Wednesday, September 29, 2010

The Scottish Pistol Project: Part V – Engraving the Stock.

The Scottish Pistol Project continues!

Our research project to make a pistol in the style of the 1740 Pitcarn Pistol has continued through the summer of 2010. During the first year of summer Saturdays the team rediscovered how to make the hollow steel stock. The second year they forged, welded, and reamed the barrel. The third year they made the intricate parts of the lock mechanism. Finally, in the fourth summer of the project, they have been fitting, assembling, and engraving the components. Here are two pistols that have been filed smooth and white but are not yet engraved.
They are still a work in progress. The engraving is done by hand in the blacksmith shop using a chasing hammer to strike a tiny chisel called an engraving chisel. Here is the engraving on one side of the pistol.

Here is the detail of the engraving on the rams-horn butt of the the pistol grip.  This work is exacting and slow.
This shows the engraving down the spine of the pistol grip.  The piece is continuously curving which makes the engraving very difficult.  As the angle of the metal changes, the angle of the engraving chisel must also continuously change.
The work on the pistol is continuing on Saturdays through the end of October 2010.  If you visit The Farmers' Museum, come to the Blacksmith shop and see the techniques used in this project!

Friday, September 24, 2010

Cleaning in the Blacksmith Shop

It was busy summer full of projects and visitors at Field's Blacksmith Shop. Now that fall is here, it is time to tackle the dirt and clutter that accumulated in the corners and the windowsills. A shop using coal forges has a lot of dust and grit. On most days our doors are wide open for the public to visit as well . That contributes to grit and leaves blowing into corners of the shop. It take some work to get it all cleaned out!

Our museum's maintenance department is very thorough at keeping our shop looking good. Over years of work, many parts of projects, scrap iron, and display pieces had accumulated on the flat surfaces in the shop. Recently, we sorted and stored several hundred pounds of tools, scraps, and half-completed projects that were cluttering the windowsills and corners. That provided room for the cleaners to get to our beautiful windows. Coal smoke and dust had given them a frosted glaze. The Maintenance crew gave the windows a thorough cleaning. The result was a startling improvement! I hadn’t realized the windows were that dirty.

A youth volunteer spent the morning of one day sorting and sizing the nails we made this summer. He neatly stacked them in the appropriate bin. Now we are ready to provide nails for internal building restoration projects and repairs.

The fall cleaning improved the working conditions in the Field's Blacksmith shop.  Light is always at a premium in a historic shop.  Now we have more elbow room and more light with which to see details of our work.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Fall is in the air at The Farmers' Museum.

The summer of 2010 set a lot of heat records here in Cooperstown. July equaled past August records for the number of very hot days, and then August was even hotter. But now in the wake of Hurricane Earl a Canadian cold front has swept through town. The high temperature dropped from 97 to 67 in one day!  Our staff are busy with all of the chores that need to be done before Fall fully arrives.

The end of summer tends to be right around Labor Day in this part of New York. The trees are turning to fall colors. Sunrise is coming late, and the shadows are still long as I roam the Museum grounds in the morning.

The hay and corn are turning from green to rich brown and grays as they dry in the fields. Our oxen have been putting on their winter coats even though the days were in the 90s! Autumn is coming regardless of the weather today.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Scottish Pistol Part IV: Lock Mechanism.

The summer of 2009 was the 3rd year of our Scottish Pistol Masterpiece Project. The 4 smiths working on the project had completed a barrel the previous summer, with the finish work occurring over the winter. Now it was time to make the flintlock mechanism for the pistol.
The lock mechanism is both complex and finely fitted. Every part was forged from wrought iron bar or steel. For this style of pistol, the lock plate has a standard shape, but not a set size. The forged and filed lock plate is fitted precisely to the forged and filed stock.  The internal parts of the mechanism are forged from iron bar and then filed to shape as well.  Here are rough forgings for the springs.

The end result needs to fit so precisely that engraving can flow over the stock and right onto the lock plate as if it were only one piece of metal.  The pivot points were located and drilled. Then work began on making all of the parts.  Illustrations of how a flint lock mechanism works can be seen at here.

On the outside of the lock mechanism are the hammer, the pan, the frizzen, and the frizzen spring.

Another array of parts are located on the inside of the lock plate and are responsible for making the hammer fall when the trigger is pulled. The sear and sear spring connect the trigger to the hammer mechanism. The sear’s job is to prevent the hammer from being actuated until the trigger has been pulled. Once the sear is tripped, the mainspring throws the hammer and flint forward into the frizzen, and hopefully creates sparks that fire the powder in the pan and the main charge in the pistol.

Each of these parts has been forged from wrought iron or steel. The rough forging is shaped to the final size in a long, slow, painstaking process using files. Sometimes it isn’t clear how to best forge the piece. In that case several methods and multiple blanks are forged until one is close enough to create the final part.

Creating the lock for the pistol is a very challenging project. The shape of each part and the location of each mounting hole and each screw effects every other part. Changing the shape of a sear, hammer, or spring by 1/32th of an inch can make the difference between a pistol that fires and one that doesn’t.  The Scottish Pistol Project has been an exciting chance to research and build a lock using the same materials and tools as  the Gunsmiths in Doane, Scotland in 1740.

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