first step after deciding on a style and procuring your parts, is to
true up and square your stock blank. I used a band saw to trim excess
wood from the blank and get it close to level.Then, with a straight edge
(above), a try square (below), and a plane (left), I created accurate surfaces to work with.
The picture below
shows three scrapers I made from files. Left to right; octagonal
barrel, round barrel, and 3/8" ramrod. The breech end of the routed
barrel channel is shown, and guide lines are visible on the stock.
try square is used frequently to check that the barrel is square to the
stock, while using scrapers, chisels, and gouges to fit the barrel.
Inletting black is coated on the lower half of the barrel, and a few
taps with a rubber or rawhide mallet will tell you where the barrel is
making contact with the stock. Shave away those spots until it's where
you want it to be.
Inletting the ramrod
groove is similar to the barrel. Cut the underside of the stock to 1/2"
from the measured bottom of the groove, as far back as the front end of
the rear ramrod pipe,leaving a little extra to trim. A router and
guides can be used to define the sides of the groove, cutting 5/16"
deep, and finishing the groove with a scraper, or scorp as it is also
called, in this case, 3/8" for a 3/8" ramrod (see Below.)
the groove is where you want it to be, the ramrod hole in the lower
forearm can be drilled. Set the bit in the groove, held in place with
blocks cut for the purpose clamped to the stock and lubricated with
bee's wax. Put a piece of tape on the bit to indicate where you want to
stop (the hole should end at the back of the breech plug.) Drill slowly,
clearing the chips from the bit often, every 1/2" at least. (Below)
after the lockplate is inlet, assemble the lock and inlet the rest,
carefully marking where the various pieces will go. Take care not to
remove more wood than you need to.
lock bolt holes. barrel pins, and tang bolts all require accuracy to
come through the other side of the stock where you want them to. I made a
jig to help with this (below.) Note the two lengths
for different situations. Align the pin directly under the drill bit
on the drill press. Mark both ends of your desired hole with a pointed
set one of the dimples on the pin, and drill partway through the piece.
Flip it over and finish the hole from the other side. Below, the tang bolt is
that the trigger is inlet (below,) we can determine length of pull, drop of
butt and comb, and cast off. Length of pull is found by measuring from
the crook of your elbow to the tip of your index finger, and the
distance from your shoulder to the elbow crook. Make a right angle
triangle with the height being the shoulder to elbow measurement, and
the hypotenuse the finger to elbow distance. The base is your pull
length, from trigger to butt. Drop of butt depends somewhat on your
intended use; more drop is desirable for offhand shooting, and less for
prone. I do mostly offhand shooting, and like a lot of drop, so I can
keep my head upright. Measure from the middle of your breast bone to
your eye, and divide by 3; that's approximately the drop at the butt.
The drop at the comb should be the distance from your eye to your cheek.
Cast off is relative to your shoulder breadth; the wider you are, the
more cast off, but usually no more than 1/4".
Above is a view of the buttplate and the profile cut into the stock. With a
standard rifle buttplate with a short tang, you inlet the tang first,
and then the curve, but with the fowler plate, you have to get the curve
as close to there as possible, and even then, it takes some guesswork
to get the tang to be where you want it to be.
the buttplate is home! Note the buttplate is slightly off of
center-that's the cast-off, about 3/16" in this gun. Use guidelines
frequently in the layout of parts and shaping of the stock.
Before I drill, I attach the barrel lugs. In this case, both dovetailed and soldered lugs are required. Below
, the initial cuts for the dovetail are cut with a hack saw.
the lug is fitting into the dovetail. A bronze punch is being used to
set it in place. Once it is fit, file the edges flush with the barrel.
This same method is used to affix sights to an octagonal barrel.
Next, inlet the lugs, cutting away just enough wood for the barrel to lay snugly in it's channel (below.)
Then drill the holes through the stock, using the jig shown previously,
to make sure they run true, then clamp the barrel to the stock and
drill just enough to mark the lugs. Then remove the barrel and finish
drilling the lugs.
I inlet the tab for the pin (or pins,) and set the guard in place,
outlining it carefully with an Exacto knife. I should point out now that
any part to be inlet like this should have a slight bevel on it's
edges, so it will fit snugly in the inlet. (Below)
rear of the trigger guard will creep forward as it is inlet, so take
that into account as you work it in. Here it is, in place. That front
finial was fun!
a hole through the cap and the stock, countersink the barrel side of
the hole, and tap the cap for a #5 or 6 screw. Very slightly countersink
the cap, screw from the barrel side out, cut the screw off, using tape
to protect the cap from the hack saw blade (below,) Peen the end of the screw, and file it flush (left.)
Below, an upper pipe is inlet into the rear pipe position.
we see the rear pipe fully inlet. The pipes should be evenly spaced
along the stock, and should complement the barrel pin locations; don't
crowd them too closely.
Pins for the pipes are carefully
measured and marked, as were the barrel pins, and drilled using the
through-hole jig on the drill press. Once again, drill through the wood
first, and clamp the pipe into place, mark it using a hand drill, and
finish on the drill press.
now, we can start to turn this thing from a chunky block of wood to the
shapely, graceful piece it is destined to be. With all these pieces
attached, we have defined our borders, and with rasps, gouges, chisels,
and files, we can make the fowler take shape.
excess wood off with the band saw first, then begin your shaping. I
always start with the butt, because I can clamp the still square forearm
into my workmate and do the whole rear half of the gun. Leave the
barrel in the stock, and as many parts as you can, as you shape it. This
helps protect delicate edges and slender parts. Below, the buttstock takes
shape. I like fair curves and well-defined edges, as can be seen on the comb.
Below, working down the tang area with a 3/4" chisel. Be mindful of the grain, to prevent chipping, and keep your tools sharp!
the forearm takes shape. I take it down evenly, in flat surfaces to
keep it straight and true, until there is just a little to round off.
Below, defining the shadow line of the lock panel. Approach with care. I like fine, well-defined borders around the lock, with clear edges.
the side panel is brought to shape, the sideplate can be inlet. The
s-shaped plate is a standard of mine, and I use it on pistols, as well
as long guns. I put a bevel on the edges that is half the thickness of
the plate, and set the plate this deep in the stock, so it sticks out a
little from the stock, (left.)
we get to start with the pretty work, the difference between a "Poor
boy" and a fancy gun. This is what adds that uniqueness, what makes a
gun special, and also what takes a lot of time. I love this stuff!
I often use hunter's stars for escutcheons at my barrel pins. First, I
drill the hole, bend them to conform to the stock, then set them over
the pin, with a little dab of superglue to hold them in place (don't get
any in the pin hole.) Below
work is a nice enhancement, and is usually subtle, not the major
decoration, though there are some very ornate wire inlays that have been
done. I prefer to keep it fairly simple. After deciding on the design, I
use an Exacto knife and small shaped chisels made from short pieces of
hacksaw blade to make a groove. The wire, actually a ribbon, is cut to
length and bent to the shape needed. A needle file helps to sharpen one
edge and to bevel the ends, if necessary.
Below, we see some wire already in, and a curved hacksaw blade chisel cutting the groove for the next piece.
In the picture below,
I'm oh so gently tapping the wire in place with a small ball pein
hammer. If the wire bends over, straighten it with a small pair of
needlenose pliers, and try again. Sometimes, you'll have to pull the
wire out and cut the groove a little deeper. Once the work is done, wet
the surface of the area with a sponge to swell the wood and lock the
wire in place. This will also close any grooves that are wider than the
mother-of-pearl and abalone inlays are done in the same manner as the
metal inlays; cut to shape with a jeweler's saw and a diamond wheel on a
Dremel tool, with a bevel on the edge, glued on the spot, traced with
the knife, popped off, and carved out. I confess; only gel superglue
holds these in, but I've never lost any, Below.
More carving. A border and fleur-de-lis around the trigger guard.
toeplate is cut out of .050 brass plate. I cut the basic shape on the
band saw, and cut the more intricate parts with a jeweler's saw and
needle files. Below, a jeweler's saw cuts the star for the piercing in the middle of the plate.
, Below, a needle file finishes details to the star on the toeplate. I'm filing a bevel, or
draft, so the piercing will fit snugly in the space provided.
Now is a good time to do a little "special presentation," fixing boo-boos! Yes,
they happen to all of us, and this particular one was an error of haste
on my part. A too tight hole on the forward screw on the toeplate, and
too much force resulted in a broken screw below the surface of the wood.
What a pain!
I drilled a few small holes around the broken
fastener, until I could use my 1/16" chisel and a small pair of
needlenose pliers to dig and pull it out (below.)
files, which I've mentioned before, come in many shapes, both large and
small, and are also an aid in getting those awkward or more shapely
Shaping, sanding and polishing bolt and screw heads is made easy by chucking them in a drill press. (Below)
your work in stages, going through the grits from coarse to fine to
finer. I rarely use anything coarser than 100 grit, and go as fine as
400 grit on the wood, and 600 grit on the metal parts, sometimes 1500
grit on parts I want shiny and can't use a buffing wheel on. When you
get to 320 grit on the wood, take a wet sponge and moisten the surface
of the stock, let it dry, and sand it with 320 or 400. This process
raises the grain and is called "whiskering." Do this a time or two more,
and you'll have a baby smooth stock that will take a finish very nicely.
Below and below left, we're getting close to putting on some finish.
piece of wood, even among the same species, reacts differently to the
same stain, so it's advisable to test stains on a sample of the same
wood the stock is made of. Here's my test sample, with six different
color samples (below.)
the stain dries, burnish the surface with OOOO steel wool, to bring out
the grain and smooth the surface. Ooh pretty, look at that grain pop! (Below)
builder has their favorite finish, and usually it's a love-hate
relationship, for there are plusses and minuses to all of them. I prefer
tung oil. I apply a coat with a brush or rag , and then wipe it with a lint-free cloth moistened with a little oil (below.)
The metal parts need finishing, too. Sand a round barrel like shining a shoe, with the paper looped over the barrel (below.) If
you're going to brown the barrel, don't sand it any smoother than 320
grit. If you're going to blue it or leave it bright, sand it to 600 and
polish it on a buffing wheel.
Decorations on the barrel or other metal parts can include engraving. Below, I've engraved my name on the top flat of the barrel, as did many of the old-time gunmakers.
A cute little turtle is soldered on for the front sight (below.) I
have since finished the sanding of the barrel, and although it is ready
to brown, I'm going to wait until I can take the gun to the range and
make sure the sight is in the right place, before committing it to the
finish. If I had to move the sight after browning it, I would be in a
world of grief trying to match the touch-up to the rest of the barrel,
so for now, I will be patient!
now the finish is on the stock and all the metal parts are sanded,
polished, and whatever else might need to be done is done. Time for
assembly! Uh oh! Those parts that fit so well before you added several
coats of finish don't fit anymore. Well, a little judicious scraping is
called for, to remove finish from those places it has built up enough to
keep your parts from going where they should. Below,
I'm working on the trigger guard finial inlet with the trusty Exacto
knife. Take your time and go at it gently. Don't try to force anything.
Cheek side. Sure is pretty figure in this stock!
Lower forearm, showing carving and inlay, and the octagon to round transition on the barrel.
Comb, showing engraved buttplate and inlay.
there she is, after many hours of fun at my workbench! I'm happy with
the results, and ready to start the next project, which is two
underhammer pistols-it's easier to do two at once with those.
If you are interested in purchasing this gun, or any other, or wish to have me custom build one for you, please contact me at:
5962 Berkshire Court
Alexandria, VA 22303
The price for this fowler is $6500.00.
See the listings on the home page for other guns available at this time.
for joining me on this journey to the completion of the building of a
fowler! I hope to do more on-line presentations of this kind, and plan
to turn this project into a complete instruction manual in the future.
Keep checking this site for more fun stuff!