Notes on Making a Traditional Wiper & Ferrule 

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I show several traditional hand turned wipers (worms) in the Gallery on my custom guns page, and I have had some questions about how I make them.  Although I have seen a number of wipers in the patchboxes of original rifles, I learned to make them from watching Hershel House's second video on building the Kentucky Rifle. I vary a little from the procedure shown in Hershel's video in that I put a 10-32 thread on the end of the wiper instead of permanently attaching it to a the ramrod ferrule.  The procedure starts with 5/16" hot rolled rod that I get from Lowes. I cut off a piece about a foot long and file about one and a half inches of one end flat. That is, you file away all but about 3/32" or so at the center of the rod. You then split this flat with a hacksaw and file out two round tines tapered to a point. You will have to bend out the tines to file them. Once the tines are filed, you can either turn the rest of the wiper or finish the tines. To finish the tines, you bend them in opposite directions at about a 45 degree angle. From there, you just twist them around the center line of the wiper in a counter-clockwise direction using a pair of needle nose pliers. You may need to use a hammer and apply some heat to get them shaped properly. The tines should make about one full revolution. It really helps to see someone do this at least once. I suggest that you get the Herschel House video.

After the tines are made, you simply turn the body in an electric drill or lathe using files. I use a Jet Midi Lathe with a four jaw chuck to turn my wipers.  That is the reason I start with such a long piece of rod.  I run the excess rod through the headstock and leave about three to four inches exposed for turning.  I generally turn about two inches behind the tines.  This is generally just a long tapered cone with a little filed decoration.   The last thing I do in shaping the body of the wiper is turn down about  half an inch for the 10-32 thread.  I use a square bastard for this to make sure I have a nice square shoulder.  You have to check frequently with a pair of calipers to make sure you don't get the stud too small.  It should be the diameter of a 10-32 screw.   Once you have turned the stud down to the correct diameter, you can cut the wiper off with a hacksaw.   The only thing left to do is use a die stock to cut the threads on the stud.  You can just clamp the wiper in a vise for this operation.  I blacken the wiper by heating it to a dull red and then just let it cool.  You could also dip it in quenching oil quickly and let the oil burn off.   

I put a traditional rolled sheet iron(steel) ferrule on the breech end of my ramrods to accept the hand turned wipers.  To make one yourself, find an alignment tool from a pin punch set. I am sure you have one around your shop somewhere.  Then take a note card and cut out a rough template for a truncated cone. Wrap it around the alignment tool and keep trimming until you have a hole the size of a 10-32 tap drill at one end and a hole that is 1/4" on the other end. Then you will have the same template I do.

From there, you just use the template to cut out a piece of 1/32" steel with metal shears. This is 22 gage sheet that you can buy at Lowes. File the mating edges straight and reasonably square. A slight draft toward the inside of the curve wouldn't hurt. Open up the jaws of your vise just a little bigger than the alignment tool at its widest point. Center your metal blank over the opening and then use the alignment tool and a one pound ball peen hammer to drive the blank down between the jaws. You can use the vise to close the blank around the mandrel/alignment tool. You won't be able to close it all the way. Hammer the blank around the mandrel on the anvil of your vise to finish closing it up.

 Once you have the seam closed up nice and tight, it is time to braze the seam. Once brazed, you just need to clean up the ferrule and square up the ends. You can leave some of the clean up for once you have it on the ramrod. I use a belt sander for most of the clean up. It is very quick. I also use the belt sander for turning down the ramrod to slide the ferrule on.  You will still need to score the shoulder with a knife and do the final fitting of the shoulder with a knife. I fit the ferrule tight and drive it on the last 1/16" of an inch to the shoulder. It is very important that the ferrule fits on tight, particularly where you will pin it to the ramrod.

Then, just drill a hole for a 6d nail (a little over a 1/16") all the way through the center of the ferrule no more than one third of the way up from the base of the ferrule . Countersink each side and rivet the ferrule on with the nail. You only leave about 1/16" of the nail exposed to peen. Start by clamping the nail in the vise so that only 1/16" is showing with the ferrule tight against the vise jaws. Really clamp down on that nail in the vise, then start peening the nail into the counter sunk hole. Start with light taps until you start the nail mushrooming. Just tap, tap, tap until the hole is filled and covered. Then flip the ferrule over and trim the nail to 1/16" on the other side. I just use the cutter on a small pair of needle nose pliers to trim my rivets/nails. It leaves just the right amount of nail showing when I trim as close as I can. Place the finished side of the rivet down on the vise anvil and go to town on the other side with the hammer. Remember, light taps until your get started then you can get a little heavier. Finesse is the name of the game in riveting. If you do it right, you should never hit anything other than the rivet. Once the riveting is done, use a file or belt sander to file down the rivet head and finish cleaning up the ferrule.

The last step is taping the hole. Clamp the ramrod in the vise for this with just the ferrule exposed. The tap may be a little tight and it may be necessary to run in the appropriate tap drill if it is too tight or you ran the ramrod up too far.  By virtue of the design,  this is going to be a loose thread, but it is enough to hold a properly tightened wiper in place.   

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This page was last updated on  07/08/04 .

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