to cut shims from old cork table mats and use them to adjust the length of the stock. I’m sure that they can’t all fit but I need an ‘expert’ to look and see what fits – the problem is that I shoot equally erratically with them all. I was thinking to go sailing tomorrow on the Stour by Ipswitch – its tidal and you can only launch and recover from a trailer when the tide is more than half up, so at the moment its only possible to fit in a good sail on alternative weekends, and so far it hasn’t worked out. Our plastic bag containing 30 tons of water in the back garden is getting lots of use in this hot weather- more swimming so far this year than any years for quite a while………………………
The ramrod is with the owner.
Twist has come out very well – it isn’t too shiny, so looks in keeping with the rest of the gun.
28th June – A busy day what with meetings and a visit to my lovely dentist – I did have time to make the second titanium nipple for the Venables. Making them out of titanium is a pain as the metal is so tough. It is OK to turn with a sharp tool but you do need a sharp tool if you want to take a very fine cut – it works best with reasonable cuts. I drill a 1 mm hole in the bottom of the nipple but you have to proceed very carefully and clear the drill often – the second nipple has a 1.1 mm hole as the 1 mm drill sheared off in a failed attempt! The main hole down from the top is 2.3 mm to within 3 mm of the bottom so the 1 mm hole is about 3 mm long – they seem to work with those dimensions The worst bit is cutting the thread as the die only seems to cut on the first pass (with difficulty and a lot of heat but maybe the die is blunt), and any attempt to resize the thread with a closed down die gets no-where, it just compresses the thread, generates a lot of heat and is a difficult to back off as it is to cut – but you can cut decent threads on the first pass if you get the die right. I have a die with the top face ground down about 1/2 mm so it cuts further up the nipple as breech block threads are rarely relieved at the top. One problem is that titanium is pretty resistant to filing – at least with my less than perfect files. and you have to remember that the fine swarf will burn with a lot of heat and is very difficult to put out – don’t use water, use sand or a purpose made extinguisher. Why do I bother to use titanium? Well it is very tough, won’t corrode or shatter, doesn’t need heat treatment – but mainly for the challenge – & I happen to have a bar of 12 mm titanium courtesy of ebay! Most nipples in late percussion long guns turn out to be a pretty good fit to 1/4 UNF which is 28 threads per inch. You sometimes need to open up the die to the maximum extent if thread is very loose or worn, or you can recut to 9/32 UNF which is also 28 t.p.i. – I have recut without annealing the breech block.
You can see the rib lifting – its been resoldered badly. Click on the photo to see the damascus pattern clearly.
27th – quick trip over to Holts to pick up the gun I bought last week. It is everything I expected and more – its difficult to see how it didn’t sell for more than the cased Manton and Mortimer which were no where near as good a quality. It is London proofed, and is obviously quite late – I think Venables didn’t start until 1846 – the wood is superb, it wouldn’t be out of place on an expensive modern Purdey or H&H, and as fresh and crisp as if it had just been re-stocked by a good stocker – although why anyone would bother for a percussion gun that wasn’t by a well known maker I can’t think – anyway I think it must be original. The barrels are a nice true Damascus, not twist and the top rib is pretty, although it needs refitting as its a little raised – the bores are about the best I’ve seen in an antique gun that hasn’t been lapped, and the insides of the locks are perfect except for a couple of very small patches of rust. The engraving on the furniture is top quality and all matching, including that on the butt plate, which is the first I’ve seen that has no rust on it. The only anomaly is the trigger guard that is like a rifle one, but probably an owner’s choice…. What’s not to like! I now need a case for it, and a powder flask to go with my lovely shot flask. I have started a new post for the Venables as I have taken lots of pictures, but here is a taster…. Oh, and I decided the Venables needed new nipples so I thought ‘how neat to make them out of titanium’ – which I did but I think the one I finshed is a tiny bit too long in thread and won’t screw right in. I’d forgotten how difficult it was to cut threads on titanium with a die.
26th – slight falloff in visitors to the site as others are lazing in the sun? ( I spent 4 1/2 hours in school so earned my swim!) Looking more carefully in The Powder Flask book I find that my flask is made of Britannia metal, an alloy of tin 85%, Antimony 10%, Zinc 3% and copper 2% or some very similar composition, and that the ‘hallmarks’ on my flask are standard Dixon marks for Britannia metal flasks – not sure of the dates – here is a photo of the page from the book showing what they should look like – it matches. Now I need to find a gun of matching quality – it would do superbly for the Harkum that sold at Holts as the shot flask was the only item missing. I’m off to Holts tomorrow to pick up my Venables – a friend is livid as he booked a telephone bid on 3 guns ( including the Harkum) and wasn’t rung so missed them all at less than he would have been willing to bid….. I usually leave a contingency bid on stuff I book a telephone bid for in case, but I have always been rung. I guess there is always a fear that the auctioneer will be tempted to run the bidding up to the contingency bid ( my contingency bid on the Venables was £750 but I got it for £420 so quite a risk). While I’m up at Holts I will have a look at the stuff in the sealed bid sale as there are a few junk guns I might want. Somewhere along the line I’m after a single barreled wreck with a 3 stage twist barrel big enough to cut down for a barrel for my Mortimer pistols – that way they will be proper twist barrels, which they would be if I used modern barrels. I have one already that is just big enough and long enough in the octagonal section. Having considered both Birmingham and Holts last sale I see the pistol market buoyant, the smaller the better but not Liege, long guns not so buoyant – in both cases the name is a disproportionate factor, probably justified in flint guns but less so in percussion as designs were getting more standardised and, in late percussion often came from Birmingham. I have always been amused that a turnoff pocket pistol made and engraved in Birmingham is worth twice as much if the name on the side is NOCK or whatever, as compared to one with e.g. BLOGGS, given that neither Nock nor Bloggs ever did more than hand over the pistol to the customer, probably as a freebe on a large purchase, probably still in the bag it came in from Birmingham. Cased ‘duelling’ pistols by well known makers tend to have silly prices attached, but beware my comments on June 24th on re-conversions. There are some lovely guns about but they stand out a mile from the run of the mill stuff and are worth paying for, and there are always the odd bargain to be had if you look carefully – I reckon I’ve found two in the last couple of weeks, but I’ve looked at several hundred guns and even more accessories to find them. Don’t be tempted to buy the sort of junk I used to bid for – it just clutters up the place and you feel bad about it every time you see it! Good hunting…………………..
James Dixon & Son
From the Powder Flask Book by Ray Riling.
Britannia metal flask
25th June – Too much lazing in the sun & swimming but better make the most of the weather, which will worsen when the school holidays starts and also when we go off on our holiday! I had three school meetings today, so I needed the swim…. I got the charts of the West Coast of Scotland out today and started to work out possible routes and anchorages – we’de like to make a dash for St Kilda if we can – its been a target for several years and the weather has never been stable enough. St Kilda is out in the Atlantic and doesn’t offer much shelter from swells so it can be an unpleasant anchorage if there is any strong winds further out in the Atlantic, which there often are. The distances on the West coast of the Hebrides can involve a long day’s sail and we don’t normally sail at night as we don’t have enough crew to manage where much navigation is involved and there are no light buoys for entrances into lochs etc when you get there. As always with sailing, its a matter of getting the right wind and tide. I polished up the silver(?) shot flask – it really needs a posh cased silver mounted gun, or at least a pretty fancy one to justify the flask – I guess its fairly late – I must look it up in ‘The Powder Flask Book’ by Ray Riling…… I find that the full name ‘JAMES DIXON & SON’ was used from 1833. Both shutter arm and flask nozzle are marked ‘Z’, which ought to tell me something but doesn’t!
25th June – Here are a couple of pics of the flask I bought yesterday – at the moment the shutter assembly is in the derusting bath.
The shutter arm is stamped ‘JAMES DIXON & SON SHEFFIELD’
The second from the right looks like a British hallmark, not sure about the rest! Suggestions???
24th June 2 hour drive to the Birmingham Antique Arms Fair. ( I’ve done too much driving in the last week or so).. Overall impression, mostly military stuff and swords, quite a lot of noise and people, many of whom were more interested in a football match that seemed to be going on somewhere else, which I assume involved a team from England. Lots and lots of pistols of all sorts, but very few long guns except military rifles -one exception of note – George Yannegas showed me a minature Whitworth Target Rifle cased complete with all its accessories and in mint condition – he has of course tried it out.. SO if you have a handy 10 grand it could be yours. Certainly better value than some of the cased pairs of duelling pistols at astronomical prices – I’d want a lot more than was on offer if I was going to part with £29,000! Even the cased percussion duellers were above £10K…. I did see a few dodgy guns, in fact I probably thought some perfectly genuine ones were dodgy after seeing some of the offerings. Kevin (Blackley) told me that about 25 years ago a certain West Country ‘restorer’, now deceased, had admitted to reconverting over 1000 guns and pistols in 5 years, and he is presumed to have done but reconversions for the next 20 years… No wonder he got so good that its almost impossible to distinguish real from fake. I didn’t buy any guns but I did pick up a rather nice high quality shot flask for £70 – I thought it was German Silver, but when I got it home it appears to have hallmarks, and so might actually be silver, although they don’t quite correspond to any in my reference book. I kick myself for not going through his stock for a matching powder flask! Anyway I’ll have to find a test for silver…. I’ll post a photo tomorrow. I got a book on Continental flintlocks and their decoration as I thought I ought to have it to extend my reference library, although I have to admit that I dislike the more elaborate continental carved steel guns – My Barranechea (Eibar) in the Catalan style is about as far as I want to go in my collection. Oh, and on the way back an accident on the A14 added an extra half hour to the journey after I had stopped off at Kettering Hospital to pick up my brother and take him home to Corby. Very frustrating waiting while they discharged him, everything seemed to be a slightly disorganised and inefficient process carried on by cheerful and helpful staff who were lovely – just wholly inefficient at executing a process – I think that must be the state of the NHS – cheerful inefficiency. It certainly looked as if all the managers sat in offices well away from the nitty gritty of the action, while there is no-one effectively managing processes on the shop floor. Of course I might well be wrong – I only heard how it took about 8 hours to discharge him when it should have taken 30 minutes to an hour at most….I waited 1 1/2 hours after he was supposed to be ready to go….
23rd June… CGC was hosting the Army and RAF cadets National Clay Championships, with teams from all over the country from the West country to Scotland – we were offering shots with percussion and flintlock guns at £1 per shot (50p to Help for Heros) which just about covers our costs – CGC pays for the clays and gives us free cups of tea but it is tiring – more or less non stop for 6 hours without a break, a couple of cups of tea and a burger on the go ( wouldn’t be allowed if it was a job!). Great fun though – the cadets love firing the old guns, especially the flintlocks, and a few of them managed to break clays with a flintlock, which is reckoned to be difficult even with some practice. I was using my single barreled ‘Twigg’ (possibly spurious?) which as usual performed very well – I had one ‘flash in the pan’ misfire out of about 20 shots as the touch hole got bunged up as I had got lazy about putting the wire through it between shots. The lock is very kind to flints, and sparks well, although it has a very strong mainspring and frizzen spring and no frizzen roller – one might expect it to be hard on flints for those reasons. I had my little Henry Nock single percussion 14 bore – its a good gun for small shooters as the pull is only about 13 1/4 ins and the gun weighs 5 1/4 lbs, but it ‘comes up well’ on most people. With a normal load of 2 3/4 drams and 1 oz it has a bit of a kick so I cut the load to 2 1/2 drams and 7/8 oz which was better. At 2 3/4 drams and 1 1/2 oz it kicks like a mule but I don’t use that load on ‘have a go’ shoots – in fact I only used it once on a shoot by mistake as I picked up the wrong shot flask! We were using Vesuvit powder in the flintlocks & percussion as Swiss 2 is a far too expensive for a have a go shoot ! Pete was using his Pedesoli reproduction Mortimer flintlock, and had reliable shooting, although he did shatter a flint for one misfire. I took him the shot belt I had made, which was much admired. Off to Birmingham tomorrow – 2 hour drive there – Dick was coming but has too much work on – partly because the little pistol is taking so much time to sort out. Now I must finish cleaning the two guns – I have done the barrels but they need oiling and putting together.
22nd June… Such a nice day I spent a while just sitting in the sun, then having a gentle swim in the large plastic bag of water in the garden – 30 tons of it! Its 10m long so its just big enough to get a bit of exercise. I was relaxing in preparation for a busy weekend – tomorrow I am going to Cambridge Gun Club where we are offering a taste of muzzle loading clay shooting to the CCF cadets as part of their shotgun day. I get asked to do it as I am one of the few who shoot flintlocks, and they are always popular as the flash is quite spectacular and it makes a good video. On Sunday I’m off to the Birmingham fair at NEC to see Kevin Blackley and get a few bits. I just learned my brother is in Kettering Hospital so I’ll kill two birds with one stone and call in and see him on the way back – perhaps the idiom is inappropriate in the circumstances! I did find time today to drill and tap a 9/32 BSF hole in the end of my long loading rod and make a new charge removing screw with 9/32 thread so that I have the means to unload my long barreled ‘Twigg’ flintlock – my normal cleaning rod isn’t long enough. I have found it very useful to have a screw that can be put in the end of my loading rods – especially for game shooting as it saves carrying a sectional ‘cleaning’ rod. It could be neater, but it was made in a hurry.
Piece of wire from a shelf support bent round an 8 mm bar, ground flat and then soft soldered to a brass boss. I’m always impressed when a knurling tool manages to run in sync with the diameter of the workpiece!
21st more… Just caught the sale of lot 1502 ( blog pasim) – I thought if by a fluke it went at or near the bottom estimate I just might not be able to resist, although I’d have to sell my soul to the devil to pay for it – assuming he doesn’t already own it. In the event my judgement of the beauty of the gun was shared by several far richer people who eventually pushed the price up to 4 times the top estimate – £20K – I don’t think the devil would have taken my soul in part exchange at that price! So all done and dusted and I’ve packed the Purdey foreend for dispatch. Dick is trying to sort out one of a pair of tiny percussion pistols – the trigger guard strap was broken and the body had been botched, so its turning out to be a horrendous job to get it to function – we didn’t price the job to cover having to re-invent the interior, which is what it amounts to, but you win some (not many) and you loose some (too many). Having finished the fore-end engraving I’m casting round for the next job…… Maybe sort through my mail……Pay some bills….. Fix the Outboard…Mow the lawns…..
21st June – Watching the Holts sale online – I hope you will forgive me for not sharing my bid intentions with the world last night – I had 2 targets, a nice double 14 bore percussion by Venables of Oxford (£300-500) that had an almost mint bore and very nice wood, and a Greener that needed a bit of TLC. The Venables looked like it was rather underpriced at estimate 300-500, the only thing against it was that the rib had been very crudely re-attached ( easily fixed), but I would have been prepared to go well above the top estimate to get it – in the event I had a telephone bid and got it at £420 hammer price, so pretty happy! I’ll have to try it and if it shoots as well as it fits me, I’ll retire one of my existing doubles, its very reassuring as it means that decent doubles can still be found….. The Greener was not such an attractive proposition, I’m not really a Greener fan but it looked like a restoration opportunity – in the event I ducked out at £600, which I thought was a lot compared to the Venables! I’ll watch 1502 if I am in, although I do have a meeting at 1700… I hope I’m not tempted…… I finished the Purdey fore-end….
I guess I’m happy with that – in the end it was mostly done with the Gravemax on acount of the curvature!
Bottom one is a pull of the smoked part on cellotape.
21st June – At Holts today to look at one or two guns in the auction tomorrow. Obviously the star attraction for muzzle loading shooters is the Harkam in its original pigskin lined case with all its original bits – the full works, except it’s missing the shot flask. It was difficult to see if it had ever been shot. In reality its probably not of much interest to shooters because it is so good that it would be a sin to use it, which is a change from my usual stance that guns are meant to be shot! A lot of the attraction of this one is that it is so perfect, so shooting it would take the edge of it! Anyway it is probably a bit pricey for most of the shooters I know (estimate £4000 – 6000 – my guess around 5500+) . The dog of the lot has to be the Nock 7 barreled gun, whoever did that to any gun needs to be strung up and banned from ever going near a gun again – and the estimate? £15000 – 20000! Some mothers do have ’em….. I wouldn’t give £2000 for it if I had money to burn! Owning it would reduce one’s street cred to zero! I think my favourite gun in the whole auction has to be lot 1502, the Dickson 16 bore non ejector skeletal round body gun – it is SO elegant and makes the usual run of overpriced Purdeys and H&Hs and Bosses look like double decker buses alongside a sports car. If I had 3K to 5K kicking around I’d be in there like a shot – I did have a look but unfortunately I don’t seem to have enough to hand! It will probably go for at least 6K and on top of that it needs restocking as the wrist is rather fragmented- another £3500 or so – Oh well….. One can dream…. There were a couple of cased late percussion guns of slightly dubious origin (?), a Purdey and a Mortimer – I base my judgement on the lock engraving, both have very similar engraving that symmetrically fills the lock plates, and the names are put just along the top edge as if they are an afterthought – look very like good quality bought-in Birmingham guns, either retailed by the signed makers or just spuriously named. There were a number of other cased percussions, a couple of John Mantons, one OK ish, one not so clearcut. Nothing really stands out. The lesson as always is that there are a lot of dubious guns around – caveat emptor. I drove via the Blackwall tunnel, and had a dodgy moment as to whether my Land Cruiser needed to pay to go in the Low Pollution Zone – it would appear from the website that it doesn’t, although my old one did. I do have to pay the ‘naughty boy’ charge in addition to the congestion charge if I go in the city. After 2019 I’ll have to pay to go anywhere near London, which fortunately I don’t often do…
The ‘Purdey fore-end is going slowly, I may finish it later tonight although I don’t usually carry on after about half past midnight……..which is only 10 minutes away…..
We’ll see what tomorrow brings………………
20th June – Getting back into my stride – STEM club at school – the latest project is to get the keen ones to program the robot to dodge round a bit of ‘wall’ across its path – going well! Apart from that and a school meeting I am trying to get ahead with the Purdey engraving on the new fore end. It is taking forever to do all the little scrolls, and it is so easy to slip on the curved surface – I’ve tried putting in the main scrolls with the GRS Gravemaster pneumatic tool – in general I much prefer ‘push engraving’, but the Gravemaster has its used, particularly on curved surfaces as it requires almost no force to drive it through the metal and there is therefore much less chance of a slip. If I was a professional, and used to the pattern I would presumably be able to bang it out in a fairly short time, but I guess it will actually take me a day or so to complete it – I’m probably about half way through now. I will probably go down to Holts tomorrow, if I can face another few hours of driving after Scotland…………
As on the original, there is no attempt at precise symmetry, just a general aim to follow the same general pattern and keep the balance of cut and uncut metal about the same over all the surface.
18th June – Apologies for leaving my regulars without their daily update! I’m back from Scotland – sadly neither Tom nor I carried off any trophies from the Scottish National Muzzle Loading Clay Championships on Saturday – the only things we did carry off were six soaking wet guns (and two soaking wet shooters). I am afraid that we ducked out of the last competition ( double hammer gun) so that we could rush home and try to sort the guns before going off to the dinner – they were beginning to get marks and in danger of starting to rust as water had penetrated round the locks of some of them, and the slips they were carried in were also wet inside. Anyway we managed a preliminary clean and got back to the Guardbridge Inn in time for the celebratory meal. On Sunday we visited ‘Scotland’s Secret Bunker’ a few miles from St Andrews. Built originally in the 1950s as an underground RAF radar tracking station it was later designated as the seat of government and control in the event of a nuclear attack, with the ability to function in lock-down sealed mode for a month! It is built on two floors about 60 feet underground and could probably support around 100 people, so as you can imagine, its huge! The control rooms are recreated with sounds of announcements and warnings etc so it’s all very atmospheric – there is quite a lot of old technology around – back from the days when machines spewed forth punched paper tape – I still have a few rolls of tape – my first computer program in 1966 was on punched tape, and I built a Mass Spectrometer controller that output its data in that format, although pretty soon computer programs were printed out on punched cards the size of postcards with one line of code on each card. A small program gave you a pile of cards from about 3 inches high and a bigger one about 2 feet high ( of course you couldn’t actually pile them that high). The delight of the punched cards was that if you dropped the pile on your way from upstairs in our building to the computer in another building the cards & therefore the lines of code got muddled and could not be put back in order as they were not numbered – about as much use as a book if you cut each page into individual lines and jumbled the whole lot! The neat thing about my first program on a ‘proper’ computer – it calculated the shape of a weighted wire towed through the water – was that chunks of it were still incorperated into other people’s programs 30 years later! I had a good run back from St Andrews today – 8 hours from door to door including a stop for lunch – I was very lucky, on the way there I passed a 10 mile queue of almost stationary traffic coming the other way, and coming back I passed a 5 mile queue! I had another go over the guns when I got back – my little Nock had started to get a bit of rust round the muzzle, and they all got a bit of TLC. All my slips got damp and although they were dried on radiators overnight ( Tom has central heating, of which I strongly disapprove) it is almost impossible to dry the muzzle ends as they are encased in vinyl and too small to allow effective circulation.
I’m afraid I have no photographs of the shoot – I forgot to take my proper camera, and in any case it was too wet to use it……………
14th June. Another lovely day, but the forecast for the shoot in St Andrews on Saturday is gloomy – rain all day – but that is par for the course up there! I’m hoping I have everything lined up to go! I’m borrowing the shot belt I made for Viking to ‘test’ it as I don’t want to deliver an untested item – I fixed the broken spring on the ( Irish pattern) nozzle by cleaning it up and soft soldering it in – seems to work. I was looking through my collection of old shot flasks and realised that almost all my old flasks have the seams breaking down so they leak – I’ll have to make some new bodies for them. I’ve now lost one of my loading rods – why do I keep loosing things! I’m kept quite busy by this blog, answering queries and fixing things, which is interesting but all takes time. Dick is busy working an the small pair of pistols that have occupied him for too long! The bottom strap was broken and a poor replacement had been silver soldered in, which is always bad news as it means you can’t make a good weld repair without getting rid of all the silver solder and that is usually easier said than done. anyway as that repair was finished it became clear that the action could not possibly have worked as it was, so Dick has had to do a bit of milling to get the cock spindle in the right places and sort out the tumbler bearings. They will look beautiful when finished – and may well be for sale – we already had one person interested!
13th June.. I was sorting out the Parish Council email accounts this morning to comply with the Data Protection stuff ( I host their website and email for historic reasons) – it made me realise that I probably need a policy for this website, so I made one up. Since the site doesn’t put cookies on other peoples computers it isn’t very onerous – the notice at the top of the page should suffice, and I’ve put the Wordfence notice in a new page called GDPR just in case. Wordfence is based in the US and IP addresses etc are sent over there so it is responsible for that side of things, fortunately. It all makes work for the working man (or woman) to do, as the song goes….. I got the pulls from the action body of the Purdey for which I have the fore-iron to engrave, so I am able to start that job. As usual I started with a trial of the Purdey scroll pattern – actually there are several variations of the small scroll that are cut differently and give a slightly different overall impression. After I had put a decent surface on an annealed piece of steel I did a first trial – the challenge is to get the right balance of cuts and highs. Since I only had pulls of the action body, I took pulls of my trials to match. This Purdey engraving uses cutout background and outlines to leave the desired raised shapes, as distinct from my normal engraving where the lines are the picture -called intaglio. I did a trial on my test piece, took a pull, cut out a bit more around the desired shapes and took another pull ( after getting rid of any burrs with a fine wire brush wheel) – and then once more. Here are the results, with the pull of the action body.
There might be a bit too much cut-out in 3 ( white areas are cutouts), but 3 is certainly better than 1.
12th June.. I have been a bit slack on the blog! I had a 3 1/2 hour very intense meeting on Monday that left me a bit disinclined to do much except swim up and down, after which I just slumped! Today I did a bit of sorting out of shot, wads and cards and powder for the trip to Scotland. As I’m taking 4 muzzle loading guns I though I ought to check which wads I needed for each, which led to sizing all the bores – of course no two guns are the same actual bore, whatever their nominal bore is, anyway I managed to cut it down to 2 sizes of wads, conveniently one size for Tom and one size for my guns. Tomorrow I must make sure the right guns are on my certificate! This blog is obviously being found by lots of people as I’m getting a steady stream of photos of guns and pistols to identify. I live in hope that I’ll discover a priceless antique gun for someone, but at the moment its rather at the opposite end of the spectrum. I did my STEM club with Dave today, but there was a football match on and we only got two kids, so they got on and built a robot while Dave and I programmed our line following robot to skirt round an obstruction – we got about half way there in 45 minutes!
10th June… I did say that the weather encouraged sitting in the sun rather than working away in the workshop! …..So we went to an Elderflower party today, a friend’s family has been holding one every year for the last 50 odd years to make elderflower wine, which they consume in some quantity. Around 30 people spend a few hours collecting flowers and getting the heads off in order to make 20 gallons of wine (it used to be much more) to last the year. After the work some of us played a game of croquet – it looks like a nice gently, very English, very genteel way to spend an afternoon. In fact it is about the most vicious game of skill and tactics imaginable – winning is more about scuppering the opposition than getting ahead – in fact getting an early lead isn’t necessarily a great help as I found out to my cost, since if you manage to hit an opponent’s ball you get an extra turn, thus if there are no opponents balls near you, you miss out! Anyway (son) Giles beat me ( that’s his inheritance down the drain!). The number of visitors and visits to the site continues to increase, which is nice – so far in the last 365 days there have been over 100,000 visitors and 670,000 items viewed – obviously a lot of those are regulars who get counted each time they visit – its a shame the software doesn’t analyse visits in more detail, but I think you have to pay if you want more detail, which of course anyone making money out of a site would do. I sometimes wonder whether there is any way I could ‘monetise’ the site, but actually I’m happy to do it for fun, and I do get some interesting work from time to time, and make new acquaintances and friends, so I’ll carry on for a bit longer!
9th June later… Shooting at Cambridge Gun Club today – our 1/2 oz of shot competition. No compromise on the difficulty or range of clays, and the hit rate was a little down on some normal shoots but still good – I did my usual mediocre shooting, but was reassured that several others got the same score! After lunch I switched to my little 20 bore Beretta hammer gun and did somewhat better – I am resolved to go and practice properly until I can shoot a bit better. I have in mind to try an interesting experiment, as I think that one often knows before one pulls the trigger that it is going to miss. My competition would work as follows – unlimited clays, but fixed number of shots allowed – score 0 for any clay you don’t shoot at, -1 for any you shoot at and miss, and 2 for each clay you break with the first barrel, or 1 if you break it with the second barrel. I reckon this would concentrate the mind! So a top score would be 40 and a lowest score would be -20, if you hit half the clays you score 20 and hitting 7 (1 in 3 shots) scores 1 . I now need to find someone to try it with. It could of course be a bit more expensive if you aim to shoot the ‘normal’ number of shots, but it might work with say 20 shots, using a very limited number of traps, say 5 hits at each of 4 traps…….. I took the Manton back to its owner who was well pleased – I forgot his slip, which I found on the peg when I got back – I’m very good at labelling slips and ramrods when I have guns to work on, as they are easy to mix up or mislay, I just forgot to look behind the door! Pete asked me to tap a hole in a cleaning rod to take the ‘normal’ brushes etc., but that seems to have opened a whole can of worms – The tap I have used is a 9/32 x 26 BSF but that actually cuts too tight – the web suggests 9/32 BSB ( brass thread ( similar to BSC cycle thread & always 26 t.p.i.) but I only have the BSF in 9/32 and that appears a bit smaller than the brush threads – what I thought was going to be a trivial job becomes a lot more involved – but then these challenges are what makes it interesting………………………
9th June – Back from 2 days in Norfolk at an outdoor activity centre with the year 5 & 6 children from the school I’m a governor at. Great fun and the kids had a good time and were very well behaved! The activity centre was based around an 1898 house designed by Edward Lutyens so I had great fun poking around and trying to work out how the house had been originally before it was altered in several waves – first in WWI as a convalescent home for soldiers, then back to being a private house, then the activity centre, which retained quite a lot of the old furniture etc in the ‘public’ rooms, including about 10 years of Hansard containg every word spoken in Parliament during that time – covered one wall! I could have spent the whole time reading MP’s speeches from 1975! Anyway back to real life – in particular our annual recession shoot, in which we shoot clays using 1/2 oz shot load – its not as bad as you might think…. anyway I’d better load up and head out…..
5th June Dick and I spent an hour together getting the locks of the Manton to fit – I had fitted new springs and Dick had re-fixed the ‘rims’ of the lock pockets that were a bit broken away. You may remember that we had found that the locks and barrel were original Manton, but had been grafted into a different and older stock at some point. We had two problems – 1, the springs were slightly bigger in places than the previous ones and so we had to adjust the german silver reinforcing sheet at the top of the mainspring slot, and second that the lock front extensions didn’t fit between the barrel bolsters and the edge of the lock pocket, and were opening an old crack in the woodwork – presumably the cause of the previous damage around the locks. Unfortunately the rim of the lock pocket under the mainspring was already very thin, so no room to cut more away – I realised that the reason the numbers on the inside of the lock above the mainspring had been half filed away was a relic of previous attempts to solve the problem. Anyway we filed the bolsters on the barrel down a bit – luckily the breech block was only slightly hard. Anyway judicious filing got it all together, and we filled the crack with a shim of walnut verneer and refinished it. – Job done and ready to go….. Now I’m off to Norfolk with the Yr 5 & 6 children to an activity centre… I’ll report back……..
4th June – Didn’t manage much today – just finished off the cartridge loading so I now have 100 Black Powder cartridges for Scotland. I promised to make another shot belt for a friend, and started on that – I think its going to be a bit smaller than mine, which is a bit heavy when full – for game shooting you don’t need a lot of shot and the less you have to carry across ploughed fields the better!
4th June – Excuse the absence yesterday, as I said, sitting in the garden took priority! Today a meeting all morning in school prevents the garden sitting, and anyway the weather isn’t so appealing! I have now managed to make 75 cartridges towards my 100 total so nearly there. The rifle is now getting the oil finish on its stock augmented as it was a bit worn, and I took a photo of the patchbox in situ – I think it looks the part, but these things are always subjective!
It’s in the process of having its oil finish restored – it has the smeared on flood coat waiting to gel and be rubbed off, so looks a bit of a mess!
2nd June. I put the patchbox lid in the rifle and it looks good – the toning down of the colour works quite well – I coloured it lightish straw on the AGA hotplate, then rubbed it over with 7000 grit paper, then gave it a rusting with my browning solution – that went rather too well so I rubbed that partly off with 1000 grit and finished with 2500 and 7000 and polished with 0000 steel wool. It doesn’t sound like a recipe for success but it worked – I did think at one point I’d have to start again, but it came good! Photo soon! The annual trip to Leucars to shoot the Scottish National Muzzle Loading Championships is the w/e after next so I thought I’d better start loading the annual bag of black powder 12 bore cartridges – Tom shoots there too using my guns as he doesn’t have a certificate in Scotland. (He’s in St Andrews so dead handy and my B & B for the w/e) so I need double rations for the hammer gun competition. I usually take my Bacon patent antique bolt action double for him, and use my Westley Richards 1874 patent hammer gun by William Powell, of which I am very fond! Anyway 100 cartridges should do – I got a couple of bags of capped cases at the Northern Shooting Show – its as cheap to buy new capped cases as to buy the caps and use reclaimed cases, even if its not so environmentally friendly – not that shooting clays scores high on those stakes anyway… I’m getting through the restoration jobs on my list, thanks to help from Dick – I’ve now got the forend iron of the Purdey to engrave, but I’m waiting for pulls of the action body so I can line up the scrolls. After that I’ll have to find some of my own jobs to do! Things usually quieten down in the summer as I find its rather nice just to sit in the garden and read the paper………………….( weather permitting)…
1 June – I had an email from someone who had come across the post on the Land Cruiser steering lock problem on this site and had a similar problem. I was able to get out my pile of bits and work out how to remove the broken bit of the lock bar – and send him some pictures. That post gets quite a few visits – If I can be bothered I can review all the traffic to the site on a daily basis, it also tells me which are the most popular posts, and I can see where all the attempts to crack the site are coming from. I don’t look very often – I just keep an eye on the number of visitors and visits. I finished the patchbox lid and I’m just colouring it up – its not too bad considering how difficult the metal turned out to be – I couldn’t get consistent cutting, and the inclusions didn’t help, in the end I started to use the GRS gravermax air driven graver, which I don’t use often, as it ploughs through most things without discriminating and if you are not careful it goes very deep. I forgot to take a photo before browning so it will have to wait!
Dick got carried away with the Manton stock! He needed to sort out one or two problems, including all the cracks around the lock pockets and then decided that he would have to refinish it. In stripping it he uncovered some intriguing history – while the locks, breech plug and barrel are original Manton as far as we can tell, they have been fitted into a different stock at some point – probably a long time ago. The evidence for this comes mostly from the photo below. It looks as if the stock originally had locks with a different shaped tail (almost certainly older) and the cutout for the fence behind the false breech shows that has been changed. There is a plate (German silver?) screwed in under the breeches, presumably to reinforce that area, and it has a notch cut out for the lug to take the end of the short top arm mainspring that was fitted to the gun as found. The fixings of the plate are not symmetrical- suggesting it wasn’t done by a gunsmith.. The lock pocket of the stock has the correct cutout for a long top arm spring. Confirmation comes from the matching number engraved on the tang of the trigger guard – it is not very carefully positioned or executed and doesn’t come near the rest of the engraving in quality – it can’t be original…. The original stock was from a good quality gun, possibly even another Manton and has the original furniture and breech block, Probably percussion as there isn’t a cutout for the cock to hit the top edge of the lock – but it might be for a flintlock with a French cock….. The stock was presumably made for a long top arm mainspring, and the Manton locks will take either – I guess when the swap happened the Manton locks had had long top arm mainsprings, as had the stock, and the locks were modified by the fitting of a small lug on a peg to catch the end of the short top arm. The stock has been neatly extended and the joint covered with chequering.
31st May Out a.m. but this afternoon I decided that it was time to bite the bullet and get on with the patchbox lid – you can walk round a job for just so long and you get nowhere. Anyway I looked at my designs and decided to go with more or less what I had already tried. The lid had lots of flecks in the surface that I thought were the orange peel marks from cold rolling, but they seemed more like little pits of corrosion – anyway it cuts OK in places but seems to have some inclusions that occasionally make it difficult to cut smoothly – anyway I’ve got most of it roughed out ready for the details and shading – I’m going to leave a space in the middle that would fit the oval, but probably not cut it. I’ll try to get it finished tomorrow with luck. I need to visit Dick and get tht Manton stock back before the weekend so I can take it back to CGC ant the muzzle loader’s shoot.
30th May – Still trialing the engraving for the patchbox lid – I needed lots of engraving practice as I’d been a bit lax recently! I finished trying my original idea for the lid, and for fun engraved the oval ( done very quickly and carelessly!). I put the lid in my furnace to ‘normalise’ it as I wanted to make sure that it was in the annealed state – an hour or so at 910 C and a very slow cool. When I looked at the existing top to the patchbox (see below) I realised I’d been copying the lock engraving – the lid is slightly different in feel and some of the cuts are different – possibly a different engraver or in different frame of mind. In particular the top isn’t symmetrical and is more open, so I am having a bit of a re-think – my efforts are not wasted as most of it is very similar. I changed my tactics with gravers today – when one got a bit blunt I sharpened it instead of changing it for a fresh one – it seemed to work better, possibly because all my gravers are different lengths and it saved continually changing my hold. Mostly I can get away with just touching up the heels. The over and under pistol barrels came good – in contrast to the Manton barrel they only needed about 5 brownings – there isn’t a lot of figure in them, the twist is a bit indistinct – I don’t think its a function of the browning process – just how the metal is, but they are a very nice chestnut brown – very discrete. It’s possible I could have brought out the figure more my etching the barrels in copper sulphate solution before browning them, but I can’t see a distinct enough twist to be worth the erosion of the metal.