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General discussion => Shop Made Tools => Topic started by: Dan on January 12, 2011, 05:22:37 AM

Title: Mould Cherry
Post by: Dan on January 12, 2011, 05:22:37 AM
Can someone explain how cherries are cut, sharpened and hardened?  For extra credit, how are they applied to mould blocks?

Help a fella fill a perfect vacuum please. ;D
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: Metalshaper on January 13, 2011, 02:37:29 AM
a bit long winded.. sorry

when I did mine,( I actually did two  )

 I started by figuring out what material I was going to use for blocks. aluminum in my case. I was taking a machining class at the Vo-Tech , so I faced the surfaces on the Big Acer mill they had. then matched the blocks and drilled them for 2,  long metal dowels, so they could just slide back and forth and stay in register.

I used a Machinery's handbook, to figure out the shrink rate of the lead against the expansion rate of the blocks. this determined what size I'd need to turn the blank.  if I remember right it worked out to -0.005-0.006. so for my gun the blank was 0.334 to end up with a .340 ball from aluminum blocks.

I roughed in the mild steel cherry on the lathe and following the advice from Fento in Australia, I lathe filed it.. trusting , as he said, My eyes, balance and feel. The blank ended up only 0.0003- 0.0005 out of round according to my Brother in-law. He couldn't believe I'd try it and wanted to measure it with HIS micrometer. < a new box of Hornady lead balls were way worse, when we measured them! :)  >

btw, after my instructor heard me talking about the project he asked to measure one of the blanks!!  I automatically  got an A in the class and had carte blanche to do what I wanted in his shop!!

using the extension I had left on the shank,  I held it in the vise. beforehand, i had purchased a new/small triangular file and ground a safe edge. using this I hand filed
the teeth to the cutter using my magna-visor to keep a good focus on things,. I had blacked it with a sharpie and using the safe side, was able to keep the flutes fairly straight sided and also back cut the next one over. I made the teeth on a slight angle and made sure at least one tooth went across the bottom arc/surface of the cherry.  using the blacking I was able to keep a thin edge on each flute.

out came the lil propane torch and a can of kasenite. after I cut some of the extension off the part,  I heated dipped and quenched the cherry three times.  well, just because??

after this, back to the magna-visor and  a bright spot light . Using a hard arkansas stone 'stick',  I whetted the edges of the flutes.   just making the blacking barely disappear as I angled toward the cutting surfaces. <Wish I had waited to cut the extension :P )

I really wish I had a mill at this time, but I used my lil benchtop Craftsman drill press. I did it all wrong at this point! ( or maybe from the start! :D )I brought the table up and established the how deep into the block it would go. I cobbled up a set of clamps/rails using some scrap metal and a pair of C-clamps. I started the press and working slowly, I started to close the mould halves.

lots of stopping to spread the blocks, clear chips and re-lube. OH, Found out that liquid wrench makes a great cutting lube for aluminum! My instructor had kinda 'hinted' I may want a can near when I did the cutting.  Pretty soon I had the blocks closed and the cavity cut.  Maybe not the best job ever?? but hey, I did it myself!  To finish of the blocks they went back to class and I trimmed the top of the blocks down to the top of the ball/shank area. I used a square and a sharp scribe, to cut  a couple of vent lines across the face of the blocks. these were really light and after a lot of use have worn even thinner.

made up a Hokey set of handles and added a cut off plate. Not pretty but I went to casting!!  Fired a whole lot of those balls at various shoots!  later in a trade/barter, I gave up a lil 28 gauge Belgian smooth bore for a guys project and in return got a lee mould in 0.340 and a couple of other things if I remember right?

My Bud is happy as a clam, shooting his old Numrich .31 cal barrel, which takes a patched .295 ball. His mould I made the same way as above. just didn't take as long to get the mould halves closed, when I came time to cut the cavity! ;)

Hope this explains a lil of what I did??

When I get a chance to find a couple of things, I'll get a pic of the mould, cherry ( or a blank ) and a few of the castings!

Respect Always
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: Dan on January 13, 2011, 04:39:12 PM
Thank you sir!  Much explained that had puzzled me in the past.  Would very much like to see a photo or two of the process when you can, particularly the cherry. Filing something like that with any precision seems challenging, to say the least.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: greybeard on January 13, 2011, 06:00:58 PM
Thats great;  Must be satisfying ever time you send one of those projectiles down range. I never could muster up that much patience. I well recall machining double lead threads 1/4 +28 for a mainspring vise then the light bulb went on OOPS smartie "You can't do the female threads on the lathe"   So I had to make a double lead tap. Looks kinda ugly but works just fine.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: KNeilson on March 15, 2011, 08:22:07 AM
These pictures cannot be restored. They are probably on hosted in a dead accountThis is something Ive wanted to try, and over the last couple weeks have actually been able to complete the task. There have been a few recent posts on the subject that I have gleaned a little info off, and also several books that have reference to the methods used. I took some pics along the way to help people picture the steps, and will add some of my own observations as well as a bibliography for those interested...
Because of some issues with my rifle I had purchased a new .40 barrel and having now installed it the need arose. Measuring the new barrel with a digital caliper I got .040 across the lands. Wanting a .390- .395 ball, and using the shrinkage factor mentioned in Metalshapers post (.005-.006) I shot for a cherry sized .395-.400. One of the first things I discovered is that is is not all that difficult to be accurate in making the size of the cherry you want to. I started mine by forging a ball on the end of a piece of high carbon steel. This is not a neccesary step but I had access and wanted to save a bit of filing. It looked like this, the ball measures roughly .500
The next step was to rough file it to a ball shape. I put it in my lathe to help with this and now I had this, a ball measuring .410-.425


I then made a scraper to accurately finish it to size. I used a piece of industrial saw blade, good hard stuff but a bit thin... First drilled a 25/64 (.3906) hole, then I used a 90 deg countersink till I had the hole at .399. Be carefull of the burr the countersink produces, it must be removed before measuring the hole. Having the hole at .399, I hardened and tempered the steel using standard methods. After hardening I  sharpened it and got the final size of .398 by stoning the flat bottom surface. I then carefully cut a notch for the cherrys stem, it looks like this

With the rough cherry turning on the slowest speed, well lubricated, I scraped it to size. I found it faster to blacken the cherry, lightly scrape to find the high spots, and then file with a very fine file. Once you are within a couple thou of size, use only the scraper. The finished product was not  round, measured .396 x .398. Not perfect but close for a first I thought.. used a little fine emery and had a good ball to start filing


To experiment cutting the teeth I practiced on a modelling clay ball stuck on a pencil, using a chopstick sharpened to three sides like a file. I think this really helped with the success of the project.


For the teeth you use a safe edged, three corner file and hold the cherry in a notched block of wood. To ease seeing the teeth I used super blue to darken it a bit, Start with the safe edge of the file against the stem and file to the top at a slight angle crossing the centerline and staying off it. One of the articles I read suggested this and said it would cut a rounder ball this way. By the end I was agreeing....




I heat treated the cherry the same way as the scraper and ended up  like this...


The cherry still measures .396x.398, the teeth are quite sharp and it has performed very well... I made two molds, one in aluminium and one soapstone. My favorite is the soapstone but I`ll save that for another post..  They look like this..



And the final product, a ball measuring .395-397......... right on the seam it measures bore size but is very easy to scrape with a knife blade to make round


Now Ived saved the best for the last...  The second trip to the range to work on loads and using these balls I got this target....015 ticking patch, mink oil lube, 50 yds, 40g 3F... Lines are 3/4 inch...I`m tickled!!

Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: dannybb55 on March 15, 2011, 01:43:16 PM
 Now all that you need to do is forge a mold out of wrought iron to an old pattern. I have just rebuilt my forge and your pictures are sure a help, thanks.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: Darrin McDonal on March 16, 2011, 12:00:10 AM
Thank you Kerry, I have been wanting to try this for quite a while. I have a couple of questions for you to help me clearify things in my mind. When you said you started filing the with the safe side of the file against the stem I am assuming you meant the cherry or did you mean down by the stem, working upward?  Also, how did you get the 2 halves (of the mold) to cut even without the cherry creeping when it first touches the two sides as it is closed? Or did you cut the mold another way? This could be a how to video.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: KNeilson on March 23, 2011, 06:58:07 AM
Thx for the comments.. dannybb55, I have a piece of metal I have been saving to do just that. Wrought iron is getting harder to find nowadays, I found a couple big spikes from an old mine entrance this summer. Now I just gotta find the round tuit  :)...  Darrin, If you look at the picture where I am hold the cherry (stem in my left hand, towards me) the safe edge can be seen against the stem of the cherry, which btw measure 5/32 x .250 long. This is the "start" of the tooth, filing towards the top crossing to left of center as you go. The files safe edge is forming the cutting surface (right hand or clockwise cut), the clearance behind the next tooth being formed as the depth increases. If you look at the cavity (top right) in the soapstone mold you will see a "nipple" has formed. This was caused by creeping of the cherry. Why, I believe, is that the dust (cuttings) was migrated to the end of the cutter by the action of the tool (like Archimedes screw), and it forced the cutter off. I found that  by just going slow and easy with lots of chip cleaning it was not all that hard to get a good cavity. Also similar circumstance with the alum mold, just not as sever...Now that Ive done this, I`ll bet you could cut a few decent soapstone molds with an unhardened tool, the stuff I got from the local Rockhound shop sure was soft and easy to work. Kinda like plaster of paris.. With no preheating, the balls came out shiny and perfect from the first one as the material does not draw heat away like metal ones (molds), I get about 20 balls before I can feel the molds heat in a gloved hand........ regards....... Kerry 
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: dannybb55 on March 23, 2011, 02:13:21 PM
I have some if you are interested.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: Southron on May 05, 2011, 09:37:55 PM
Aluminum is a very poor metal from which to make a mould. The ONLY REASON aluminum moulds are made and sold by the commercial mould makers because it is so CHEAP.

Do what I do, make your moulds out of C 360 BRASS. Brass moulds are much, much better than aluminum moulds. Try brass-you will like it!

Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: rich pierce on May 06, 2011, 12:45:20 AM
Great tutorial.  Hope you don't mind I reformatted the picture placement to make the page normal width.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: KNeilson on May 20, 2011, 12:36:46 AM
Thx Rich, I was a little rushed when I made the post. Didnt realize what I did at first, then didnt know how to fix it. Next time I will pay a bit more attention. Southron, I will try as you suggest after I get the iron one finished,   thx for the tip.....  Kerry
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: Steve Bookout on June 15, 2011, 04:56:36 AM
Great tutorial.  Excellent job! Glad to see someone else doing this!  Cheers, Bookie
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: KNeilson on June 25, 2011, 06:46:05 AM
Thx Bookie...that means a da man.   ;D  Kerry
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: baer19d on August 21, 2011, 09:03:42 PM
I bet it was very satisfying to get those kind of resualts from RB casted in a mold that you made with a cutter that you manufactured. No doubt in a rifle that you made yourself as well.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: James Wilson Everett on November 29, 2011, 02:05:49 AM

Here are some Photos of 4 original cherries.  Two are the more common round ball cherries, but one is a tear drop shaped cherry and one is unfinished.   The unfinished cherry should be interesting for this posting subject, it is the only original in-process cherry I have seen..


The tear drop cherry is 0.581 dia x 0.680 long.  The small cherry is 0.431 dia and the large cherry is 0.513 dia.  The unfinished cherry diameter is 0.538 min x 0.572 max.  It is clearly rough filed to this diameter and is not hardened.  I assume the gunsmith intended to finish the cherry to fit a certain bore but was unable to complete the job.  I do not know if the material is hardenable steel or is iron that required a case hardening.  Too bad these old tools cannot talk to us!

I doubt if the teardrop shape worked very well, but it does show that there was some experimantation going on.  Also, I guess the direction of the teeth did not matter much to this gunsmith.

Jim Everett
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: D. Taylor Sapergia on November 29, 2011, 08:54:24 PM
The first Hawken rifle I built for myself, was a .62 calibre.  I couldn't afford a mould at the time, so a friend who knew a machinist at the rail yards had one made for me out of aluminum.  It cast a ball that was shaped like a football.  The diameter was correct, but the length was much longer - like a football.  I cast "balls" of pure lead and the rifle shot very well - well enough to begin a reputation for making and shooting winning rifles.  Eventually, I acquired a commercial mould but the accuracy did not substantially improve.
So perhaps that elongated "ball" produced from the mould cut with that cherry, wasn't so bad after all.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: C Wallingford on November 29, 2011, 09:25:40 PM
I did the same thing several years ago. I figured a football flew pretty straight so a cast lead ball should do the same. The thing shot very well.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: Bob Roller on November 29, 2011, 10:09:08 PM
Bill Large had a big drawer full of these old "cherries" and maybe Jim McLemore got them when he bought all the machines,tools and other items from Bill's daughter.
Bill showed me how to make these and said the more irregular the teeth,the better as long as they were sorta/kinda all traveling in the same direction. I have some I made over forty years ago that are still good and use them once in a while. They are rotary files and nothing more.

Bob Roller
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: kutter on November 30, 2011, 12:37:27 AM
Just wondering,,,would making a 1/2 reamer type cutting tool instead of filing the teeth into place be usable,, easier,, worse,, or not worth the time.

Maybe it wouldn't be strong enough once the shank was relieved also.

Not the fastest cutting tools around but they do the job. I've made and used many over the years but never for a bullet mould.

I'm certainly no machinist, just thinking of different ways to do things.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: KNeilson on November 30, 2011, 05:33:44 AM
Nice pic of the original cherries! I spent a fair bit of time looking for a similar image not too long ago. The only other picture Ive seen is an old NMLRA  paperback how-to on muzzloading from the 60`s. Ive yet too try another shape than cylinder or ball, but the balls I cast in the soapstone mold shoot as well as a commercial mold I have. When casting balls, for me, the biggest difference Ive found is the speed of the modern scissors mold c/w sprue cutter. The soapstone molded balls require far more cleanup..   Kerry
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: TMerkley on December 03, 2011, 07:49:30 PM
Can a mould be made of clay?  Just curious.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: LynnC on December 04, 2011, 06:17:15 PM
Depending on the clay, shrinkage of 10 to 15 % is possible upon kiln firing.  Getting the ball size you want might be challenging.  Warpage could be a factor too.

Possible yes,  Practical ?

I've never heard of any historically but the technology existed, someone may have done it...............Lynn
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: James Wilson Everett on December 05, 2011, 04:08:33 AM

I have never tried clay, but I have used plaster of paris many times with very good results.  Mostly I used this type of mold for making very large balls for wall guns, like 1.063 inches in diameter.

A rough description of the process is to get a ball of the right size, the material does not matter, metal, plastic, whatever.  Make a "hamburger patty" from modeling clay, sink the ball exactly half way into the clay, build a circular "dam" of paper around the clay and about an inch above the clay.  pour liquid plaster of paris into the "dam".  Do this quickly as plaster of paris sets quickly.  After the plaster sets turn the thing over, remove the clay and pour the second half of the mold.  After the second pour sets, seperate the two parts, pry out the ball, cut a pour gate.  Next bake the open mold in the oven for at least an hour.  You really - really - really must get all moisture out of the plaster.  I mean ALL moisture.  Put the mold together and align the two halves and pour your lead in.  The mold will not last long, but I have been able to get about 30 balls cast before the edges of the mold chips away.

Note if you don't get all of the moisture out the hot lead will come flying back out in you face from the moisture flashing to steam.

Jim Everett
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: wmaser on December 08, 2011, 09:16:06 AM
I have made a few large roundball moulds for swivel guns and small cannon using refractory cement and a method, similar to mr. Everett. I crush firebrick up with a hammer into sand and gravel sized pieces, mix up a sort of mortar with the refractory cement and put an appropriate amount of this mortar into both halves of a can , cut in two. I then put a strofoam ball or a golf ball or any ball of the size wanted into the mortar, placing the two halves together. Saran wrap, sandwiched between the halves will ease separation after it has set up. Ball size can be fine tuned by wrapping an undersized ball with electrical tape. It takes a few days for the mortar to set up. heat will speed up the process.
Imperfections can be ground out with a rotory stone or if pits need to be filled, simply rub some refractoy in with your finger.
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: Captchee on February 13, 2012, 05:29:54 PM
james .
 i have a  original Stutzer rifle that shoots a cloth patched conical .  i was thinking maybe your tear dropped cherry may have been  an attempt  to make such a conical
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: D. Keith Lisle on March 12, 2012, 04:50:58 PM
Here are some hand made cherries made by a passed gunsmith of Louisville, KY.  (Norton Gatz)  One of the small ones is a massed produced cherry, (maybe used for a pattern ?), the others hand filed & hardened. Most cut the same direction. Possibly easier for him to file them that direction ?


Still digging thru little boxes of stuff.  These were in with a box full of rifling heads that  is for the rifling machine he had. Various sized cherries & the double one of .340 cal one end, .400 on the other end, I thought was unique.  All were made from round stock.  Have not found any molds yet, possibly he made a mold for the barrels as he finished them & the mold went with the barrel/rifle.

Keith Lisle

Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: KNeilson on March 14, 2012, 03:50:49 AM
Possibly easier for him to file them that direction ?
I dont know if one direction is easier than the other in regards to filing the teeth , Ive filed mine to cut "right hand" so they can be used in a drill press, lathe or with a hand brace driven in a r/h (clockwise)direction. Most rotary cutting tools seem to be like this, I`m thinking originally cause the world has more rightys than leftys...I would say this fellow did the same..with the shanks designed to mount in a rotary chuck..          regards..       Kerry
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: Bubblehead on July 15, 2022, 09:22:16 AM
The pictures on this thread are no longer visible, any chance they can be saved?
Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: JBJ on July 15, 2022, 02:26:05 PM
I'll second that question/request re the pictures. This is too valuable a thread to be lost.

Title: Re: Mould Cherry
Post by: rich pierce on July 15, 2022, 03:52:36 PM
I fixed what could be fixed.