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.

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