Pete's random thoughts

Saturday, June 18, 2005

Almost ready for Ticonderoga!

It's Saturday morning, so we have four days left to get ready for Ticonderoga's F&I weekend. Chris and Jeff have been working hard to get all available inventory prepped and inspected so we can take it with us.

I have removed the bad wheel bearing from the trailer and ordered a new hub for it, which will be here on Monday.

Wendy, Caleigh and I will be leaving on Wednesday to get the store set up at Ti at a leisurely pace. We have promised everyone else that they wouldn't have to answer the phones while we are away, so I'm sure we will come back to a ton of voicemail.

Faye (who makes our hammerstalls) has agreed to take care of the ducks and chickens in addition to her regular work, but we are going to kennel Buster the dog. I think it is unreasonable to ask an employee to walk your dog, especially a dog this strong. He's got a lot of pulling power and has broken several ropes as well as the d-ring on his collar. I had to weld up a heavy-duty d-ring out of round stock to tie him outside.

Chris will probably finish up the prototype ranger gun on Monday, so it should be dry in time to bring with us to show. The biggest problem I see for the event is that I don't think the incoming shipment of guns is going to make it here in time to bring with us. If it doesn't, that means we will have to show samples and take orders for most muskets, but will have most pistols available for immediate delivery.

Last year, the order placed for Ti arrived the day before we left, so I was unpacking crates in the back of the tent as we needed them. Venting was done with a cordless drill and tuning was done with a Dremel tool plugged in outside the men's room under the loghouse. I wasn't looking forward to doing that again.

I think it will still be a fun event because people will be able to see the new models and we'll get to meet people in person that we've only met online or on the phone. Ti is never a bad time anyway. I just hate to tell people that they will have to wait for delivery.

Before we leave, we still have to build a predator-proof brooder for the guineas. They have wing feathers now and are trying to fly out of their box. I also need to build a more secure duck pen. The way I deal with ducks now is to round them up at dusk and put them into a wire-front hutch for the night. If I am not able to get a better pen built, we could realistically keep them in the hutch for the weekend because they will have enough room, but they will really miss their kiddie pool.

I have a list of tasks to perform before we leave, after i write this I'm supposed to take my list to Wendy so we can compile a single list between mine and hers and prioritize them.

Saturday, June 11, 2005

New project in the works...

I haven't been able to get in touch with Eric K., who is the one that pushed me into this project, but Jeff, Chris and I have been talking for a while about a new project.

Folks have been asking for a musket that is appropriate for a ranger or light infantry. The problem is that rangers and light infantry are two different things. The earliest official "light infantry carbine" was the 1745 pattern. While many people imagine a LI musket to be a short, cut-down affair like the ersatz Pedersoli Brown Bess carbine, a REAL light infantry carbine has a 42" barrel in .65 caliber. This really isn't any shorter than the 2nd models that have been around for decades (regardless of authenticity). The thing is, folks want a short gun. My fear was that if we went to the effort to research and design a CORRECT LI carbine, people wouldn't want it because it was too long.

My next step was to read Robert Roger's journal to see what he calls their guns. Rarely does he use the word "musket". He generally referrs to their arms as "fusils" or "carbines". But does he mean a regulation Light Infantry carbine? They certainly existed, but why would the British allow specialized Light Infantry arms into the hands of provincials? Not likely. If rangers brought their own arms from home, they would have had an assortment of fowlers and fusils, not the latest military technology from the mother country.

Jeff came up with a report by Earl Stott who dug the ranger's campsite on Roger's island in 1960-61. He found what is believed to be an armorer's or blacksmith's shop. At the shop site, some of the artifacts recovered were: whetstones, a piece of grindstone, an assortment of axes, musket balls and casting sprue and a cache of 67 musket balls in .59 to .60 caliber. There was also swan shot. An oddity was a cache of four hard glazed pottery balls that are within .002 of being perfect spheres. These may have been used as bore gauges.

Round balls in .60 cal are too small for a regulation Brown Bess, but just right for a regulation carbine bored musket which would have been around .65 cal. They would also fit any number of civilian fowling pieces, fusils, and trade guns. Just to complicate this, they would also fit certain British issue pistols that were made in "carbine bore".

The most controvertial artifacts found at the shop site were cut ends of musket barrels in 4", 6" and 8" lengths. Unfortunately, there is no other information about these barrel stubs. What was the bore size? Were they worn out and cut off to "freshen" a barrel? Were there barrel tennons and/or bayonet lugs attached to them? The wherabouts of the stubs are unknown, but are the stuff of urban legend.

If the rangers did in fact shorten their muskets by 4, 6 or 8", what became of the muskets? Sure, I have an origial Indian gun in my collection that has been cut pretty short, but it started life as a 1777 Charleville, not a Bess.

A search of various gun books turned up only a single example of a mid 18th century Brown Bess that has been shortened. Interestingly in does not show up in Neumann's "Battle Weapons of the American Revolution", but it does show up in Neumann's earlier book "The History of Weapons of the American Revolution" (1967, long out of print) and it also shows up in his "Collector's Encyclopedia of the American Revolution"

After much deliberation and many sleepless nights on my part, we have decided that this single cut down musket is probably what a cut down Brown Bess would look like if the barrel stubs found at Roger's Island are from Brown Bess muskets. The surviving musket sports a 34" barrel. Take 4" off of a Long Land and you get a 42" barrel (that does NOT make it a Short Land Pattern, just a Long Land with a shortend barrel) Take an 8" section off of that, and you have a 34" barrel, like the Neumann example.

The Neumann gun has mid century Long Land features, such as a lack of carving, but still has a wooden rammer. Probably a cut down 1742 pattern. The forend is cut back to recieve a bayonet and the lug has been reinstalled. There is only one rammer thimble plus an entry pipe. All of the furniture is typical Long Land, but the lock does not have the typical Cypher.

We hope to have a prototype of this gun by the Ticonderoga event in two weeks for the rangers and LI folks to critque. Eric K. is coming to Ti, so he will be among the first to see the musket he pushed me to create. Either it will be done by the shop in India or we will do it here using a "second" musket that needed some tweaking anyway, depending on if the shop can build it fast enough.

I work long hours and deal with all sorts of little annoyances every day, but being able to create a new product that fills a need makes it all worth while. It's little things like this that can change the face of living history. Serious study and experimentation DOES make a difference in this hobby. I love my job!

Owls, coons, and ducks

Last week we had a bit of excitement around here.

On Wednesday night, we lost a duck to an owl (we think, based on the lack of carnage at the scene). It was around 2AM and the distraught quacking of the ducks got us out of bed. My fears were confirmed when I found only four ducks swimming excitedly on their little kiddie pool. We looked around but found no evidence of a struggle, carcass, not even any blood or torn out feathers. This is an owl's M.O. They silently swoop down and kill their prey on impact, then grab them and fly off with the whole thing to consume back in the forest. We have a lot of owls around here, you can hear them hooting all night. We rounded up the four survivors and put them into a recycled rabbit hutch for safekeeping.

The duck's pen is made of pallets spiked together to form a fence, then lined with heavy duty wire fencing (looks like chicken wire, but much thicker). Since it backs up against the house, we didn't think we'd need to put netting over the top, but it looks like we will need to if they are to stay out in their pen overnight.

The next incident happened the next night at around 1:30 AM. We had worked late and were unwinding with ice cream in front of the TV when Wendy heard the alarm quack, so I went running out to see what was going on. This time it was a big raccoon! She has her arm through the wire of the hutch the ducks were in and had one of them by the throat. I flicked on the floodlight and she glared at me as if to say "damn human, don't bother me I'm busy trying to tear this stupid duck's head off" then she let go of the duck and started trying to open the latch to the hutch.

I ran to get my Ruger .22 pistol. The Ruger has an aimpoint scope, a 32 oz trigger, Wolff springs, Voltquartson grips and I can show you a target with a dime sized group on it shot a 50', offhand. Did I hit the coon? Nope. Maybe because I was so pissed at it, or maybe because I took a two-handed stance, but at 15' I missed a big 'ol coon. How embarassing. She skedaddled into the woods, but I knew she'd be back soon.

A few minutes later, she came brazenly down the hill out of the woods. This time I was ready with my 12-guage. I didn't miss this time!

OK, so the pelt has a 1" hole in the side, but it's still a pelt. I also got 6lbs of coon meat out of the deal. This was a pretty big critter.

I keep the pump 12-ga loaded with an alternating assortment of shot, buckshot, and slugs because you just never know what you'll run into in the middle of the night. For instance, let's say I am putting the chickens to bed and run into a possum raiding the coop. Buckshot would overkill, so the first round is going to be a #4 game load. If it's a coyote, the #4 will just wound it unless it is at really close range, hence the buckshot. If it happens to to be a bear, the third round is a slug.

Don't get me wrong, this isn't how I would load it for hunting. This system is just for predator defense. For now, I carry my maglite in my left hand, which also works the slide. It's kind of awkward, so I plan to get another maglite and mount it to the barrel forward of the magazine tube so it will illuminate a target with less fumbling.

I chuckle to myself every time I take my 12-ga with me out to the coop at night, because I imagine that it isn't much different than what the settlers did here 250 years ago. Sure, they had coons, coyotes, wolves and bears, but they also had Abenakis waiting to ambush them as well. Having had a chance to shoulder the Stevens fowler that is currently in the possesion of the Charlestown Historical Society (in season, it is on display in the gift shop at Fort #4), I wonder what Captain Stevens would have thought of my pump shotgun.

We're back online!

I can't belive it has been so long since I have posted here, it's been a crazy couple of months!

For starters, I replaced the furnace that was causing so many problems. We were quoted a price around $3500 to do it, and I did it myself for $1800. Since the old furnace didn't have a chimney, to install a conventional unit meant I had to install a power-venter.

With the old furnace gone, we were free to have a disaster-cleanup crew come in and get rid of the soot. Teams of 4-6 people were here for two weeks wiping everything down with special sponges that remove soot. Then on the last day, a specialized dry cleaner came and took all of our clothes and bedding as well as all of Caleigh's stuffed animals. That took another two weeks. Next came the electronics guy, who took the computers, printers, phones, microwave, stereos, Direct TV boxes and remotes, pretty much everything that has a circuit board in it because it seems the soot is corrosive to solder and generally fatal to things like computers. Two more weeks went by and this morning he returned with the last of it.

The chickens are all grown up now, the roosters are crowing and we expect our first eggs in about 1 1/2 months, which will coincide with our one year anniversary of our move to the country.

Since I wrote here last, we've added more critters to the homestead. A nice lady from Concord had a better hatch of ducklings than expected and gave us five of her surplus Indian Runner ducklings. I can't think of too many things cuter and funnier than runner ducks.

A cat (we named him Freddie, long story) came to live with us after hanging out here for a couple a weeks and crying all night outside our bedroom window. He's a mouser, but shows absolutely no interest in poultry. When he walks by the duck pen and they quack at him, he only gives them a dirty look as if they have insulted him somehow. He has, however, brought us two mice from the woods. They must be his rent payments as he leaves them on the stairs for us to find. As much as we appreciate the sentiment, I'm not too into mice, they just don't fill me up, so we toss them to the chickens who devour them instantly.

In the middle of all of that, this week 10 little guineas hatched in our "Little Giant" incubator from Agway. It was a very cool experience to hear the little eggs peeping. If you held one to your ear, you could hear the little guinea keet pecking away at the shell from the inside. Five hatched Tuesday and five more hatched on Wednesday. They are cute, fast, and very active little birds. We hope they grow quickly and start eating bugs soon! The mosquitos are pretty obnoxious right now.

To top it all off, yesterday we picked Buster up from the shelter. Buster is a big 'ol dog. He is presumably mostly Husky since he has Husky coloring and two different colored eyes. his head is big and square, possibly a little pit bullish or maybe Akita. He's short haired though, so he looks a little like a Boxer. The long and short of it is that he is a big 'ol dog. Nice though, knows a few tricks. He made himself right at home and is trying to make friends with a very reluctant Freddie.

I have much to write, but I'm going to do it in short segments in case the blogger program crashes (happens a lot) and loses all of my typing.