Craft Gunmaking, No compromises, No corners cut, EVER

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Restoration of a Fox XE Grade

Restoration, there's a word that makes me cringe whenever I hear it applied to guns.
All one needs to do is look on any gun collector forum to see proudly-displayed examples of most gunsmiths' "restoration" work.   What you'll likely see is funneled screwholes (thanks to the buffing wheel), metal finishes (usually incorrect) over rust pits, butchered screwslots, partially erased engraving, rounded corners and edges (the buffing wheel again) and wood usually below the metal (if not actually rounded over).   What is even worse is that many owners think that this work looks good.   Naturally their pride is bolstered by others chiming in with comments about how wonderful the work looks, either through their own inability to discern correct work from mediocre work or, heaven forbid, they might hurt someone's feelings.  Sadly, this inability to call a spade a spade is partly responsible for the proliferation of absolute hacks in this business.  Another reason is that some people are willing to price-shop this kind of work.  Personally, I don't think that substandard work is a bargain, no matter how cheap.
Here I will detail the CORRECT restoration of a Fox XE grade in 12 gauge.   The gun was in unenviable condition with an extensively broken (and sanded stock) no finish left on the frame, some rust pitting and a few small dents in the barrels.

Starting with the stock, which was broken in multiple places through the head and hand, had an inappropriate recoil pad and was sanded below the frame.   After removing the finish and the soaked oil, the first task is to make the stock structurally sound again.  In the first photo you can see that the entire triggerbox mortise is gone from the stock, thus providing no way for the breechscrew to draw the stock tight to the frame.   A new piece of walnut was machined to fit and it was all put back together.

With the stock structure repaired and refit to the frame, the next task is to "raise" the wood back to the level of the surrounding metal.  Obviously wood can't be built up by welding so a dyeable epoxy is used.

After the epoxy is fully cured it's filed and sanded flush to the metal.

I then went to work fitting a Silver's recoil pad.  This is the one area where I deviated from original practice in that I used a "spurred" pad, because it looks good.

After fitting the pad, the checkering was recut, the wood finished and the recoil pad was leather-faced, as was appropriate for an XE.

With the wood finished I then started the metal work.  The first project was to make new screws to replace the damaged breechscrew, breechscrew lock screw, triggerplate srew, hand screw and triggerguard screw.  At this point all of the metalwork has been annealed in preparation for for filing, polishing and recutting of the engraving.

With all of the screws made, the next step is to engrave them in the correct pattern.  All engraving is done with a push graver under a 20X microscope.

The forend iron suffered considerable pitting, which must be removed.  Following the removal of the pitting the engraving is recut.

There was also some pitting on the frame.  Again it was filed away, polished (by hand) and the engraving recut.

With the frame-related metal work finished the next step is the finishing of those parts.  Fox shotguns above C grade had all of the metalwork (aside from the barrels) color case hardened.  In the photos below the preparation for case hardening is detailed.

The parts after case hardening, cleaning and lacquering.

While the lacquer hardened on the frame and related parts I began work on the barrels.  The solder at the muzzles was mostly missing.  After clamping the muzzle so that nothing could move, I filled the gaps with solder, scraped the excess away with a chisel and finally polished the muzzle.

One of the extractor segments also had a broken/missing guide pin.

With the barrel repairs and polishing complete, the next step was to recut the engraving on the chamber area.

The barrels are blacked down on the frame and the last remaining operations are to rust blue the barrels and the detail polishing of the breech, flat and muzzle areas.

The barrels are blued and the detail polishing is done, finishing the job.

The glamour shots...


  1. Wonderful work Dewey, just wonderful!

  2. Good as new and should last another hundred years as long as it never gets worked on by a hack. Great save and beautiful work as always.