Author Topic: Flintlock basics  (Read 12181 times)

Offline Gun_Nut_73

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Flintlock basics
« on: April 10, 2015, 07:50:58 AM »
My past experience with flintlocks has been limited to squeezing the trigger on a rifle belonging to someone else.  As so happens, I am now in posession of my very own flintlock rifle, and I am finding it a LOT different from percussion, so I have several questions.

I tried to do a search on the subject, but came up empty.  If anyone has a link to a tutorial, or knows a good book that covers the subject, please let me know.

Meanwhile, here are my initial questions:

1)  How do you determine what size flint to use?  The flint that came with the rifle is almost touching the frizzen at half cock.  Is this correct length?

2)  Seen in profile, most gun flints have one flat side and one angled or humped side. I remember being told to experiment as to which side have uppermost, as some locks spark better flat side up, and others flat side down.  Is this still valid?

3)  After several shots, the edge of the flint tends to become rounded in profile.  How do you freshen the flint?  

4)  Do you knap the edge of the flint while it is in the jaws of the lock, or there some type of jig or fixture that holds the flint while you work on it?

5)  How do you handle a flash in the pan?  Does it require reseating the bullet?  I am talking about what to do AFTER waiting a full minute to be sure there is no hang fire.

6)  Any suggestions on books about how to make your own gun flints?  Preferably one that covers how to determine the fault lines in a rock to know where to strike to create suitable spalls.

Thank you all in advance.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2015, 08:11:00 AM by Gun_Nut_73 »

Offline Bill Paton

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #1 on: April 10, 2015, 01:59:30 PM »
Eric Bye’s book “Flintlocks” will give you good answers to more questions than you can think up. Even old timers who have shot them for years learn things from this book.

Bill  Paton
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #2 on: April 10, 2015, 02:22:52 PM »
1)  How do you determine what size flint to use?  The flint that came with the rifle is almost touching the frizzen at half cock.  Is this correct length?

That is a good starting point.  You want the width to be about the width of the frizzen.  Length must be short enough to not touch the Frizzen at half cock obviously.

2)  Seen in profile, most gun flints have one flat side and one angled or humped side. I remember being told to experiment as to which side have uppermost, as some locks spark better flat side up, and others flat side down.  Is this still valid?

It varies and can vary flint to flint depending on thickness.  Try both ways.  Which way causes the flint to strike 1/3 of the way down from the top of the frizzen, and causes it to "slice" instead of bash?

3)  After several shots, the edge of the flint tends to become rounded in profile.  How do you freshen the flint?  

Dozens of ways.  Tiny brass hammer, little punch, copper knapper, etc.  some have a trick of closing the frizzen base on the flint edge, pulling backwards on the cock while exerting pressure.  Go to YouTube and search.

4)  Do you knap the edge of the flint while it is in the jaws of the lock, or there some type of jig or fixture that holds the flint while you work on it?

Most do it in the jaws.  Support the flint from underneath.  Don't break your sear or the half cock notch.

5)  How do you handle a flash in the pan?  Does it require reseating the bullet?  I am talking about what to do AFTER waiting a full minute to be sure there is no hang fire.

No re- seating.  Clear the toch hole, prime, shoot.

6)  Any suggestions on books about how to make your own gun flints?  Preferably one that covers how to determine the fault lines in a rock to know where to strike to create suitable spalls.

It's not easy.  There are no fault lines in good flint.  None required.  Check Youtube.
« Last Edit: April 10, 2015, 02:23:46 PM by rich pierce »
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Offline bones92

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #3 on: April 10, 2015, 05:36:08 PM »
Thanks for starting this Gun_Nut_73... I was literally about to ask these same questions!

Do you have this same username on Gunboards?  If so, it's good to see another GB'er here on the ALR Forum.  I still love milsurp bolt actions, but there is something absolutely fascinating about the American long rifle.
If it was easy, everyone would do it.

Online Dennis Glazener

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #4 on: April 10, 2015, 05:54:02 PM »
Quote
3)  After several shots, the edge of the flint tends to become rounded in profile.  How do you freshen the flint? 
Rich gave good instructions but let me mention this. I don't shoot anywhere near as much as most of the guys here but I have NEVER freshened a flint since I have been shooting flintlocks, about 15 years. I normally get 40 to 50 shots with a good flint. Now I do experiment with a new lock to see how best to position the flint in the jaws i.e. bevel up/down, distance from frizzen etc. I use mostly use Chambers late Ketland's and have a Chambers Siler on my hunting rifle. I am a firm believer in "if it sparks good don't mess with it". Now we will hear all kinds of thought on how wrong I am ;D
Dennis
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Offline rich pierce

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #5 on: April 10, 2015, 06:26:37 PM »
I used to freshen flints before I started making my own. Now I throw the dull ones on the ground. Individuals are passionate about their flint freshening techniques. It is easy to remove too much of the edge. Now you've got a short flint and need to move it forward in the jaws. If you do this jam a small twig in the leather behind the flint and re clamp so it is well supported from behind.
Andover, Vermont

Offline WadePatton

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #6 on: April 10, 2015, 06:42:58 PM »
...
3)  After several shots, the edge of the flint tends to become rounded in profile.  How do you freshen the flint?  

5)  How do you handle a flash in the pan?  

6)  Any suggestions on books about how to make your own gun flints?  ...

I'm a bit green myself (even after 2.5 years and a lifetime of shooting), but type a lot-so here's this:

3. A well set-up lock and good flint tends to knap itself.  Try flipping the flint to see if that helps.  I'm about to bend the cock of my lock for better action--as a part of being "well set-up" and upon the advice of sage veterans in person. Have already stiffed up the spring, but need a little more tweaking.

5. Re-prime, hold-through...unless you had a half-dead main charge that blew out the touch hole, there's no movement of the ball.  Feel free to check.

6.  There's a brilliant knapper on youtube.  His screen name is PaleomanJim ( https://www.youtube.com/user/paleomanjim/videos ).  He does all sorts of knapping. A PhD-level knapper who pursues an earlier history than we do here, he actually does have a flint-sparked rifle.  He does good instructional videos on the subject (not rifle-flints per se, but knapping in general).  Give it a whirl, you may love it--or at least come to appreciate that you don't have to, that we yet have a good supply of natural flints-ready to use.  I have used Rich Pierce flints as well as mail-order.  Build up a stash.

I have tired of trying.  The rocks on my place are supremely sparky, but it's all faulty or has inclusions.

And also, beware that edge.  I sliced my thumb nicely just the other day when wiping out the pan residue.

Powder First!

WP
« Last Edit: April 10, 2015, 07:15:49 PM by WadePatton »
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Offline Gun_Nut_73

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #7 on: April 10, 2015, 07:50:08 PM »
Thanks for starting this Gun_Nut_73... I was literally about to ask these same questions!

Do you have this same username on Gunboards?  If so, it's good to see another GB'er here on the ALR Forum.  I still love milsurp bolt actions, but there is something absolutely fascinating about the American long rifle.

Yes, I am the same Mosin Nagant addict on gunboards.

Offline Daryl

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #8 on: April 10, 2015, 07:53:09 PM »
I used to freshen flints before I started making my own. Now I throw the dull ones on the ground. Individuals are passionate about their flint freshening techniques. It is easy to remove too much of the edge. Now you've got a short flint and need to move it forward in the jaws. If you do this jam a small twig in the leather behind the flint and re clamp so it is well supported from behind.


good suggestion, Rich- I'll use the twig method next time.
Daryl

"a gun without hammers is like a spaniel without ears" King George V

Offline moleeyes36

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #9 on: April 10, 2015, 08:11:27 PM »
Eric Bye’s book “Flintlocks” will give you good answers to more questions than you can think up. Even old timers who have shot them for years learn things from this book.

Bill  Paton

Yes, Bill is right on the mark with his advice to get Eric Bye's book, it's well worth the money.  Here's the link for it:

https://nmlrashop-org.3dcartstores.com/Flintlocks--a-Practical-Guide-for-their-Use-and-Appreciation-_p_1.html

Mole Eyes
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Offline Gun_Nut_73

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #10 on: April 10, 2015, 10:47:58 PM »
Thanks much.  I have ordered the book.  Should arrive next week, or so.

Offline hanshi

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #11 on: April 10, 2015, 11:09:59 PM »
My past experience with flintlocks has been limited to squeezing the trigger on a rifle belonging to someone else.  As so happens, I am now in posession of my very own flintlock rifle, and I am finding it a LOT different from percussion, so I have several questions.

I tried to do a search on the subject, but came up empty.  If anyone has a link to a tutorial, or knows a good book that covers the subject, please let me know.

Meanwhile, here are my initial questions:

1)  How do you determine what size flint to use?  The flint that came with the rifle is almost touching the frizzen at half cock.  Is this correct length?
Yes, but with exceptions.  The geometry of certain locks won't put the flint anywhere near the frizzen at half cock.

2)  Seen in profile, most gun flints have one flat side and one angled or humped side. I remember being told to experiment as to which side have uppermost, as some locks spark better flat side up, and others flat side down.  Is this still valid?
True.  But just as long as the flint edge doesn't smash head on into the frizzen face.  The flint should strike at an angle so that it scrapes down the face; some folks say around 60 degrees downward should do the trick.

3)  After several shots, the edge of the flint tends to become rounded in profile.  How do you freshen the flint?
I knapp the flint in the jaws but there's a good way and a bad way.  There are several descriptions in our archives showing just how it's done.  

4)  Do you knap the edge of the flint while it is in the jaws of the lock, or there some type of jig or fixture that holds the flint while you work on it?
Yes to both questions.

5)  How do you handle a flash in the pan?  Does it require reseating the bullet?  I am talking about what to do AFTER waiting a full minute to be sure there is no hang fire.
All one has to do is pick the flash hole with a piece of fine wire, prime and try again.

6)  Any suggestions on books about how to make your own gun flints?  Preferably one that covers how to determine the fault lines in a rock to know where to strike to create suitable spalls.

Thank you all in advance.

!Jozai Senjo! "always present on the battlefield"
Young guys should hang out with old guys; old guys know stuff.

Offline Molly

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #12 on: April 10, 2015, 11:24:05 PM »
Probably something EVERYONE else knows but us "beginners".

"Flint's too long"...

You can easily "shorten" it by putting a small notch in the leather at the point where it (the leather) makes contact with the screw of the jaws.  Effectively it will "shorten" the flint by an amount equal to the thickness of the leather and no messin' with the rock required.

I do mine by folding the leather and then snip out a "V" with sharp nippers.

As to the flash in the pan, after only a little over a year of shooting the flintlocks I have never had one but it seems to me it points to more care in loading.  What I have been taught is:

1.  Always use real BP, not a substitute.
2.  Use 4-f in the pan.
3.  Make sure the touch hole is open.  I always poke it clear after loading and like to feel the powder of the charge with the pick.  Have discovered too often, the absence of a charge in the chamber and therefore have become very good at pulling the ball!

The 4th thing I was told to do was not mound up the pan charge right against the hole.  Honestly don't know if this is all that important but the claim was that excessive powder against the hole MIGHT foul it as the pan charge burns.  Somehow I doubt that but......

Offline Larry Pletcher

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #13 on: April 11, 2015, 01:45:12 AM »
The idea of banking priming powder away from the vent is a myth. We timed this for a Muzzle Blasts article in 2009.  The link below shows photos of the amount of fire entering the vent.  Prime againt the barrel is far more intense.

http://www.blackpowdermag.com/load-compression-and-accuracy/

The timing methods and results are found in the link below:

http://www.blackpowdermag.com/part-5-timing-powder-locations-in-pan/

There is more to this but if you want to look at other parts, page back to the listing rather than use the broken links at the page bottom.

Regards,
Pletch

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Offline WadePatton

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #14 on: April 11, 2015, 05:12:22 AM »
Pretty sure that Pletch also has timing videos that show 4f isn't significantly faster than 3f, and that 7f if actually slower.  I could be sidewise, but that's how i recall it.

A good lock/flint will light a pan of whatever is down the bore.  2f has proven itself to be great in the deer woods for me.  I'll use 3f in the pan when shooting 3f.  The simplicity of not having to juggle two horns is another factor in making this decision. I may trade my can of 4f for some more 2 or 3f.  

Larger grains tend to be more moisture resistant if shooting in humid/wet conditions.

See the videos/analysis and make up your own mind with observed facts.  That's the best thing.  Pletch does good work.
« Last Edit: April 11, 2015, 05:16:06 AM by WadePatton »
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Offline Larry Pletcher

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #15 on: April 11, 2015, 01:42:43 PM »
Wade,
I really like fine priming powders, especially when Swiss Null B became available. The link below is to the test you may be thinking of.  The differences are significant, IMHO.  For instance the slowest Null B time is faster than the fastest ffg time. BTW I did 20 trials and averaged for the graphs.

http://www.blackpowdermag.com/priming-powder-timing/

Powder placement in the pan can change results.  I might be able to equalixe the results by placing fffg close to the vent and Null B banked away. Obviously one cannot manipulate in a test.  For testing, all priming was placed close to the vent.

Regards,
Pletch
Regards,
Pletch
blackpowdermag@gmail.com

He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what can never be taken away.

Kayla Mueller - I didn't come here of my own accord, and I can't leave that way.  Whoever brought me here, will have to take me home.

Offline WadePatton

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #16 on: April 11, 2015, 05:01:44 PM »
Wade,
I really like fine priming powders, especially when Swiss Null B became available...

Close but no cigar (and thanks for the link, maybe there are some new folks who haven't seen the work).  I distinctly remember 7f being tested and the results being discussed as a problem of density or compactness excluding air (as a sawdust pile). 

Anyway, the point is-one doesn't have to wag a separate powder supply around the woods if he chooses not to.  And with work like yours we can base/defend such decisions on facts observed in a scientific setting.

But let us not devolve the thread into only one specificity of the basics.
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Offline Molly

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #17 on: April 11, 2015, 05:34:19 PM »
Pletch:  Some interesting and good data.  So it proves, as tested, "finer" is faster.  And we might also conclude faster is better?  But faster does not necessarily lead to a greater certainty that it will ignite the charge...or does it?  As to how powder is placed in the pan effecting ignition I would be interested in hearing more about that.  Is there a "best way"?  And to some extent might not the pan powder "shift" somewhat as the rifle is handled?

But as to one of the initial questions, if a "flash in the pan" happens and the charges fails to ignite, it's not a matter of the powder being course or fine.  It's something else, right?  And what could it be?

Blocked touch hole
Fowling in the breach
Poor placement of the touch hole
What else?

A friend had a rifle that would generally not fire.  Got the pan to flash but no bang.  Turns out there was a significant build up of residue in the breech and the guy that worked on it also drilled the original hole and inserted a liner with apparently the proper size hole.  Has not failed to fire since.  It's really not all the complex....or is it?

Offline David R. Pennington

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #18 on: April 12, 2015, 03:34:33 PM »
Book on flint knapping. Here is a very comprehensive treaty on flint knapping that should still be available. My copy was printed 2005. It is titled "Flint knapping, Making and Understanding Stone Tools" by John C. Whittaker and published by University of Texas Press.
This one covers all aspects of the craft with a lot of focus on recreating artifacts but does have a section on gun flints. It most importantly details what type of tools are required and how to correctly prepare the spalls. This is an art that requires some effort and practice to become proficient in. I don't knap yet. If you can find some one who does and is willing to teach it would be invaluable if you really want to learn.
I will repeat the caution. You WILL bleed! A friend of mine who knaps all his own gun flints, and demonstrates recreating Native American artifacts had to have his gaul bladder removed a few years ago and got his surgeon to agree to use a flint scalpel he had made.
VITA BREVIS- ARS LONGA

Offline WadePatton

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #19 on: April 12, 2015, 06:36:54 PM »
... You WILL bleed! A friend of mine who knaps all his own gun flints, and demonstrates recreating Native American artifacts had to have his gaul bladder removed a few years ago and got his surgeon to agree to use a flint scalpel he had made.

Sounds exactly like Jim Winn/paleomanjim on Youtube, (I mentioned above).  Here's some of his work:  

30 years of work in ten minutes video:

opening shot from that video:




Caution: I do believe that could be addictive.  ;)
« Last Edit: April 12, 2015, 06:38:45 PM by WadePatton »
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Offline Rich

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #20 on: April 16, 2015, 06:31:28 AM »
There are some interesting videos on you tube of Brandon gun flint knappers from the 1930's and 1940's. It only takes a few seconds for them to make a gun flint. They show the process pretty well. 

Offline crowbarforge

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Re: Flintlock basics
« Reply #21 on: April 21, 2015, 10:27:57 PM »
I picked up the book:

Eric Bye’s book “Flintlocks” will give you good answers to more questions than you can think up. Even old timers who have shot them for years learn things from this book.

Bill  Paton

...and it is a very good source for all these kinda questions. I am not new to the sport, but there is a pronounced dearth of knowledgeable fellows in my neighborhood who know these things. Great book.