Recreating History

Recreating Historically Correct Shot Pouches, Powder Horns and Fraktur

With regard to the recreation of traditional muzzleloading accouterments and historical objects, I base my work on original shot pouches, powder horns, and fraktur without trying to make an exact copy of any particular item.  I try to imagine myself  in the place  of a particular 18th or 19th century tradesman or artist and make a shot pouch, or powder horn or produce a piece of artwork that he or she might have created.  I feel that there should always be something of myself in everything that I make, consistent with the stylistic elements of the maker, shop, or region that I am trying to re-create.

Recreating an 18th & 19th Century Workshop

lathe, bandsaw, and other power toolsIn an effort to put myself in the shoes of the original gunsmith, horner, harness maker, or artist  I use as many 18th & 19th century tools and techniques as is practical.   While I do use some power tools such as a band saw, drill press and a couple of lathes, I still use chisels, gouges, scrapers, rasps, and files as my primary instruments in the creation of a powder horn.  workbench with chisels and filesThe leather work is done entirely with hand tools.  All the fitting and finishing work in my cabinetry is done with period tools and techniques; and the same type of dip pens, inks, brushes, and water colors, are used in my fraktur as they were for the originals.  Most of my wood and horn finishing is done in the 18th century manner using fine files and scrapers with very limited use of sandpaper and Scotchbrite pads.  This results in a somewhat rougher finish complete with tool marks consistent with the finish of the original products.   That way,  you get both the look and feel of the original item.

Customer Expectations Before 1840

Sample Geburtschein fraktur using Design 1
Sample Geburtschein fraktur using Design 1

All the work is done in the manner of an 18th century workman as much as is possible.  This means getting the job done in the quickest and most efficient manner possible spending time only in those areas likely to be seen by the user and to a level of finish expected by an 18th or early 19th century customer.  As the shot pouches, powder horns, and fraktur I recreate were mostly made before the industrial revolution (about 1840 in America), when everything was handmade,  the expectation of the customer in terms of fit and finish was much lower than a 21st century buyer who is accustomed to products being absolutely identical and perfect in every way.

Fit & Finish Expectations for Mark Elliott’s Shot Pouches & Powder Horns

Banded powder horn and early VA shot pouchMy goal is to produce a functional pouch, or horn of superior quality that looks like it came out of an 18th or early 19th century shop.  That means that I don’t try to produce an item that is highly polished and blemish free.   A powder horn will have a scraped surface with occasional tool marks, and blemishes.  Leather work may be scuffed, wrinkled, and stained to show some use. Paper may be stained and wrinkled to represent the effect of aging. Many times, I will use period finishing techniques such as vinegar and iron (ferric acetate) stain for a blue/black color. Horns are generally colored yellow/orange using aqua fortis (ferric nitrate).


2 thoughts on “Recreating History”

  1. I desire to make these kinds of guns but don’t know where to begin. I don’t even have an appropriate work space yet. A fully carpeted basement is what I have and it is there that I’d like to work, not a cold, damp garage. How would you describe the work space I’d need? I have artistic ability and patience. We paid off our mortgage recently so I have wiggle room. I’d like to get serious about building these guns. Would a starter kit be appropriate? Recommendations on training resources?
    Gregg Anderson
    Dayton, Ohio

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