Craft Gunmaking, No compromises, No corners cut, EVER

Friday, December 8, 2023

Where Do These Ideas Come From?

 Apparently, due to the pistolsmithing (and other) work I've posted here lately, there are those who think that I'm no longer working on shotguns (doubles specifically).  I have no idea where that notion originates.  Do these people think that I've forgotten how to work on doubles because I work on something else?  Do they believe that "specializing" in one thing is the only measure of competence?  If it is the latter, have you noticed that I've got a whole blog full of posts showing the incompetence of which "trained specialists" are capable?

The facts are these:  Machines are machines and craftsmanship is craftsmanship.  If you can comprehend one mechanism, you can comprehend any mechanism and, if you're capable of craftsmanship, then it doesn't matter what you're working on, be it a pistol, a shotgun, a watch or a motorcycle.  

Since I'm on the subject of craftsmanship, here are a few tips in regards to the C-word:

#1 - The most important skill to develop is the ability look at your own work objectively, as if you were looking at someone else's, and if it's not up to snuff, either make it right or pitch it and start over.  This is called being conscientious.  For those unfamiliar with that word, you can find it in a thing called a dictionary.   I realize that that can get expensive but that's good incentive to do it right the first time.  Far too many people fall in love with their own work, seemingly in direct proportion to the amount of time that they have in it.

#2 - When you start getting impressed with yourself, take a deep breath, apply the above rule and embrace reality.

#3 - Don't be in a hurry to become a "master" because it will never happen.  It matters not how long you've done anything, you'll never know it all.  No matter what you do, you're always a student.  In this business, especially, only the most arrogant dare to refer to them selves as a "master gunsmith/gunmaker".

See that?  Sometimes free advice is actually worth more than you paid for it.

Monday, December 4, 2023

Quotes Best Ignored

 I don't put too much stock in quotes.  Too often they are nothing more than platitudes, misapplied and often misattributed.  A perfect example of the latter is Einstein's "The definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result."  

Number one, that is NOT the definition of insanity and, number two, Einstein never said it.  That quote is from a book, written in the 1980s by Rita Mae Brown, titled Sudden Death.  

Then we have the ever-popular and supremely trite "All politics is local."  The next time anyone throws that one at you, ask for an actual, coherent explanation of its meaning (um, uh, and random stuttering do NOT go toward word count).  

There are two quotes that particularly make my skin crawl though, mostly because, on a daily basis, I interact with the results of those quotes being taken to heart.  They are "Perfection is the enemy of the good." and, "Done is better than good."

These two quotes attempt to legitimize the ideology of the incompetent, the belief of the bungler, the mantra of the mediocre.  If you agree with either (or both), and have little to no mechanical comprehension and manual dexterity, combined with the know-it-all hubris of a teenager, perhaps a career in the gunsmithing field is for you.

Pursuit of Perfection by Other Means

 For those of you who might be interested in such things, I've created a separate blog to cover the watchmaking work.

Sunday, December 3, 2023

Sleeving an A.A. Brown BLE

 This gun came in to repair a failed rib "tack down" job and turned out to be a shining example of the consequences of such half-assery.  At some point in the past, the Brown featured here had experienced a partial rib separation, which, to properly correct, would necessitate the complete removal of all ribs and forend lug.  It seems that whoever was responsible for this mess didn't think that all of that work (and expense) was necessary.  Their brilliant idea was to simply use lots of acidic flux to get the solder to adhere to the steel.  Clearly, our hero gun-plumber either didn't know, or care, about the consequences of leaving that acidic soup between the ribs (I'm betting that both are true) because the job was "done".

Yes, the foul stew that is American (and English) gunsmithing, which seems to consist of equal parts ignorance, incompetence, arrogance, witchcraft and hubris, has provided yet another bad example for your viewing pleasure.


After removing most of the rust:


If some of those areas of pitting look pretty deep, it's because they are.  Here is one of the tubes after cutting it off.

The mating edges of the rib also suffered.

At this point, if the title of the post wasn't enough of a clue, it's clear that sleeving is the only cost-effective route to salvation for the gun.  Here are some photos detailing the process.

 Because I do not do "TIG" sleeving, the tubes must mate perfectly to the (now "monobloc") breech, so that the seam will be invisible.  If you think that TIG sleeving is a good idea, have at it, but I prefer not to have the chamber and the rest of the tube be joined by a brittle HAZ.  There is probably a good reason that no factory monobloc designs are welded.

After the time consuming job of filing new mating surfaces on the top rib, the whole works are tinned, cleaned, rosin fluxed, fixtured and soldered into an assembly.

At this point, the barrel assembly would be cleaned and the chambers and extractor bed recut, but, we have a bit more fuckery to remedy.  You see, when the barrels were last "repaired" and reblued, our hero polished the breech faces of the barrels to the point that the barrels are now off the face.  Now, the typical jerk-off "gunsmiff" would get out their TIG torch, weld up the barrel hook with a birdshit mess of weld, then use a Dremel tool in a futile attempt to get the hook to actually fit the hinge pin, blissfully oblivious to their own idiocy.   Because the hinge pin in this gun is screwed in, I made its replacement from O1 so that it could be heat treated (through hardened and tempered).

The finished (and heat treated) pin installed:

Followed by the original outer cover screw:

Now, the barrels are blacked down and the chambers and extractor beds are cut.  Notice the red grease on the frame knuckle?  That's there because the forend iron is in place during the blacking down process.  This is because the forend iron's function is to pull the barrels tight onto the hinge pin, stabilizing the joint.  That's why one does NOT remove the forend to check if a gun is off the face.

You'd think we were near the end but, no, there is more dipshittery to correct.  Apparently, someone thought that they could make a toplever spring, in two parts, welded together.

Naturally, work of this caliber wouldn't be complete without at least one trashed screw slot.

The chokes are adjusted to the client's specifications and the barrels are polished in preparation for recutting  the engraving and rust bluing.

Wednesday, November 15, 2023

Not the Average Super Redhawk

 It's a Hamilton Bowen "Real Super Redhawk"(or GP-44), which is a standard SRH which has undergone major frame surgery, in order to lose the integral scope interfaces and accept an old-style Redhawk barrel.

This results in the classic look of the original Redhawk, with the superior lockwork (and grip) of the Super.  Unfortunately, it retains the ugly factory hammer, which is why the customer sent it to me.

Yes, yet another Python style hammer (the process of actually making the hammer has been detailed elsewhere, so I won't repeat it here) .  But for this one there were some further frame modifications that were needed beyond the usual internal "de-boogering" (removal of internal casting imperfections).  

The Python hammer profile is partly characterized by the way that the arc at the base of the hammer meets the underside arc of the spur.   Recreating this on a GP-100 is fairly straightforward, since that design shares the same bore and cylinder centerline distance as the Colt.  On the big revolver though, it's a different story.  The SRH's lockwork pivots (including the hammer's) are in the same location as those of the GP-100 but, obviously, the centerlines of the bore and cylinder are further apart AND, higher above the hammer pivot axis.  This is a long-winded way of saying that the SRH's hammer is taller (much) than that of the GP and the spur is commensurately higher up on the hammer (the SRH hammer is nothing more than a GP hammer that has been stretched in the middle).  

This presents a problem in recreating the Python hammer profile and proportions that will actually fit inside the Ruger's frame because, since the bottom of the hammer is the same as a GP's, then it would follow that the opening in which the hammer travels is also the same size as that of the GP-100 (it is).  This means that, if I took the same route that Ruger did, and simply stretched the hammer, the convex arc of the hammer's base would not come anywhere near intersecting the concave arc of the spur, spoiling the desired look.  The obvious solution is to design and make a cutter that pivots on the hammer pin and cuts the internal arc at the rear of the frame to a larger radius, in order to accommodate a hammer with a larger base radius.  Got it so far?  Good.  If not, the photos will hopefully clear it up.

Monday, September 18, 2023

Un-!@#$%^^-ing a Greener F45

 Here's an interesting gun and one that proves "best quality" is defined by craftsmanship, not features.  it's a Greener F45 in 12 gauge that was apparently ordered as a waterfowl gun, as evidenced by its massive size, factory 3 inch chambers, full and full chokes and factory stock reinforcement straps.  Sadly, one or more failed-plumbers-turned-"gunsmiths" had visited their incompetence upon the gun over the years.  Things like the damaged screws and the engraved ends of the hammer and sear pivots being beaten smooth are fairly typical but someone with much more ambition than ability, and no semblance of a clue,  had made an attempt at "adjusting" the trigger pulls.  The result was that, with the gun cocked and the barrels open, the chambers were so far below the top of the frame that they could not be loaded without first pushing the barrels further open.  This is because both sear noses had been shortened during the attempted trigger pull improvement.  This necessitated making new left and right sears.  "Why not just weld 'em up and refit?", you ask?  Because you can't, for reasons that I will not go into here, because I've covered them elsewhere on this blog.

Generally, boxlock sears are fairly simple parts, but not so in this case, because this gun is also equipped with interceptors and the curvature of the sear tails, both horizontal and vertical, is "built-in", not done after the fact by heating and bending.  The pivot areas also have raised contact pads (to minimize friction) on both their inboard and outboard sides and, the factory inletting for the sear tails is extremely close, allowing just enough clearance for function and no more.  All of this, combined with the shape of the parts and the fact that they are finished better than the outside of some guns, meant quite a bit of work lay ahead.

The new sears are made from O1. 

Every screw slot in this photo was damaged.  Luckily, our hero used a screwdriver that was too thick, which meant that the damage was limited to the topmost edges of the slots, and could be cleaned up by shortening the heads slightly, thus exposing the undamaged portion of the slots.  Sometimes it's the little things for which I'm most thankful.

Here are the new sears in place.  Note the interceptor sears, which are operated by the forward end of the trigger blades.  If you look carefully, you can see the engraved ends of the new hammer and sear pivot pins.

Here is a shot of the inletting with the new sears installed, after fitting, heat treating and polishing.  Like I said earlier, it's pretty tight.  Proper craftsmanship demands that a new part be made to fit and function without altering anything else.  That means making the sears fit the inletting, NOT taking a Dremel to the inletting to clear a sloppily made part.  Got it Jim Bob?

With the lockwork sorted out, it's on to the barrels to replace the worn cocking dog (which was causing late cocking and thus hard opening after firing) and its mangled retaining screw.

The new dog is made from O1, heat treated and polished before installation, while the retaining screw is made from 1018 and case hardened.  The new dog is fitted with .0005" (half a thousandth) clearance to the hammer "toes" when in the fired position. This is so that the hammers will begin rotation immediately when the barrels do, thus retracting the hammer noses from the primers and allowing smooth opening after firing.

Finally, I made and engraved replacements for the screws that attach the reinforcement straps to the frame, as well as the triggerguard screw, because the originals were so mangled that there was no way they were going to be used.