My Apprentice and Her English Fowler

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Hi,
Lots of stuff happening this winter. I have an apprentice, Maria Gray. She is a local high school senior who is greatly focused on history. She is a member of Herrick's Vermont Rangers and Warner's Green Mountain Boys. She intends to major in history in college. Maria is extremely smart and a lightning quick study. She wrote a grant proposal to her school for a senior project making a flintlock gun and learning the history of their manufacture. The school system in Bethel, VT awarded her $1000 for the project. Maria is the second high school student supported by their schools (different school systems) to work with me to build historical guns. I am informed that more are coming. Maria and I dug deeply into the history of arms carried by those units. It was clear that many carried muskets, including the long land pattern Brown Bess but also civilian fowlers. The fowler fit Maria better because she wants to use it for reenacting but also for hunting. She is tall and needs quite a bit of drop in the stock such that the muskets would be horrible guns for her. I showed her a range of examples of fowlers available to 18th century New Englanders and she chose an English export fowler (not a trade gun, which seems to obsess so many who think colonists only carried old muskets, rifles, and trade guns, a terrible distortion of reality). So we are making a good quality English export fowler based on my work and a gun restored by Jim Kibler that I own. The lock will be a Chambers round-faced English lock, the barrel will be a 20 gauge Rice Dolep barrel, the stock is a nice piece of English walnut that I bought from Jim Kibler some years ago. We have not decided on whether the mounts will be brass or iron (steel). I have a Fabulous iron plate forged by Ian Pratt, which is a possibility. This will be fun and I will post updates as we proceed. Here are our preliminary drawings but we have to add more drop. They are tracings of original 1760s fowlers that I own.









Maria really gets into the 18th century. She has my copies of Grinslade's "Fowlers", John George's "English Guns and Rifles", Dixon's "The Art of Making the Pennsylvania Longrifle" , my working copy of Neal and Back's "Great British Gunmakers 1740-1790", and papers by DeWitt Bailey and Joe Puleo on the Wilson family and Ketland family of gunmakers; respectively. She enjoys reading by candle light. I advised her to freeze the candles first and they will last longer.




dave



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Hi,

Maria and I got started on the actual work on the gun today. We are waiting on the barrel but there is a lot we can do in the meantime. Her interest is not just building the gun but understanding the history and context behind it. There is nothing I would rather hear than that. So for the first hour today, I showed her the presentation I made on making a mid-18th century English sporting gun at the Kempton Gunmakers Fair. I covered a brief history of the British gun trade from 1637 until 1800 and discussed the style changes that occurred during that period and why they happened. Then we went out to the shop and I demonstrated to her what makes a good flintlock.


We covered all the components and their names both modern and old. She preferred the old names so a frizzen is a battery, frizzen spring is a feather spring, mainspring vise is a spring cramp, etc. Then we spent time looking at some very fine original and modern made locks and some lesser modern made locks to teach her what makes a good lock. In the process, I had a great teaching device. I had a Chambers round-faced English lock purchased last summer and one purchased some years ago. Both were identical except for one thing, the toe of the mainspring hook on the newer lock was right at the tip of the toe of the tumbler when the lock was at rest. At full cock, it was 2/3s of the way up the foot of the tumbler. On the older lock, the toe of the hook was part way up the foot of the tumbler at rest and then right at the corner of the tumbler at full cock. I had Maria measure the force to pull the flintcock back to half and then full cock on both locks. On the newer lock, it took 10 lbs pull to bring it to half cock and 10 lbs to bring it to full. On the older lock, it took 11 lbs to bring it to halfcock and just 8 lbs to bring it to full. That slight difference in the relation of the toe of the hook and its position on the tumbler made all the difference. Next we studied later locks with stirrup tumblers. We measured the forces needed to pull the flintcock back to half and then full cock on the new "Nock" lock and on an original English lock by Fields from the 1820s. On the Nock lock it took 8-9lbs to pull it back to half and 10 lbs to pull it back to full. On the original lock, it took 11 lbs to pull it back to half and 8 lbs to pull it back to full. Then I had Maria use calipers to measure the distance between the centers of the stirrup spindle held by the mainsprings and the centers of the tumbler spindles when the lock was at full cock. That distance was 0.28" for the "Nock" and 0.21" for the Fields original. That closer distance meant greater mechanical advantage. We then examined and measured a collection of modern and original locks including one from a pair of Wogdon pistols. She learned the lesson really well.

We also discussed other lock features and then I had her disassemble her Chambers lock and start working on polishing and tuning it.





She is very happy doing this work and is a lightning quick study. She quit varsity basketball so she could work on this project. She is dedicated.

dave
 
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Hi,
Maria came over today and was in full 18th century dress. She made it look good compared with the over fed middle aged reenactors out there who try to represent starved continentals. Anyway, we made her ramrod pipes today. During our previous session, I taught her about steel, brass, and silver alloys, and how to heat treat them. Today, she learned how to solder. We started by cutting out rectangles of mild steel sheet to make the pipes. In our case the forward pipe is 27/64" inside diameter, the middle pipe is 3/8" inside diameter, and the rear pipe is 5/16" in diameter. That is consistent with original English fowlers from this period. She cut the rectangles and then embossed raised ribs on the ends. We use the methods taught to me by Kit Ravenshear using a little plate with a groove filed into it and a cold chisel.





We planned for 1/4" tabs on each side of the pipes for the pins. She formed those tabs next.




I had to tell her "whomp that pipe, don't give it a love tap. She whacked it accordingly.




After forming the tabs, we cleaned them up with files and sandpaper, preparing for soldering and formed the pipes around the appropriate sized drill bits. Then we soldered the tabs together.



Then she cleaned up the ends of the pipes and removed any burrs on the ends with a counter sink so they would not be sharp and scrape the ramrod.



She then filed and cleaned up the pipes. Next we cut off the tang from a cast steel rear pipe.




Then she soldered the tang on to her rear sheet steel pipe. She embossed a ring on the rear of that pipe about 1/8" forward of the end giving it a section to attach the cast tang. We then soldered the tang on to the rear pipe.




Maria cleaned it up and here are her set of pipes.







dave
 
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This is awesome! I wish I had had an opportunity like that when I was young! Don’t get me wrong I was able to see and do a whole lot more than most people at my age. This would’ve just been cool!
 

Rich44

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I clearly remember back in the 50's as a young boy, using a hacksaw for a day and a half getting my project close enough to start using the file to bring it to shape. The only power tool available was a 1/2 drill which opened your mind to how efficient a drill can be in removing stock. A mistake at this pace is real character building.. They were the times that taught you patience and dedication in making parts. Glad I stuck with it and became a Tool & Die Maker by trade. These are the trainings you will always remember no matter what your age.
 
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