To Dave Person, Gunbuilders and locks

Help Support Muzzle Loading Forum:

Darkhorse

45 Cal.
Joined
Oct 3, 2003
Messages
756
Reaction score
241
Location
Georgia
Hi Dave, When you deliver a rifle to a customer have you tuned the lock or do you deliver it the way it came out of the box? With all the problems one must encounter still present?
If you do tune the lock do you go the long way and incorporate the neat tricks and fixes you have figured out over the years.
Across the board of gunbuilders today do most of them tune or at least polish inside the lock before handing it over?
I personally feel the gun should be balanced and the lock tight and slick when cocked. Even if it takes extra time to do so?
I personally feel the gun should be as right as possible when finished and that includes a smooth trigger pull and a basic well tuned lock. And I don't consider a rifle finished until it is turn key and ready to shoot.
I might have it all wrong and if so that is what I'm trying to determine.

Thanks, Darkhorse
 

dave_person

54 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2005
Messages
3,640
Reaction score
3,554
Hi Darkhorse,
I consider myself a muzzleloader gunsmith not a builder. I can fabricate every part except the barrels if I have to. No gun leaves my shop without a fully tuned lock and trigger pull adjusted per objectives. For example, for some reenactors, the trigger pull has to be greater than 3lbs, while target shooters like it in the 1-2 lbs range. All locks get polished inside and out and the exterior treated as per the objectives. I always remove the bead blasted surface of cast parts and all seam lines. Leaving those is a clear indicator of hasty or amateur work. Locks by different manufactures differ with respect to the tuning and polishing work involved. For example, Chris Laubach's Germanic lock needs no tuning or polishing work whatsoever. It is the only lock made that I would slap on a gun and say go. The lock that came on the Kibler colonial rifle kit I posted did not need any work other than polishing off the outside cast surface and cutting teeth in the flint cock jaws. Chambers locks are almost as good but I make sure all casting seams and surface texture are filed and polished off, all internals are polished and the also the inside of the plate, and springs may need a little balancing. I think locks by Caywood and Hollenbaugh are in the same class. All the other makers' locks usually need a lot more work and sometimes even replacement parts to bring them up to speed. I try to avoid using them unless I must to satisfy the objectives for the gun.

Finally, Darkhorse, I often heat treat the lock parts myself. I do not recommend folks doing that unless they are set up to do so and are knowledgeable. For example, any supplementally heat treated parts are probably not covered by Chambers warrantee. However, I anneal frizzens, and internals to make it easier to work on them as well engrave the frizzens. That means they have to be hardened and tempered again. While lock plates and flint cocks don't necessarily need to be hardened, over the years I've seen the shoulders on lock plates where the cock hits them get peened down and rounded over from impact. Anyway, I usually case harden and temper lock plates, flint cocks, top jaws, frizzens, tumblers, sears, and bridles. However, I have a programmable heat treating oven so I can set temperatures and time very precisely for the parts and alloys used.
Here are some inside and outside views of locks showing the level of fit and finishing I apply.






Even on this Brown Bess lock, the parts are precisely fitted, edges crisp , and surfaces polished although the heat treating colors hide shine.



dave
 

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
12,790
Reaction score
5,272
Hi Darkhorse,
I consider myself a muzzleloader gunsmith not a builder. I can fabricate every part except the barrels if I have to. No gun leaves my shop without a fully tuned lock and trigger pull adjusted per objectives. For example, for some reenactors, the trigger pull has to be greater than 3lbs, while target shooters like it in the 1-2 lbs range. All locks get polished inside and out and the exterior treated as per the objectives. I always remove the bead blasted surface of cast parts and all seam lines. Leaving those is a clear indicator of hasty or amateur work. Locks by different manufactures differ with respect to the tuning and polishing work involved. For example, Chris Laubach's Germanic lock needs no tuning or polishing work whatsoever. It is the only lock made that I would slap on a gun and say go. The lock that came on the Kibler colonial rifle kit I posted did not need any work other than polishing off the outside cast surface and cutting teeth in the flint cock jaws. Chambers locks are almost as good but I make sure all casting seams and surface texture are filed and polished off, all internals are polished and the also the inside of the plate, and springs may need a little balancing. I think locks by Caywood and Hollenbaugh are in the same class. All the other makers' locks usually need a lot more work and sometimes even replacement parts to bring them up to speed. I try to avoid using them unless I must to satisfy the objectives for the gun.

Finally, Darkhorse, I often heat treat the lock parts myself. I do not recommend folks doing that unless they are set up to do so and are knowledgeable. For example, any supplementally heat treated parts are probably not covered by Chambers warrantee. However, I anneal frizzens, and internals to make it easier to work on them as well engrave the frizzens. That means they have to be hardened and tempered again. While lock plates and flint cocks don't necessarily need to be hardened, over the years I've seen the shoulders on lock plates where the cock hits them get peened down and rounded over from impact. Anyway, I usually case harden and temper lock plates, flint cocks, top jaws, frizzens, tumblers, sears, and bridles. However, I have a programmable heat treating oven so I can set temperatures and time very precisely for the parts and alloys used.
Here are some inside and outside views of locks showing the level of fit and finishing I apply.






Even on this Brown Bess lock, the parts are precisely fitted, edges crisp , and surfaces polished although the heat treating colors hide shine.



dave
Hi Dave,

Really enjoyed reading the above and viewing the pics you posted!

Just curious, do you "register" or "time" the Bridle and Sear Screws so they can be snugged down correctly, but don't interfere/cramp the Tumbler or Sear?

I haven't been inside a huge number of original locks, but even the very high grade Nicolas Boutet Saw Handled Flintlock Target pistol I worked on at the 1998 World Championships, did not have the screws done that way.

Gus
 

dave_person

54 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2005
Messages
3,640
Reaction score
3,554
Hi Gus,
I am usually very practical about that. I don't worry much about the bridle and sear spring screws. I just make sure they tighten down to hold the bridle and the spring. However, when I make a lock, I will register the threads on the sear screw. Often, depending on the lock, I will make make a screw with a shank larger than needed for the threads so there is a shoulder that snugs against the lock plate. A lot depends on the size of the sear and if it can accommodate a larger hole. I make sure the frizzen is rotating on a smooth shank without threads. For locks without pan bridles, I do the same as with sear screws. I use an over sized screw blank so I can make a shoulder that tightens against the lock plate. On commercially made locks, I make sure the sear screw does not pinch the sear. However, if it tightens enough so it won't move with the sear or loosen, I may leave it at that even if it could be tightened a little more but pinch the sear. However, if it is really badly registered, as many commercial locks are, I generally make a new screw. On some of the poorer quality locks I have to do a lot of fitting, flattening the plate, refitting sloppy bridles, making sure the tumbler hole is actually round, etc. Often that requires new screws. Locks can be a lot of work because they are a system and you can rarely fix or change just one thing without requiring a chain of fixes. I forgot to mention in my previous post, I use Kasenit (or Cherry Red) to quick case harden the heads of all external screws so they resist wear from ill fitting turnscrews. On locks I build, I also harden the heads of all the internal screws as well.

dave
 

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
12,790
Reaction score
5,272
Hi Gus,
I am usually very practical about that. I don't worry much about the bridle and sear spring screws. I just make sure they tighten down to hold the bridle and the spring. However, when I make a lock, I will register the threads on the sear screw. Often, depending on the lock, I will make make a screw with a shank larger than needed for the threads so there is a shoulder that snugs against the lock plate. A lot depends on the size of the sear and if it can accommodate a larger hole. I make sure the frizzen is rotating on a smooth shank without threads. For locks without pan bridles, I do the same as with sear screws. I use an over sized screw blank so I can make a shoulder that tightens against the lock plate. On commercially made locks, I make sure the sear screw does not pinch the sear. However, if it tightens enough so it won't move with the sear or loosen, I may leave it at that even if it could be tightened a little more but pinch the sear. However, if it is really badly registered, as many commercial locks are, I generally make a new screw. On some of the poorer quality locks I have to do a lot of fitting, flattening the plate, refitting sloppy bridles, making sure the tumbler hole is actually round, etc. Often that requires new screws. Locks can be a lot of work because they are a system and you can rarely fix or change just one thing without requiring a chain of fixes. I forgot to mention in my previous post, I use Kasenit (or Cherry Red) to quick case harden the heads of all external screws so they resist wear from ill fitting turnscrews. On locks I build, I also harden the heads of all the internal screws as well.

dave
Very interesting Dave,

Thank you.

I assume you also case harden the body of Sear Screws, so the Sears always turn smoothly as well?

Since it was difficult to get blank screws for many metric sizes, I used to turn down the underside of the heads of Italian lock screws and then case harden them when they registered correctly, or at least as best as I could get with what I was working with.

Gus
 

dave_person

54 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2005
Messages
3,640
Reaction score
3,554
Hi,
Thanks Mike!

Gus, I've done exactly the same thing. There are times when I think I cut just the right length of threads but when I install the screw, it tightens down a tiny bit too far. So then I file a little off the bottom of the head to extend the clear shank enough to register the screw. I don't try to harden the shanks of the sear or frizzen screws, just the heads. In the process the shanks probably get hardened somewhat anyway but I've never found that necessary for wear or performance and I always make sure the whole screw is tempered after I harden the heads because I don't want to risk breakage from use or when tightening down the screw. The risk for that is highest for the tumbler screw. Because the actual screw shank is small and short, it gets heated red hot by default when I harden the head. I make sure that whole screw is tempered to blue thoroughly because I had one break off during firing. The screw was too brittle from incomplete tempering.

dave
 

rich pierce

70 Cal.
Joined
Nov 27, 2004
Messages
5,411
Reaction score
1,573
Location
St. Louis, Mo
The practices vary among builders. Some professional builders do no lock tuning and some do no polishing of the externals. This is to meet the customer’s pricing requirements. The work involved in small tuning of internals and polishing external surfaces seldom runs less than 6 hours of work for me on Chambers locks for example. Other makers’ locks may take twice as much time to fix some functional issues that prevent top performance. Because I have never built guns to pay the bills, I do what I feel is needed to achieve the appearance and function I feel is right, regardless of the time required.
 

Artificer

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
12,790
Reaction score
5,272
Hi,
Thanks Mike!

Gus, I've done exactly the same thing. There are times when I think I cut just the right length of threads but when I install the screw, it tightens down a tiny bit too far. So then I file a little off the bottom of the head to extend the clear shank enough to register the screw. I don't try to harden the shanks of the sear or frizzen screws, just the heads. In the process the shanks probably get hardened somewhat anyway but I've never found that necessary for wear or performance and I always make sure the whole screw is tempered after I harden the heads because I don't want to risk breakage from use or when tightening down the screw. The risk for that is highest for the tumbler screw. Because the actual screw shank is small and short, it gets heated red hot by default when I harden the head. I make sure that whole screw is tempered to blue thoroughly because I had one break off during firing. The screw was too brittle from incomplete tempering.

dave
Hi Dave,

Not sure if this is the right thread for this, but your blued lock got me to thinking about the approximate times some of the parts "upgrades" came into general use?

The first is what I call the bosses or bolsters on both sides of tumblers, but some folks call bearing rings. I honestly don't know what the "correct" nomenclature of these are, so I included a pic of one below. This pic is from a left hand lock tumbler, so that's why it may look a bit strange.
1632249166238.png


As I understand it, these "anti-friction" bosses didn't come out until the 19th century, even on high grade flintlock locks. Is that correct?

A second question somewhat pertaining to these bosses. I originally learned to do lock work and trigger jobs on musket and other later locks that had this feature. When working on 1816 musket and other locks that don't have these features on the tumblers, I learned to "sort of" add this feature by careful filing then polishing a ways beyond the tumbler arbors/spindles so it came closer to this feature to reduce friction. Was that something done in the 18th century before this feature was developed.

Next question, when did they begin adding the stirrup to flintlock tumblers as shown in the pic below on your blued lock? Were they mostly pinned on Flintlock Tumblers, or did they also make separate Stirrups, as was done later of percussion locks?
1632250906325.png


Last question, when did they begin using rollers on frizzen springs? I mention this because I was surprised how many rather plain locks had them on rather plain original flintlock rifles on display at the Alamo. This suggested to me they thought this was a pretty important modification to the frizzen spring, to have used them even on plain locks?

Gus
 

Rifleman1776

Cannon
MLF Supporter
Joined
May 26, 2011
Messages
16,845
Reaction score
1,408
Location
Arkansas Ozarks
A builder named John Braxton used to camp next to us at Friendship. He was from an eastern state, as I recall. His specialty was Jaegers. He built all parts (locks, screws...everything). Many of his guns went to museums to fill in gaps in collections. He was (hope still is) a great master. Some of his guns had the locks and screw heads bright fire blued. When he did that it was correct for the period he was making the gun to represent. If he said it was OK, it was OK.
 

dave_person

54 Cal.
MLF Supporter
Joined
Nov 26, 2005
Messages
3,640
Reaction score
3,554
Hi Frank,
My friend, Rich Colten, is about as knowledgeable about NE guns as anyone alive today and he found evidence on French trade guns of those same screws being fire blued. In addition, on many French locks the pan is detachable like a Siler lock, and those pans were fire blued while the rest of the plate was polished bright.

dave
 

Darkhorse

45 Cal.
Joined
Oct 3, 2003
Messages
756
Reaction score
241
Location
Georgia
I take pride in my lockwork and will only hunt with one of my rifles and one of my tuned locks. However I would gladly use a lock tuned by Dave than one of my own anyday.
 

FlinterNick

50 Cal.
Joined
Nov 1, 2018
Messages
1,496
Reaction score
621
I’m starting out, learning a lot of odds and ends in the hobby / profession for some. I’ve had some projects turn out pretty good and then a few disasters. The disasters were poor stock grades, I blame the stock carver, the stocks were just not cut well so I had to try and steam, twist and taper the foreStocks. There’s a lot of risks with a pre-carved stock.

One of the most intimidating things for me was barrel pinning, ironically I’ve never missed a lug on any kit i’ve made.

Entry pipes have been somewhat of a challenge of late.

I’ve got a few lock kits for the Rifle Shoppe which I‘ve been able to complete with success and some small failures. One such failure was tapping the tumbler slightly crooked, I fixed this by drilling a little further in and retapping, seems to work fine.

The best investment I‘ve ever made in my shoo was a heat treating oven. Working with torches and gauging colors of heat treatment and tempering is one of the most complicated and time wasting tasks i’ve ever done.
 

Latest posts

Top