Author Topic: Flintlock experiment  (Read 2406 times)

Offline smart dog

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Flintlock experiment
« on: May 20, 2019, 01:52:41 AM »
Hi Folks,
I finished a long-term experiment with a Davis colonial American lock.  I used it on my "Star of Bethlehem" rifle, which I think many of you are familiar and I show below.  I've come to understand the working of flintlocks very well from building, tuning, repairing, and shooting them in rain, snow, and temps ranging from -20 degrees F to 90 degrees F.  I am a keen observer and am not in love with any modern-made locks since I had the opportunity to shoot several antique guns with a very fine late flint English locks.  That experience spoiled me forever.  Every commercial lock you buy today is second rate to those.   Anyway, I wanted to test one hypothesis, that the frizzen spring strength needs to be only sufficient to keep the pan cover closed and prevent kick back that strikes the flint a second time during a shot. A good flintlock should create abundant sparks without a frizzen spring and you want the frizzen to get out of the way as quickly as possible. But here is the rub, much testing of flintlocks focused on lock speed and speed of ignition.  The fresh clean lock is put through a few trial shots and data recorded.  To be honest, I don't give a @!*% how fast a lock is. I want to know will it fire the gun after 10, 20, 30, 40 shots and when the flint is worn to a nub.  Any good shooter can accommodate slow ignition but ignition has to happen.  To that end, the only modern commercially made locks that satisfy me are Chambers round-face English, Virginia fowler, and early Ketland locks.  Chambers late Ketland may also perform as well but I don't have enough direct experience at this time.  The Davis American colonial lock seemed to be a good one when I bought it and I was enthusiastic about it. Its performance was barely acceptable to me on my "Star of Bethlehem" rifle but I wanted to experiment with the strength of the frizzen spring over time and a lot of shooting conditions.  I adjusted the frizzen spring so it held the pan cover closed but was fairly weak about 7.5-10% (measured with a scale) of the force needed to bring the flintcock back to full cock.  The lock still produced abundant sparks and I went with that prescription for several years of shooting.  The lock was very fast and reliable for the first 10 shots or so.  As soon as gunk built up on the flint and frizzen, and the flint got worn, reliable ignition ceased. In addition, careful examination of the pattern of sparks when the lock was clean showed that most hit the pan on the front edge.  When shot and dirty, few sparks hit the pan at all and I had many misfires.  My next step was to increase the frizzen spring force to 25-30% of the force needed to bring the flintcock back to full cock. That solved the problem. It resulted in very reliable ignition even when the flint was dull and the lock dirty from fouling, and sparks fell into the pan.  My conclusion is that the frizzen face must be in position to force sparks into the pan not out of the way quickly. Moreover, the resistance caused by a stout frizzen spring  creates sparks even when the flint has to scrape through a film of fouling. I increased the strength of the frizzen spring and have had no misfires with the gun after 30 or more shots without cleaning.

dave             

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Online msellers

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2019, 02:39:00 AM »
Dave,
Thank you for takimg the time to write this up, and share ypur knowledge with all of us.  I am sure there are more than just me who greatly appreciate it, and are trying to learn more and become better builders.
Mike

Offline FALout

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2019, 03:22:44 AM »
Great info on your testing, but I’m just a little inexperienced in messing with frizzed springs even tho I’ve built quite a few rifles.  Guess maybe now would be as good as any to learn.
Bob

Offline David R.

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2019, 03:56:13 AM »
I had some unpleasant experience with a modern production lock. It worked great only as long as the flint was razor sharp. I could get maybe 4-5 shots before having to knapp the flint. The mainspring was very wimpy and tumbler bearings quite sloppy. I tried re- arching and re- tempering original spring and ended up breaking it. Made a new one nearly identical to old one and it performed little better. Made another shaped differently and much heavier, bushed the tumbler bearings and finally began to get better results, but now had frizzen rebounding. Tried re- heat treating original frizzen spring and got it working good for about 6 months then it broke. Made a new frizzen spring and now I can usually get 20 - 30 shots off before flint needs attention. Maybe not up to original English standards but a great improvement. As purchased the lock was not really useable. I count the whole experience as part of my flintlock education.
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Offline Clint

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2019, 04:07:47 AM »
Dave, The whole idea that a flintlock is a simple machine can be quite deceptive. DGW showed, in the late sixties, that a crude lock can be made to spark and light from time to time. The advancements of our modern lock manufacturers have taken reliability to heights not seen in the 20th century. Eighteenth and nineteenth century products are the high point of human hand work and as a commodity these locks needed to function at a level compatible to the times. Reliability was not desirable, it was mandatory, so the norm was near perfection. Given that metallography was a scatter shot in the early times, the skill and intuition of the smith made the difference. The old timers did not have access to O-1 or stressproof whatever steels. They had what they had and they felt the potential of the metals with deep nonverbal experience. Kind of like Kentucky windage metallurgy. This summer's projects include a group of six "V" pan locks and I will experiment with different tumbler cams and frizzed angles. I am developing drop forging dies for these locks and will make a bunch of the most successful version. I personally like a frizzen that snaps with authority and feel that the tipping point is what gives a lock it's speed.

Offline smart dog

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2019, 03:02:24 PM »
Thanks for looking and responding folks.  Clint, I agree with you except speed is not everything. Reliable ignition is more important to me.  To that end, when a lock is dirty and greasy, and the flint worn, I believe a longer, harder scrape on the frizzen face is better than a spring balance and geometry that pushes the frizzen out of the way immediately after the strike.  I believe that feature is the reason why my Chambers round-faced English locks work so well.  I use them on my mid-18th century English rifle and fowler.  Currently, I've fired over 600 rounds from my English rifle without a single misfire or hang fire, and only used up 10 flints during that period. I only swap out flints when they no longer have any discernible edge. I am confidant that my fowler will equal that performance after I corrected some "teething" issues like drilling the vent hole a little larger.  However, I tuned both of those locks so they are not right out of the box and during shooting I periodically but routinely clean the vent hole and wipe the frizzen face and flint.  IMO, any lock can work pretty well with a nice sharp new flint, and clean frizzen and pan.  It is only when the flint is worn and the breech is dirty that you really find out if you have a good lock.

dave   
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Offline Nhgrants

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2019, 03:04:07 PM »
Dave,

I have one of the Davis Colonial locks.  When I got it, the center of the cock was not inline with the center of the frizzen.
The flint would have to be offset in the jaws.  I perceived this as a flaw and with the cock placed in a vise, I heated
and bent it a little.  It all lines up now.

Did your lock come like that?  I am wondering if I fixed something that did not need to be fixed.

Thanks

Offline Craig Wilcox

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #7 on: May 20, 2019, 03:41:05 PM »
Dave, thanks for conducting the experiment, and for a GREAT writeup.  Really like people who enhance and promote our muzzle loaders.
I kinda expected your results, and had wondered about locks which allow the frizzen to "spring open".  Force meets force, and provides that shower of sparks.
Craig Wilcox
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Offline Bhmack

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #8 on: May 20, 2019, 04:12:10 PM »
Excellent eye opening work. Thanks for posting.
-Bob

My Highland ancestors were sentenced to ‘Transportation’ in lieu of death by King George after the Battle of Culloden. Serving time in Dixie since 1741.

Online bob in the woods

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #9 on: May 20, 2019, 05:10:54 PM »
My moose and bear rifle has the Chambers Early Germanic lock and it is absolutely dependable. Rain, snow, minus 30's on up and it has always worked for me. It's not fussy about flints either. It and the early Ketland, and Round faced english are my favourites for hunting dependability.  "Fast" is or can be misleading, since sparks can ignite the pan powder before the lock has completed it's travel /operation

Online rich pierce

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #10 on: May 20, 2019, 05:14:58 PM »
I did the same many years ago with another lock which happened to be a different model of Davis lock. I made a new stouter frizzen spring to solve the frizzen flip back problem. It seemed to spark better and flints lasted longer but I was not sure if it was due to less flip-back action on the flint or more sparks/directed to the pan.
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Offline hanshi

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #11 on: May 20, 2019, 10:06:10 PM »
Thanks for sharing the testing results; much "food for thought".
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Offline Frank

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #12 on: May 20, 2019, 10:36:02 PM »
Why can’t today’s lock makers get a few styles of these fine old locks and replicate them. Should be easy with modern Cad/Cam and CNC equipment. Duplicate the design and the spring tensions.

Maybe it is not effective and the market  volume isn’t there.
« Last Edit: May 20, 2019, 10:39:52 PM by Frank »

Offline jerrywh

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #13 on: May 20, 2019, 11:15:32 PM »
 I agree with the first part of Smart dogs assessment.  The frizzen spring only needs to be strong enough to hold the powder from spilling and prevent the frizzen from opening by accident while going through the brush.  As for the second part about fowling goes, everybody should wipe off the fowling from the frizzen face as required according to conditions. Allowing fowling to build up on a frizzen or flint creates an unfair condition for comparison.  IMHO.
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Offline G_T

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #14 on: May 20, 2019, 11:34:12 PM »
Just my impression, but I don't think any of the lock makers who are currently selling locks do anything CNC or even CAD. It would be nice to see more copies of originals!

At a show earlier this year I probably looked at every lock for sale. One passed a preliminary inspection so I bought it. The rest would need a lot more work to fix. Basic things, like cock not aligning flint towards the middle of the frizzen, very bad frizzen to pan fit, large lateral slop in the tumbler, frizzens obviously overly soft, ... Close to nothing is done well on many of the locks nowdays, IMHO. I know many seem to think worshipfully of some locks, but I'm not buying it. I've done a bit of machining, and what I've been finding is $#@* jobs. I'd rather have the castings and do it myself then go through the work of fixing it for some of these. Recently I had to replace a tumbler, a frizzen, a mainspring, rebend the cock, take a full mm off the bridle so the fly couldn't jam it, reshape the fly to keep it from bashing the sear, shorten the tumbler axle, harden and temper said frizzen, replace the frizzen spring since it seemed the roller was chewed by vice grips sometime before I got it, shorten all the screws, change the sear angles, remove some excess on the outside of the replacement tumbler that was causing excessive sear travel, got rid of the excessive distance between the flint and the frizzen at half-cock, adjusted the fitting of the replacement mainspring to have minimal lock plate clearance,... All that and probably more I'm forgetting, BEFORE getting to the point of doing any of the polishing work! And that was supposed to be a GOOD lock and yes I did send it back for some factory work before I started on it! And recently I got a custom lock that was, well, in need of re-work. Not usable as-is. With the frizzen closed you could pour 3F out of the pan. Probably even 2F.

IMHO, locks seemed to need less work around 30 years ago.

Sorry I raved OT. I'm still annoyed as you can tell! Anyway, back on topic - I greatly appreciate the info from your testing of frizzen spring strength. That's one area of working on locks where I definitely know nothing!

I tried an alternative mainspring with a different force curve in a Late Ketland, and found it altered the location the sparks went. The spring was essentially stronger at full cock. So it is likely equivalent to lightening the frizzen spring? The results surprised me. I went back to an original spring so the sparks went in the pan like they were supposed to!

Please keep up the tests and let everyone know what you find out! THANKS!

Gerald


Offline smart dog

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #15 on: May 21, 2019, 01:39:25 AM »
Hi,
I want to show these photos that demonstrate what I consider good performance in a flintlock. The lock is a Chamber round-faced English lock (which I consider the best lock commercially made today).  However, it was tuned by me, springs balanced (frizzen spring opens at 30% of the force required to pull flintcock to full), and the frizzen was case hardened.  The first photo shows sparks from a fresh sharp flint:
 
Now I turn that flint around so the dull blunt end faces the frizzen:

and fire:

Then I coat the frizzen and flint with inletting black to simulate heavy thick greasy fouling on a humid day and fire:

Then I picked up a small piece of quartz from my driveway:

and fired:

 In all cases, the lock would have ignited the powder in the pan and fired.  This is what I look for in a lock.

dave
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Offline sqrldog

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #16 on: May 21, 2019, 02:10:06 AM »
Dave
Just out of curiosity why do you rate the round face Chambers lock over the Early Ketland. There is certainly less bounce in an Early Ketland due to lighter hammer and frizzen. my experience shows that both locks when well tuned throw a great shower of sparks. Tim

Offline Dphariss

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #17 on: May 21, 2019, 03:00:36 AM »
Weak springs very seldom work well.  I hate weak frizzen springs for several reasons one is that they are too easy to nudge open when hunting.
One of the best locks I have is made from TRS recessed breech Manton rifle lock castings. Though someday I need to do a better job of facing the frizzen. It was likely 4140 and would only spark for a few shots  even if casehardened.
It's stiffly sprung, not hard of flints, reliable, it's fast, and its very consistent speedwise. 
As Dave state most locks we buy are really kits. For Germanic locks Chambers are the best. IMO and most need no real work or tuning unless its a minor spring re-arch.


Dan
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Offline Pukka Bundook

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #18 on: May 21, 2019, 06:24:27 AM »
Dave,

Your findings with the Chambers R-faced English and Early Ketland are exactly as my own.
I tried sharp flint, dull flint, oiled frizzen face and greased frizzen face and they all produced sizzling sparks.
Also agree entirely regarding a certain amount of pressure on the frizzen spring; 
 
It needs enough resistance for the flint to cut through any foreign material on the frizzen face.  A frizzen that moves too soon can not cause sufficient friction for the lock to spark well.
I had  not  figured out the 30% bit, and than you for that!  But I knew a flint needs to "bight'.

These two locks are the only types I have used for a long time. I have other locks here, but may trade them off.
One that sparks V well but remains unused , is an L&R Durs Egg.
I do have aChambers Early Germanic as well, but the mainspring is much softer, and it does not have the "bight'.


Offline Bob Roller

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #19 on: May 21, 2019, 03:12:32 PM »
It's a balancing act with springs. I have had to retemper frizzen springs to get a decent tension
more than once.I have seen lock that were fast because of a good mainspring but a look at the frizzen indicates
a high strike and no scrape.That will cause a slow fire or no fire.The 16 bore Manton that Tom Dawson had
would make a full scrape and slam white hot fire into the pan where it would sizzle with an audible sound.
Many production locks are little more than a project to work on as the gun is being made.Assembly quality
is a problem at times and was a big booger in the past along with frizzens made from?????????? at an
indifferent foundry.That Manton was and is the final conclusion to externally generated ignition systems
in guns and I recall reading these locks were a superb attempt to delay the onslaught of the up and
coming fulminate/percussion ignition.These attempts left us with some wonderful relics to try to emulate.
So far I haven't succeeded. >:(

Bob Roller

Offline tiswell

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #20 on: May 21, 2019, 03:59:14 PM »
Dave,
   What specific points on the frizzen and cock did you attach the pull force gauge to get your data? Also, did you pull on a plane parallel with the bore, or some other way?

                                                                                           Thanks, Bill

Offline Flint62Smoothie

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #21 on: May 21, 2019, 05:30:25 PM »
That Manton was and is THE final conclusion to externally generated ignition systems in guns.
These attempts left us with some wonderful relics to try to emulate.
So far I haven't succeeded. >:(
That’s amazing ... given the talent of you, Smart Dog and others here, that ‘we’ haven’t been able to replicate the performance of a Manton lock. Do you have any more thoughts on why this could be? Not debating, and most certainly not challenging anyone ... just questioning and trying to learn.

I wonder if it may be based in ‘craftsmanship’, but in meaning a LIFETIME OF IT, as in doing nothing else for a ‘day job’ but that task. I recall my Father, who was an old school craftsman in the locksmithing (keys & locks, not gun locks) trade for 60+ years and he could decode a wafer tumbler lock in seconds by eye, where ‘younger’ (in both age and experience) smiths would need decoding tools and still take many minutes, or even many key blanks, to do the same.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!
All of my muzzleloaders will shoot into a ragged ~1/2" hole ALL DAY LONG ... it's just the 2nd or 3rd or other shots that tend to open up my groups ... !

Offline J.E. Moore

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #22 on: May 21, 2019, 06:24:01 PM »
It's a balancing act with springs. I have had to retemper frizzen springs to get a decent tension
more than once.I have seen lock that were fast because of a good mainspring but a look at the frizzen indicates
a high strike and no scrape.That will cause a slow fire or no fire.The 16 bore Manton that Tom Dawson had
would make a full scrape and slam white hot fire into the pan where it would sizzle with an audible sound.
Many production locks are little more than a project to work on as the gun is being made.Assembly quality
is a problem at times and was a big booger in the past along with frizzens made from?????????? at an
indifferent foundry.That Manton was and is the final conclusion to externally generated ignition systems
in guns and I recall reading these locks were a superb attempt to delay the onslaught of the up and
coming fulminate/percussion ignition.These attempts left us with some wonderful relics to try to emulate.
So far I haven't succeeded. >:(

Bob Roller

Mr. Roller, what was the improvement in these Manton locks over previously made locks? Was it the geometry of the frizzen and path that the cock rotated thru it's travel?
« Last Edit: May 26, 2019, 07:47:48 AM by Ky-Flinter »

Offline Bob Roller

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #23 on: May 21, 2019, 06:41:03 PM »
That Manton was and is THE final conclusion to externally generated ignition systems in guns.
These attempts left us with some wonderful relics to try to emulate.
So far I haven't succeeded. >:(
That’s amazing ... given the talent of you, Smart Dog and others here, that ‘we’ haven’t been able to replicate the performance of a Manton lock. Do you have any more thoughts on why this could be? Not debating, and most certainly not challenging anyone ... just questioning and trying to learn.

I wonder if it may be based in ‘craftsmanship’, but in meaning a LIFETIME OF IT, as in doing nothing else for a ‘day job’ but that task. I recall my Father, who was an old school craftsman in the locksmithing (keys & locks, not gun locks) trade for 60+ years and he could decode a wafer tumbler lock in seconds by eye, where ‘younger’ (in both age and experience) smiths would need decoding tools and still take many minutes, or even many key blanks, to do the same.

Thanks in advance for your thoughts!

You got me to thinking back,back to the 1950's when IRON* frizzens were being made by
a man in Ohio,Ken Roethlesberger I think.After dosing them good with Kasenit,THESE frizzens would produce a fierce amount of sparks bordering on flames
at times.What we have now are cast in steel,mostly 1095. I had 100 frizzens cast for a German project that I worked on from 52-100 or ball bearing steel.
After case hardening them and using a warm oil quench the were tempered to a light straw color and with a sharp flint they would ALMOST duplicate the
performance of Tom Dawson's Manton but not quite.This was in the late 1970's and early 80's and those locks are still in use in European competitions in
a replica of a Boutet pistol made by Helmut Mohr in Mayen/Hausen Germany.Maybe the trick is in the frizzen material as well as the near perfect match in
the curvature of the frizzen face and the fixed pivot of the cock AND the quality of the flint.A powerful,preloaded mainspring and a correct preload on the
frizzen spring is another big consideration PLUS the fact that these locks were the state of the art in that time frame and still are today.Another thing that
Tom Dawson told me was,"We are today trying to relearn the skills that were common over 100 years ago".This was the late 1960's when he told me that and he was right.

Bob Roller
*Some of the first good quality cast parts were offered by Ted Cole who lived in Wilkinsburg,Pa.
He had cocks,top jaws and frizzens cast from steel but I have no idea what it was as far as alloy or numbers are concerned.
He made the lock plates from sheet steel either 1/8" or5/32" thick and W.G.Sutter made the internal parts from 1095 for
springs and tumblers were made from torsion bars taken from wrecked Chrysler and Packard cars.
To my knowledge the first ALL investment cast locks were from Chet Shoults in LaPeer,Michigan and these parts are still
available from Jerry Devaudreuil in Wooster Ohio as far as I know.As I recall,all these parts were all 8620 and Shoults fitted them
and cased hardened them as well with Kasenit.

Offline Daryl

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Re: Flintlock experiment
« Reply #24 on: May 21, 2019, 07:41:05 PM »
The L&R Dickert Lock I bought was a tremendous sparker right out of the box.
The L&R Durr's Egg on my .36 is as good, after Taylor re-hardened and tempered the frizzen.
Daryl

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