I spent another hour or so scrubbing away at the barrel of the garden gun this evening. I shouldn’t get ahead of myself, since I’ve got a lot more work to do on it (not to mention all of the other pieces of the action) but I think I’m finally “there” with polishing out the dents and pits which aren’t so deep that they can’t be removed without severely endangering the thickness of the metal (and myself when I come to fire the gun next).
In fact, there is quite a lot of pitting on the underside of the chamber and barrel which I haven’t been able to remove, but for the most part, the visible areas of metalwork are clean and free from defects, with the exception of a handful of tiny marks that ought to be extremely hard to spot once the gun is re-blued.
After I’d got to that point, I used the angle grinder with a flap (sanding) disc to (ever-so-gently) remove metal from the muzzle and from the rear of the action, which has eliminated the damage in both areas. I then smoothed off the edges of the muzzle with some 180-grit paper and dried, oiled and cleaned the gun, before putting it away for the night.
I’m out tomorrow evening, but I should be able to work through the remaining grades of paper (180, 240, 320, 640, 1200 – I think) to get a mirror shine onto the barrel and the other metalwork over the next week or so, after which I should be able to plan the re-bluing proper for the weekend after next, time and money allowing. We’ll see what happens.
Theoretically, at 11pm, I should be feeling tired and ready for bed, but no: I’m still bouncing around and looking for things to do. In the absence of my latest order from the great shopping mall that is the internet (relatives are generous; birthdays are fun), I’ve been filling the time with yet more work on the garden gun.
In my de-bluing exercise, recorded earlier in what may yet become a saga, if I continue to post with this frequency, I missed the trigger guard and various screws / fixings which were holding the stock together. This was, it turns out, fortuitous, as it meant I ended up with accurate measurements for the trigger cutout earlier, but having done that, I attacked them with the blue remover and did my best to scrub them clean.
I include a photo of the “before”:
And the “after”:
It’s slightly annoying that the light in the second photo makes it appear as if the rust remover has had hardly any effect at all, but I can assure readers that the metalwork shown is basically light silver with a few nicks and scratches where the metalwork is uneven.
Unfortunately, even that wasn’t enough to satisfy or fill the time, so I got started on the barrel.
Wet sanding of metal is a slow process. Certainly the author of this article, whose instructions I’ve been following to complete the metalwork side of this project was right when he said that it would take many hours to get the barrels (and other metalwork) into the condition they need to be for re-bluing.
I began work with some 150-grit wet & dry paper and, after an hour or so of scrubbing, did start to see an improvement in the condition of the metal where I’d been polishing.
I suspect that some of the pits in the outside of the barrel will be too deep to polish out, but I removed most of the minor blemishes successfully and improved the more serious ones over approximately 12″ of barrel length. Another session with new paper of approximately the same duration should see that completed, leaving the other half of the barrel needing the same 2-3 hours’ attention again.
I infer from experience that most of the work here will be done with the coarser grates of paper. The guide seems to suggest a steady progression through the grades, but if the 150-grit paper won’t clear the surface defects successfully, the finer grades certainly won’t. I already expect to have to make a choice about what stays and what I try to polish out – I don’t want to reduce the barrel thickness too far(!).
The final observation to make is that the pitting in the muzzle area is so severe that I think I will have to chop off about the last inch of the barrel and refinish it if the effect of the re-bluing is not to be spoilt. It’s hard to see on the picture above, but with the bead misplaced and irremovable, there are now two reasons to chop, drill and tap, which pretty much settles it. I’ll be checking the exact wording of the rules on barrel length in the coming days to see how much I can remove without rendering the gun illegal – I think it’s a 28″ barrel from memory, but it’s better to be safe than sorry.
After sleeping late in this morning – jet lag is a bitch – I managed to rouse myself around lunchtime and after an hour or so of dithering around, trying to work out which way was up and so forth, finally snapped into some kind of awakened state and decided to do something useful.
Although I realized that I’d forgotten to de-blue / de-rust the trigger guard, I wasn’t quite ready to go back to Birchwood Casey’s foul-smelling finest, so I set about taking measurements of the stock and started to think about the cuts which would be required to machine out the shape of the action.
Although I had to sacrifice some of the childrens’ playdough to get good measurements for the inner dimensions, the whole job took only about 25 minutes and I was left with a sheet of paper covering all of the major dimensions of the front part of the stock.
There are some unanswered questions. The first is what board thickness I require to be able to shape the rear part of the stock and to give it enough cast to make it usable. It looks like it might be possible to obtain a single block of beech for around £40, but I’m still investigating the various options (and haven’t given up entirely on the idea of producing a laminate stock as yet).
The second question will only be answerable when I replace the metalwork in the stock and put the gun back together: what size cutter to use for the front part of the stock in which the barrel is bedded?
Router cutters tend to be sold in inch-equivalent sizes, such as this one, which is a 5/8″ radius cutter sold with a millimeter designation. That’s somewhat under-sized for the groove I’ll need to cut which is an almost perfect 9mm-radius semicircle – but the next available size – ¾” – gives a 19.1mm trench which is over-large. I’ll probably end up using the smaller bit, and making several cuts to get the barrel in snugly.
Oh, and in case anyone thinks this is turning into an advertising coup for Trend cutters, that isn’t the intention, but I’ve been using their blades and cutters for a long time now and they seem to be much better quality than most of the other crap you can get on Amazon / eBay for a similar price.
I’m about to disappear out of the country on business for a week or so, but I’ve made some progress with the garden gun in the few days I’ve had since deciding to go ahead with the project.
I’ve been making inquiries as to possible sources of stock wood and thanks to the PigeonWatch massif, I’ve got some leads to follow up when I get back. Although I’ve been thinking of getting hold of some walnut to create a new stock, it’s been suggested to me that alternative woods might also be worth considering. Beech, for instance, is cheap and similar in characteristics to walnut, whilst cherry, maple and oak have all been suggested as alternatives.
Oak would likely prove heavy and risks drawing in moisture if it’s not properly dried, but is an outside possibility. One of the most interesting suggestions I’ve received would be to create a laminated stock out of two or three different kinds of boards. That could certainly prove attractive, but there is also a strong motivation not to go overboard on cost at this point. The aim is very much to refurbish the gun so that it lasts another 85+ years, rather than to turn it into a work of art.
At this point, I’m leaning towards beech on grounds of cost, or walnut if I can get it, but it won’t be difficult to put off that decision for a while.
This evening’s progress took the form of removing the old blue from the gun and polishing out as much of the rust as I could. I suspect that another session using the Birchwood Casey Blue & Rust Remover,
which is a mixture of Sulphuric, Phosphoric and Oxalic acids (the last of which is the poison in uncooked rhubarb and the source of the familliar yet acrid smell) will be in order when I return to the country. I’m not yet happy enough with the condition of the barrel or the trigger mechanism to begin the long, slow process of sanding out the pits and surface defects.
Once again, credit goes to the members of PigeonWatch for their wisdom. It’s a bit of a bear pit of a place at times (and downright intimidating to newcomers to the sport, I imagine) but there is certainly a huge amount of shared knowledge there too. I have been following this guide, kindly provided by another enthusiast who came before me and I can add here some observations of my own to supplement his shared experience.
Having de-greased the barrels and metalwork exactly as the instructions described, I attacked the barrel of the gun with the rust remover first, wiping it with a sponge as instructed. I found that this probably didn’t transfer enough of the acid onto the metal, or that what was transferred was spread too thinly as, having waited the suggested two minutes, the blue was reluctant to come off. I went through the cycle of applying the acid and scrubbing several times and it wasn’t until the third or fourth time that I found that the blue started to disappear and the dull metal of the barrels showed through.
I later discovered that this was partly due to the OOO-grade steel wool I had been using, as per the instructions. This was simply too fine for the job and as soon as I moved to using much coarser wool (the kind one might use for scrubbing dishes) the blue came off cleanly and efficiently.
Of course, it made a hideous mess and the iron dust produced as the wool disintegrated took a long time to clean up, which made me wish I’d put some sheets of cardboard – sadly unavailable – down on the side to protect it and catch the debris.
By the time I’d finished, the barrels were mostly clean, with the exception of some severe pitting on the underside of the chamber and a certain degree of corrosion that I couldn’t polish out at the muzzle. In fact, I think I may grind down the muzzle by a millimeter or two and refinish it, just to make sure that all of the corroded metal is removed, but that’s a job for another day.
After I’d done the barrels, I worked on the other metal parts: trigger assembly, bolt, barrel anchor and screws. These were all straightforward to clean up with the heavier gauge wool, though the trigger mechanism could probably do with another scrub and polish before it’s blued.
Finally, I used a .30 calibre copper brush and a power drill to clean the chamber and the muzzle. In fact, I wanted to polish out the whole barrel, but I haven’t yet worked out how to detach the handle of my cleaning rod without breaking it completely. When I do, I’ll fit it to the drill and give the barrels a good clean. A good quantity of unidentifiable “gunk” came out of the two small areas I could reach, so no doubt there’s plenty of grime left in there that the usual oil and patches haven’t been able to shift.
After that, I collected up the bits and locked them all away in the cabinet, but not without taking a picture of my handiwork.
I probably won’t get a chance to work on the gun tomorrow night as I’ll be packing for my flight, but I should be able to upload the photos (which are missing at the time of writing). I’ll be back in a week or so, hopefully having completed the cleaning stage and be ready to move on to the (laborious) task of sanding the barrels down to remove the pitting and defects.
It’s said that having children changes your life completely, but I suppose I hadn’t really registered that until my second daughter – our third overall – arrived last February.
To some degree, that’s a testament to how supportive my wife is of my hobbies: I haven’t been expected to give them up or necessarily cut back on shooting and countryside adventures to any great degree. To her credit, I think she realized early on in our marriage how important the open air and a certain amount of solitude are to me and she hasn’t wanted to stand in the way of that, for which I’m grateful.
Nonetheless, the addition of “a third” – as all of my friends and acquaintances (having precisely two children each) were quick to warn me when they suspected another might be in the offing – has been more of an upheaval than on the first two occasions we welcomed a new family member.
Furthermore, one consequence of the promotion I received earlier this year is that the requirement for international travel has inserted itself into my job description. I’d tried to avoid that for a long as possible, but it became impossible to refuse at my new level of responsibility. By itself, being away from home wouldn’t be too much of an issue, but at this particular moment, it acts as an extra pressure on time and relationships which needs to be dealt with sensitively.
Returning to the subject at hand: as previous posts have no doubt described, my willingness to get out and pattern more .410 cartridges undoubtedly remains, but the energy, the money the time and – to be honest – the motivation have been somewhat lacking lately. This is undoubtedly connected to a degree of long-term fatigue rather than short-term tiredness.
In spite of the current situation, I have been trying my best to reconnect with all of my interests, both shooting-related and otherwise, but it feels like a fight that I am struggling win at the moment.
For that reason, I’m obliged to lighten my load, so to speak. I’ve done a little shooting over the summer, but it hasn’t been anything like so much as last year: always a snatched hour on a Sunday morning, or a few minutes standing in the grounds of one of my relatives’ properties trying to bag a bunny or a brace of woodies. Not once have I set up a pattern plate and whiled away the hours – there just hasn’t been the opportunity.
Likewise, in other spheres of life, I’ve delayed projects I was intending to start or stepped back from taking as much responsibility for this and that as I have in the past, with the intention of returning to them later when I have more time. To look after one’s family and one’s interests, one has to look after oneself a little too and that means prioritizing the time I do have toward the things which are most rejuvenating.
I’ve dithered for a long while about whether to abandon this blog or whether to try and persist with the pattern testing and analysis in spite of having hardly any time for it, but the best solution I can come up with is to do neither. There is too much – I believe – of value here (at least to me) to arbitrarily delete it from the internet, so I’ve decided to embrace a temporary change of direction, whilst remaining “small bore focused”.
I’ve spoken previously of my hope and wish to renovate and restore the 9mm test gun we’ve used for the site, bringing it back to a more “polished” state by re-bluing and renovating the metalwork. I’m also aware that regular but uninteresting tales of my walks in the countryside may satisfy the word count, but probably not the readership.
Thus, for a short time, the renovation of the garden gun, which I’ve tentatively started today, will become the subject of this blog. More suited to the monthly / bi-monthly updates that I can manage, it seems a good long-term project to document without requiring quite as much effort (or as much regular shooting) as blogging about patterning or, dare I say, countryside walks.
Of course, I’m singularly unqualified for this kind of thing, having no real skill in shaping wood or working metal, but I will do my best to not only clean up the metalwork, remove the rust of 85 years and re-blue it, but also to restock it, assuming I’m able to acquire the appropriate tools and materials. Undoubtedly, I’ll end up spending ten times the amount the gun is worth on doing it and most likely ruin it in the process, but it’ll be fun and if I end up with a shiny new garden gun that I and my boy can shoot from time to time, as we’ve enjoyed doing over the summer, so much the better.
In fact, I took it to bits and cut out a template for the new stock earlier, incorporating a longer stock and slightly higher comb using one of my better-fitting guns as a guide. Tomorrow, I’ll be ordering some blue and rust remover and beginning my search for a hunk of walnut that I can cut into the requisite shape to begin work.