I've been working off and on with this J. Hapgood target rifle, likely built in the 1840s in Shrewsbury, Massachusetts. It's a later period than I'm usually interested in, but being a Massachusetts native I couldn't pass up the opportunity to restore it. I'll be writing a larger article on the rifle and restoration process as time permits, but wanted to share the finished patchbox and a few other details. The under rib (wood, as on most New England guns) still needs to be made, as well as the two forward ramrod thimbles - the gun isn't quite finished yet, but it at a good stopping point while I get back to work on the Kuntz rifle.
Below are photos of the patchbox lid installed and engraved to match the style of other Hapgood rifles. It is difficult to bring new brass to the same level of patina as a 170 year original piece. The new brass door was finished flush with the existing finial, then removed and aged with ammonia fumes to give it the green cast I was looking for. Individual dings and small dents were applied, then the entire piece reassembled and finished together. The coil spring is not likely original to the original gun, but is as I found the piece. It works well and I decided to leave it in place. I am still not entirely satisfied with the level of patina, and may darken the whole brass assembly further before calling it finished. Also included are photos of the new sight elevator and new escutcheon and key (all missing when I picked up the rifle).
Lastly, when I found the rifle it was covered in a black greasy substance, hiding the parts and finish. Upon light cleaning with a damp rag, I discovered that the original varnish finish was mostly intact except for major wear areas on the lock panels and forestock. The finish must have been somewhat brittle, as it has aged with tiny hairline cracks throughout (see last photo). I assume it was a linseed oil varnish with a high solids content, as it is not effected by alcohol as a spirit varnish would. I believe it also portrays very well the color in which an old linseed oil varnish can take on with age. Students of the longrifle often discuss the warm red tones in the finish of original guns. I've noticed a trend with contemporary gunsmiths to stain their rifles first with an amber color, then wash some kind of red dye over that to give the stock a warmer red tone. The color that linseed oil varnish changes with time is what they're trying to replicate, and were this Hapgood rifle stocked in maple, the effects would be much more dramatic.
Back when I started this website a year ago I intended to make an interactive weekly blog to keep more up-to-date appearances with the happenings in my shop than I could with the static website alone. What follows will be weekly postings on current projects on the bench, musings, tips, tricks, and notes on updates to the website. These will be updated every Sunday evening. The trick for the Blog will be making sure it doesn't take up too much time away from the work bench.
I have dozens of short tutorials written up waiting to be transferred to the website format - usually written on my 6 hour flights to and from visiting family in Boston. I've added recently Notes for building Lehigh Valley rifles, and tonight a small tutorial about Repairing misdrilled holes in triggerguard tabs.
Lastly - I reached a good point on the latest rifle build, and spent the last couple days doing some restoration work on a J. Hapgood target rifle built in Shrewsbury, MA. Here's a few photos of the brass repair work I've been doing. The patchbox door will be two pieces to replicate the size of the original sand cast lid. I finished drilling the hinge before closing down for the evening.