On Traditional Crafts

Recreating Historically Correct Flintlock Rifles & Accouterments

1775-1785 Augusta/Rockbridge Virginia Flintlock Longrifle showing polished and engraved Chambers Early Ketland flintlock with heat blued screws.With regard to the recreation of traditional longrifles and accouterments, I base my work on original flintlock longrifles, 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 build a longrifle, shot pouch, or powder horn or produce a piece of artwork that he 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

Virginia longrifle maker working at the bench, at night, in shop light.In 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 for the initial roughing out of a gun stock, I still use planes, chisels, scrapers, rasps, and files as my primary instruments in the creation of a flintlock longrifle.  Many of the same hand tools are used in the making of horns, but I do use a modern wood lathe for turning tips, bands and base plugs.    The leather work is done entirely with period hand tools, materials and finishes.gunmaker at his workbench with tools; files, chisels, gouges, hammer, scrapers, etc...  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 metal finishing is done in the 18th century manner using fine files and scrapers with very limited use of sandpaper and steel wool.  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 in the 18th & 19th Century

Rifle #12 Right Wrist in vise on flintlock longrifle maker benchAll 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 longrifles, 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 M. Elliott’s Longrifles & Accouterments

Rifle #12, flintlock longrifle after 1800 Rockbridge Co, VA, patchboxMy goal is to produce a functional gun, 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 gun stock or powder horn will have a scraped surface with occasional tool marks, blemishes, and in the case of a gun or shot pouch, a satin oil finish.   Iron/steel parts on an 18th century gun will be polished armory bright or possibly charcoal blued. Some 19th century guns will have iron/steel parts browned or blued. Brass or silver will be polished to a fine satin finish with relatively sharp corners. All metal parts may have a patina added to simulate a few years of gentle use. Leather work may be scuffed, wrinkled, and stained to show some use. Paper may be stained and wrinkled to represent the effect of aging.



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2 thoughts on “On Traditional Crafts”

  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?
    Thanks.
    Gregg Anderson
    Dayton, Ohio

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