The flats on a barrel

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tom in nc

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I just saw, on a YouTube video, a demo of how guns were made in the mid 1800s, that I had not seen before. Just can't find it again right now or I would post a link. One thing I hadn't seen before was a grinder to make the flats on a round barrel. I had always seen demos showing the flats being hammered then filed.
The barrel, after being reamed and rifled, was clamped above the grinding wheel in a carriage that moved to be ground. Interesting.
 

plmeek

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Grinding the exterior of the barrel was by far the most common technique used for most barrels. The romantic notion of an individual gunmaker forging a barrel and making all the parts of a gun as shown in the Wallace Gusler video "Gunsmith of Williamsburg" from 1969 was not how most gunmakers worked. We have many period documents showing that most gunmakers bought commercial parts (barrels, locks, and mounts that were imported from Europe and later made in America) and simply stocked their rifles and fowling pieces.

There were also commercial "boring mills" set up in Colonial America that made barrels for the regional gunmakers. The term "boring" was used at that time to mean the same thing we call "reaming" today. Boring mills were built as early as 1719 in the Lancaster area by Robert Baker and Martin Meylin.

The larger operations used water power to run trip hammers for forging, boring or reaming the forged barrels, and large grinding wheels to shape the exterior of the barrels.

The grinding wheels could be used to grind both octagon flats and round barrels. Two types of grinding methods are shown in these period illustrations.

Musket_gun_barrel_milling_machining_machine_1700s_french_Diderot_400_dpi_threequartpage_600_dpi.jpg

Grinding barrel profile.jpg


It's not unusual today to pull a barrel on an antique rifle and still see grinding marks on the hidden flats of the barrel that the gunmaker didn't bother to file off.
 

tom in nc

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Thanks. Plmeek, interesting pictures. I love the grinding wheel in the second piç. Big enough to do 2/3 of the length of a barrel at once. I love seeing the way guns were made back then. Two of my great, great grandfathers were gun builders in southern VA, then later in western NC. One's name was George Washington Nichols. If I were to find an original gun with GWN on it I might wet my pants.
The other was Reuben Coffey.
Screenshot_20211208-140919~2.png

This George W Nichols and his wife. She was a Fender, the guitar makers family.
I have no photos of Reuben Coffey.
 
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Red Owl

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Some of the original Colt firearms were rifles, not pistols and I think Colt bought the barrels from the Henry outfit in Bolton, PA. In any event by the mid-1800's there were folks that made and sold barrels.
 

Bighorserider

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I just saw, on a YouTube video, a demo of how guns were made in the mid 1800s, that I had not seen before. Just can't find it again right now or I would post a link. One thing I hadn't seen before was a grinder to make the flats on a round barrel. I had always seen demos showing the flats being hammered then filed.
The barrel, after being reamed and rifled, was clamped above the grinding wheel in a carriage that moved to be ground. Interesting.
YouTube has a history of everything you watched. That's the easiest way to refind something.
 
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This is an example of what the fellows are mentioning. Unknown maker, London lock, 36 cal target. Turns out the barrel was marked and he was a barrel maker in the 1840s.
 

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JCKelly

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For how American military arms were made, get: Harper’s Ferry and the New Technology, Merritt Roe Smith, ©1977

And: Hitchcock & Muzzy, later Muzzy & Co., of Worcester, Massachusetts, supplied steel barrels to the private trade (ref. Frank M. Sellers, American Gunsmiths, The Gun Room Press, Highland Park N.J., ©1983 and 2nd Edition ©2008)
 
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tom in nc

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I have the Foxfire books, love #5 with the gun building and powder making article. I recommend it/them to anyone interested in life in America's past.
 

plmeek

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I just saw, on a YouTube video, a demo of how guns were made in the mid 1800s, that I had not seen before. Just can't find it again right now or I would post a link.

Is this the YouTube video you saw?



The type of barrel grinding shown in the video is like the first one I showed above. That image is from Diderot's encyclopedia from the 1700's. Here is another view showing more detail of the machine.

Barrel Grinding detail.jpg


The second image I showed above is from an English broadsheet documenting various industries in England in the early 1850's. So the basic method of making and shaping gun barrels was the same from the 1600's to the mid-1800's. The only thing that changed was the source of power--initially human hand power and later water and then steam power in the industrial revolution.

As more and more iron smelting operations sprang up in America, so did more boring mills. By the 1800s, there were a number of manufactures that specialized in making gun barrels. Some were standalone like the Pannabecker family of Lancaster Co. and others incorporated barrel making and lock making on an industrial scale as part of their gun making business such and the Henry's of Boulton and Leman of Lancaster.

The picture below is not the best quality. It's a scan from Dillin's The Kentucky Rifle of the Henry's grinding stone at Boulton. This picture probably dates to the early 20th century, long after the grinding wheel and the rest of the gun factory was no longer in use.

Henry Barrel Grinding Wheel.jpg
 
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