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Making a Pattern 1756 Long Land British Musket

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Hi Folks,
I am starting this thread a little earlier than I planned to help a member who is actively building the same gun. The first thing for me is always context. The gun I am building is a British pattern 1756 long land musket and inspired by an original Tower assembled musket issued to the 63rd regiment of foot during the American Revolutionary War. It may have served at Bunker Hill, Long Island, New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. I will use direct measurements from that gun to guide this project. I ordered the parts set in June and received it at the end of September.

The parts were generally of excellent quality with a few caveats. The lock plate was warped and had to be straightened. That reqy=uired heating the tail and nose to red hot and hammering it straight. A MAPP gas torch is sufficient for that purpose. Then file the inside surface of the plate to see if there are high and low spots. I use a coarse single cut lathe file for that purpose and use it to flatten the inside of the lock. The rest of the lock parts and components seem to be fine.
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I arranged several cast butt plates to show you why none of the commercial reproductions can ever be considered authentic reproductions of the Brown Bess.
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The first butt plate to the left is from a Miroku Bess and is the same size as butt plates on Pedersoli Besses. The second is a casting from an original short land Bess, the gun the commercial repros purport to be, and the last is from a long land musket. The commercial butt plates are way too small and will never produce an accurate copy of the gun.

The TRS stock is pretty good. Fortunately, it falls within the dimensions of the originals.
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Unfortunately, the routed (not drilled) ramrod channel is off center.
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I'll fix it and I will not let that routed mortise show. It will be covered over with a walnut strip and the barrel channel coated with a varnish thin layer of AcraGlas.

The first job is to fit the barrel in place. First it must have a flat filed on the lock side. To do that you need to make sure the breech plug is well fitted. Remove the plug and put blacking or Prussian blue on the face of the plug and screw it in all the way. Then take it out and hopefully the marking on the face of the plug is wipe off indicating the plug is snugging against the shoulder in the barrel. If it doesn't, file off some of the breech end of the barrel and install the plug until it butts against the shoulder. When it does, measure the depth of the threads in the bore and mark that depth on the outside of the barrel above where you will file your flat. Next file the flat just enough so the full length of the bolster on the lock fits the flat. Don't go overboard. Also file off the decorative rings at the breech on the underside of the barrel.
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Those rings were hand filed into the top third of the barrel. They were not turned like the modern repros. Now you are ready to initially fit the barrel. File away the closing cap of wood at the muzzle end and using scrapers, barrel floats, and sandpaper, seat the barrel. You will need to clean up all the corners at the breech with flats and gouges.
Once down and in place, you get to see how the lock lines up with the potential vent hole location. I cover that in the next post

dave
 
I am so glad you are covering this particular musket. I am also in the starting stage of getting the parts for this one.
 
Hi,
I am glad folks are interested in this thread. Today, my apprentice, Maria, is back in the shop during Xmas break from college. It is so good to have her back. This project will be her focus during break. First the barrel had to be inlet. That was a simple task involving round scrapers to fit most of the barrel channel and flat chisels to clean up the breech.
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Maria complained her worker's hands had grown soft at college. Well we solved that problem right away. I keep telling her that her hand model days are over.
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Really nice work by Maria. One problem is the position of the barrel relative to the machine inlet lock is too far forward.
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Consequently, the vent hole must be drilled right into the breech plug threads or the barrel must be moved back in the stock. We moved the barrel back a little to line up the vent hole in the pan.
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Next up was modifying the breech plug tag. First you should square up the back of the bolster with the bottom of the tang. Don't have any surface tapering or radiused. That makes inletting the breech much more difficult. Next the tang is too narrow both in the front and back. The front butted against the barrel is just a tiny bit narrower than original guns (0.52" wide versus 0.5625" wide) but the rear of the tang is grossly undersized. You need to expand it to 11/16" wide. Heating to red hot and peening the snot out of it is the ticket.
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After expanding it with the ball on a ball peen hammer, Maria smoothed the surface with the flat hammer.
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Next up we file the breech tang to shape and inlet it.

dave
 
Hi,
Today was one of fits and starts. We are going to make a lot of changes. Now, let me be clear. Maria and I are fussing over historical details such that if the musket had pitting from corrosion and damage to the stock from wear, you could put it in a museum along with originals and not tell the difference. We are not implying that all of you need to follow suit. We are providing details such that if you desire to make an historically correct gun you have detailed information. But if that is not your goal, just consider what we write as guidelines and go from there.

After stretching the barrel tang, we filed it to shape per dimensions in Bailey' s "Pattern Dates for British Arms" . It is a little more flared than the originals because the width where the tang meets the barrel is considerably too small and is hard to expand because of the bolster. The rear of the tang is exactly the width of the originals. We will live with that.

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Maria did a great job inletting the tang but we ran into trouble right away. TRS crudely routs the apron around the barrel tang and it is way too high with a very narrow crown on top. Because the stock is a dodgy piece of American black walnut rather than dense English walnut, the crown of the apron has no strength and just splits away when you cut down for the barrel tang mortise.
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Both sides of the mortise split away with just a light tap of the mallet on the chisel. This is so stupid. TRS, just leave the apron uncut and that would solve most of it. Thank god for super glue. Maria and I resolved the problem and she inlet the tang.
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However, after inletting the tang, we decided the entire barrel needed to go considerably deeper in the stock. The web of wood between the barrel and ramrod groove and hole is much too thick and there is no way to make the gun look like any originals with the crown of the apron so high. Unfortunately, the lock is partially inlet so you cannot move the barrel down too much. We used measurements from an original gun, and determined we could deepen the barrel inlet 1/8". That is what we did.
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Using a round bottom barrel plane and round scrapers, we set the barrel deeper.
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We also need to modify the ramrod groove and hole. We are going to fill the bottom of the existing routed hole with a strip of wood and carve the ramrod groove deeper in the stock. Then we will redrill the ramrod hole such that it is closer to the barrel channel. The forestocks of pattern 1756 muskets are slim because they were designed for steel rammers 1/4" in diameter rather than wooden rods 3/8" in diameter. This TRS stock can never make the slim pattern 1756 gun without the changes we will make.

dave
 
I try to stock guns with only straight grain hard maple anymore. I restored an old .32 “ parts” squirrel rifle for a friend and the old walnut stock was not a joy to work with. Everyone boasts on good old Missouri walnut- but I hate it…
 
Hi,
Bob, that round scraper can still be purchased from Brownells. It is a Jerry Fisher stock scraper and there are 2 round sizes and a square-octagon shape. I recommend them to everyone. They are a little hard to sharpen but either very fine sandpaper on a flat surface or a flat stone work well. They are not very hard or brittle. I've had my set since 1984.

dave
 
I have a rasp from brownell’s I got in 1998. Soaked it in vinegar to clean and sharpen it, works like new.
 
Hi Folks,
Thank you all for your interest and comments. I really like all the folks at TRS, Chambers flintlocks, Pecatonica River, Track of the Wolf, etc, who produce kits and pre-carved stocks. In particular, TRS has such a huge offering of styles and guns, it must be very hard to get them all right all the time. Anyway, every pre-carved stock I have ever used in a project had issues, which is why I generally work from the square blank. The only pre-carved stocks that usually don't have machining things to be fixed are those by Jim Kibler. On this gun, the TRS stock has issues to be dealt with and they create compromises. We are preparing to coat the barrel channel with a varnish thin coat of AcraGlas. That will strengthen the wood 3 to 10 times over bare wood. The American black walnut used in this stock needs that strengthening badly. It is really soft in critical spots and is very difficult to inlet precisely. This is no parts set or kit for beginners. To use the AcraGlas, we have to resolve the ramrod hole and cover the slot, make sure the barrel is finally positioned, and inlet the lock plate to prevent epoxy flowing into the lock mortise.

The ramrod groove routed into the stock was bowed sideways, binding the rod.
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We used a chisel to straighten out the bow and then I drilled the slot with my Brown Bess ramrod drill (17/64" brad pointed drill bit welded to 48" 1/4" steel rod) to smooth it out.

zImmoDC.jpg


We originally thought the ramrod hole and groove needed to go closer to the barrel but after setting the barrel deeper, that is no longer needed. To test the functional fit of the components, I filed the nose cap so it can slip on the barrel, placed it at about 4 1/4" back from the muzzle of the barrel and put the ramrod in. The nose cap is not inlet just resting on the barrel in front of the end of the stock. The fit of the ramrod is perfect. It is tucked under the cap with almost no gap and there is clearance for the bayonet.

unqAt0o.jpg


Next up we inlet the lock plate. The black walnut is soft and inletting is a real challenge because the wood wants to split off in big chunks. I don't like black walnut and this stock blank is one of the worst I've encountered. Because the lock is not built yet there won't be any epoxy oozing out screw holes. We cleaned up the edges of the plate filed draft all the way around. The first step is to fit the rear of the bolster so the lock lays flat on the stock.

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Then it can be outlined with a carving knife or pencil. You have to carefully position it so it covers the machined mortise, which is undersized. The mortise is a pain because you have to cut away thin strips of wood along the edges and the black walnut tends to split and crumble rather than shave away. Your chisels and knives have to be razor sharp and then some. With wood like this, I trim the edges of the mortise by walking my 1/4" and 1/8" flat chisels around the edges and shaving away tiny bits of wood. I lay a corner of the blade down in the wood and rock the chisel forward slicing away a sliver. I use the smaller chisel for the curved edges.

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Once the edges were shaved to my outline, I fit the plate and tested the depth. It had to go deeper so I carefully cut the mortise deeper assisted by a bottoming file. The plate went in OK and I shaved some of the excess wood down so there was less tendency for the plate to catch a chip of wood when removed.

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The plate is lined up nicely with the eventual location of the touch hole.

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As you can see, there is one glaring compromise we made by moving the barrel back in the stock. The back of the pan does not butt against the wood at the breech. We tried to save a nub of wood there but it just broke off. If the stock was maple or good English walnut, that would not have happened. It won't be very noticeable when the gun is finished but I may still splice a tiny piece of hard walnut in there before applying the Acras Glas. Next up is gluing a strip of walnut over the ramrod slot and then applying the thin epoxy layer.

dave
 
Hi,
Thanks CS! Just a short post. Got the strip of walnut glued over the ramrod slot.

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Then I did splice in wood the fill the gap behind the pan fence. We filed the stock at an angle so the joint is not perpendicular to the grain and fitted a piece of hard walnut. We glued it with Titebond using the lock plate to hold it in place.

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Now we are ready for the Acra Glas that will strengthen the barrel channel and breech. This wood desperately needs it.

dave
 
I’ve got exactly 1 English walnut blank that I’m trying to decide whether to use it for this future 1756 LLM build or a 1766 Charleville build. I’m having a very hard time making up my mind which. I do have time though, I’m currently starting an 1814 common rifle build.
 
I’ve got exactly 1 English walnut blank that I’m trying to decide whether to use it for this future 1756 LLM build or a 1766 Charleville build. I’m having a very hard time making up my mind which. I do have time though, I’m currently starting an 1814 common rifle build.

I wouldn’t use it on the charleville … or 1814 common rifle. Charleville’s and American guns were stocked black and European walnut . European Walnut (french in particular) is a lighter colored walnut but doesn’t have the figure or coloring of English walnut. some american walnut cuts are very similar to European walnut, i specifically request a lighter toned walnut from the rifle shoppe for my 1763 and 1754 charleville. I’d use it on the 1756 bess.
 
I wouldn’t use it on the charleville … or 1814 common rifle. Charleville’s and American guns were stocked black and European walnut . European Walnut (french in particular) is a lighter colored walnut but doesn’t have the figure or coloring of English walnut. some american walnut cuts are very similar to European walnut, i specifically request a lighter toned walnut from the rifle shoppe for my 1763 and 1754 charleville. I’d use it on the 1756 bess.
Oh, it’s not even under consideration for the common rifle. I got a few dense, dark American walnut blanks for that. I am leaning towards the Bess for that piece of EW mainly because it’s really long.
 
Hi Clark,'
Use the better wood for the Bess and the other for the Charleville. The design of the French musket makes it easier to use inferior wood. Building a Bess is much easier with good solid wood.

dave
 
Hi Bob,
The wood is inferior but its problems are made so much worse by the machine inletting. That removes so much supporting wood. Working from a squared blank eliminates so many of these problems. However, I am so experienced and have the skills to fix this stuff, and I post those fixes all the time. Folks who only build from pre-carved stocks are fooling themselves thinking their builds will be easier. They also rarely succeed in making a historically credible gun or even one that is aesthetically pleasing. The exceptions are Jim Kibler's kits but those end up looking the same endlessly, particularly when the finishers do nothing but sand and put on finish. There are no short cuts to knowledge and skill.

dave
 
Hi Bob,
The wood is inferior but its problems are made so much worse by the machine inletting. That removes so much supporting wood. Working from a squared blank eliminates so many of these problems. However, I am so experienced and have the skills to fix this stuff, and I post those fixes all the time. Folks who only build from pre-carved stocks are fooling themselves thinking their builds will be easier. They also rarely succeed in making a historically credible gun or even one that is aesthetically pleasing. The exceptions are Jim Kibler's kits but those end up looking the same endlessly, particularly when the finishers do nothing but sand and put on finish. There are no short cuts to knowledge and skill.

dave

Oh well, I thought some of my pre-carved numbers were aesthetically pleasing. To me, at least. :(
 
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