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May 24, 2005
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Hi Feltwad. Those are nice looking wheellocks.

Pyrite can be frustrating to use. You can get anywhere from say 1-6 shots off before the pyrite crumbles. Back in the period there must have been small groups that would spend the day making pyrite pieces similar to flint knapping factories. LOL Anyway, the problem with pyrite is that it crumbles. You never know how many shots you will get off.
Flint is too hard and will wear the grooves of the wheel down - quickly !
These Fire Steel strikers work great. They don't crumple. They are harder than pyrite, but still much softer than the wheel. And really spark !! You want the "square" ones. Just cut off a piece about 1" long or so and fit it to the jaws with a piece of leather. BUT !! Cut it in a safe place as sparks go everywhere. You can do it with a hacksaw, but an easier way is to buy a cutting wheel/blade for your bench grinder that is used to cut tile. Yes, sparks will go everywhere, but only for about three seconds. LOL You can use a cookie sheet with some water under the wheel to catch most of the sparks. A one inch piece will last a long time. And as it wears down, just re-adjust the length in the jaws. But again, make sure you order the "square" ones.



32 Cal
Jan 15, 2019
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Ok Ricksyl a little explanation would help? We must have been typing at the same time thanks for the 2nd post, Feamir

Canute Rex

40 Cal.
Apr 19, 2012
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Hi Feltwad,

Nice work!

I use iron pyrite that I got from eBay. Be forewarned: It all comes from China, and they always exaggerate the size. If they say 8-10mm the cubes will be 6-8mm; 10-12mm will be 8-10mm, and so on. You'll see polished looking perfect golden cubes of pyrite from Spain, but those are for mineral collectors and way too expensive to eat up in a wheellock.

I get good ignition from pyrite. I tried the firestarter sticks and got a hot looking spark that didn't do anything. Maybe there are different brands that work better. I hadn't seen the square ones, so who knows?

Don't be tempted to crank the jaws super tight on the pyrite. Use leather, not lead, and remember that the pyrite doesn't hammer anything like a flint. One thing that helps me is giving the face of the pyrite a quick scrape with a steel edge just before lowering it onto the pan cover. Gets the powder gak off of it. Also, how sharp is the rear edge of the pan cover? If it is too blunt/thick the pyrite drops a ways before hitting the wheel and that can break it and/or make for poor ignition.

The main problem I have seen on other people's locks is inadequate down-pressure on the pyrite. This can be from the external dog spring being too weak or the angle and alignment of the jaws to the wheel being wrong. Sometimes it is that the projections on the base of the dog that contact the spring are in slightly the wrong place or too short. That is assuming your wheel is hard enough to begin with. The Bolek lock I got has a dog spring like a bear trap and really good geometry. Even the width of the cavity in the pan can be an issue. Too narrow and the jaws or the leather or a misaligned bit of pyrite can hang up on the edge.

It's destructive of the lock to use flint. The wheel has to fit the notch in the pan very closely so the prime doesn't leak out. That means the wheel can't wear very much. That means the stone involved has to be softer than the steel. With a flintlock the flint is knocking bits/sparks off the steel. With a wheellock the steel is knocking bits/sparks off the pyrite.

I'm still a wheellock beginner myself, climbing up a steep learning curve and eating humble pie on a regular schedule, so don't take my word as great wisdom.


32 Cal.
Jun 18, 2011
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I'll second that. I use pyrite which I dug up myself and cut into cubes. I made the lock myself and I have to use my off hand to give the cock a little more pressure for a good spark. I think the toe on my cock is not quite right, so I will have to alter it a bit.

The pyrite is quite variable with how long it will last, some just crumble with the first strike, some will give a dozen or more shots. All part of the fun of old tools....[/QUOTE]

German Jäger

40 Cal
Jan 15, 2022
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Hello from Germany!
I have a Mendi Wheellock Pistol it is wonderfull an hits great but i also search the square Fire Startets i only buy at Ebay round ones..they dont work?! Hope for good Tips! In 2 Days i becsme a Wheellock Carbine new Build from a Guy near my Hometown👍🏻🍀
Dec 30, 2004
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New England
Old post … but …

I would not use those fire sticks, I think they are too hard and could hurt the Wheellock. You also don’t need hard cubes of pyrite.

Buy some pyrite pieces off of eBay or similar source, even if they look chunky or look like pieces of sand glued together. I call those ‘Crumblies’.

But I take those ‘Crumblies’, about the size of my thumb, and fracture them into smaller pieces using a hardened cold chisel. Secure in the cock jaw with thick, but soft leather, or where I’ve even glued metal paper to the leather to help hold those ‘Crumblie’ pieces.

I find that they almost ‘self-wipe’ in-between shots! I recall that I got over 60 usable pieces (once cut up) out of one package that I paid only $10 US for, sometimes getting > 30-shots per piece.
Jun 17, 2022
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Last week I went down to Westhampton Massachusetts to see Len Day Sr. and Jr. and pick up my new wheellock. I thought I'd share my joy with you folks.

This is a long saga that started with much pipe dreaming. I got kind of obsessed and started looking around for a maker. Of course, the world champion is Bolek, the Polish gunsmith, but he had a wait list years long. Steve, a friend of mine and fellow matchlock shooter had listened patiently to my rambling and that paid off. He was at an event at Fort #4 in Claremont NH and looked over at another sutler and saw a wheellock lock on the table. He asked about it and the sutler, a gunmaker, told him it was a lock made by some Polish guy. Bing! Steve made the connection and I bought the lock. It was a copy of an Italian lock used in the so-called John Alden gun found in Massachusetts. I didn't like that style so I did some research and found a regional Brescian style gun that I liked. I have a Len Day matchlock I like, and he is into wheellocks, so I gave the job to Len and Len. Fast forward a year.

Here are photos of the original:
View attachment 3396 View attachment 3398
View attachment 3397
The original, from the 1640s, is 43" long with a 32" barrel in about 54 caliber. It has a LOP of only about 10", being a transition cheek stock. There are other similar guns with longer shoulder stocks.

I decided that a longer 14" LOP for me would demand a longer barrel for visual balance, so I went with a stock 42" Coleraine octagon-to-round barrel. I wanted to save my overworked shoulder from recoil so I went for 45 caliber. These two things together are problematic in terms of weight. In retrospect I probably should have gone for a 50 or 54 and/or had the barrel shortened to 36" or so. I'll get steadiness and a left arm like Popeye.

Here's the new version:
View attachment 3400 View attachment 3401 View attachment 3402 View attachment 3403 View attachment 3399

I took it out shooting the day I picked it up, but it was about 7 degrees out and fumbling with patch and ball was ridiculous, so I got three shots off. It is heavy (about 10 pounds) but it balances nicely and doesn't waver. The cheek/sighting position is better than you'd think given the stock shape. Len moved the top ridge of the butt to the right a little and the surface is slightly concave. There is essentially zero recoil with 65 grains of 3F. It feels like a 22. The trigger pull is light and the ignition is plenty fast.

Now I have the happy labor of finding a ball/patch/powder combination it likes.
I found this thread from google, so apologies for the throwback. If you still have this gun, would you be willing to post a picture of its butt profile? I have seen a couple of these in books and online recently, but am having trouble visualizing how that part is shaped.

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