No Compromises, No corners Cut, EVER.

No Compromises, No Corners Cut, EVER.

Friday, March 8, 2019

Leather Covered Pad (with a twist)

The gun is a Holland Royal and the client specified a 14 1/2 inch pull length, nothing unusual there, except that the pull length was 14 inches to the wood and he didn't want the stock cut if it could be avoided.  This meant that the pad had to be 1/2 inch thick.  The pad also would have to be of a construction that was deep enough to get screwhole plugs from, which ruled out any currently available Pachmayr and pretty much anything else.  What I needed was a half-inch thick Silver's no.3 but there is no such animal.  Well, you know what they say about necessity being the mother of invention.  I took a standard one inch Silver's and separated the red, "soft" rubber portion from the black, hard rubber base and removed the needed amount from the inside of the soft section.  I then reattached the pad and base and proceeded as usual.   Why not just shorten the pad from the back?  I'm glad you asked.  Because a Silver's has an oval pocket molded into the pad portion that is deep enough to keep that from being a workable solution.  The gun also had a pretty good example of a badly done leather covered pad, the dreaded leather covered hotdog bun.


The shortened Silver's pad:

The finished job:

Beretta ASE 90 Stock Repair

This is a Beretta ASE 90 that suffered a broken buttstock through the webs where the hand joins what would normally be called the head.  In this gun, the stock is very thin in this area because of the added frame width, necessitated by the detachable trigger unit.  It appears to have suffered a side load applied to the stock, sufficient to crack the wood.  How it happened, exactly, I do not know but the grain structure in the area didn't help matters any.  There are some that think grain flow doesn't matter in a drawbolt application, they are mistaken. 

After chipping the loosened synthetic finish from the broken areas, the separated parts were prepped for reattachment to make certain that the repair would be as invisible as possible.  Once all was back in one piece, I machined it internally to accept ply and carbon reinforcements.  After that, the inletting was recut, the repaired area was refinished and blended, and finally, the checkering was recut.

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Westley Richards LOP Adjustment

This was a new Westley Richards Hand-Detachable in 28 gauge with pull length that was a bit long for the owner.  The original butt was checkered and he wanted the finished product to look original.
It was cut to the desired length and then I shaped the contours of the face of the butt to correspond to the original configuration, then I checkered it at 24 lines per inch (in the factory pattern) and finished the exposed wood to match the rest of the stock.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Bass Ackwards, But...

Sometimes you just don't have a choice.  The gun is a Westley Richards GN-series, 12 gauge and the problem is that the forend tip somehow went missing in action.  The shank of the screw that held it on was still in the pushrod tube portion of the forend iron.  So, after removing the remains of the screw (it's a 7BA, for those of you who are curious) and cleaning up the original inletting, the real fun begins.  Normally, one inlets the wood to accept the metal part, but here it's just the opposite, meaning that I've got to make a part to fit the original inletting and external contours.  I assure you that smoking steel and scraping wood is a WHOLE lot easier than shaping steel to fit the wood.  The fact that the forend tip is a total bastard to hold while shaping doesn't make the job go any faster either.  I did as much as I could while the part was still attached to the bar of 1020 from which it came but eventually, it had to be cut free in order to finish shaping it.

The forend, disassembled

Little by little, the part is sunk into the existing inletting

Then it's cut free to shape the external contours

The shaping is complete

One last check of the fit and then it's prepped for finishing.  I had a few other small parts to color case harden, so this went in with those.

The finished part

Wednesday, November 28, 2018

Barrel "Ringing"

"Ringing" the barrels of a multi-barreled gun to check the integrity of the rib joints seems like it should be an easily done and easily understood procedure.  Apparently, it's not.  It seems that some can't tell a "ring" from a "clank".  I don't think that this is because of any hearing deficiency but rather, they just don't know exactly what it is that they should be listening for.  The following videos will hopefully shed some light (or add some volume) on the subject.  Another thing to keep in mind is that the "ring test" is only valid when the barrels are bare, no extractors, ejectors, forend latch parts, cocking slides, etc.  BARE barrels.  This applies especially in the case of American guns because of the level of imprecision with which these parts are fitted.  If these parts are left in place, they will affect the way the tubes vibrate and therefore, the way that they sound when struck.  The barrels must also be hanging freely, ideally from a wire by the hook.  Definitely not with the lump pinched between the thumb and forefinger, or with the hand wrapped around the chambers.  Finally, it does not matter whether the barrels are for a rifle or a gun, they should sound the same.

You'll want to make sure that the volume is turned up.

Here is an example of what you don't want to hear.

 This is the sound you do want to hear.   Not "sort of" or "kind of" or even "pretty close", this is the only sound that will emanate from barrels with sound (pun intended) rib joints.

 For comparison, here is a video with both barrels, hung side-by-side (ha! I kill me).

Thursday, November 15, 2018

Westley Richards 1897

This was a Westley Richards 1897 falling block rifle in .450 caliber.  It had at one time been rebarreled and whoever made the sling eye didn't get the shape of the sling eye quite right.  It looked more like that of a Rigby rifle and had a deep machine mark in the base as well.  I reshaped the existing part to more accurately reflect the shape that would have been found on a Westley Richards.

The sling eye as received

After a bit of file work

Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Things You Hear, Part 2: Insults and Ignorance

In the interest of full disclosure, the following will be a rant.  Parts of it may be amusing, but still a rant, none the less.  It might even serve the purpose of clarifying a few things, so here goes.

Sometimes people ask things that just make me shake my head, other times, they ask things that make me think that my head is going to explode.  I'd like to think that most of the time there is no ill will intended, but sometimes.....

To wit:

So, What Do You Actually Do? 
A.k.a., What's your "real job"?
This one is really a head scratcher.  Perhaps it has its roots in the number of hack dabblers that have taken their crimes against craftsmanship to the next level by getting an FFL, hanging out a shingle and "going pro" when they should concentrate on their day jobs. 
My business is my livelihood and my sole source of income.  I do not have a stock portfolio, I do not collect a pension from a prior real job and my wife does not have a "sweet gig" that allows me to "play gunsmith".
Please note:  The above is in no way an indictment of the serious, and seriously talented, hobbyists out there.  Many of those guys could teach the "pros" a thing or two.

Who Does Your _________?
For the billionth time, I DO NOT FARM OUT WORK.  If I offer a service, I'm the one who does it, period.

But He's a Master Gunsmith.
No, the person who bodged up your gun is not a "master gunsmith".  There are NO "master" gunsmiths in America precisely because there is no guild or apprenticeship system in America to create apprentices, who then go on to become journeymen, and then finally, masters.  Anyone who presents himself as a "master gunsmith" should be viewed with as much suspicion as one can muster because he's the one who gave himself that title.  There is at least one gunsmithing school that actually awards a "master" diploma, for completing a third year.  Three whole years of "school", truly, they must be masters.  I could go on and on about gunsmithing schools in this country, but It's too depressing.

But He's an English-Trained Gunsmith.
A British accent is no guarantee of competence, nor of honesty.  Why gun people go all gooey over a Brit accent is a bit of a mystery to me.

Who Would You Recommend To _____________?
I get this one a lot.  Why someone would call or e-mail a gunsmith and ask them to recommend a gunsmith is a bit baffling to me.  It seems a bit like asking your dentist if he knows a good dentist.
It's rude, don't do it.

Can You Tell Me How To ______________?
When people e-mail me or call me on the phone asking how to do something (usually very specific), it can only be seen as a minor miracle that my f*****g head doesn't explode.  Do these people call a lawyer asking for free advice?  How about calling the car dealership and asking how to fix your car?  Call a plumber and ask him to literally talk you through replacing the water heater?  I didn't think so, but for some reason there are some people who own guns that think that's okay to do.  They go on forums and spout off about socialism and other political nonsense, but when they need information about working on a gun, they suddenly turn into a pretty good imitation of "socialists", meaning they want free stuff, in this case, information.  The internet seems to have made everyone believe that "mere information" should be free, for all (community and all that).  Well then, go to the internet gun forums if you want free information, it will usually be worth exactly what you pay for it.

Can You Give Me a Quote?
No.  I can give you a rough idea of the cost but, until I get inside the gun, I won't know the extent of a problem, nor can I know what previous "gunsmithing" needs to be corrected.  Most old guns have been worked on at some point in their existence and that work varies widely in quality.

That Seems Awfully Expensive.
You're paying for skilled labor that, literally, a handful of people in this country are capable of performing.  This is not flat-rate wrench-slinging at the Chevy dealership.  I won't even get into how many hours that I don't bill for just because I want anything that I do to be as good as I can do it.
I'm also pretty sure that most good plumbers charge more per hour than I do.

But I've Already Got _________ Dollars In It.
To be blunt, I don't care.  What you paid for the gun has zero effect upon the value of my time, which is non-negotiable.

What Can You Do For ______ Dollars?
Nothing.  I do not, and never will, work down to a price.  I would either have to do the entire job for your price, at lower quality, OR, I stop work once I've hit your dollar limit.  I choose neither.

Can I Have It By ________?
See here:

Thursday, November 1, 2018

Sidelock Sear Spring

The patient is an AyA Number 2 SLE with a failed primary sear spring in the right lock.  Luckily, the interceptor performed as designed and kept the tumbler from falling and causing an unintended discharge.  The Number 2 is a straight Holland pattern sidelock, nothing unusual or novel about the design.  So how does something so ordinary warrant mention in my gallery of the weird, odd and unusual?  Well, first off, there are no unimportant parts in a shotgun.  Secondly, because the failed part is a perfect example of how not to make a spring.  I don't know if it was because an apprentice was entrusted to make the part, if it was made just before the weekend or if a bit too much txakoli during lunch played a part but, no matter, let's get on with it.

The original spring.  Now, we all know that the limb(s) of leaf and V-form springs should taper, gracefully and continuously, being thicker at the root and thinner at the extremities so that the entire limb flexes from tip to root.  The maker of this particular part didn't get the memo, however.  The lower limb collapsed right where you'd expect it to do so.

This spring has an integral tab on the back side of the top limb that engages a slot in the lockplate to keep the spring from simply rotating around the mounting screw.  A piece of O1 flat stock with sufficient thickness was selected and the blank for the new part was cut from it.  O1 generally isn't the first choice for forging but it can be done in thin sections (such as a spring), as long as it's done at the proper temperature.  With the crotch of the spring formed, the back side was machined and filed to create the aforementioned locating tab.  Then the mounting screw hole was drilled and the rest of the spring was filed up in the usual manner.

I also filed up the "ring" around the mounting screw hole a bit more artfully than the original.  After fitting it was heat treated, polished (by hand) and the lock reassembled.

The gun also needed a new right side striker because the original was bent, causing it to stick and not retract.  I didn't document that part of the job because we all know what a Holland pattern striker looks like.

Sunday, October 28, 2018

Some More Mythbusting

If you ever find yourself at a gathering of collectors of American doubles and need a conversation starter, the subject of triggerguards and nitre bluing should make for a lively exchange.  There are those who correctly state that the nitre method was the finish used and, invariably, there is a self-styled guru in the opposite camp. There are only two factory-original finishes found on the triggerguards and other peripheral parts of a classic American doublegun: nitre blue or casehardening.
The assertion that the only color that the nitre methods yields is the bright "peacock" or "fire" blue is patently incorrect, and serves only to illustrate ignorance on the subject.   The nitre method can yield colors anywhere from a light straw color to black.  I routinely blacken parts using the method, and I do mean black.  This is without adding any chemicals to the nitre bath.  The idea that the finish is too "delicate" or "short lived" to be used on a triggerguard is nonsense as well.

Prior to 1937, the hot caustic black oxide (commonly known as "hot bluing") method did not exist.  The Mauser firm was the first to use it and by 1938-9 it had made its way to America.

The methods that existed for blackening steel prior to the above-mentioned "hot blue" were rust bluing, nitre bluing, charcoal bluing, heat bluing, Carbona bluing (also known as machine bluing, among various others) and paint (that's not a joke, Winchester finished their stainless steel barrels with a product called "black Japan" which, effectively, was paint).

Where "classic-era" American doubles are concerned, no American maker EVER rust blued any parts EXCEPT barrels, neither did the British.  The British used the labor-intensive charcoal method to blacken the furniture on their best-quality guns and the nitre method on their lesser, production guns.  Only the Germanic makers ever rust blued everything (they seemingly had quite an affinity for the process).  If I had a buck for every so-called "restoration" (there's that word again) of an American double that I've seen with rust-blued triggerguards and forend irons, I'd be able to retire to the Bahamas.
I repeat, all American doublegun makers used rust blue for barrels ONLY.  Any peripheral parts such as triggerguards, toplevers and forend irons that were not color case hardened were in fact, nitre blued.  I know this to be true because the finish is called out on the parts drawings of some American manufacturers.  There is no reason to believe that all American makers would not use the exact same finishing methods, especially when that method is perfectly suited to mass-production by semi-skilled labor.  I have seen actual original examples of the finish on these parts and I can duplicate them perfectly, as can quite a few others.

Savage was an early adopter of the hot caustic method which greatly sped up the finish process.
The only Fox guns that did not have nitre blued furniture are the very latest production, Savage-built guns. In fact, the very last Utica-made guns may be encountered with hot-caustic blued barrels because Savage started brazing the entire barrel assembly, ribs, forend lug and all, specifically so that the time-consuming rust-blue process could be eliminated entirely.  This practice apparently continued on with the production of the 311 and Fox Model B (which itself was a tarted-up 311).

Speaking of Fox guns, there are times that I wish that Michael Macintosh had never written that book.  As a biography, I can find no fault because I know nothing of Ansley Fox's life, but the book does contain technical inaccuracies regarding the gun itself. 
 Things like the Sterlingworth pin guns being made from surplus PAC frames (which is not possible) and the existence of Chromox frames.  All Fox frames were made of SAE 1020, this is proven by the material callouts on the actual drawings of the frame forgings.  This includes all Philadelphia-era drawings and the Utica-era drawings.

The drawings, #D264 (dated 01/28/1910), #D302 (dated 07/25/1911), #F1 (dated 05/24/1938 Savage) and #F201 (dated 06/31/1938 Savage) all call out the same material specification and that specification is SAE 1020.  How do I know this?  I have photocopies of the drawings.  

The exception to the above are the New Britain Fox guns.  Those frames are made from 8620, which is a Chrome/Nickel/Manganese alloy with the same carbon content as 1020.  It has a much higher yield and ultimate strength than 1020 and is meant to be carburized (case hardened) like most other low-carbon steels.  The assumption that modern break-action guns use "4140" in their frames is also incorrect and seems to be rooted in the notion that 4140 is some sort of magical "gun steel" that is universally used in firearms production.  I blame this on gun-rag writers that (for the most part) know less about guns than their readers and toss this number into an article in order to sound credible.  The use of 4140 is nowhere near as widespread in the gun industry as many people believe.

Macintosh's assertion that a "Chromox" frame can be identified by how "shiny" it gets when worn is hogwash of the highest order.  The late frames' wear to a brighter finish is entirely due to the cyanide carburizing process that replaced the bone-charcoal carburizing process (coincidentally at the same time that the Chromox frames were supposedly introduced).  The cyanide process yielded a much harder surface than the previous method and a harder surface will naturally be brighter as it's worn from handling. 
"Chromox" was a name that Fox's catalog copywriters came up with for a particular barrel steel.   The fact that a catalog copy writer stated that the frames were also made from the same material means nothing.  It's called advertising.

He also stated that the early Sterlingworth "pin" frames were made from leftover P.A.C. frames, which is physically impossible.  There is, in fact, evidence that the P.A.C. guns were not even made in Philly, but that's a story for another post.  Suffice it for now to say that the P.A.C. frames (and forend irons) may well have come from the same forging as those of another well-known maker.

A comparison of Fox "pin" Sterlingworth and P.A.C. frames: clearly neither was, nor could have been, made from the other. 

An example of nitre blued parts that are neither "peacock" nor "fire" blue in color.  The triggerguard, trigger, barrel selector and the toplever spindle screw (just ahead of the guard) are all nitre blued.
How do I know?  Because I'm the one that finished the parts (and the rest of the gun).