Author Topic: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts  (Read 2437 times)

timM

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Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« on: May 27, 2019, 05:51:58 PM »
Primed by two recent excellent thread topics:

Consider that maybe not much has changed regarding locks in the last 200+ years? 

Many of locks available today are copies of original locks.  Amazing how apparent the weaker designs are to us  in our information age.   

I also believe we demand more from our locks today between maintenance intervals than our forefathers.  My monthly matches typically burn 40 – 60 rounds in an afternoon.  I would be surprised if early riflemen came near that kind of usage on any typical day?  A proficient rifleman knows his weapon, its weaknesses and it's work around to keep his weapon barking.

A market for custom high quality locks has existed both then and now but always on the smallest production end.

Besides the best European makers, I think there have been a few American masters that stand out on their lock build quality. ie. John Armstrong, Phillip Creamers & Peter White best guns and maybe a few others.  Again, some contemporary lock-makers have answered the b­est quality demand.

If I woke up tomorrow on the frontier in 1790's I could only hope my rifle had a lock equal to my Chambers Siler! Comments and thoughts appreciated, and no worries about staying exactly on point for this topic for any who care to reply.  Respectfully, tim

Offline D. Taylor Sapergia

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #1 on: May 27, 2019, 06:21:36 PM »
I'll take the bait, Tim!  Personally, I'm delighted with the quality of production locks available to us today, especially at the cost.  When I started out on this addictive craft, I used the locks then available (70's) right out of the box, and they worked splendidly.  But as time went along and my experience and courage grew, I began to make slight changes here and there to fix a non-existent problem.  Some locks today lend themselves better than others to this sort of bashing.  So the bottom line is that it isn't necessary but it's enjoyable work.  So, either embrace it and step out on that limb, or leave it alone and carry on.  And give thanks for the array of such fine locks we have to work with.
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Offline smart dog

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #2 on: May 27, 2019, 06:26:03 PM »
Hi,
I am not sure that all of our modern locks are direct copies of originals.  I do not believe the Siler was an exact copy of any lock.  The Davis late flint that I used on my recent English rifle certainly was not.  I don't believe for a moment, an average hardware store English lock imported in the 1800s would have the roller on the frizzen spring positioned so far to one side that the toe of the frizzen contacts it only on its edge.  I don't believe the actions of frizzens on their springs would feel and sound like rubbing metal across coarse sand paper as it does on my L&R Queen Anne and TOW Tulle locks.  I know that not one of the original round faced English locks that I own or have examined in detail has a short sear and tiny sear spring like the L&R Queen Anne lock which makes it harder to adjust for a light trigger pull and positions the trigger further forward than I want.  I know that on my Twigg lock made from castings copied from an original, the flintcock falls forward sufficient that the flint is directed right into the pan unlike the Davis Twigg lock in which the the flint is left hanging way in the air throwing sparks at the frizzen not the pan.  I know my forged mainsprings feel whippy and "oily" because they have the right taper, shape, and preload unlike the new forged springs on L&R locks that are flat, no taper, and dead.  Often modern locks are designed to use the same internal parts to cut production costs rather than optimum performance and geometry, or historical accuracy.  Jim and Barbie Chambers do the best job balancing those parameters.

dave 
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Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #3 on: May 27, 2019, 06:34:46 PM »
It seems someone is not very happy with L&R locks.... ;)

To the OP. You should keep in mind that shooting was the national past time back then, I think you'd be surprised how much those old guns were shot. I believe that the average lock 200 years ago were equal to or nearly so, to todays locks, excepting the really cheap trade locks. That also doesn't include the fact that our modern alloys are probably superior. But, those old locks were more than adequate for the job.
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #4 on: May 27, 2019, 06:37:41 PM »
We have the advantage of seeing some very fine later flint locks and that colors our perception of quality. The colonist of modest means probably did not have much exposure to the very finest locks of the time.  They were used to what they were used to, and those locks probably seemed normal or even good to them.

It’s interesting to look at late hardware store quality original flintlocks and percussion locks. A great many would be unacceptable to our crowd today. Many simple percussion rifles including some Lemans and Conestoga rifles had set triggers that only functioned when set, and locks with no half cock notch and no need for a fly. Darned if I know how one would carry such a rifle safely with a cap on the nipple.   One feller suggested a piece of leather on a string attached to the trigger, wedged between the cock and cap.  Carry the gun capped with the leather the “safety”.  Can just see it getting caught on something.....  anyway our notions of quality are probably rarefied compared to old farmer Ephraim back then.
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Offline Mike Brooks

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #5 on: May 27, 2019, 06:43:50 PM »
I think also we should consider most of the locks that KY rifles used were imports from germany or England, many of them were of pretty good quality if you wanted to pay a bit more, or "you get what you pay for". I don't think the majority of locks on old KY's were made by the smithy who made the gun.
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Offline Jim Chambers

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #6 on: May 27, 2019, 07:53:55 PM »
I agree with all above except for the Siler lock not being a copy of an existing lock.  Actually, the really exquisite Isaac Haines rifle had just turned up about the time Bud Siler got interested in making locks.  Bud and Earl Lanning drove up to PA so Bud could look at and study the lock on that rifle.  Bud came home and made the original Siler lock based on the lock on that Haines rifle. 

Offline smart dog

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2019, 08:10:03 PM »
Hi Jim,
Thanks for that information.  I was not aware that Bud Siler actually copied a lock and understood he designed one with generic Germanic "hand forged lock" features from that period.

dave
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Offline G_T

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2019, 09:03:40 PM »
In my ignorance...

I'm thinking that a lot of the old guns got a lot of use. Over their life, it is likely some repairs were needed - perhaps replace a broken cock, re-harden or replace a worn frizzen, that sort of thing. Perhaps the lock is on its second gun and some work was done on it during the transfer. I doubt we see all that many which were well maintained and original (I'd love to see more!)

Import locks, made by people who's livelyhood was making such locks day-in day-out? In my experience people with skills may cut corners when a cheaper product is required, but the skill stays evident. Wasn't it a guild system? One doesn't intentionally do a worse job, one just does less of a job. So finish would suffer, for instance. No engraving. No final polish. In the white. Perhaps select the locks that weren't quite the best, to get the "cheap" treatment. Perhaps don't have a half-cock notch or a fly, or a roller frizzen. But for what was there, I'd expect a degree of workmanlike skill to still be present. The lock wouldn't be a kit. The manufacturer's reputation would suffer. The person who was trying to rise up in the guild would not make progress. I'm thinking these things mattered to them.

Gerald

Offline Tim Crosby

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2019, 10:57:43 PM »
 I wonder how much attention the average Joe paid to the Lock, for that matter any component of their gun 200+/- years ago. I would imagine all they wanted was something they could depend on. Smiths may be a different matter since their livelihood depended on their product.
 Today and especially in this group we are looking for quality dependable parts no matter what they may be, right down to ramrods. And it seems the farther we get in, the more we learn and want to do them right the more finicky/picky we get, not a bad thing.
 Good thread.

 Tim C.

Online Bob McBride

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2019, 11:17:49 PM »
I wonder how much attention the average Joe paid to the Lock, for that matter any component of their gun 200+/- years ago. I would imagine all they wanted was something they could depend on. Smiths may be a different matter since their livelihood depended on their product.
 Today and especially in this group we are looking for quality dependable parts no matter what they may be, right down to ramrods. And it seems the farther we get in, the more we learn and want to do them right the more finicky/picky we get, not a bad thing.
 Good thread.

 Tim C.

Not disagreeing with you Tim about dependability being primary and I may be totally off base here but I can imagine they were more picky. Even going so far as to order a gun from the gunsmith a town or two over, to pick up on their once a year visit, if they weren’t content with the new apprentice who would be making their rifle if they were to order from the maker two miles down the road. Especially the working class. I may be wrong but I see a single flaw in a single gun getting a smith ran out of town on a rail. Our lives now depend on nothing. Their’s depended on everything. Their weapon and their cloths WERE their status. They probably could tune a lock on a new rifle with the best of them, but had way d#mn too much to do. 
« Last Edit: May 28, 2019, 01:36:47 AM by Bhmack »
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Offline jerrywh

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2019, 11:56:36 PM »
 I have worked on original American long rifle locks and European locks both. Both were made of case hardened wrought iron. The springs were blister steel . At least they appeared to be. When broken you could see the grain in them. All the European locks I have seen were of excellent workmanship and the geometry was unsurpassed. The original American long rifle locks were a long ways from being equal to them. The original American long rifle locks were on the cheap side. All of them showed heavy file marks even on the springs. Probably why every expedition took a gunsmith along with them.  Another thing I have always thought about is this. In colonial days the British were always worried about insurrection. As a result many things were not available in the colonies, For instance spring steel.  I think the English tried to make sure the Americans had inferior weapons compared the them. Iron production was curtailed in the colonies. I believe the production lock today by most suppliers especially Jim chambers are far superior to the Original long rifle locs of the colonial days.
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timM

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #12 on: May 28, 2019, 12:05:38 AM »
Greetings Taylor,  I agree with your sentiment.  My first BP shooter was a TC Hawkens in 1975.....closely followed by a Sharon Hawken rifle.  I drooled on  my annual DGW catalogs as a kid for about 6 years prior to that.  Choices have improved.

Hi Dave, I have enjoyed you thoughtful postings for a long time now.  I also agree with much of your positions regarding locks.  I have been an avid  collector for a long time and have fired many condition worthy original arms that I own or have passed through my hands, so I have some experience there.   

Mike B, you are right, we were once a nation of riflemen and competition was a national sport.  Still, I would bet that most of the serious shooters on this forum put a lot more lead down range n a year that our colonial ancestors.  Cost of components if nothing else.  Even at 61 yrs my favorite flint shooter gets about 800+ rounds a year.  Your stance with early locks agrees with my point.

Rich P, great point, “they were used to what they were used to”  that thought carries over in much of our life today?

Mr. Chambers, thank you for checking in.  I admire that the source of some of our best locks has his finger on the pulse.  Good as it gets.

GT,  I believe typical English import locks originated in Birmingham through a cottage industry system.  No guild for this production.  Hitting the mark on what would be acceptable at a certain price point was name of the game.  I recall reading about B'ham trade rifle production for the fur trade era having issues with hitting the mark on what was acceptable, Ashley I think.  Again, no more than trying to hit the mark on acceptability at price point.

German import lock production, I am not so sure if it was something other than lock filers doing piece work.  I may be a bit skew on all this ?

Offline smylee grouch

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #13 on: May 28, 2019, 12:31:02 AM »
It almost appears that most people would want the best lock/equipment that they can afford but some times I get the idea that SOME of those same people will settle for something less when it comes to accuracy and the most accurate load for their rifle. I see it in print quite a bit here and at shooting matches. Stuff like min. of deer at 25 or 50 yds is good enough.  :-\

Offline Taylorz1

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #14 on: May 28, 2019, 01:11:26 AM »
I have no comment on modern vs antique locks and their relative qualitites except to say that the average locks made by LR, Davis, Chambers have been fast and reliable in my experience. The issue of no half cock notches on many locks and  the locks on Leman guns is interesting. While it certainly is less work to make a lock with no halfcock notch or fly I think many people during this period carried their guns loaded, capped and at fullcock. TB Tryon in his "complete rehabilitation of the flintlock" commented that "plainsman" of the period always carried their rifles at full cock. Pictures from 30-40 years later certainly show a large number of people holding guns at full cock.

Offline G_T

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #15 on: May 28, 2019, 01:28:06 AM »
Tim,

I'll have to read up more on European lock production of that era. Thanks for the info! I appreciate any mis-conceptions I have being corrected!

Smylee,

Sometimes minute of deer is all the shooter can achieve. I was at a range next to a person shooting about 6" group at 100yds off a rest with a modern scoped rifle. I didn't see anything obvious. So I let him shoot mine. He shot the same with mine. It wasn't the rifle...

Anyway, if one can't shoot, one might as well look good while doing it!

All,

Out of a half dozen locks recently, I've two where some of the work is absolutely necessary. Being able to dump powder out of a closed pan is unsafe on a range or near a campfire and generally useless for hunting. And I don't mean 4F. Having a lock jam because the tumbler can move enough laterally for the fly to come out and jam the mechanism is also useless. For the rest of the cases, yes, they can make a spark. IMHO that's sort of a low standard. I'd say about half the locks are pretty good as-is. The others though...

I've handled some rifles where the locks are works of art. It is a pleasure to see such fine craftsmanship. The persons who have made the rifles and tuned the locks are proud of the work they have done. And they darned well should be! I've handled others where they are barely useful trash. You smile, nod, and move on. I think the whole range is out there. When issues can be seen at a glance, it makes one wonder what can't be seen.

Anyway I'm ok with fixing things myself, within my capabilities, and to a point. At the current prices I don't expect perfection. But I do expect the basics to be done right. What isn't, I expect to be easily fixable without replacing parts. This isn't always the case.

Had a gunsmith let a lock like either of those two I mentioned go out the door, they yes they might have been run out of town.

I tend to call it like I see it, and I am probably too much leaning towards being a perfectionist. When I see an example of what is essentially a fairly simple mechanism poorly fabricated with disregard for basic machining practices by long time professionals in the field, I am unimpressed. If current barrels or current triggers (I'm talking about the main US sources that we would use to make a rifle) were as poorly made as many current locks, I dare say most builders would be up in arms (pun intended).

Sorry, that's how I see it.

Actually I'm amazed we can get any of the parts for what we can get them for. I'd like to see makers quit sending out what should be rejects, and charge what needs to be charged to make that happen. A little bit of QC and bumping the standards a little bit would go a long ways. IMHO, of course!

It's costing me more in time and sometimes in parts to fix locks than it would cost if the manufacturers reliably sent them out so they wouldn't need to be fixed. But as I've said in another thread, I'm definitely not the fastest worker. So YMMV.

Gerald

PS - I'll drop out of this thread. I know my opinion is in the minority.

Offline Huntschool

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #16 on: May 28, 2019, 03:23:08 AM »
This may in fact go in a different direction but I suspect (just me) than those folks that relied on their rifle to provide food as well as personal protection may have been more conscious as to higher quality components of the day then we know.

Using myself, today, thought this may sound silly, as how well will this gun performs at the cost point as that relates to my life.....

NOTE:  My very early Dutch ancestry leads me to think this way.....  Those folks that were leading the expansion westward likely did not want an "average" parts gun...… Locks and barrel. 

The gun trade in the states from then to now seems to always have been a bit of specialty shop thing as relates to barrels and locks...…  Much like the German and English did.  I know nothing about the French stuff.

JMHO
« Last Edit: May 28, 2019, 03:28:26 AM by Huntschool »
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Offline JamesT

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #17 on: May 28, 2019, 04:25:45 AM »
I have read a couple different references where guns were carried at full cock with the thumb placed in front of rhe cock for safety. Its actually quite plausible. Its really wnatever your accustomed to.

Offline rich pierce

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #18 on: May 28, 2019, 05:04:11 AM »
The reasoning that folks whose lives depended on their guns would have demanded the best depends on them knowing what was the best, having the best available, and being able to afford it.  This seems to have been true in some situations, such as free trappers purchasing higher end rifles for the western fur trade.

On the other hand plenty of Native Americans in the same wilderness got by with cheap smoothbore trade guns with unbridled locks (internal and external bridles not present). Their lives depended on the quality of their guns too.  But better guns were not routinely available to them or affordable. Some few “chiefs grade” guns were undoubtedly known, but not everyone could get one.

I’m not arguing for poor quality. I love high quality. But plenty of poor people whose lives or livelihoods depend on quality cannot afford high quality in certain situations. 

In a couple neighborhoods close by me, Range Rovers, tricked out “urban mall crawler” high end jeeps, Beemers, Mercedes, Tesla’s, Audi’s, Lexus, infinity, and occasional Maseratis are the cars of choice for soccer moms.  Spending less than $50k is apparently unacceptable.  10 miles away working moms are driving beaters. Not just economy cars. Beaters. They might break down going to work and no service plan comes with those old used cars.
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Offline B.Barker

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #19 on: May 28, 2019, 05:43:18 AM »
While Daniel Boone was living with the Shawnee he was given an English lock I believe, maybe Germanic. He said it was the best lock he ever seen and had a rifle made using the lock after he escaped and made it back to the settlements. Can't remember which Boone book I read that one in but could have been the one that was written by Ted Belue.

Offline Anonymous

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #20 on: May 28, 2019, 05:52:56 AM »
As long as we are discussing lock quality, I have a question about a Davis Germanic lock I recently purchased. The frizzen spring appears to have some excessive twist to it. It is tight to the lock plate at the bottom, but twists away from the plate on the top and has reduced contact with frizzen paw. Is this typical?  Seems excessive, but maybe I am just being too fussy?  Thoughts.







Offline rich pierce

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #21 on: May 28, 2019, 06:11:29 AM »
Not right or acceptable.
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Offline Huntschool

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #22 on: May 28, 2019, 07:07:06 AM »
The reasoning that folks whose lives depended on their guns would have demanded the best depends on them knowing what was the best, having the best available, and being able to afford it.  This seems to have been true in some situations, such as free trappers purchasing higher end rifles for the western fur trade.

On the other hand plenty of Native Americans in the same wilderness got by with cheap smoothbore trade guns with unbridled locks (internal and external bridles not present). Their lives depended on the quality of their guns too.  But better guns were not routinely available to them or affordable. Some few “chiefs grade” guns were undoubtedly known, but not everyone could get one.

I’m not arguing for poor quality. I love high quality. But plenty of poor people whose lives or livelihoods depend on quality cannot afford high quality in certain situations. 

Rich:

With all due respect.... what is the difference between the the free trappers of the fur trade and the Longhunters of the Eastern woodlands expansion....  (other then the change from flint to cap and that took some time)  Nothing, I would propose.  Each acquired the most dependable, well built rifle that they desired and could afford.  Their life depended on it.  Certainly there were lesser quality arms being made and sold for use by those that were following behind the expansion Westward and even many of those guns used imported locks and barrels. 

As to the Native Americans arms....  What invading force (English or French) would arm a potential adversary with arms as good as their own militry arms.....  Trade guns are just that, a trinket for the abboriginies to satisfy a presumed need by that group.  Dont get me totaly wrong here, those guns could do the job but it goes to the old saying about hiding behind bushes at greater range and shooting the officers/leaders off their horses or feet before they thought they were in range.

I think, to put it in the venacular, there were "gun guys" who knew what made a good gun even before and during the AWI....  Just me thinking out loud.  Your points are well taken.

Excellent posts all......
Bruce A. Hering
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Offline Huntschool

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #23 on: May 28, 2019, 07:21:51 AM »
As long as we are discussing lock quality, I have a question about a Davis Germanic lock I recently purchased. The frizzen spring appears to have some excessive twist to it. It is tight to the lock plate at the bottom, but twists away from the plate on the top and has reduced contact with frizzen paw. Is this typical?  Seems excessive, but maybe I am just being too fussy?  Thoughts.

And then there is the Chambers Germanic out of the package:





image sharing

Just a thought......
Bruce A. Hering
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Offline Dave B

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Re: Locks, Then and Now - just some thoughts
« Reply #24 on: May 28, 2019, 07:52:24 AM »
That spring looks to have been made using a deformed wax. I would send it back to them to make it right. I had that same lock of theirs that had an over sized hole in the sear so that the sear moved back and forth slightly with out the return spring in place. I took it over to their display at the CLA show and They said no worries but I would have to let them have it for the replacement. I got my lock back a week later, perfect function, no play, no charge. They will make it right I am sure. Just don't mess with it. They may even send you a replacement if you send them back the twisted one. I would lean towards sending back the whole thing so if they find any thing else out of sorts they may just give you a new lock in exchange. I have that same lock on a new project for down the road. Here is a shot of its frizzen spring. Definitely worth giving them a call.

Dave Blaisdell