Wednesday, May 31, 2017

The Gunsmith Shop at Colonial Williamsburg

In January of 2016 the Gunsmith Shop at Colonial Williamsburg opened its doors to the public once more at the Ayscough house.  Situated "at the sign of the crossed guns" on Francis street, south of the Capitol building.  The shop has south and west facing windows for plenty of natural light, and a dedicated smith shop next to the main building.   George Suiter, former master, retired at end of 2016, and presently Journeyman Richard Sullivan, Apprentice Darrin McDonal, and myself continue the trade.

In the past year as an Apprentice in the gunsmith shop, I have learned more from George and Richard than I could possibly write in a brief blog post.  Richard is an outstanding smith and teacher, and thoroughly enjoys welding gun barrels.  Welding barrels is a lot of fun - reaming them out is not, but it's a test of strength and endurance that every apprentice must pass.

The "Smith" part of Gunsmith is shaping iron parts with a hammer... and most of building a rifle the old way is done in the smith shop.  We light our forge with flint and steel, rake soft coal over burning wood shavings and with practice the fire roars to life  in just minutes. 

Every trade shop in Williamsburg has a rigorous Apprentice curriculum that combines hand skills, with academics and reading material, as well as interpretive training.   The first year Apprentice in the Gunshop begins by making many of his own tools.  Since most of the work is done with a hammer, it makes sense to begin there.  Next were turnscrews, small chasing hammers, drill bits of all sizes, punches, a mainspring vise, and of course a touch mark to put on all of my work. 

Currently I am working on a Germanic lock for my first rifle in the shop, loosely based on some import locks from the 1760s.  There are always side projects as well, including work on a pistol flask for a matched set of pistols that Richard is producing.  Darrin is currently making many of his own set of tools, along with a few dozen screws.

The ultimate purpose of the shop is to keep the trade alive through education and passing the knowledge on to newer generations, and much of our time is spent teaching.  Ultimately, we're all learning, and our hope is that our guests are too.  

For more information on the gunshop and a visit to Colonial Williamsburg, please visit  

Frizzen Spring for Eric's Lock

Lock with spring installed

Mainspring vise Eric copied from Antique shown on right.

George's Rifle, lock installation and tight inletting

Richard and Eric melting brass for casting gun mounts

Trigger for rifle

Pair of locks by Richard Sullivan for pistols

Screws forged and filed

Copy and photos supplied by Eric von Aschwege.

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Bone Tipped & Banded Horns Regional Characteristics of Professionally Made Powder Horns By Jay Hopkins

Bone Tipped & Banded Horns
Regional Characteristics of Professionally Made Powder Horns
By Jay Hopkins
Published by The Honorable Company of Horners

This is the first volume of a planned two-volume set. It is the result of a fifty year study of the regional characteristics of professionally made powder horns.

The author is a long time collector who provides valuable insight into the regional characteristics of powder horns. His initial interest in long arms soon led him to an intense interest in the horns that accompanied these pieces. Years of study have resulted in an understanding of the horners and the work they produced. This outstanding book is the result of that study.

In the introduction to the book the author speaks about the organization. “ The study includes a large number of horns of diverse types and origins. Multiple views are shown of each horn including close-ups of tips, butts and other important details which are the primary basis for making regional attribution. I decided to take a number of measurements since one never knows when such data will become important.” The photography is excellent and the data most useful.

The first chapters gives the reader great insight into the parts which make up the powder horn. He also discusses repairs and modifications. There are also valuable insights into the makers.

The author looks at the early horns in chapter two. Providing the reader with numerous examples plus information regarding these examples. The selection of horns is exceptional. Many of these examples are published here for the first time. The horns from King’s Mountain were of particular interest.

From the study of early horns the author next looks at horns from the Philadelphia area. This chapter provides a wealth of information about these horns. Again outstanding examples and information.

Chapter four delves into the horns from the Virginia Regions.

The author states in Chapter five that “I have arbitrarily labeled this diverse group of horns Large Rifleman’s Horns as a descriptive term. I have no specific evidance that these were carried only by riflemen as opposed to soldiers or others carrying smooth bore weapons, but they primarily represent horns of early dates and early characteristics which are large in size and carrying capacity.” The horns represented are a diverse and wonderful group.

We go on to look at horns utilizing brass furniture rings or brass pulls as a means of strap attachment. This is quite an interesting section which leads us along with the author to speculate about their origin.

After chapters dealing with pinned collars and two-piece tips the author moves on to share with the readers an extensive and in depth look at Virginia horns. Horns from Rockingham County and Covington are shown as well as a miscellaneous horns thought to be from Virginia along with horns from Southwest Virginia and West Virginia.

The information contained in this book is so extensive and the photos so outstanding that it is very difficult for the reviewer to adequately describe the contents. Suffice it to say I was impressed and I hope the readers will also find it as informative an exciting as I did. Bone Tipped & Banded Horns Regional Characteristics of Professionally Made Powder Horns is highly recommended.

Books are available at $100.00, each plus $10.00 postage. Payment by cash, check or money order, made to HCH, mailed to:
HCH Treasurer
2210 Acorn Circle
Huntingdon, PA 16652

Monday, May 29, 2017

In Flanders Fields by John McCrea

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Memorial Day Blessings

Thank you to all those who have given their lives to the service of our country.

Memorial Day is a day for remembering and honoring military personnel who died in the service of their country, particularly those who died in battle or as a result of wounds sustained in battle. 

While those who died are also remembered, Veterans Day is the day set aside to thank and honor ALL those who served honorably in the military — in wartime or peacetime. In fact, Veterans Day is largely intended to thank LIVING veterans for their service, to acknowledge that their contributions to our national security are appreciated, and to underscore the fact that all those who served — not only those who died — have sacrificed and done their duty.

Copy from The Washington Post with photo by Jan Riser.

Friday, May 26, 2017

"An Opening in the Forest" by H. David Wright

I've always liked doing paintings of the hunter and his dog in deep woods. This one is titled "An Opening in the Forest".  Those are times that are shared only by two hunters.This painting goes to the Lord Nelson's Gallery show at History Meets the Arts next month in Gettysburg.

Copy and painting supplied by David Wright.

Thursday, May 25, 2017

2017 Tennessee Kentucky Rifle Show: Photos

Robert Tilghman and Art Riser

Charles Miller and friend

Al Rehder Display

 Photographed at the 2017 Tennessee Kentucky Rifle Show by Jan Riser.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

Knife by Glen Mock

Photographed at the 2016 CLA Show by Jan Riser.

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

2017 Tennessee Kentucky Rifle Show: Photos

Farrell Latour Display

Robert Melancon Display

John Rogers Display

Photographed at the 2017 Tennessee Kentucky Rifle Show by Jan Riser.