8th February – I visited the London Proof House yesterday as a guest of the Gunmaker’s Company who still run it, having been established in 1637 for the purpose of regulating the gunmaking trades in the City of London and a 10 mile radius thereof. The present building was occupied in the mid 18th century and is virtually unchanged – it is on Commercial Road a stone’s throw from Aldgate East station and surrounded by high rise flats on 3 sides. The site is pretty small, the largest space being taken up with the dining room where the liverymen of the company have their magnificant lunches. The work areas, which are responsible for the proofing of the guns made in London or brought into the UK, plus many military weapons (although those are mostly proofed at the maker’s sites by personnel from the Proof House). What I found astonishing was that the total space taken up by the working part is less than my own workshops! And its all distributed in a warren of passages too.
It seems incredible that they do all the proofing so close to the City, with all the transport to the site, and all the costs associated with London premises. I can see that they would need to maintain a presence somewhere in London as they are a London Livery company but to me its incredible that they don’t move the gun proofing bit to an industrial site somewhere. Anyway it was an interesting visit and I enjoyed the lunch and the booze……
4th February – Having trouble with the dates again – last 2 entries were actually 3rd! Oh well, worse things happen at sea! I did my STEM club at school today but most of the children weren’t in a mood for concentrating – funny how some weeks they do and some they don’t. I have been keeping an eye on which posts on this website get the most traffic – there are lots of visits to ‘guns for sale’ which makes me think I ought to put a lot more stuff on there – maybe time for a sortout! I have been hoping that the Mortimer flint repro would sell as I want it off my certificate so I can put something else on. I’ll have a look next week when things cool down a bit. I’m at meetings all Wednesday and in London on Thursday and Friday including a visit to the London Proof House which promises to be very interesting. Before then I have to sort out the cock of the flintlock that Dick has re-squared- he ran out of gas so I am having to silver solder it for him.
4th Feb Update – did a bit of work on the Harding Post Office pistol safety catch today (workshop was up around 25C!) – I couldn’t see a good way of making a 1.5mm wide slot through the inside bolt for the tongue of the external slider – my mill is nowhere near good enough to use such a small cutter, so I decided to mill a groove in a strip of metal and silver solder another piece over the top to complete the slot – worked a treat… And it all fitted together after a bit of filing – you can’t see the silver solder line. As before I left the part attached to the strip of metal until the last minute as its much easier to handle that way.
Strip with milled groove and piece silver soldered on top.
Shaped bolt still attached.
4th February – It continues cold, although I did get the indoor workshop up to 25 degrees C yesterday by burning wood at a rate of knots for 6 hours. I need to do a bit of TIG welding but by Argon has run out – annoying because it has leaked out of the cylinder – I’ve not used much in two years but its empty so I’ll have to change it. I couldn’t do that with the loan car as it wouldn’t fit in. but I’ll take it on Tuesday. I got some parts from Fred in the US to engrave for a gun he is making, so I’ll have to do a bit of design work. I have the Post Office pistol to finish making the safety catch parts for, and the Venables barrel to re-do, plus a bit of silver soldering for Dick on a flintcock to fix a disk for a remade square. I have converted Dick to using Bev’s method of re-doing the squares in cocks by milling out a hole and silver soldering in a disk. My method is to mill a stepped hole so there is some depth location when it comes to the soldering, but Dick has done a plain hole – We shall see if that works as well. The advantage of the stepped hole is that you can have a smaller ring of silver solder on the cock face so it doesn’t show round the cock screw but get an increased area for the solder as you can make the back mill of greater diameter. Anyway we shall see which is best…. I mentioned that my Nock had fired both barrels together on the shoot – I’ve had this happen before but there is usually a slight lag between the two shots as the second hammer doesn’t come down until the recoil unlatches the sear. This time I didn’t notice a lag, and all the other guns said there was only one report – they were expecting me to fire the other barrel at the bird. I was surprised to find that both barrels were fired when I looked at the locks – so I’m not sure what happened, although I’m pretty sure both barrels were loaded and capped to start with and both empty at the finish. Had it been a flint gun I might suspect a ‘flashover’ but not on a percussion gun….. mystery!
2nd Febuary – Got my Land Cruiser back from the body repair shop thank goodness ( I had a little disagreement with a driver who did an emergency stop in the outside lane of a dual carriageway for no reason) – driving round in a loan MiniCooper in the snow and ice isn’t my cup of tea! Had to take a couple of days out from gun playing, partly because the workshop is freezing and partly because I have to do a bit of sorting out for a US patent case that I’m a consultant for – which does mean I get paid! I had a look at the catalogue for the March Holts sale – it reinforced my feeling that reasonable percussion doubles that might make good shooters are about as rare as hen’s teeth – prices continue to rise and there is now not a lot of difference between a decent percussion and a usable flintlock! Both are pretty thin on the ground in that sale – lets hope Bonhams come up trumps.
30th January – Back from a ‘last of the season ‘ shoot courtesy of Bev – things get a bit scrappy at the end of the season, and shoots usually want to thin out the cock birds, so this was a ‘ see what comes up, but hope its mainly cocks’ sort of day! In fact cocks were pretty thin on the ground – more importantly also in the air – so it was mostly hens that were shot. It was one of those days when its so nice to be out in the country – cold day but warmed by the sun and little breeze – that the size of the bag is a secondary consideration for any sensible gun. We managed 30 for 8 guns, which is fine although one or two guns didn’t see much action. My Sam Nock double fired off the left barrel when I shot the right – a habit it had when I first got it and which I had eliminated by reshaping the bents – I had a careful look at them under the microscope and they look fine – I thought that perhaps the sear arm was a bit near the wood in the lock pocket so I have done a little reshaping of the sear arms but I can’t see anything else wrong. Our next clay shoot is simultaneous pairs, so I will need that aspect of the gun to be 100% by 16th Feb! I also tightened up the barrel bolt that wasn’t holding the barrel tight – I used the corner of a chisel to prise out the pin retaining the bolt, and bent the bolt slightly down in the centre so it pulls the barrel down onto the stock better. Yesterday I started on the safety catch slider for the Post Office pistol – I took a chunk of 8 mm EN8 and cut out a tab of about the right size on one end so I could work on it and have a decent bit to hold in a vice. I milled the rough blank – slightly oversize and still attached to the chunk – and filed it to fit, only separating it from at the last minute to shape the knob. It looks fine, or will do when I’ve engraved the slider – now to do the internals.
26th January – Just got back from the climbing wall with Giles and a couple of his friends – its difficult enough to keep up with 20 somethings without ending the 2 hour stint by all trying to climb as many of the fairly easy climbs in the room as possible in ten minutes! To say I’m k*******d is an understatement! And I had managed to make 24 jars of marmelade in the afternoon. I’ve been wondering about the cock we put on the little percussion saw handled pistol as I wasn’t sure if we had got the correct shape and neither was the owner, but I had a quick look through the last Bonham’s catalogue and low and behold there was a saw handled pistol, albeit a boxlock, with a very similar cock profile – I made a quick overlay to check it out. I’m still not quite sure we got the right cock but it matches others used!
Click on the photo for a better view, back arrow to restore.
24th January – I have ‘pruned this post to cover just 2019 – the contents from late 2018 are in the new post ‘ Blog September to December 2018‘ – it makes it easier to scroll if the post is kept a manageable size.
24th January – Switched back to my little Harding Post Office pistol. I needed to remake the square in the cock as the cock was from another pistol. As mentioned I decided to bore out the tumbler hole in the cock and silver solder in a disk and put the square hole in that. The cock was Araldited to a scrap of wood and centered under the mill/drill and a 6 mm end mill put through – the square on the tumbler is a 5 mm diagonal, approx 4 mm square. I then dropped an 8 mm end mill into the back of the cock 1.5 mm deep, and turned up a disk to fit the two milled holes with about 0.2 mm proud on the back surface and a 3.5 mm hole in the centre to start the square from. I had intended to put the square in the disk before fixing it in the cock, but there is no way to hold it so I silver soldered it in place with ‘easy’ silver solder paste that melts at 650C (dull red heat). I then filed up the square hole very carefully to fit and , I thought, in the right orientation – but it turned out to be about 10 degrees from where I wanted it, so I just heated the cock up to dull red and turned the insert with the end of a screwdriver to the correct angle. That all went well so I worked on the sear to get it all aligned as I hadn’t done the final shaping until the cock was on. I am not sure that all the parts I had were from the same pistol, and the shape of the full cock bent was a bit too ‘re-entrant’ for the motion of the sear and you couldn’t fire the lock – so the bent had to be opened out a bit. All done so I tweaked the mainspring and hardened it and tempered it to blue – and then broke it while clamping it to put it in place! It was my fault as I couldn’t find a small mainspring clamp and used a mole grip too near the ‘elbow’ and overstressed it – another job to do, although I might just try welding it.
The cock is actually stopped by the step hitting the edge of the lock as it should be, but the ‘chin’ of the jaw is a bit close – the cock needs slightly reshaping, although I’ll have to be careful not to loose the square insert if I heat it to red heat…..
23rd January – Amongst other things I had a go at sorting the percussion pistol with the extreme full cock position and overbent spring. I’m not sure what has been done to the lockwork but it is not right! I did manage to get the full cock a little better by honing the sear slightly (.25mm off) – I didn’t like to take too much off as it alters the geometry and, with the fly or detent, it might not work. I took off the bridle as the lock was very stiff, and found that the inside tumbler pivot had been peened over so that it was a tight fit in the bridle – I couldn’t see any reason for that so I filed it off and punched it out and adjusted the fit – – while it was in pieces I also ground down the pillar on the mainspring so that it isn’t overbent at the full cock position. Although it isn’t perfect, it now cocks and fires much more smoothly. I’ll add a photo when I can get access to the website editor on my main computer – \i’ve had a couple of times when it won’t let me get into the editor and I have to resort to the laptop, which hasn’t got my photo library on it’s hard Drive. I was going to put the little Nock pistol back together, but somewhere between my workshop and Dicks we have mislaid the sear. I Araldited the cock of the Post Office pistol to a piece of wood in preparation for milling a disk out of the back…….. If you think I have too many jobs on the go at once, you are right!
22nd January – Meetings in school took up 5 hours, but I did manage to make a graver sharpener for a customer. I did design a sharpener that would do both the main 45 degree face and then could be turned over to do the 15 degree heels, but it needed rather a lot of parts and was fiddly so I am making them as two separate tools. They are not really economic to make as I have to turn and drill and tap each part separately and there are a lot of parts. I could save a lot of time if I made batches but I usually have to get them out of the door in a hurry so make them individually. If I could sell in quantity I could easily get them made by the 50s at an economic price, but that number would last at least until I am pushing up daisies – even if I outlive my mother who died at 98 – a good age! Just in case you think I was shirking on the tax, any moments I could fit in went that way……….
21st January – My apologies for no gun stuff today! Mondays is Bullard Archive and STEM club. The STEM children are getting their act together a bit – last week was a bit of a rabble. We are building prototypes for a weather station for the school – the anemometer worked – now we have to fit a digital readout to it using a BBC Microbit computer. Plans are in hand.
I have to report that my tax is not getting done very fast…………
19th January – As expected, another day pushing pieces of paper around the desk and searching for lost bills and invoices – I’m relieved to see that there is now a £1000 tax free allowance for online sales, so the few little bits and pieces I sell from the shop on this website don’t get taxed and don’t have to be declared! I picked up a copy of George Orwell’s Animal Farm with a child friendly cover and started to read it, thinking it was a child friendly simplification but realised that actually the book is the full adult one and so unsubtle and simplistic that you wonder why it ever became famous – but I suppose times change and we just expect better now. I packed up after one page – doing my tax didn’t seem so tedious after that……………..
19th 18th January – I got a bit confused about the date – I have just started wearing a watch again and it’s got the wrong date – it’s a day fast. I gradually built up a pile of Casio F-91Ws – cheap plastic watches – with broken straps but still working, so I got round to ordering 5 new straps from Cousins at £1.25 each – I now have 3 wearable ones, and a couple of straps left over – Tom has one that needs a strap, and I’ll no doubt need another some day. As expected I spent most of the day trying to make sense of my accounts for the tax man – I had an accountant to chase/bully me into getting everything I need, but she retired this year so its down to me! I did get down to Dicks to take the inlaid little pistols so he can finish them off and we had the usual cup of tea and a chat about work in progress. I have the little flint post office pistol to make the safety for and fix the cock and get the spring to work, plus I think I need to have a go at sorting the laid back cock of the saw handled pistol as it offends me! The Post Office pistol needs its replacement cock fitted, which involves completely remaking the square hole for the tumbler shaft – there are 3 ways to do this – 1) weld up the hole and drill and file a new hole, 2) mount up the tumbler on the lathe and drill out the shaft (after annealing it) and silver solder in a new shaft and put a square on that, or 3) drop and end mill in the back of the cock and silver solder in a disk and put the square in that. 2 and 3 do allow some fiddling with the orientation of the cock before final soldering, which is useful. 1) is quicker. I have used 1) – most often, and 2) before, but drilling out the tumbler is a lot easier on a full sized gun – I’m not sure I fancy doing it on this little pistol. I haven’t tried 3), which is Bev’s favourite, so I might try that this time. 2) would be difficult with a anything with a fly or detent, as well as a small pistol.
17th January – Had a shoot on Tuesday which didn’t go according to plan as the birds didn’t play ball! As the season goes on they get more wily and the stupid ones get culled, so the keepering gets more difficult. The first drive, which should have been good, produced nothing – not even the usual early exit of blackbirds etc. The poor keeper was tearing his hair out by the end, although there were a couple of passable drives for some guns. A couple of guns didn’t have any luck at all and in the end the bag was half what it was supposed to be, which in any case was very modest. I guess I can’t complain too loudly as I got my fair share of what there was to get and enjoyed the day out in the country. Ah well, its all part of the game! I came back feeling half dead and for the first time in my life I just sprayed my gun liberally with WD 40 and left it for the morning, for which I feel ashamed!
13th January – We had the monthly Anglian Muzzle Loaders clay shoot at Cambridge Gun Club today. Bev insists that I post that I shot very well (for me, that is). I surprised everyone, myself included, by being ahead after the first 16 clays = two stands, but alas it didn’t last, and I didn’t manage to connect with many of the long range targets – by common consent they were out to 50 or 60 yards and being carried rapidly downwind, and by the time we got to the driven stand I’d lost concentration a bit, but still my best score in ages. It augers well for a game shoot on Tuesday, and I’ve just got invited on a ‘Cock Day’ for the last day on the season, which will round off the game year very nicely. Don’t expect much gun stuff over the next two weeks as I have got to struggle with my income tax return for Jan 31st!
11 January – Interesting little problem – Dick put a replacement cock on a percussion pistol in the correct orientation for sitting on the nipple when the tumbler is down and the spring is almost at the edge of the lock plate, and it all works but the cock is very far back in the full cock position – it all works but both the half cock and full cock positions seem a bit too far back. The tumbler and sear all seem to be undamaged and original and it has a ‘fly’ or detent on the tumbler that works OK . The only things I can see wrong are that the link on the mainspring has been brazed and the mainspring short arm has a very long ‘stalk’ that rests on the bolster, so that the mainspring is overfolded in the full cock position – it only just gets that far. I can’t see what is wrong – the square on the cock could be a little out but not enough to cause the problem, and the link might be wrong, although neither would affect the cock position. Given that it has a ‘fly’ it is not possible to move the bents in the tumbler although it might be possible to shave a bit off the front of the sear. I guess Dick and I will have another think together! I managed to find an hour to solder the top rib on the Venables and it’s on pretty well – there is one small gap on one side but that is where the rib was previously filed down too much and it doesn’t touch the barrel – to have put it in contact with the barrel would have involved bending one side of the rib down by almost 1 mm, so best not attempted – it will be fine as it is, I hope – the rest is very solid. I do rate resoldering barrels as my unfavourite – job I’ll do it for my guns but not for others!
Position with cock on the nipple – it looks very upright!
10th January – I was helping a friend with an early spring clean and we found a cartridge bag which turned out to contain 50 12 Bore Bismuth cartridges on a peg, then we found another 25 in a bedroom, and 25 more in a cupboard, making a total of 100. While I don’t shoot live quarry with a breechloader very often, I can use the No 5 bismuth shot in a muzzle loader and can then shoot wildfowl if the opportunity arises. I had a quick look at the price of Bismuth shot on the web and it looks as if buying cartridges and recovering the shot is somewhat cheaper than buying loose shot by enough to be worth while – plus its much easier to get hold of cartridges than shot. The only downside is that you have a whole lot of primed, damaged cases – or perhaps I can find a way of unloading them so that I can use the cases for black powder cartridges, which I do use for hammer gun club shoots. Bismuth is supposed to be as soft as lead and OK for Damascus barrels, muzzle loaders etc. It’s slightly less dense than lead, 10 instead of 11.7 gm/cc so you need to go up a shot size to give a comparable range and penetration to lead, and you therefore end up with a somewhat less dense shot pattern, so you need to shoot within sensible range limits to give clean sure kills.
9th January – sorry for the gap in posting but more urgent duties took precedence – I actually managed to spend yesterday morning soldering the barrels of the Venables and thought I had done a good job, but after it cooled down and I cleaned it up on the fine wire wheel I spotted about 4 inches near the breech where the top rib hadn’t been in contact with the barrels on either side. I’m not sure if the tinning was OK or if it hadn’t taken, I tried to heat up the rib to fix it but stupidly overlooked the fact that the rib would expand and bow up as it was fixed at the breech and further down the barrel. I will now have to do a proper job and unhitch the rib right down to the breech so I can relay it properly. Fortunately the breech remains silver soldered together so it shouldn’t all fall apart if I heat it up. Just have to make sure the under rib and the loop for the barrel bolt stay in position. Not sure when I’ll be able to do that job as I have a raft of stressful jobs eleswhere to attend to… I’ve been trying to get down to Dick’s all week to take a bit of welding for Jason and collect the last lot. Jason is our expert TIG welder – much much better than I am. He really enjoys the challenge of the very fine gun work and would like to give up doing ‘bog standard’ speciality welding and take up gun repair! Not sure the market is big enough unless he does modern stuff – we only have about 1/2 an hour a week of work for him. It’s definitely time I got a few jobs out of the door – I’m beginning to loose track…………………. Oh, and Fred ( see engraving Fred’s guns ) has got another one for me to do sometime – I will have to spend quite a while getting back into the swing of it as I haven’t done any significant amount of engraving for a year or so.
6th January I bought a copy of Ian Glendenning’s 1951 book ‘British Pistols and Guns 1640 to 1840’ not remembering that I had a copy already – its long book (in shape) and only fits in my bookcase on end so you don’t see the spine and I had overlooked it. It is, however, an exemplary book for beginners as it is a very succinct guide with a brief history and much more comprehensive descriptions of typical pistols and guns than is usually found in books. Its a shame that photographs were not easier and cheaper to reproduce in 1951 or it would be better illustrated but it does contain a lot of line drawings of decoration. It has a brief history of developments, a comprehensive glossary, decent descriptions of pistols and guns in the author’s collection and a list of known makers. It’s a very good second hand book to buy if you only have one book and want to put a gun or pistol of that period in context, and much cheaper than almost any other decent gun book. If you want my spare copy for £25 including UK post, please email me – first come first served. It’s probably slightly wrong in one or two aspects – I don’t agree with his analysis of the ignition from flash pan to chamber, for instance, but overall its pretty sound.
5th January – My calor cylinder in the shed ran out so that has put paid to finishing the Venables barrel until I can get heat back on. I got a flintlock pocket pistol by Nock today to sort out. It is in good condition overall but the ‘action is at fault’ as the auction houses put it in catalogues. The mainspring has some brazing on the hook end so has probably been repaired, and the sear isn’t holding. It was sent already stripped down – looking at the action was made easy because the side plate had been removed and you can see the engagement of the sear with the cock – the cock fulfils the role of tumbler as well as cock in that type of pocket pistol. The cock bents are in perfect condition, the problem lies with the sear, which is an extension upwards of the trigger – it isn’t hardened like the cock bents, and so the tip has got worn or broken away for about 1 1/2 mm. It rather looks as if someone used brute force to fire the pistol when the sear was very firmly in the half cock bent and sheared off a chunk of the sear – or possibly dropped the pistol on its cock when it was a half cock…… The sear is a bit wider than the cock, so its left a bit of the original sear sticking up either side of the worn gap that corresponds to the cock – the photos tell the story – the sear needs building up to the profile of the two bits that stick up either side – I checked by offsetting the cock and using one of the bits as the sear, and it functions properly. It can either be done by silver soldering in a piece of steel between the remnants of the sear, or welding more material on, which will inevitably destroy the original profile. I’ll think about that choice, both will work but the weld may be stronger?
2nd Jan 2019 I started to put the ribs on the Venables barrels – at least I got as far as tinning the ribs and lands on the barrels – I’ve probably been far too generous with the solder but I don’t want to have any more false dawns! I will probably go over it again and try to thin down the tinning to a more reasonable level or it will create loose blobs of solder within the voids under the top rib which will rattle around when the gun fires! I’m in school tomorrow as part of a pre term planning session to see what science is planned. On Thursday I am helping take all 100 odd children to the Pantomime in Cambridge (as one of 15 adults I’m relieved to say).
1 January 2019 Happy New Year to all our visitors, especially the faithful followers! I’ll be back soon – just got to do our New Year’s Party with breakfast for about 70 people and then I can think about doing things again!