Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Shooting Justin's Flintlock

Justin and the club gunsmith finished Justin's rifle. We went to the range this weekend so I could try it out. The gun is a 'golden age' Pennsylvania rifle typical of what would be made in Lancaster county.

In any event, here's Justin taking a shot. The other shots you hear are from the shotgun range. This range is only for black powder.

And now it's my turn.

These rifles are pretty long (42" barrel on this one) and they're heavy. So you hold them in the crook of your left arm and prime the pan with your right hand.

The rifle shoots well. Sometimes when you shoot you have no idea why the ball hits where it does. With this rifle the ball hits pretty much where you point the rifle. Unfortunately I didn't always point it well ;-)

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

The Shooting Bag, Part 2

(continued from part 1)

The bag hangs on a strap that's 2" wide, from left shoulder to right hip. The strap is made of a long piece with holes in it (like a belt) and a shorter piece with a buckle. The differences in lengths keeps the buckle off the wearer's shoulder. Here's the buckle:

The powder horn attaches to the strap using it's own buckles. These are situated so they're about 8" above the bag.

Here's a close-up of one of the powder horn's buckles - it accepts a 1/2" wide strap.

Once the straps have been stitched on, the front flap is stitched on. It's stitched through the back of the bag as well as the straps, strengthening them. That's why the flap goes on last.

Here's the completed, unstained pouch. The straps still need to be cut to length.

And here it is, stained, with my reluctant model.

And Dottie and the left, Spice on the right.

Spice Girl!

After it was done we found out it's nearly too small. If I make another I'll make it wider. And the alcohol in the dye stiffened the leather considerably. It was horrible. I pretty much soaked the bag in neatsfoot oil and worked it like a baseball glove until is softened. It's usable now and will get better over time.

I wasn't too happy with the dye. It left lots of streaks. By the time I got the streaks evened out the bag was darker than I wanted. Still looks ok. But I think I'll try a different dye next time. The book I linked in Part 1 gives a recipe made of iron and vinegar. I think I'll experiment with it.

In any event, we're ready for the range!

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Shooting Bag, Part 1

A shooting bag is a small bag that includes everything a black powder shooter might need for an afternoon of shooting. I made one based upon the North Hampton pouch from Recreating the 18th Century Hunting Pouch by T.C. Albert. This pattern includes a gusset to increase the bag's capacity, a leather strap, and hangers for a powder horn. I'll be attaching the powder horn I made some time ago.

I bought all my supplies from a Tandy Leather store that's basically across the street from me. The owner was very helpful when I had questions. I bought about 10 square feet of 4 or 5 ounce leather. This is probably enough for 3 bags. It was hard to stitch sometimes; I think 3 ounce might have been better.

Here we see all the major pieces. The front and back are to the left, the flap is to the right, some reinforcements are below, and the gusset is at the very bottom.

I'm working entirely by hand. Before I can stitch, I first have to punch holes using an awl. Then I use a length of 'artificial sinew' (waxed nylon) with a leather needle at each end to stitch through the awl holes using the durable saddle stitch. It's a slow process and hard on my hands.

Here I've stitched the gusset onto the front. If you look sharp you can see that there's a 'welt' piece between the front and gusset. This will produce a nicer result. The stitches aren't perfectly linear. This is because I made the holes from the other side.

Here's the back side. I laid out the awl holes using an over-stitch wheel. This is a spiky wheel that leaves regular marks. Where there's a mark, you punch a hole. Easy peasy.

Now I've stitched the back onto the front and gusset.

You can see the welt here. Notice there are three layers of leather.

You might have noticed the bag seems to have the rough side of the leather on the outside. That's because the bag is made inside-out, then inverted. I soaked the bag in water to soften it, then turned it inside out. And here it is.

And now two views of the gusset. I suffered to stitch that thing, you're gonna have to look at it!

Now the straps need to be made. I'll continue in part 2.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Mr. Beer!

For father's day my son got me a "Mr Beer" home brewing kit. I mixed up a batch a few weeks back. After it fermented for 2 weeks I bottled it and then let it condition for another week. I tested beer #1 tonight. I'm delighted with it - it's better than any 'production' beer I've ever had. I'll let the other 7 bottles condition for another week.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Rifle, part 1

I've recently become interested in shooting black powder rifles. I ordered a flintlock rifle kit recently. The parts and stock are inspired by rifles common in Virginia around 1750. I ordered a 42" .45 caliber barrel and an extra curly maple stock. Think of it as "pimp my flintlock..."

Today the kit showed up, well packaged in a wood-reinforced cardboard box.

So, let's tear into the box and see what we have.

Here's the butt plate and trigger guard - they're cast brass and require filing and buffing. The trigger guard is 10" long.

Here's the lock and the trigger. The lock is a large Siler model, well known for reliability. For righties, the lock is mounted on the right side of the rifle. So you're seeing the bits here that will be inside the stock.
This style of trigger is called a "set trigger." Flintlock springs are designed to be very stiff so they act quickly to fire the rifle. This means it takes quite a pull to overcome them and release the lock mechanism. Here's the beauty of a set trigger: the rear trigger is pulled first. It does most of the work of firing the rifle. You pull the this trigger once you're pretty sure you're going to be shooting. The front trigger, having been relieved of most of the work, is now a hair trigger. It's easy to underestimate how delicate the front trigger can be. Most people fire their first shot pretty much accidentally. I know I did.

And now some bits, and another view of the lock.

The brass bits on top decorate the end of the barrel or retain the ram rod. To their right are the front and rear sights. The decoratively sawn brass bit is bolted to the left side of the rifle, opposite the lock. It's a glorified washer. The square piece of brass will be shaped a bit and screwed to the sharp end of the butt to prevent the stock from getting dinged up. The L-shaped doodad next to it is the breech plug. It screws into the barrel to close the end you don't normally see.

Here's a closer view of the right side of the lock.

Now here are some views of the stock. It's a block of wood. I have to remove and sculpt a lot of wood. I bet half the wood you see here will be gone when the rifle is completed. It's going to be... an adventure. Of course, that's why I bought a kit. Note the figure in the wood. When I get this done it should shimmer.

Here's the stock with the octagonal barrel in place. The barrel is .45 caliber and rifled for a lead ball. It's just under an inch thick and 42" long. I'll likely be wishing for a 36" barrel after a day of shooting...

Here's an end-on of the stock. The barrel will protrude from the end of the stock by about an inch. The stock is something like 56" long.

And from the side. The rifle is as long as my dining room table. Doesn't have to be, but that's the style.

I'm a member of a club for blackpowder enthusiasts. One of the members is an excellent gun maker. He'll be more than happy to give me a hand when I get stuck. It helps too that he has an early Virginia rifle - I can take measurements from it.

Stay tuned, this will be a long project.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

The Dinner Party

I threw my first dinner party last weekend in honor of my sister's birthday. I made chicken vindaloo, chutney with a flatbread, curried potatoes, and a mild stir fry for those who didn't care for spicy food. I cooked for 8 people which was plenty for my kitchen skills, or lack thereof.

After dinner we all retired to the backyard where some archery commenced. Sometimes, you just have to go with the flow.

Here's my aunt Ebbie. She broke her arm while showing Chuck Norris how to protect a burning orphanage from communist ninjas. She's tough.

Here's my lovely bride taking a shot.

Sarah and Grace.

Birthday Girl Allison!


Old Friends.

Allison again. Note the green blur to the left of the top bale. That's the arrow.

The bow string bit Sarah.

My mother Grey, Sarah and Grace, Kim, and old girls Spice and Dottie.

Tony shoots.

Grey, my fabulous mother, and Grace.

The gang watches Allison.

Suzie, Ebbie, and Mom.

A splendid time was had by all!

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

The Lathe Bench

I didn't care for the stand my lathe was on. It was a skeleton made of angle iron. There was nowhere to place tools, no room for a chip tray, and it wobbled. I decided to build a proper bench.

This bench is about 19" x 72".

The surface is made of three sheets of 1/2" plywood, glued and screwed together, topped with a thin melamine-covered fiberboard sheet. The plywood wasn't the best choice but I already owned it - this material was stuff I had been tripping over in my shop.

The surface is resting on ten 2x4 'joists' spaced 8 inches on center. The joists are supported by 2x8 aprons. The 2x8s are bolted to 4x4 legs.

The ends are 3/4" plywood screwed and glued to the legs.

Here's an apron with it's joist hangers.

Because I could!

The other apron side is completed and the joists test-fitted.

Counter-bored holes for the lag screws. Note the flaw in the wood. I recommend you pay attention to these things.

Here a leg is attached to the apron. I clamped the leg against the apron, squared them, and bored two 1/4" holes through the apron into the leg. After that I opened the hole in the apron to 3/8" so the screw wouldn't split the wood. You can't really see it in these pictures but there's a washer below the lag screw heads.

The aprons and legs all together. The joists have also been attached to the hangers with a screw at each end. There's a good argument for putting a sheet of plywood under the apron to make sure it doesn't bow outward.

A great deal of the bench's strength comes from the plywood ends. I hate raw plywood edges. Invariably I ding them and raise a bunch of splinters. Then I impale myself. I covered up the top and front edges with a piece of 1/2" thick pine, glued and nailed.

I attached each plywood end piece to the legs using Liquid Nails and 44 screws. That's a lot of screws but they are functioning as clamps. Besides, I've had them for 15 years. Might as well use them. They are 'Robertson' screws from McFeely's. Highly recommended.

And here we are, both ends attached. The base of the bench is complete. If it shows any signs of lateral racking I'll add a piece of plywood or a diagonal support to the back.

My son and I dropped in the three 1/2" plywood top pieces, spreading Liquid Nails between them. I 'clamped' the plywood sheets together while the glue dried by driving 50 screws through them into the joists. I used some pretty old Philips-head deck screws for this. They cammed out terribly. I'm cured of Philips-head screws now.

Screws. Yah. I could have used fewer. I'm glad I didn't.

I found a piece of fiberboard with melamine on one side. I used double-side tape to secure it to the bench. The fiberboard was leftover from another project. I was delighted to have enough, even if I did have to use two pieces.

And here's the lathe on its new bench. I haven't decided for sure where the lathe is going to sit.

And that's the bench. It's sturdy and economical. I spend about $70 on it, excluding the plywood top and fiberboard.