Wednesday, September 22, 2010

A rifle - from start to finish

I thought this might be interesting.  A few years ago I built a rifle for a client who wanted me to photograph the process.  I had never done this before, and it wound up being a lot of fun.  Some of the photos didn't turn out as well as I'd hoped, but overall it was a success.

A lot of this is self explanatory, but I'll chime in when it's necessary.  If nothing else, it'll give us a break from cell phone photography.

The barrel goes in - four to five hours of really hard work.  I use a round bottom plane to cut in the main channel of the groove, and take the sides down with a straight chisel.  Places where the corners strike can be taken out of the round groove easily.  As I later found out, this is the method Jack Brooks uses also.  I have tried most of the other methods but nothing works as well as this.

The lock is inlet and the buttplate is on.  Now the main parameters of the stock are in place.

  The basic architecture of the stock can now be worked down.  Extra wood is left for the relief carving behind the cheekpiece.  

The ornate four piece box is roughed out.  The finial and lid are pretty close to being finished, but the hinge has yet to be made (the crux of the job).  Sideplates are chopped out.  Beneath it, the rifle we're copying here.  This was a documentary copy of a rifle by (I want to say) George Eister.  But I might be wrong.  I'll have to look at Kindig to remind myself.  I built a string of these late 18th century/early 19th century guns for clients - Schweizer, Eister, Haeffer...all with big beatiful four piece boxes and several inlays.  Also a great North Carolina gun by Vogler that I actually shipped off without ever photographing.  I still hate that.  It was over the top, and one of my favorite things I ever built.

The sheet metal shop.  Finial and lid to the box, and ramrod pipes in varying stages of completion.  

Smoking in the box.  Finial and lid are together and the hinge is as it should be, so it's time to sour it down.  Tedious work this:  after a couple of hours you want to start driving the box into the stock with a hammer, but you just wind up breaking off vital pieces of wood and deforming the box.  So after a couple of lousy rifles with messed up boxes, you learn to slow down and (like G. Gordon Liddy reccomens) "stop caring that it hurts."

Initial fitting of the side plates of the box.

Right side finished, laying out the left side.  Super fussy work now - all those little acute angles in the brass signify a weak point on the stock inlet - a weak corner that can so easily be broken off and lost forever.  I have spent hours looking for a certain tiny chip of wood that came flying off while inletting.  Do that once or twice and you'll learn the value of slowing down so that you don't make stupid mistakes.  (You only make smart ones.)

Whew...praise the Lord.  Finished.  I don't time (line up) the screw slots on my boxes because I think this is an aesthetic that is inappropriate for most longrifle work.  Perhaps others more knowledgeable than myself have evidence that they did this sort of thing, but I've not seen it.

I'll stop here for now.

1 comment:

  1. I've got your Vogler gun still, to photograph. Bill Swett 802 777 6221