Wednesday, October 11, 2017

The Granite State Hot Rod (Fox)

The metalwork on this project was detailed here:   It was also detailed in the July/August 2016 issue of Shooting Sportsman.
The owner is a proud New Hampshire native and wanted the "Old Man of the Mountain", a New Hampshire landmark, engraved on the bottom of the frame.  After some thought and discussion, we decided to incorporate as many state-specific features as possible into the gun.  These will be noted with the photos.

The Old Man of the Mountain

Purple Lilacs (state flower) on the screw heads and triggerguard bow

"Granite" texturing in place of checkering (inspired by Cannon Mountain)

The state seal and the outline of the state, the "ivory" dot is the capitol.

Heel and toe plates of Paper/White Birch  (the state tree)

Ladybug front bead of faux ivory (the state insect)

The glamour shots

Some photos from the owner

Saturday, September 16, 2017

William Evans SLE Crossover

This Evans crossover gun is one of a true pair (yes, the client owns both) and had a broken right mainspring and stirrup.  A crossover gun is a gun that is made to shoot using the eye opposite from the side that the gun is shouldered.  Usually they are encountered configured for a shooter that is right-handed but left eye dominant, as is the case here.  Below are photos of the fabrication of the needed parts.

The forged 1095 stock from which the mainspring will be made.

 The finished mainspring, and the broken original

Here you can see the bend in the lockplate.  The extreme cast-off that is characteristic of a crossover gun actually starts at the breeches, so the lockplates (and the internals) are bent accordingly.

Making the stirrup (or swivel, if you're a stickler for the English parlance)
It is machined from a piece of O1 and the pins of the replacement part are actually round, unlike the hand filed original.

A few shots of the assembled gun

Friday, September 1, 2017

Gunmaker Math

1 gunsmith + conscientious workmanship * a substantial backlog ÷ by √ of the prior bodgery = a substantial wait

The above equation is my lame attempt at a humorous explanation of why it sometimes seems like it takes "too long" for a client to get their gun back.   The following is a more accurate accounting of why things sometimes take a while. 

I am a one-man operation, which means that I wear all of the hats, all of the time.  When a tool breaks, I'm the one that either repairs it or makes a new one.  When a piece of my ancient machinery breaks down, I'm the one that repairs it.  I'm the secretary, the book keeper, the shipping / receiving department, maintenance man, and the one who makes sure that all of the federal, state and local paperwork is in order.  I'm the one that answers the phone and e-mail.  When I'm not doing one (or more) of the above, I actually manage to work some gunsmithing into the course of the day.  On that subject, please keep in mind that the guns that I work on are usually very old and are all, to a great extent, handmade.  There are no replacement parts available for much of what I work on, which means that whatever is needed must be made in the same manner that the original was made, by hand.  For example, a mainspring for a typical boxlock takes about 3 to 4 hours to actually make and heat treat.  This does not include disassembly, cleaning or reassembly of the entire gun.  A mainspring for a Beesley will take me about 10 to 12 hours to make, again, not including getting things apart and back together.  One will take me from the start of my day to lunchtime and the other will consume an entire (long) day.  Another thing to consider is that one's gun is not the only gun in the shop.  I will not get into the number of jobs that are here at any given time but it is not insignificant.  I've heard people talk of gunsmiths "holding their gun hostage", which I take to mean keeping the gun but not working on it.  To do so makes no sense to me since unfinished guns equal unpaid bills.  That said, I would never half-ass a repair simply to get it done in a hurry.  Done right is always better than done over, and good enough is simply unacceptable.
Lots of people tell me that I should get an "apprentice".  They have no idea of how bad an idea that would be.  An apprentice would be of not only no value to me, but negative value, since an apprentice by definition is inexperienced.  I wonder how many of those that suggest I get an apprentice would be happy to hear that I'm going to have him work on their Purdey.  Real gunsmithing takes real time and there is simply no way around that.

The above is not written as a complaint or a rant, or as any sort of excuse.  I simply wish to accurately illustrate why it takes me longer to fix your shotgun than it takes the Apple Genius™ at the mall to fix your phone.

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

From the Raw Update - Gettin' Wood

Well, metal and wood have finally met and are getting along swimmingly. 

In these photos, the wood is wet with mineral spirits to show the figure.

I wanted the old-school look of a wedge type forend retainer, but with the convenience of an Anson latch.  The design I came up with achieves both goals.

Here's a video of the forend latch.

Friday, June 16, 2017

A Fox of a Different Kind

The best kind...

Why a Custom 1911 is So Expensive

Anyone who is into shooting knows that a custom 1911 can consume quite a bit of lira.  In this post I'll show you where at least some of that cost goes.  I won't bother showing things like frame/slide fit, barrel fitting, extractor shaping/tuning or any other internal work since those aren't very photogenic processes.  Those are obviously all done as they are the basis of a truly accurate and reliable 1911, but for this post I'll concentrate on the visible items.

We'll start with the frame.  A beavertail grip safety is a given on any custom 1911 since not only does it offer a larger surface area over which to distribute recoil, it also offers a much higher grip on the pistol when fitted correctly.  Moving the hand closer to the bore axis greatly aids in controlling muzzle flip.  Some "custom" pistols exhibit less than perfect fitting of this part to the frame.  Less than perfect is unacceptable when a client is paying the kind of money that this costs.

Let's get on with this part.  There are "filing jigs" commercially available to facilitate filing the frame horns to accept the grip safety.  The problem is that when one of these is used, it invariably results in unsightly gaps where the part meets the frame.  All beavertail safeties are investment cast and the internal contours and radii are never perfect.  The first action item is to true the internal radius of the grip safety, otherwise it can never be fitted seamlessly to the frame.

After the frame horns are cut and roughly contoured, the smoking and filing begins.  This is no different than blacking the barrels down or inletting the stock on a fine shotgun.  It takes MUCH longer than using a filing jig but the results are well worth the effort.

Once this part of the job is done, the external fitting can begin.  I always think of just about all aftermarket "custom" parts as blanks to be finished by the gunsmith.

With the barrel and bushing properly fitted, the rear of the slide was filed and polished to perfectly mate with the back of the frame when the slide is in battery.  The extractor and ejector are installed for this operation as they form part of the rear contours.  The top of the slide was serrated, cuts for Novak front and rear sights are made (a Kensight adjustable is used) and the slide is treated to a decorative border at the topside and beveling on the bottom edges.  The front strap was serrated (20 lpi) in a diamond pattern (this client's preferred design) and material was removed behind the triggerguard to facilitate a higher grip.  The final frame modifications are a beveled mag opening and trued contours.

The finished job.