When I was part of the Fine Woodworking Crew at Warren Wilson College, I had the opportunity to use several Lie Nielsen tools that I couldn't afford otherwise. With Lie Nielsen, get what you pay for, and I found their series of planes and spokeshaves to be noticeably more efficient, better finished, and easier to use than the Stanley counterparts.
I treated myself recently and bought what is without a doubt the best spokeshave I've ever used, the Lie Nielsen "Boggs" spokeshave. The bronze body is cast and polished, with the bed milled to accept the 2" wide, 1/8" thick A2 steel blade (which arrives from the factory razor sharp). The throat is a mere 20-25 thousands of an inch deep, which when combined with the thick blade makes this tool excel in figured maple. The turned Hickory handles are also lower than a Stanley #151 spokeshave, and the sole is deeper ahead of the blade, so the tool doesn't have the same bad habit of flipping over as you use it. Available in flat, curved, and concave soles, I purchased the flat, which still works on a subtle concave radius (say, the toe-line of a rifle stock).
If you're used to a Stanley or Record #151, it will take a little adjusting to the fact that you can't hog off large strips with the Lie Nielsen spokeshave. Though it will take a few more passes, you quickly realize that the efficiency and virtually zero-chatter make for a faster, smoother, and much more pleasant job. Available directly from www.lie-nielsen.com, made 100% in the USA in Maine. (This review not paid for, I sadly have no affiliation with Lie Nielsen toolworks).
So much for attempting to post every Sunday! A few weeks ago I received a phone call from a coin dealer in Vermont asking about having some restoration work done on a Thomas Earle fowler. His friend had picked it up from someone who discovered it in the attic of a house that was being renovated in Montpelier two years ago. After talking about values and my price of restoration, the dealer decided he would prefer to sell it outright. I drove 4 hours to Burlington to have a look, made an offer, and bought it from the dealer.
I was happy to find that the gun has not been messed with except for some brass polishing at some point. The fowler has its original length 54" 20ga barrel, with a sighting rib on top that stops about 3" from the muzzle. The lock is signed "THOMAS EARLL", and saw a decent amount of service as a percussion gun based on the wear on the drum. The flats on either side of the barrel extend about 14" from the breech. The "fullness" of the stock on either side of the comb was slightly spokeshaved early on in its life, presumably to make it easier to get your face on the comb. The stock appears to be cherry, but I've never seen a piece of cherry with such tight growth rings - I wonder if it could possibly be apple? The growth rings are 1/32" apart! My favorite part is the bold triggerguard - several Worcester-Sutton gunsmiths used similar French style guards, but Earl really exaggerated the front finial into a defining feature. The wrist escutcheon has the same style font as Earl's signature, including the flourish on the "R", and is signed "THOMAS BAIRD". Baird was a landowner in Leicester, MA, died in 1782, and is buried in Auburn, MA. I look forward to researching more into who Baird was and where he lived.
There are a couple condition issues, mostly that the last 12" of forestock are shattered with several small bits missing, and the last 1" of the buttplate return is missing. I intend to restore the forestock and the brass, and then I will likely reconvert the lock back to its flintlock form. The process will be fully documented and photographed, with updates here as things progress.
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.