Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Back at it...

I am going to get back in the traces after a long dry spell engaged with personal affairs.  I have several rifles in the works and have started taking a couple of orders, so I feel like I am becoming my old self again.

There is always much talk about inletting barrels.  How do you do it, who does it by hand, who uses an in letting service, etc.  Some people have no problem having it done for them, others insist on doing it themselves by hand.

I have always fallen into the latter camp.  I feel personally that when a guy buys a rifle, he is not so much buying a gun as he is a tradition...a bundle of ideas and tasks and attitudes all covered with linseed oil.  So I always felt it was important that I do as much as I could by hand.  Something as simple as rolling your own ramrod pipes still connects you in tangible ways to all aspects of the trade.  

A lot of people say this takes too much time.  I say it's time well spent...what takes too much time to me is waiting weeks and weeks on a barrel inletter to ship your stuff to you.  I will have the rifle built and out the door in that time.  Personally, I think one of the main reasons people have the barrel inlet is so that they don't have to drill the ramrod hole, which is a much feared task that has never bothered me either, but I see their point.

I started the clock at 11:59 with a barrel for a jaeger for a friend going into a really dark piece of extremely dense English walnut.  I don't use rails or fixtures or routers.  I clamp the barrel in place, taking cast off and cheek piece etc. into account, and draw it onto the top of the stock, then start with a big chisel and a a big hammer.

By 12:30 I had the entire channel chiseled out and was planing it out with m 3/4" round bottom plane.  I also have a 5/8" plane I use for smaller barrels.

By 1:00 I had the bulk of the octagonal section roughed out, and the tang mostly inlet.  This is not fine work - it doesn't need to be.  Of course the tang section must be very fine work, but other than that, rough and ready is acceptable initially.

And by 3:00 pm - 3 hours later - the job was finished.  Now, granted, this was a shorter barrel than most - 32" - and was half round/half octagon - but I know for a fact that a full length octagonal barrel only takes at most another hour and a half.  I can normally get a barrel of any kind in before lunch.  This isn't special skill on my part - it just takes wanting to do it - it only requires deciding that it will be done, and then "going ahead".  Now, three hours later, I'm ready to rough some more of the stock out and consider the butt piece and lock placement.  And it hasn't cost me a dime.

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