The Duke of Blue Merle

18 September 2012
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This is another Scottish flat horn that I made while referencing a piece in “The Swords and the Sorrows“.  The piece that I referenced for the majority of the architecture was a war trophy taken at the Battle of Culloden (1746) and later owned by the Duke of Atholl.  The Blue Merle pattern in the horn was so striking that I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to make a simple flat horn to show off the horn’s natural colors.  I used holly for the end of the horn because the original scottish flat horns extensively used holly and bog wood – I also wanted stray into a realm that an astute woodworker “wood” appreciate (sorry for all the puns, sometimes I just can’t help myself).  The striations of the grain in the holly similarly match the striations in the spout of the horn.   I really think it is neat piece that stands squarely on strong architecture and subtle dimesion.

  • Length on outside of curve: 9″
  • Pressed thickness: 1″
  • Materials: holly end and pegs, poplar stopper, cow horn
  • Impartial to left or right dress.

Happy Independence Day!

4 July 2012
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This is a long exposure photo of the JP Beck fowler that I have posted on my site.  There was no powder in the pan at the time this photo was taken – kind of an academic exercise to demonstrate how much spark is actually produced with a sharp flint and a well tuned lock.  I figured there is no better time to share this photo than on the 4th of July – Happy Independence Day.

The Rose Engine

23 March 2012
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The Guilloche engine turning process is not used in 18th century gunsmithing, however I couldn’t help but post another lost art that is actively being re-discovered – 10 minutes down the road. Engraving on longrifles is cut with a steel cutter driven by a hammer that removes material – called chase engraving, it is not chemical etching. The closeup shots of this video clearly show how the material is removed, similar to the chasing technique used by 18th century rifle makers.

Book Review: Valuable Secrets…

24 February 2012
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Click here to downloadThe Valuable Secrets Concerning Arts and Trades is basically an 18th century instruction manual for tradesmen to make supplies that were required to support their trade.  This manual tackles topics such as engraving, metallurgy, varnishes, glues, paints and stains as well as casting bronze.  It also covers important topics like making jelly and removing spots from cloth (I guess OxiClean® isn’t such a new idea).  Do you want to tie a bone into a knot?  Check out page 142.  Do you want to make glue from cheese?  You can find it on page 58.  There is a tremendous amount of information regarding the finishes and pigments of the day, so it is a very interesting resource that divulges all the tips and tricks that were widely circulated during the second half of the 18th century.  The version of the book that I have linked to here seems to have been published in 1795, however it appears that the majority of this information had been previously published in 1775.  I would imagine that a good bit of the information would have been circulating for quite some time before the first publication of this book.  If you are looking to reproduce most of the techniques outlined in this book, your research does not stop here… most of the directions call for ingredients by names that are not in today’s vernacular.  Some of the ingredients may be deciphered through further research, but remember that the concentrations of the materials that were available in the 18th century may be much different than are available today.  You’ll find a lot of references to materials such as aqua-fortis (“fortified water” = Nitric Acid which may contain dissolved iron).  There are also lots of references to white lead and mercury as well as a multitude of other nasty substances where extreme caution must be exercised.  I do not recommend trying most of these techniques at home since there is often a safer solution sitting on a hardware store shelf, but it will provide insight for the historically curious.  I admit that sometimes we live in a world of laughable warning labels but after skimming this book you will surely recognize some reasons why the average life expectancy has increased by 45 years.

Beck in progress

30 October 2011
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Here are a few progress shots of the small J.P. Beck fowler.  The finished photos will be ready soon.


Bathroom Renovations

20 October 2011
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I know it has nothing to do with gunsmithing, but the struggles of working as a part time gunsmith means that there are other factors competing with shop time.  It was a lot of fun to work with different materials, but it will be good to get back to the workbench.  My recommendation:  Don’t watch too many home improvement shows, they can get you in deeper than you anticipate!

On the Bench…

29 June 2010
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Type G Trade Rifle

This is a Trade Rifle that was common on the American Frontier.  These rifles were quickly and economically constructed by the English as tools to trade with the Native Americans.  They were typically painted with solid colors like blue or red but they were sometimes painted with vines, polka dots or other patterns.  I made this piece made from a set of parts by Jack Brooks.  The Beech stock is pre-carved and the lock was assembled from trade lock parts out of the kit.  The barrel is a 12 gauge smooth bore octagon to round Getz barrel.




Lebanon Smooth Rifle

This is another smooth rifle that I am building using the architecture and styling similar to J.P. Beck.  This rifle is contemporarily known as a “Ladies’ Rifle” or “Boy’s Rifle” that is made approximately 7/8 scale to fit the frame of a smaller person more appropriately.  The 22 gauge smooth barrel is a custom Getz octagon to round with a wedding band transition.  The lock is a small Siler Flintlock from Jim Chambers.  The stock is custom carved, quartersawn curly sugar maple.  The angle of the curl in the buttstock is the result of sawing the stock out of the stump of the tree.



Scottish Powder Flask

I am designing and building this piece after surviving examples that were produced in Scotland between 1680 and 1730.  This horn has been flattened to 1″ thick and is 13″ around the outer curve.  Like the antiques, the tip is poured pewter.