Hello and welcome to my blog. What I'm doing here is documenting my personal expression of "hands-on history" from a craftsman's perspective. I've been on this path for a large part of my life and it's taken me to some interesting and challenging places. I hope to share the processes and the historically inspired objects I've crafted along this journey into our past. This adventure has deepened my appreciation for past craftsmanship and the intelligence of common place things in Early America. Besides, now I have all this cool stuff to play (teach) with.

Jim Miller

Sunday, March 20, 2011

How I Finally Got Around to a Childhood Dream or Some Things Are Worth the Wait

The Seed
     I'm running the risk of giving away my age with this post but what the heck. Back in 1963 I saw the cover of the February issue of the American Rifleman Magazine and I was smitten. The cover's picture was of a brace of pistols. Not just any old pistols but a matched pair of R. Johnson U.S. 1836 Flintlock Pistols. The last flintlocks issued to U.S. troops and still in service during the Mexican-American War.  Around the same time, I discovered Dixie Gun Works of Union City, Tenn.  DGW offered parts for restoring and building just about any kind of blackpowder gun you could imagine. Back then, there weren't many people offering anything even close to Dixie. Among their offerings was a smattering of parts for the 1836 Waters and Johnson pistols (Waters was the other contractor making the original pistols). Trying my best to make a long story short, I purchased some parts for the lock plus a barrel blank and started dreaming of my replica pistol. Being that I was just a kid with no gunsmithing skills, I started to lobby my dad, who among other things was a machinist. Even though the project never really got past a couple of starts and the semi-finished parts landed in a box somewhere, the initial desire for a replica never went away.

My Long Awaited Replica Pistol
Photos Lindy Miller 2011
Another View
From the Top
Last One
       Fast forward to about 7 or 8 years ago and that old desire returned when I found out about  The Rifle Shoppe of Jones Oklahoma. They've been in business for over 25 years making high quality investment castings of antique gun parts for restorers and builders. Their parts can be pricey but I think that they are worth the outlay if you want the quality. No one else offers the variety of parts that they do. You've probably figured out already that they had everything for me to build my replica flint pistol. When I finally purchased all the castings, machined parts and screws, the project suddenly became very intimidating. I really needed to put aside the time and find the confidence to do this. Even though the parts constitute a kit, you are on your own to build it. This is no place for beginners. I had already built a couple of guns, but neither were replicas of specific firearms. All the Rifle Shoppe castings come "in the rough", with some flashing and sprues to be removed. You must drill and tap all the holes and carefully polish and in some cases harden the parts. The Rifle Shoppe's semi-inletted stock helped but some of the hardest detail work still had to be done to bring it together.

    Over a period of several months, I spent many evenings and weekends feeling my way through the project, broken taps and all. I relied heavily on research and a little bit of instinct to get through the many choices. The internet provided me with plenty of pictures of original pistols as they are not that uncommon. Many surviving pistols show hard use and in many cases, over-restoration. I tried very hard to make mine as authentic as I could, as if it was just issued by the armory. I think it turned out pretty sweet and I think even my Dad would have agreed. As I said in the beginning, some things are worth the wait.

1 comment:

  1. Hello, I've just discovered your blog and can't believe the amount of detail and hard work you put into your replicas. There are only a few people I know who take such pains. I also appreciate sharing just enough to enjoy, as I know that trying to explain every step of the process would be impossible.

    Congratulations on your fine '36 horse pistol. I've got an original that I dearly love and you've certainly nailed it with this one. My favorite part of the pistol has got to be the dished rear sight. Such a simple, subtle design and entirely flint/smoothbore!