Applied tip powder horns, as the name implies, have turned horn, antler, or bone tips that either screw onto or are pinned to the powder horn body. These are professionally made horns that had turned butt plugs as well, and sometimes turned horn bands. Screw-tip powder horns were made as early as the French and Indian War in Philadelphia and spread west into Pennsylvania and south into Virginia and North Carolina. The best supported explanation for the purpose of screw-tip powder horns, as presented by Art DeCamp, is that the turned screw-tips (and other applied tips ) allowed for the mass production of powder horns where each step of the manufacturing process could be handled by one person. Turned horn bands and turned wood base plugs served the same purpose. By turning all these parts, a fancy powder horn could be made quickly by professional horners.
I performed all the steps myself for the screw-tip powder horns displayed below. Each is an example of a Virginia screw-tip powder horn. The single turned band is the defining feature of a Virginia powder horn. The shape of the base plug is characteristic of powder horns from the middle portion of the Valley of Virginia. As with most southern screw-tip powder horns, the screw-tips on the powder horns below have an internal thread. The powder horn bodies have an external thread. Both these horns have turned walnut stoppers. Both screw-tips are dyed to match the base plugs and stoppers The band on Horn #5 below is also dyed horn. The base plug on Horn #5 is maple stained with aqua fortis. The base plug on Horn #6 is walnut. Both powder horns are stained with aqua fortis and aged.
I will make any banded, screw-tip powder horn, with a turned base plug like the ones shown here for $250 plus shipping. See FAQ for more information on ordering custom work.
Below is another kind of applied tip powder horn. This one is based on an early Virginia horn documented in Jay Hopkins book; Bone Tipped & Banded Horns, Vol 1; pp. 138-9. This horn has a pinned turned antler tip. The butt plug and stopper are turned curly maple. The wood, horn, and antler were stained with aqua fortis (iron nitrate). The butt plug and tip were pinned with steel (iron on the original) wire pins.
I will make a similar pinned tip horn with a turned base plug for $215 plus shipping. See FAQ for more information on ordering custom work.
If I can make a powder horn for you, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. The availability of any particular horn design depends on the availability of an appropriate unfinished horn in my inventory.
Right or Left Hand Carry for Powder Horns?
What is right or left hand carry? Simply, it is the side of the body on which a horn is intended to be worn. Historically, a curve of the tip to the left as viewed from the top is a right hand carry horn and also from the right side of the cow. A curve of the tip to the right would historically be a left hand carry horn and from the left side of the cow. If there is no significant curve of the horn as viewed from the top, then the horn can be easily worn on either side with no conflict. Most horns have so little curve it really doesn’t matter much and the modern pattern of carry is frequently opposite of the historical pattern.
Carrying a horn on the same side of the body as it came from the cow results in the tip pointing toward the body and the base pointing away from the body. I also like the base of the horn to point toward the body, as do many modern wearers, so I usually use the opposite side horn and rotate it about 90 degrees so that both the tip and the base of the horn point into the body. This makes a horn from the left side of the cow into a powder horn you can carry on the right side of the body. This is my personal preference, but not generally historically correct. Historically, powder horns were usually carried on the same side of the body as they came from on the cow. If you want to be completely historically correct, you need to understand that.
Sometimes a horn that is technically a left hand horn might wrap around the body better on the right hand side and vice versa. So, in describing a horn, I will tell you whether a horn is historically a left hand or a right hand. Then I will tell you on which side the horn was built to be carried, if it is different. I will also try to include a photo from the top of the horn so you can see the curve for yourself. On which side you actually carry a horn, that is up to you.
Shown here is an outfit that I made for myself consisting of an early Virginia shot pouch and a Virginia banded, screw-tip powder horn. Most of the shot pouches made these days are relatively complicated affairs using designs from the early to middle 19th century. If you want a shot pouch that is proper for the 18th century, take a close look at this shot pouch and powder horn. I put together an outfit that I felt would be proper for 1775 on the Virginia frontier.
There are very few examples of shot pouches from the 18th century. So, I was fortunate to be able to study an original early Virginia shot pouch that matches the size and construction of another published (Clash of Empires exhibition catalog, p. 30) pouch known to date to the period of the French and Indian War. This original Virginia shot pouch was documented by Wallace Gusler in the December 2009 Muzzle Blasts(pp. 4-8).
The original one piece pouch is square at the bottom (although the corners look rounded due to use) and stitched up the sides with a very fine stitch very close to the edge. A divider that is open at the bottom serves as a welt between the front and the back of the bag. A pewter flap button is anchored to a stag horn button on the inside of the pouch. The stag horn button was covered by a round piece of leather that served to prevent the user’s hand from catching on the button. The flap extends approximately halfway down the front of the bag and has a slight beaver tail shape with a welted edge.
The original bag did not have a strap attached and was missing part of the leather at one attachment point. However, there was evidence of a strap stitched to one side and a button hole on the other side. Actually, it was just a rough cut hole through which two buttons might have been tied to each other. Wallace Gusler indicated in his article that he believed two linked buttons (as in a cufflink) connected the strap to the bag using the button hole. The hole on the original pouch went through the welt and front of the bag as the back was torn away at that spot. I believe, the button was originally placed on the inside of the back and eventually pulled through tearing the back. That is why I did not run the button hole all the way through all three layers of leather on my recreation of the pouch.
I have made a number of hunting pouches based on this original. I have generally maintained the size and shape but varied the construction (i.e. external vs. internal stitching), the type of strap (i.e. leather vs. woven) and the type of attachment (i.e. location and number of buttons) for the strap. The original pouch actually appears to have rounded corners due to wear, and I made several copies that way before I realized that it was an optical illusion. Even in this very close copy, I still rounded the corners slightly in order to give the bag a finished look.
Not having Russia leather (a thin, textured, red dyed leather commercially available in the 18th century for upholstery work) which was most likely used to create the original, I created my copy of the original using 3-4 oz (may use 2-3 oz for some parts and 6oz for the strap) vegetable tanned cowhide which I stained using aqua fortis to give a dark brown color. I normally use vinegar and iron as a stain on my bags which usually gives more of a blue-black color. This bag is approximately the same size as the original at about 7″ square. Just like the original, this pouch has a center divider as the welt and is stitched up the sides. In Bag #10, I rolled and hemmed the edge of the flap instead of using a welted edge. I now make these bags using a welted flap just like the original. I maintained the same flap button attachment as the original with an internal horn button used as an anchor for the external pewter flap button. A leather cover is sewn over the internal button to prevent the hand from catching on it.
As for the strap, I attached it in a manner as close to the original as I could ascertain. One end of the strap is stitched to the right side (as worn on the right side), and the other end is attached to
the bag using a single small pewter button anchored to another small pewter button on the inside of the pouch. The strap may then be seasonally adjusted using buttonholes in the end of the strap. I usually only cut one set (strap and powder horn hangers) of button holes for the requested strap length, but more holes can be cut as required to adjust the strap.
The original pouch was decorated with stamped stars, some forming the initials of the owner. Consequently, I made a matching stamp to decorate my pouch. However, I decided to get a little fancier with a more refined design. I added diagonal lines reminiscent of English checkering patterns. On the bags shown below, I used the same stamp to create the owners initials and to do a Sun, Moon, and stars motif. In fact, I liked the Sun, Moon, and stars design so much, I used it on two bags, one of them is shown below.
I attached to the bag a Virginia single banded screw-tip horn that is similar to an original dated 1774. The horn is approximately 15″ around the outside curve with a 2 3/4″ base plug. The base plug and stopper are turned walnut with the base plug attached with wooden pegs. The screw-tip and band are horn. The screw-tip is dyed to match the walnut. Hand forged staples are installed in the the base plug and throat for the attachment of the hangers. The hangers are attached to the bag strap with buttons just as the strap is attached to the bag. This attachment method is purely conjecture on my part, but I think it makes sense to be able to adjust the hanger attachment location as the strap length is adjusted. The horn is dyed yellow with aqua fortis and appropriately aged.
I distress the leather on most of my pouches to give them a used appearance. That means adding wrinkles, scuffs and scratches as well as a coat of black shoe polish to simulate a little dirt and grime. I try not to overdue it so that the function of the bag is compromised. I don’t generally distress the leather to be used on a bag that is to be highly tooled.
You might think that this bag is too small at about 7″ square. I can assure you that it is not. Period documentation indicates that most longhunters carried hunting pouches of this size. They would just carry what they needed to shoot the gun. This generally meant a bullet mold, some bullets, patches, tow, and a wiper. A powder horn and powder measure with a vent pick and brush were generally hung from the strap.
In my bag, I keep some tow, a strip of pre-lubricated pillow ticking for shooting patches, five balls, two flints wrapped in leather, and a turn screw of a type typically used with muskets. A turn screw would not have normally been found in an original hunting pouch as a longhunter would most likely have used their knife to turn the screws on their gun. However, being a gunsmith, I just can’t bring myself to risk tearing up my screw heads like that. All that said, this bag is plenty big for the listed items. I hang a pan brush, vent pick, and powder measure from either the pouch strap or powder horn hanger. I made those from recycled tin plated steel from a cookie tin. I have attached small knife to the back of the pouch to use as a patch knife. The period longhunters would most likely have just carried a store bought butcher knife in their belt. This is certainly all you need for a day of hunting and more than you need to carry to the line when shooting at the range.
Shown below are four more pouch and horn outfits very similar to the bag shown above. They are of the same basic design with different tooling. The bottom two outfits have a different type of early Virginia horn. Horn #21 was made to the client’s specification and is not based on a particular original. They all have a welted flap just like the original, and I am currently making all these style bags that way.
Please note that I no longer hang the powder horn as high as shown on the bags shown on this page. I have found that the outfit works better if you hang the horn below the flap button so that you can open the flap without moving the horn out of the way. I will, of course, hang the horn where you want with the hangers as long (or short) as you want. I have made the hangers all lengths but tend to think about 8″ is long enough. You can just tip the horn up to pour the powder. When you place an order for this outfit, I will ask for your input on the length of the hangers and where you want the horn hung.
You can obtain your very own pouch and horn outfit like the ones shown above for the following prices:
Plain Early Virginia Shot Pouch (as shown above but without tooling) – $165 plus shipping
Powder Horn Hangers for Early Virginia Shot Pouch – $20 (Option with a pouch order)
Decorative Tooling on Early Virginia Shot Pouch – $20 (Option with a pouch order)
Leather knife sheath for customer provided knife – $35 (Option with a pouch order – customer must provide knife)
Virginia Banded, Screw-tip Powder Horn – $250 plus shipping
Virginia applied tip Powder Horn – $215 plus shipping
Tin Powder Measure, Brush and Pick set – $55
Priority shipping and insurance on a single item is $20. Shipping on an outfit is $25. I will collect VA Sales Tax for items shipping to VA residents.
To order a pouch or horn like the ones shown above, or to discuss a different project, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work. The availability of any particular horn design depends on the availability of an appropriate unfinished horn in my inventory.
The vast majority of original powder horns were as plain as they could be and still be functional. That means a flat pine (or other softwood) base plug and little or no carving of the throat; just enough work to contain powder and attach a strap. Many times a screw was used to attach a strap to the base plug. A grooved or simply reduced throat is enough to tie a strap around it. The two powder horns shown just below are based on an original southwest Virginia horn and are a little fancier than most with a turned base plug and carved rings at the throat. Even so, it is still much plainer than the carved and engraved horns from the French and Indian War. This horn could also be made with a turned and applied collar instead of the integral rings. The horn would dictate how it is approached.
Please note the raw linen cord used to attach the horn in the photo below. Cord was often found on southern outfits. The outfit show below is much more historically correct for a southern mountain rifle than many of the sophisticated shot pouches and powder horns being recreated today. Most of the original powder horns and shot pouches were very simple affairs, well worn and patched together. You will see horns completely covered in leather to patch a hole or holes rather than just throw it away. Even something as simple as a plain powder horn could not be easily replaced in the southern mountains and was highly valued.
I will make any plain powder horn with a flat base plug and simply carved throat and spout for $150 plus shipping. A horn like #7 with a turned, flat or domed base plug and carved rings would cost $210 plus shipping.
To order a powder horn or discuss any other project, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on ordering custom work. The availability of any particular horn design depends on the availability of an appropriate unfinished horn in my inventory.
Right or Left Hand Carry Powder Horns?
There are both right hand and left hand powder horns shown above. The question is what does that mean. It refers to the side on which you carry the horn. The tip always points forward and should wrap around your body. In other words, the tip should not jut out so that it can catch on a passing object.
Technically, a curve of the tip to the left as viewed from the top is a right hand carry horn and also from the right side of the cow. A curve of the tip to the right would technically be a left hand carry horn and from the left side of the cow. If there is no significant curve of the horn as viewed from the top, then the horn can be easily worn on either side. Most horns have so little curve it really doesn’t matter.
Sometimes a horn that is technically a left hand horn might wrap around the body better on the right hand side and vice versa. So, in describing a horn for sale, I will tell you whether a horn is technically a left hand or a right hand. Then I will tell you on which side the horn was built to be carried, if it is different. I will also try to include a photo from the top of the horn so you can see the curve for yourself. On which side you actually carry a horn, that is up to you.
In conjunction with some recent repair/restoration work, I have started working on an all handmade flintlock. That means one made of wrought iron in the same manner as an 18th century Virginia gun shop including making all the screws. I have completed a set of templates for the lock and have forged a blank for the tumbler. I have also made a tumbler mill from a large file that is used to mill the parallel sides on the tumbler. I will probably do the plate next.
I had to use my last tumbler blank for another project, so I will have to make another for myself; most likely with a newly made die. It is probably instructive to explain why I had to use the wrought iron blank on another project. I had been trying to make a replacement tumbler for a contemporary flintlock pistol using O-1 tool steel. I was forging a blank just like with wrought iron which involves hammering out what looks like a large lopsided nail. Then I was machining the blank on a lathe and filing the profile and notches. The problem was that I had been running into forging cracks in these tumblers, and you don’t find them until you have machined each surface. I lost count of how many blanks I made. I almost finished two, only to self inflict some other injury at the end. That was two out of six or seven blanks that were free of forging cracks.
The problem was that the tool steel was being quenched by the colder anvil and hardened in spots. So, if you are working below the re-crystalization temperature, about 1500F (cherry red), you run the risk of cracking the tumbler on the side against the anvil. The more the blank was worked, the more likely to produce cracks. The two blanks that were free of forging cracks(or at least as far as I could tell) were ones that I worked the least. My blows just happened to be more efficient on those. I decided that it is just too much trouble to try to forge tumblers from tool steel.
Fortunately, I have plenty of third run 1.25″ round wrought iron bar that is just fine for lock parts. There are a few small inclusions, but not many. So, from now on, I will make all my lock parts and many tools, except the springs, from wrought iron or mild steel and case harden them. That is period correct anyway.
Tools for Creating a Handmade Flintlock
Work is underway on the dies to forge all the lock parts as finished as possible. The effort to make the dies has two purposes; to explore period lock production and more efficiently produce multiple locks. My intention is to make at lease two handmade flintlocks; one for a handmade flintlock rifle and one for a handmade flintlock pistol.
The documentation for the dies I intend to reproduce, come from two sources; articles in JHAT Vol I & Vol V written by Gary Brumfield, and subsequent research done by George Suiter. Gary was the second master of the gun shop in Colonial Williamsburg, and George is the current master. George has added dies and jigs to the lock production in the CW Gunshop since the JHAT articles were written.
Of particular interest is that the gun shop in Colonial Williamsburg has not been forge welding pans onto lock plates for some time. They are using a modified lock plate die and a fairly complex die to form the pan, pan bridle, and fence. They actually have dies for most of their parts as well as a drilling jig for the plate. The dies and jigs are based on documented tools and processes used by the lock makers of Birmingham, England.
A photo a the beginning of this article shows a tumbler mill copied from the JHAT I article and made from a 12″ bastard file. This design never worked very well for me or the CW Gunshop (according to Gary Brumfield); and come to find out, the actual 18th C tumbler mills were not made exactly like a file. The photo to the right shows an fancy 18th Century tumbler mill of, supposedly, the same design; a design documented in Diderot and some period German publications. I plan to make a mill based on the tool in the photo. It is really hard to see from the attached photo; but the “teeth” in the actual mills were perpendicular to the long axis of the mill, cut with a triangular file, and flat on top. That is why they worked better that our uninformed attempts to recreate them with a file. The CW Gunshop currently uses a copy of what is probably more of a 19th century English tumbler mill with rotary cutters. This is a more effective design that the tumbler mill shown.
Handmade Lock Project Progress
Steel has been purchased for all the lock dies, screw mills, and tumbler mill. The pieces have been cut to shape and are ready for the dies to be cut and the hardie posts to be welded. The chisels have been made are are being used to cut the dies. I have also made the drill bit, reamer, tap, and screw mills for the internal lock screws.
I should note that while I intend to make the flintlock using period tools and techniques, I don’t intend to make the tools entirely same way. As these tools were usually purchased by the gunsmith from England, I feel perfectly justified in making them however I like. That includes using a belt sander instead of an old stone grinding wheel, a drill press, and a metal lathe, if necessary. I will point out that they did have water powered grinding wheels, drill presses and metal lathes in the English shops. As I have no other alternatives, I will still use the forge, files, and chisels in the old way.
Here is a photo of the first handmade lock screw I made. I used the screw mills shown just after case hardening them. Also shown is the tap drill and tap that I made as well as a plate with a hole that I drilled and tapped with those tools. It took less than an hour to make the screw using a rod of 12L14 steel (the usual screw making stock and very similar in softness to wrought iron) that had been previously squared for the brace on one end and pointed on the other. I could have done a better job with the screw by pointing the rod with more care to make sure it was centered.
I had a job come up repairing an antique lock that allowed me the opportunity to make a couple more lock making tools on my list. I had to replace a cracked tumbler, so the time was right to make a tumbler die for forging a wrought iron tumbler blank. I made the die so that I ended up with a blank large enough to machine a tumbler for most any rifle size lock.
Since I had a couple hours at the forge to make the tumbler blank, I slipped in another little forging project; making a lantern stock chuck for screw stock. In the past, I hammered a square end directly on the screw stock, but that wobbled too much in the brace. I felt that a lantern stock chuck would be more stable, and it is.
I used the new tumbler die to forge a nearly perfect tumbler blank out of wrought iron. It took a little more time than I had thought, but I got a good result. Since I had not made a period tumbler mill yet, I turned the axles and the parallel tumbler faces on a lathe. I ended up with a roughly shaped disk that I quickly filed to shape to match the original tumbler. The finished tumbler is shown in the lock above.
Not too long ago, my osteopath told me I needed to take my overstuffed wallet out of my back pocket and ditch it. It was pretty ratty anyway; almost worn through in places. I shopped around for a replacement but just couldn’t find anything just right. I needed to carry my drivers license, registration, proof of insurance, disabled parking card, and medical insurance card as well as some cash, at least one debit card, and a couple grocery discount cards. That was about as much as I could slim down. I had about three times that much stuff in the old wallet, not including the receipts, notes, and other paperwork. It was basically a traveling file cabinet. What I finally decided to do was design a little 18th century style mens’ pocketbook based on the construction of my early VA shot pouch and several original cloth pocketbooks that I had seen.
Shown here is the result of my efforts. It is still a little overstuffed, but better than what I had. It is made out of goat skin (any new one would probably have to be calf skin), consisting of two sets of pockets flat sewn with a center divider serving as the welt for each set. The pockets fold like the pages of a book with a flap closure.
I tooled every exposed surface. The outside is decorated with typically English stamped geometric designs consisting mainly of diagonal lines and stamped stars. The inside panels are tooled with fraktur designs. The stain is vinegar and iron.
If anybody would like one, I will make one with stamped decoration on the exterior panels for $120. If you want original fraktur tooling on the interior panels, that will cost you $180. I will make a wallet with a single set of pockets for $80. I will have to add 5.3% sales tax for VA residents. Shipping is $15.
Download the pattern here if you would like to make the pocketbook yourself.
This powder horn was made from a raw horn in a late colonial style. I scraped it down, carved and filed the spout in the traditional manner. The plain domed base plug was carved from pine and held in place with wooden pegs. I turned the stopper from a scrap piece of curly maple. The stopper was stained with aqua fortis, and the aqua fortis was used to age the horn giving it the golden yellow color. Just like with staining wood, you have to apply heat to the horn to activate the aqua fortis and get that nice yellow color. The spout was dyed with dark brown Rit dye. Walnut hulls would probably have been used originally and I intend to switch to natural dyes in the future. The schrimsaw is not a copy of anything in particular, but something to my liking using period motifs. The strap is from Shayna L. Matthews ( www.fiberwoodart.com ). I like her work quite a bit and have bought several straps from her.
If you are interested in a powder horn like this, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. If you want me to make you a new horn similar to this one, an carved and engraved French and Indian War style horn, with YOUR name on it; it will cost you $600(plus shipping and applicable sales tax). See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work.
The longrifle shown here is an iron mounted chunk gun with stylistic elements found on guns from the Augusta/Rockbridge area of Virginia down into southwest Virginia. This rifle includes a four-piece iron patchbox and a faceted trigger guard and thimbles similar to a couple of rifles from Wallace Gusler’s step-toe group as documented in several Muzzle Blasts articles. Those antique rifles had mounts that were a little fancier than most iron mounted guns but they certainly didn’t have carving and engraving as does this longrifle. The carving on this rifle is based on a John Davidson rifle (shown elsewhere on this site) from Rockbridge County, Virginia. As it stands, this is most definitely a fantasy gun both in terms of its decoration as a chunk gun, and the mix of features from various rifles. In my defense, I was making this gun for myself. So, I made what suited me. Hopefully, you will also find it appealing.
The Technical Details
Fairly curly, slab cut, red maple
Chambers Late Ketland lock
46″, 45 caliber, 1 1/8″ straight custom barrel by Getz
All iron with hand forged butt piece, guard, and ramrod ferrule
Davis longrifle double set triggers modified to fit the guard
Pull / Drop / Cast-off:
13.25″ / 2.75″ / 0.25″
14 lbs 15 oz
Building a Fantasy Longrifle
Below are initial sketches that I did for this project. I do these sort of sketches for every project, but as you will see, the actual gun can turn out quite differently. I often change my mind about the details as I am working on the gun.
I wasn’t happy with how similar silver wire worked on Rifle #11. So, I decided to skip the silver wire on this gun and do some carving based on the John Davidson documented in the Antiques section of this site.
I also changed the butt piece heel extension and comb to three facets based on the work of John Davidson’s unidentified master. I also decided to use the touch plate release I used on #11. However, after problems with the touch plate release due to wood movement from changes in humidity, I decided to change the release mechanism and toe plate to a small push button release for better reliability.
The ramrod is made of hickory as are all my ramrods and scrapped to a taper with a forge welded sheet steel ferrule on the small end. The ferrule is threaded for a 10-32 screw. I can provide a hardened and tempered handmade wiper for the rifle for an extra $79.
As with all my guns, this rifle was stocked from a blank that I cut out on a bandsaw. After that, the only power tools I used on it were a hand drill and a drill press, mainly to drill screw, rivet, and pin holes. I used an 18th century brace and bits to help with the inletting of the lock and patchbox. All the other work was done with 18th and 19th century tools and techniques. Most of the work on the gun was done with planes, chisels, files, and scrapers. This included many antique tools and specialty tools made by me. The stock was final shaped and finished with scrapers. No sandpaper touched the wood. You can still see scraper and file marks in the finished product and there are the tell tale ripples in the stock indicative of being scraped. A more highly figured piece of wood would have had even more ripples.
I hand inlet the barrel and ramrod groove using chisels and planes, and hand drilled the ramrod hole. The trigger guard and butt piece were hand forged and assembled using rivets and forge brazing. The heel of the butt piece was filled with brass to make the joint as solid as possible. Then many hours of hand filing and polishing went in to getting these mounts to their final form. All the other mounts were hand cut from sheet and hand formed around mandrels I made expressly for the purpose. I made all the parts for the patchbox release mechanism and modified the Davis triggers to suit my taste and ensure perfect operation with the lock. As with all my locks, I hand filed and polished the lock plate, cock, and frizzen so that the lock would look as if it were a product of the 18th or 19th century. All the lock internals were polished on their wear surfaces and the sear and full cock notch were stoned for perfect operation with the set triggers. This particular lock also needed some modification of the sear and sear spring. Several days of work went into just finishing and tuning the lock.
My guns are more expensive than many other gunmakers because of all the hand work I put into them and the effort that I take to make sure everything works smoothly. I spent many days on this rifle just making sure that the lock, triggers, and patchbox release worked as well as they reasonably could. I also spend a lot of time with a scraper to make sure my lines and planes are straight and sharp and my curves smooth. I use traditional ferric nitrate (aqua fortis) stain which requires much, much more preparation than if you were using a modern non grain raising stain. I then apply many coats of my own oil based gunstock finish. I don’t use polyurethane or other synthetic finishes. Because of that, and the porosity of oil finishes, the last step in every gun is a good coat of Renaissance Wax on all surfaces. The only maintenance other than cleaning after shooting is to apply a coat of paste wax a couple times a year. The wax will effectively seal the stock against the weather.
Once I have finished all my scraping, polishing and finishing, then I go about destroying the work I have done in order to age the piece. I rust all the iron parts, sometimes several times. Apply a patina to the brass and silver and then paint the whole gun in a lamp black oil glaze to simulate a century or two of dirt and soot from the fireplace that I then scrub off judiciously to simulate many years of wear. A few dents, dings and some blood along the way doesn’t hurt the process.
I try to work in as workman like manner as I can, but I am picky about line and function. I will let some scraper marks and file marks and a few dents slide by as did the original gunmakers, but not functional or architectural problems. You do have to realize that anything done by hand is not going to be perfect. I try to get as close as I reasonably can, but you do have to let some things go as long as they are not going to affect function.
Speaking of function, all my barrel tenons are slotted to allow at least 1/32″ of travel around the pin in each direction. This is to allow for the normal expansion and contraction of the stock without stressing the barrel so much that the aim is affected.
This is a powder measure set that I created for Bag #12. It consists of a tin-plated steel powder measure, pan brush and vent pick. The pan brush is horse hair with a tin ferrule and the vent pick is made of music wire. Three flats are ground on the end of the vent pick to use in scraping out the touch hole. I can make you a powder measure set like this for $55 plus $8 for shipping. I will make just a measure for $25 plus $8 shipping.
If you are interested in this pan brush and powder measure set or one like it, use the Contact form to send me an e-mail. See FAQ for more information on purchasing custom work.
So, you want to build longrifles. The most important thing you can do before you waste your time and money is STUDY. The following books and videos are highly recommended to form the foundation of your longrifle library:
Rifles of Colonial America, Vols l & ll by George Shumway
Thoughts on the Kentucky Rifle in its Golden Age by Joe Kindig Jr.
The Gunsmith of Grenville County (Building the American Longrifle) by Peter A. Alexander
The Art of Building the Pennsylvania Longrifle by Chuck Dixon
I also recommend the following videos:
Building a Kentucky Rifle by Hershel House
Traditional Gunstocking by Mark Silver
Relief Carving a Kentucky Rifle Circa 1775 by Wallace Gusler
Engraving a Kentucky Rifle Circa 1775 by Wallace Gusler
As you read and view the above, you should know that most builders have someone else (like Mark Weader at Jack’s Mountain Stock Company – (717) 543-5370) inlet their barrel, cut the ramrod groove, and drill the ramrod hole. Many folks use parts kits. Jim & Barbie Chambers offer the best kits and the best locks . I stock my guns from a blank and do all the work myself much like in Mark Silver’s video. However, almost nobody does this as it takes a lot of time and is not cost effective. As I consider myself an artist and have no interest in being a manufacturer, I don’t care too much how long it takes. It just has to be right.
You should also join the forum at American Longrifles. This is where you get all the information that is not in the books and there is a lot.
Lastly, but by no means least, you need to handle and study original longrifles. That is the only way you are really going to know what the rifles look and feel like. You just can’t see everything in a photo. The CLA (and KRA if you are a member) shows are a good place to see both original and contemporary longrifles.
There are also classes of which you should be aware. There are week long classes in stocking, carving and engraving at the ArmsMakers Workshop every October at Conner Prairie near Indianapolis. The NMLRA sponsors 3, 6, & 9 day classes as part of their Gunsmithing Seminar at Western Kentucky University every June. The Gunsmithing Seminar classes are intense, and for people who already have good skills and a lot of stamina. With the 9 day classes, you spend at least 90 hours in class. You do an entire semesters work in two weeks. The Conner Prairie classes are more for beginners and are more laid back. Links to both these sets of classes may be found to the right under “Seminars/Workshops.”
Being a traditional gunmaker (actually any art, craft or trade) involves a lifetime of learning to master it. However, with lots of study and help, people do build excellent first guns; but you will need help. If you try to do it on your own, you will probably not be happy with your first attempt.