Friday, October 20, 2017

A Full-Figured Fowling Fox

It's a Utica-era Sterlingworth Wildfowl model.  These were made up from leftover HE-grade (Super Fox) parts and unfinished HE-grade guns.  They're also the only Sterlingworth to have a Deeley type forend latch.
This one has 32 inch barrels, 3 inch chambers, Kautsky trigger, ejectors and factory beavertail forend.  It was caked in dried, darkened oil and once cleaned shows almost unbelievably little use.  Sadly, the gun had suffered some damage, every iota of it caused by a fumble-fingered attempt at removing the auto-safety link.  I was puzzled that the damage to the grip area of the wood had no counterpart on the strap portion of the triggerguard.  Upon disassembly, it became clear that the damage to the wood occurred while it was off of the gun.  Apparently the stock was dropped, damaging the grip and breaking the grip cap (which our intrepid hero duly schmutzed back together).  The auto safety link was missing, although black staining in its bore spoke of it having been there originally.

Here is the gun as it arrived.  Notice the lack of damage (other than a screwdriver slip) to the triggerguard.

The grip cap was beyond any hope of salvage.  It was broken in half, badly glued back together and chipped at the front.  While pondering the time it would take to steam the dents, I made a master for a new grip cap and from that I made a silicone mold.  With the mold I could cast a new grip in black urethane and correctly fit it to the wood when the time came.

The dents actually did steam up almost completely but I'll wait until the end so as not to spoil the surprise.  So, with joy (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) in my heart, I went about making screws to replace the butchered originals.

As I stated earlier, this gun has seen damned little use.  How about almost 100 percent, original, Savage era, cyanide case hardening colors.  Yes, the rest of the gun looks as good, right down to the ornamental "lining" of the barrel breech faces.

The grip repair.  Yes, it's the same wood.

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.