Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Scottish Pistol Project - Part II

Field's Blacksmith shop is in the last quarter of a project to reproduce a traditional Scottish Pistol.  You can read about the start of this project here.  The task of the first summer of the project was to rediscover how the stock of the pistol was created.  Hollow, and made of one piece of sheet iron, the secret of how the apprentices and master gunsmiths of Doanne, Scotland constructed this pistol, remains a secret.  The Smiths leading the project researched and developed a pattern for the stock.  It took a lot of trials and adjustments. 

Here is an image of the pattern for the stock:
The stock, or frame, of this style of pistol is forged from one piece of flat steel. There is no wood in the pistol. This form of pistol frame involves bending, folding, and stretching a flat piece of steel to create a hollow 3-dimensional frame. The secret method of making this part would have been passed from master gunsmith to apprentice in the gunsmithing community of Doane, Scotland. Their method does not seem to have been leaked or written down, so we had to rediscover it by trial and error. This took a year of Saturdays and involved making over a dozen tools that would be needed to re-create the frame. The pattern was adjusted again and again until it yielded success.

This was particularly difficult due to the need to create both the pattern and the tools needed to shape this complex piece.
The next step is to file the stock smooth and begin the engraving.  The engraving is laid out with a pencil or a scribe, and then is engraved into the steel. It is a precise job that requires patience and skill.  It will take most of the Saturdays of 2010 to finish the engraving and the final fitting of the pistol.

This has been a long term project. We only work on it in the shop on Saturdays during the summer. We are now entering our 4th, and hopefully final, summer. The pistol frame is fully formed, filed, and is slowly being engraved. If you visit this on a Saturday this summer (2010) you will see the smiths at work finishing the engraving and final fitting for our Scottish Pistol Project!

Monday, July 19, 2010

Sharpening the Scythe by hammer and stone.

The old saying tells the farmers to “make hay when the sun shines.” That isn’t a metaphor, it is job advice. Our farmers at The Farmers’ Museum harvest hay, winter rye, wheat, oats, and barley! All of those crops are harvested with a scythe. Cutting starts early in the morning with the dew on the grass which makes the hay heavy and easier to cut. The farmers take breaks for water and to sharpen the scythe. It makes for a long day in the sun , heat, and dust.
The working end of the scythe is a blade of hand hammered steel between 18 and 33 inches long. It is used with a curving, sweeping motion rather than a chopping motion. On a traditional farm, a scythe gets several weeks of use each year. They get dull in use, and need to be sharpened up to several times an hour.

The farmer reaping hay or grain would have to stop work in the field when the scythe gets dull.  They stop several times per hour, throughout the day, for sharpening. That would often be done using a whetstone -- a cut piece of naturally abrasive stone that is used to hone the edge.
The blade periodically needs more than honing with the stone. It needs to be peened out to thin the edge. This achieves several things. It fills in any nicks and dents in the blade. It re-profiles the edge to a nice thin taper. Finally, it prepares the blade for a final honing to achieve a razor edge.

Here is Farmer Wayne peening the scythe blade in the blacksmith's shop.

This peening is done on a scythe anvil. This is a small, portable anvil that can be driven into the top of a stump or fencepost and be used in the field. These were used by farmers in many countries. The name for them in German is a “denglestock”, because the little anvil dangles from the farmer’s belt on a cord.

Scythe anvil:
The days were long and full for a farmer during harvest season. Cutting hay and grain was always done on sunny days to allow the grain or hay to dry. Their work was long and hot.  The days were long and hot for the blacksmiths as well as we repaired the farmer's scythes, mended wagon wheels, and reshod their horses.  The reward from long hours of reaping was a barn full of hay and grain.  A full barn provides the promise of prosperity in the comming year.

Winter Rye:

Thursday, July 15, 2010

The Scottish Pistol Project - Part I.

The Peleg Field Blacksmith shop has undertaken a number of challenging projects over the years. Our current Masterpiece Project involves building a Scottish Pistol inspired by one that played a role in the American Revolutionary War.  This project is to research and recreate the methods of building a Scottish all iron and steel pistol using methods accurate to the 18th century.

Our project is inspired by the surviving pistols of British Marine Major John Pitcarn.  He is the officer that ended up commanding the troops launching the raids on Lexington and Concord.  Those are regarded as the first battles of our war for independence, and the first shot fired in anger is referred to as the “Shot heard around the world”.  That shot was attributed by some as having been fired by Maj. Pitcarn from one of these pistols. 

From a blacksmith’s perspective, this pistol presents several technical challenges.  It is a muzzle loading, black powder flintlock type.  The entire pistol, including the frame and stock, are made of iron and steel.  The whole pistol is filed until it is smooth and white, and then is thoroughly engraved in detail.

Here is an image of the engraving process:

Our project to build a Scottish-style 1740’s pistol began in the summer of 2007 and is led by Master Smiths Paul Spaulding and Robert Cerny, with able assistance from smiths Robert Manker and Travis Edgington.  They began by researching what is known about this style of pistol, making tools, and producing the major components.  The major challenges were forming the stock, forge-welding the barrel, creating the flintlock mechanism, and performing the engraving.  Future installments of this series will detail those challenges. Stay tuned for updates appearing occasionally until we have completed the Scottish pistol --lock, stock, and barrel!

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