Author Topic: Repair and restoration of damaged original English fowler  (Read 8707 times)


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Repair and restoration of damaged original English fowler
« on: September 29, 2017, 07:44:36 PM »
Hello, all,
This is a continuation of a topic I started last June:

Last December, I acquired an antique English export-grade fowler from ALR member "Fullstock longrifle" from the classified section.  The stock had been totally broken through at the  lock inlet and the gun was in two separate pieces. The lock was missing, as were the lock bolts, side washers, front ramrod pipe, and front slotted barrel key. There were missing chunks of wood at the lower front portion of the lock inlet next to the big break, in front of the trigger guard finial, and next to the missing front pipe and barrel key. Several long cracks were also present next to the break at the lock inlet as well as in the forestock.

My goal with this gun was to repair the major breaks in the stock, replace missing wood and metal pieces, and replace the missing lock with an appropriate flint lock. The gun had been converted to percussion, but all that remained of that conversion was the drum and nipple and a lot of percussion cap corrosion around the right side of the barrel breech and adjacent stock. It was not my intention to repair all the various dents and dings, areas of crazed original varnish finish, or results of historical use. I altered the original parts of the gun as little as possible during repairs.

The broken edges of the stock, and the entire stock, in fact, appeared to be covered with a waxy substance which I thought would interfere with a planned Acraglas repair, which was the topic of my post last June. I received numerous replies, as seen in the link above. Several people recommended against using Acraglas for repairs and instead recommended traditional hide glue.

Repairs and restoration are now all done, and below is an account of all I did. These first pictures show the areas of damage:

The good news was that overall, most of the gun was intact, and not too badly damaged. The break through the stock was fairly long, jagged, and irregular, which provided a fairly large area for an adhesive repair. Some unusual features of the gun included an iron ramrod with an integral forged worm at the back tip, a cast brass trigger plate, a simple V-type rear sight, and a nice silver spider-type front site. The spider arms of the sight are completely flush with the barrel surface and look as if the sight was actually poured into slots in the barrel rather than inlet. Does anyone know how these were actually done?

The barrel is 20 gauge, measures 44 1/2" in length, octagon to round, fixed with a standing breech and slotted barrel keys.

Repairs started at the big break through the lock plate. In order to clean the waxy surface of the broken wood, I used a product from Brownell's called "whiting", per recommendation by an ALR member (see link to old thread above). This did a fairly good job of cleaning out the wax and grease from the broken edges. I used three different adhesives to make subsequent repairs:

Before tackling the major break though the lock inlet, I repaired the numerous cracks extending fore and aft from this break. The cracked and elevated pieces were warped quite a lot in various locations and had to be straightened and restored to original position before fixation of the main break. I started by using the Titebond hide glue, fixing the fragments with rubber tourniquets and clamps. After drying, several of these repairs immediately failed and broke. I don't know if I applied the hide glue wrong, or if the product was just not that good, but it was clearly not going to work to make repairs on stressed parts. I did use the hide glue to fix some small splits and chips in the forestock which were not under stress, but used Acraglas to do most everything else. I cleaned out the hide glue and re-glued the cracks with Acraglas gel, colored to match the wood using the dyes included in the Acraglas kit and also adding a few drops of LMF Lancaster maple, cherry, and ebonizer dyes in the mix. The Acraglas gel appeared to make a much stronger bond, and also did a better job of filling gaps than the hide glue. After drying, the Acraglas excess was cut down to the level of the wood and slightly below the finish of the wood using files and scrapers to even the surface of the repair.  As little original wood and finish was removed as possible.

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After the cracks were all stabilized, I tackled the main break. In order to maximize the strenth of this repair, I used T-88 epoxy, a very high-strength epoxy, presumably much stronger than Acraglas. This material is runnier than the Acraglas gel and doesn't fill surface gaps as well, but appeared to bond the big jagged break quite firmly. The long cracks in the forestock were also subsequently fixed with Acraglas.

After stabilizing the major break in the stock, I turned my attention to finding an appropriate replacement flint lock. Jack Brooks supplied me with castings of the external parts of an original Ketland lock, which was a very close fit. His castings included the lock plate, cock, frizzen, and frizzen spring. I used finished Siler parts for the internals, requiring some minor modifications. Here is the initially assembled lock. Some more polishing was subsequently done.  Frizzen and frizzen spring were hardened and tempered, permitting the lock to spark fairly well, but I didn't spend a lot of time on fine tuning the lock or fine polishing it, since it will probably never be fired, and the lock will later be coarsely browned and aged with LMF barrel brown and degreaser, left on for longer than usual without frequent carding in order to produce some mild mottled pitting.

The missing pieces of wood and brass were then addressed. Missing wood was replaced with slightly oversized pieces of English walnut, fixed with colored Acraglas gel. Colored Acraglas was also built up in the surface gaps at the major break repair sites. After curing, the excess wood and Agraglas were shaved away with chisels, files and scrapers.

Note that in the picture above, there is missing wood in front of the lock pan caused by corrosive effects of percussion cap residue and/or priming powder. I could have replaced this but did not since it represents the results of historical use.

The missing sidewashers were replaced using the inlet cavities as a guide. The inlets were quite deep, requiring 1/8" sheet brass to fill them, cut to fit the shapes of the inlets. This depth is due to the use of a deep recessed lock bolt. I used 8 x 32 lock bolts, surfaces slightly domed, recessed into the washers. I found several pictures of original contemporaneous side washers of the same design (as shown below). Most appeared to be decorated on the rear washer with simple wriggle engraving around the lower medallion portion. This engraving, as well as decorative engraving on the bolt heads, appeared to have been done in a fairly casual if not overtly careless fashion. I tried to duplicate this look on my replacements. The brass was heavily aged using ammonia fumes until the patina matched the other orlginal brass parts.

The missing wood at the forestock around the front barrel key and front pipe was replaced with pieces of English walnut and Acraglas in the same way as described before. I made a replacement slotted key using an oversized slotted key casting from TOW, filed down to match the other keys. The front ramrod pipe was made using thin .025" sheet brass, matching the thin brass of the middle pipe. The original middle pipe was damaged but functional and I didn't replace it. Again, I used ammonia fumes on the new front pipe to match the patina of the original.

The sites of the wood replacement with Acraglas repairs, where the surface of the original wood was actually entered, were blended with light applications of Tried and True oil varnish, tinted with LMF Lancaster Maple, Cherry, and ebonizer dyes, followed up with powdered bone black. Surfaces were buffed smooth with a soft cloth, and a coat of dark brown Briwax was applied over the whole stock.

Here is the final result:

Thanks for looking! Any feedback, comments or criticisms are welcome.

« Last Edit: January 13, 2020, 10:10:20 PM by rich pierce »