Craft Gunmaking, No compromises, No corners cut, EVER

Monday, June 11, 2018

Attention Auction Bidders

My proximity to the newly merged Morphy's / James D. Julia auction house allows me to offer pre-bid inspections of any firearms in upcoming auctions.  The Pre-Bid Inspection/Evaluation is the same as the pre-purchase inspection/evaluation service that I've offered for years.  With a Pre-Bid Inspection/Eval, you can bid with the confidence of knowing the exact condition of the arm at the time of inspection, its critical dimensions, condition (both mechanical and cosmetic) and any rework or repairs that may be needed or have been done in the past.  While Julia's has always had a very good reputation as far as describing their lots, sometimes mistakes are made and let's face facts, the seller will usually "highlight the good points" of an item.  As a neutral third party, I will describe the item fairly and truthfully, both good and bad so that you, the bidder will have no surprises in store.  The cost for this service is modest at one hundred fifty dollars, think of it as cheap insurance.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Beretta SO-5 Conversion

Here is a Beretta SO-5 Sporting Clays gun.  The original stock was of typical Italian target gun contour, tightly curved pistol grip, deep toe line and generally "heavy" looking.  The owner much preferred the look of the factory straight hand stock and forend without the unsightly schnabel end.
The factory metal finish was a bit tired and rough as well so that was also addressed during its stay.

 The buttstock and forend in their original configuration

The first cut

The client also wanted a spurred Silver's recoil pad (in red).

The original pistol hand triggerguard strap was cut off and new material welded in place.   The engraving on the new guard strap was designed to "mesh" more harmoniously with that of the rest of the gun.  The original engraving looked a bit like an afterthought and the "SO5" looked a lot more like "SOS".

The new strap and screws look much better thanks to Geoffroy Gournet's engraving.

Here is the butt shaped, finish sanded and ready to start the point pattern checkering.  Also note that the schnabel has been removed from the forend.

The finished job, much more aesthetically pleasing

Friday, June 1, 2018

Rising Bite, Bar-in-Wood, Sidelock, Sidelever, 28 GA (#008)

Or, it will be in the near future.  Another one of my own design, from scratch.  Aside from the bar-wood action, the rising bite and the sidelever, it's going to be pretty conventional.  A hammerless, breechloading homage to the percussion-era, when British guns reached their aesthetic zenith.
The barrels are 28 inches, it will sport a straight hand stock with Westley Richards-style grip safety, splinter forend (wedge retained, of course) and the target weight is five and a half pounds.

The rough tubes, raw on the left, rough filed on the right

The breeches are of dovetail lump construction.

Clamped for brazing, I know, black iron wire is "traditional"but for the task of brazing (and the temperatures involved) it simply doesn't compare to stainless worm-drive clamps.

The frame

The barrels and frame are jointed.  The blocks soft-soldered to the barrels are temporary.  They are machined to be parallel and square to the lumps and barrel flats.  Their purpose is to facilitate clamping in the mill and bench vise.

The frame is machined for the striker bushings.

The start of the forend iron

Machining the extractor bed

The forend lug is made and silver brazed in place and the forend iron is rough-shaped.

The triggerplate is started.

The triggerplate and inboard portion of the sidelever.

The outboard portion of the sidelever blanked.

Making the swivel for the spring that will power the sidelever and bolts.

Making the triggerguard bow.

All of the parts of the bolting, sidelever and extractor mechanisms.

Jointed, bolts fitted and extractor mechanism fitted.

Time for some hammer and chisel work!  The left fence is roughed in.

A little  further along with the shape-up.

Triggers are made and hung.  The safety mechanism is also made.

Time to make the lockwork...
First, the tumblers and stirrups

The bridles and mainsprings

Almost done, the sear springs remain to be made and installed.  I didn't take any photos of the sears, screws etc., I was too busy filing.

Here's a video clip of the right lock.

Making the left lock

Both locks made, but not finished

I wanted something other than the typical "cocking indicators" on the exposed ends of the hammer pivots, so....

Now on to the triggerguard, that all-important piece that can either make or break the looks of a gun.  After forming the bow and strap, they're TIG welded together and final shaping and fitting can be done.  I wanted to do something different here but it had to be subtle.  What I came up with looks simple, I assure you it was not simple to do.  I'm pleased enough with the result that I've decided to forego the planned grip safety.

 Here are a couple of shots of the gun assembled into the pattern wood (minus the lockwork guts).  Once I make the forend wedge and escutcheons and the forend tip/finial, I can begin stocking it.  All of the external screws are "work" screws.  The final screws will be made during stocking.  There is nothing in the photo to give the gun any scale, so the dimensions may help.  The width at the fences is 1.75 inches, and the height from rib to triggerplate is 1.8 inches.

This is the blank that I had planned on using (though now I'm not sure) and a photo of the metalwork on it.

While some of the finish screws can't be made until the gun is stocked, the "metal-to-metal" screws can be made prior.  These include the triggerplate screw and the lockplate screws.

The frame shaping is done, forend hardware is made and it's ready for stocking to its owner's dimensions.

The more I looked at the stock blank that I'd originally intended to use, the less I liked it.  After some looking, I found a blank that I liked.  This will do nicely.


And, the internal finishing, all done by hand.  You will find highly polished beveling (anglage) around the edges of the bridles, watchmaker style screwheads with flat heads and beveled edges, Cotes de Geneve (Geneva stripes) on the flats and matte graining on the sides, along with matted lockplate flats.  It all must be done by hand in order to maintain the contours and flats of the parts because flexible buffing wheels would ruin the flats as well as the edges.  The tumblers (hammers) and sears are gold plated.  The finishes were inspired by one of my favorite watches (the Lange & Sohn Zeitwerk).  Notably absent is any of what is incorrectly referred to in the gun world as jeweling or "engine turning", correctly called perlage (or "spotting").  I loathe this finish and, in my opinion, it only looks good on the bolt of a bolt action rifle.  Too many makers employ this finish as a dazzling distraction from poor quality workmanship, which is effective because of its "busy" appearance.  I prefer finishes that highlight the workmanship, rather than hide it or distract from it.  Is any of this necessary?  No, and that's the whole point.

 There were some detail changes as the gun progressed.  In keeping with the watchmaking-inspired lockwork finishes, I incorporated ruby jewel bearings for the pivots in the lockplates, as well as crystal cocking indicators (I like the idea of a "window" into the inner workings).  The floral patterned screws were replaced with less "busy" looking (and, I think, more tasteful) watchmaker-style screws.  The tapered, beveled and polished "trim pieces" around the lockplates and the recoil pad add a bit of distinctive, yet understated, automotive-inspired "pizazz".  The recoil pad is covered in black kangaroo leather and the stock is, obviously, Turkish walnut.  The forend retaining wedge is "headless" in the interest of symmetry, its internal retaining pin also acting as a stop pin, so there is no need for a large head on one side of the wedge.  The name "badges" on the lockplates (another automotive influence) were cut from .020" nickel sheet on my pantograph.