Building a Chambers Isaac Haines rifle kit

Discussion in 'The Gun Builder's Bench' started by dave_person, Sep 10, 2019.

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  1. Sep 10, 2019 #1

    dave_person

    dave_person

    dave_person

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    Hi Folks,

    This is a new project. It is a Chambers' Isaac Haines kit. I don't like doing kits but this one will get the full blown decorative treatment found on several Haines rifles so that should be fun. The photos below show one of the famous mahogany stocked rifles by Haines.
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    The rifle I am using for inspiration is #81 shown in RCA vol 1. It is maple stocked but the patch box and carving are very similar to the mahogany stocked rifles. Isaac Haines was arguably the best carver of all the great long rifle makers. He was born in colonial Pennsylvania but somebody taught him the skills from the "old country" and he kept to that standard. To my knowledge we don't know who he apprenticed to or worked as a journeyman. He was active during the Rev War and appears to quit gun making in 1792. He was identified as a farmer after that time until his death in 1831.

    The kit is not a copy of any actual Haines gun. It was originally designed by Don and Charles Getz in the 1970s and they chose a 38" barrel simply because it was easier for them to make barrels that length at the time. Their kit used hardware designed by John Bivins for the Pennsylvania Bicentennial Commission rifles and I believe he helped design the stock. Anyway, the end result is that it somewhat similar to the famous pristine Haines rifle but is not a copy of anything. Many suppliers copied the kit and call it their "Haines" rifle to this day, complete with 38" barrel but the "Haines" name is just a marketing label. In truth, it should really be called a "Bivins". It is kind of a generic golden age Lancaster rifle. Nonetheless, it seems to be a good kit and considerably better than the Chambers Little Fella's rifle I did some months ago.

    Typical with many kits it seems, the barrel needs to be moved back so the touch hole will completely clear the face of the breech plug. It also needed to be buried a little deeper to make sure the touch hole could be drilled near the center of the barrel flat. That is not very hard and only a little wood needs to be removed at the breech. You do need to scrape wood from the sides of the barrel channel where the flare at the muzzle tapers thinner toward the waist. That allows the barrel to move back in the channel. I reshaped the breech plug to be similar to Haines guns, and inlet the tang.
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    The lock inletting was easy but you have to be very careful placing it so it covers all of the machined mortice. I wish they would make the kit without the lock inlet.
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    The trigger and trigger plate inlet nicely and so did the butt plate. After cleaning up the brass plate in prep for inletting, it went faster than any butt plate I've installed. I think the actual inletting took me less than an hour.
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    The side plate took all of 20 minutes after cleaning up the brass casting.
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    I hate the short front tabs on many trigger guards because I want the cross pin hidden in the lock mortice and ideally by the side plate. So, as here, I often lengthen them by dovetailing and soldering in an extension.
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    [​IMG]

    That is it for now. More later.

    dave
     
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  2. Sep 10, 2019 #2

    WKD

    WKD

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    Dave what type of solder? Soft or silver? I also would rather pin thru the lock mortice well into the mainspring inlet and behind the sideplate (if possible)
    Kevin
     
  3. Sep 10, 2019 #3

    dave_person

    dave_person

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    Hi Kevin,
    I used Stay Bright low temp silver bearing solder. However, I've used Brownell's Hi Force 44 and just normal plumber's solder in the past. On steel guards I weld the extension on.

    dave
     
  4. Sep 11, 2019 #4

    Spikebuck

    Spikebuck

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    Dave, thanks for posting pics of the progress.

    So, while the "basic build" part is a piece of cake...the real challenge of this project will be to duplicate the exquisite carving on #81 just like Haines did it! :) Some very nice engraving on #81 as well, so you said it right at the beginning...the enjoyment will come from the decoration of the project. With your skills, there is no doubt it will turn out fantastic! :thumb:

    I have always wished that the RCA volumes had better pictures...nice full-color pictures.
     
  5. Sep 12, 2019 #5

    Brokennock

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    Thanks for including us on this process. I'm trying to prepare my mind for being blown again.

    Question on that original Haines. Mahogany stock? In my head mahogany is quite heavy, maybe I'm wrong. Do we know what the original Haines mahogany stocked rifles weighed?
     
  6. Sep 12, 2019 #6

    poker

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    Brokennock, mahogany weighs quite a bit less per sq ft than hard maple. Very similar weight as walnut would be.
     
  7. Sep 12, 2019 #7

    Brokennock

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    Thank you. It must just be an illusion due to the coloration, and its other uses.
     
  8. Sep 12, 2019 #8

    Rifleman1776

    Rifleman1776

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    Even the 'in progress' shots show beauty. Looking forward to seeing the finished piece. And, you already have experience building a Chambers kit.;)
     
  9. Sep 13, 2019 #9

    dave_person

    dave_person

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    Hi Folks,

    The trigger guard is inlet. I always inlet the lugs (tabs first) and then the front of the guard. I pin that and then inlet the rear extension. Mortices for most guards are very shallow and these angular and simple guards only take an hour or so after the casting is prepared for inletting. After inletting the lugs, I simply hold the guard tight against the stock and trace the front with a very sharp carving knife. The I back cut the lines, scoop out the center of the inlet with a shallow sweep, and smooth everything with a bottoming file. I repeat the for the rear extension. Often when inletting the rear extension, you find that you are cutting into end grain. You really want to get your chisel scary sharp before doing the job. Also you may find that you have to cut toward the trigger and letting in the back edge of the guard can be a problem. When that happens, I cut across the grain along that back edge with a very sharp flat chisel.
    [​IMG]
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    With the guard in place the gun is looking like something. The trigger Chambers supplies is very nice and allows a very high pinning, which will result in a light trigger pull.
    [​IMG]
    Here are some shots of the whole gun. I really wish it had a 45-46" barrel. It would be very slim and sexy and the barrel would balance out the long butt section. Regardless, it should end up a nice rifle.
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    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]

    dave
     
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  10. Sep 15, 2019 #10

    dave_person

    dave_person

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    Hi,

    Yesterday I got the ramrod pipes, muzzle cap, and toe plate installed. One thing that can be tricky is establishing centerlines on the precarved stock. The amount of wood left on the sides is not even about the barrel channel or lock panels. You have to base the centerlines on measurements from the center of the barrel channel. Fortunately, the lock panels were square with the barrel so you can measure to the center of the barrel at the breech from one side, turn the stock over and use that measurement to find the center on the bottom. You can find the center of the barrel channel easily at the muzzle and draw a plumb line down to the center of the bottom. Then I use a 48" ruler to draw a straight line connecting the center of the bottom at the breech with the muzzle. I found on this kit, that you cannot use the center of the trigger, trigger plate mortice, or rear ramrod pipe mortices to find true center of the bottom. Every one of those machine inlets was slightly off center.

    The ramrod pipes were pretty easy except the mortices for the rear and middle pipes were off center. Fortunately, they could be inlet centered without any gaps on one side. You have to really pay attention to the tang on the rear pipe because the cast pipe barely covers the machined mortice. All of the pre-inlet mortices for the tabs on the pipes were off center. The take away is do not assume all those mortices are centered or precisely located. Measure and check everything. Regardless, the inletting went easily and everything lines up just right.
    [​IMG]
    I filed the rear pipe tang to be more like those on Haines rifles. The facets and shield will be cleaned up eventually. The shield will actually be rounded not faceted as shown.
    [​IMG]
    The kit uses Bivin's cast muzzlecap, which copies the look of one-piece sheet brass caps made back in the day. I am not a fan because the thick cast brass takes up a lot of space for wood leaving a very thin wood shell upon which the cap is fitted. I use a round stone on a Dremel to grind the inside of the cap to make more room. I've learned how to inlet these caps pretty efficiently over the years. I square up the front of the cap with the rear edge, then measure the length of the cap with an adjustable square. Then I square up the end of the stock and use the square to mark the edge of the inlet on the stock. Using a fine Japanese saw that cuts on the pull stroke, I cut in shallowly along that line marking the edge of the cap. With a sharp flat chisel I back cut that line and use a coarse flat file to take the rest of the wood down even with the back cuts. I also cut off a little more stock length at the muzzle to account for the thickness of the front of the cap. Try the cap and file and shave wood away until it slides on. I am precise with the saw such that I rarely have to scrape much wood from the back edge to fit the cap tightly. You want to make sure you don't angle the cap up, down, or to either side and it must be flush with the inside of the barrel channel. Always check it with the barrel in place to assure a proper fit to the barrel. Eventually the wood and cap will be filed flush and a copper rivet installed to hold the cap in place.
    [​IMG]
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    Photos of RCA #81 do not clearly show a toe plate but all of the Haines' guns I've seen have them. Therefore, I adopted the plate used on RCA #78. I used brass sheet 1/16" thick and my jewelers saw to cut it out. It is nailed in place with brass pins on the original, which I will do after engraving and as the gun is finished.
    [​IMG]
    Making the patch box is next but for another day.


    dave
     
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  11. Sep 15, 2019 #11

    Gun Tramp

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    The outside world becomes pleasantly distant as I study your work. Thank you, dave.
     
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  12. Sep 15, 2019 #12

    Cruzatte

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    Thanks for posting, Dave. I appreciate the instruction.
     
  13. Sep 19, 2019 #13

    dave_person

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    Hi,

    The patch box is almost done. To produce this famous box I first traced a photo of the original on mylar and then scanned it. Then I scaled it up to life size and printed it on ink jet transparency film. I used this to lay out the design on brass.
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    I used 1/16" thick brass for the lid and main finial, and 0.05" thick brass for the side panels. I show making the hinge for the lid. I coat it with Dykem blue so I can trace on it with a scribe.
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    Then I thinned the portion to be used for the hinge and also filed a little decorative edge on the tab.
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    I annealed the brass (heat to red hot and let cool or quench in water). Next I bent the tab to a right angle in my Parrot vise and annealed again.
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    Then I placed a 1/16" spring steel rod in the bend and pressed the bend closed in my vise to form the hinge.
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    Once pressed close I filed the bend round to clean up any distortion from the bending and annealed it again. Then I hammer the bend in my vise with a slight opening to raise it as a hinge on one side of the lid.
    [​IMG]
    I did the same with the front finial after cutting it out with a jeweler's saw. When I am designing an inlay that is defined by my eventual engraving, I sketch the engraving design on the metal coated with Dykem blue and let that engraving pattern define the edges and piercings in the inlay. That way, when engraving it, it all works together.
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    Before inletting the finial and lid needed to be bent to the curve of the stock. I hollowed out a slab of tulip poplar to make a form and used it the form the lid by pressing the brass into hollow with a steel pipe. That gave it a slight bend. Then you have to file the knuckles on the hinge such the spaces between them widen a little toward the bottom. That accommodates for the bend to keep the hinge working smoothly. After making the lid, front finial and hinge, I inlet it. One concern I had with the kit is that it was shaped for a sliding wood lidded patch box. As such, the patch box area was flattened to accommodate the wooden lid. I hoped there was enough wood left to allow for shaping the stock to fit a brass patch box. There was just barely enough. The front finial and lid went in nicely and I filed the butt plate to fit the lid. It should be a beautiful patch box when I am done. One thing to note is that the original mortice for the wood patch box does not line up exactly with my brass box. I will simply shape the mortice to fit. Tomorrow I do the side plates.


    dave
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    Last edited: Sep 19, 2019
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  14. Sep 21, 2019 #14

    Buckskinn

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    Dave,
    Can't wait to see this beauty progress!

    I am surprised that you gambled on the patchbox cover fitting and didn't just have Chamber's omit the box. But it looks like it will work out perfectly!

    Scott
     
  15. Sep 21, 2019 #15

    Pete G

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    It's not a gamble. Maybe so with one of us but not with Dave.:cool:
     
  16. Sep 21, 2019 #16

    dave_person

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    Hi Guys,
    Thanks for looking and commenting. I did not order the kit. The eventual owner did so I don't know what was specified. I am just running with what I was given. It is interesting to note that Haines did not center the box on the stock. It has a slight tilt toward the bottom a little like the way Peter Berry fitted patch boxes. I am trying to match the original as closely as I can given the raw material.
    dave
     
  17. Sep 21, 2019 #17

    DOUBLEDEUCE 1

    DOUBLEDEUCE 1

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    Dave,

    I could fix a bucket of popcorn, sit back and just watch you and your work. Excellent ! :cool:
     
  18. Sep 21, 2019 #18

    dave_person

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    Hi Brokennock,
    I am sorry that I missed your question about mahogany for which Poker provided a good answer. One detail, however, is that I suspect the wood was Cuban mahogany. One collector's description of the rifle states it was Honduras mahogany but I am skeptical he could determine that. He probably wrote that because it is the only mahogany he knows. For one thing, it is more likely the wood came from the West Indies, where American trade activity was heavy, more so than from Central America. Cuban mahogany was known as the "King's" wood because it was so dense and beautiful, and it was so eagerly sought after for furniture wood that it was logged virtually to extinction by the late 19th century. Very few modern woodworkers have experience with Cuban mahogany and Honduras mahogany is quite different. The photo below shows a pistol case I made with Honduras mahogany but stained to look like Cuban. It shows what the Haines mahogany rifles probably looked like when newly finished. Mahogany darkens dramatically over time.

    dave
    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Sep 22, 2019 #19

    Brokennock

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    And to think I believed my mind was prepared to be blown.
    That is gorgeous. Thank you for sharing.
     
  20. Sep 22, 2019 #20

    Thomas Rose

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    I cant believe this. I began reading this thread and couldn't stop, now my wife is hollering for me to come on or be late for church.This is like being allowed to view the intimate details of a brain surgery, I feel proud to be included. Anxiously awaiting the next post. Thanks Dave.
     
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