Wallhanger? No way! Most would have looked at this old hammer gun as no more than a potential source of parts. But with some specialized techniques, Mazan got it back to shooter condition.
A broken stock has taken many a fine old gun out of action and you may have to repair the stock to save the gun.
Some stock repairs are easy. A new piece can be made for a chipped toe and simple gluing can often repair a split forend so well it is all but impossible to see the repair. Many popular guns are easy to find replacement stocks for and with CNC inletting, even a hobbyist can restock those guns.
Then there are those disasters that appear from time to time that look unrepairable. I recently ran into a nice English-made double that was not only broken at the wrist but was shattered, with pieces of-wood missing and a homemade repair.
Then someone had attempted to repair the stock by gluing the pieces together without degreasing the oil-soaked wood and inletted and screwed two brass plates into the wrist to "fix" the damage. The repair was not only ugly, the glue didn't hold and the stock was falling apart. At first glance you might think that there isn't a chance to save this stock, but with the right techniques it can be brought back to life.
This extreme example had been stripped of many parts, including the buttplate, trigger guard and just about every screw, so disassembly was simple. Most of the pieces could simply be lifted off by hand, but to complete the disassembly I did have to remove the wedge from the forend and work the lever to remove the barrels.
A careful check showed a remarkably smooth bore with little internal pitting, solid lockwork and mechanically excellent locks. The gun was worth some effort to save and priced at $75, I couldn't say no. The first step in repairing the stock was to remove the wood screws holding the brass strips to the stock.
With that accomplished I found I had three major oil-soaked pieces. No glue I know of will hold oil-soaked wood together, so it was important to get all the oil out of the stock. I first used the tried and true method of an application of oven cleaner followed by scrubbing in hot soapy water.
I removed the stock finish and the pieces looked very good when dried, but several days later, more oil leached out of the wood and the surface was oil-soaked again. After three more applications of oven cleaner gave the same results, I took things a step further by immersing the wood in a tank of turpentine, weighting the pieces down, and letting them soak for two weeks.
The inexpensive turpentine you get from the hardware store smells like the devil, so you will want to soak the stock out in the garage and be sure to cover the tank. That solved the problem of the oil-soaked wood. It came out of the turpentine bath free of oil but stunk so badly that even after a bath with soap and water I had to leave it in the garage for another week before I could bring it back into the shop.
To reinforce the wood across the broken area I used Brownells Stock Repair Pins (part #080-565-093AB available from Brownells at 800-741-0015). These are 2-inch long brass alloy pins that are threaded to hold plenty of glue.
Carefully measure and align the holes so that when the broken ends of the stock are brought together, they will line up perfectly. Lining those holes up exactly on a broken stock is nearly impossible. So I drill the holes oversize, pump them full of Acraglas (also a Brownells product), and insert the pins.
Drilling the holes oversized leaves plenty of room for error in locating them and still allows the stock to be perfectly aligned. Before assembly I coated the ends of the broken stock and all the bits and pieces of wood with Gorilla Glue from the local home center and clamped everything together.
To hold the stock together I used a pipe clamp and to hold the broken pieces in place, I wrapped the area with surgical tubing, another item available from Brownells. The stock was left for 24 hours to allow the glue and Acraglas to set up before continuing.
Upon removing the surgical tubing, and the clamp I discovered the stock properly aligned and rigid, but ugly as sin. There were those inletted places from where the brass strips were attached as well as the screw holes and gaps where wood was simply missing and lost.
I also knew that there were substantial gaps inside the wrist where wood had broken out and was lost. To return this gun to a shootable Condition, something would have to be done to fill this area or the first shot might simply break it' again.
I took a piece of walnut and cut it into 1/8" thick strips and cut them to length and width to fit the inletted places where the brass strips had been and glued them to the stock with Gorilla Glue
I really like the Gorilla Glue for several reasons. First, it sets up in 2-3 hours. Second, it expands in volume by 3-4 times and fills any voids from poor inletting or bad fit. Third, it is waterproof and your stock will not come apart if you get caught in the rain.
Starting at the bottom of the grip, I fashioned pieces of walnut to fill any gaps where pieces had broken off and been lost. In some cases, you may have to remove wood from around a broken area and fashion a walnut piece to fit into the damaged area. Don't worry about depth. It is OK to have the repair higher than the original wood surface because it can be sanded flat later. The most important thing is to get it to fit at tightly as possible and clamp the patches in place until they set.
Once all the damaged areas were repaired I had one hole I left open at the top of the stock. I mixed up another batch of Acraglas, stained it brown and poured it into the stock. This lets it fill any voids where wood is missing inside the repaired area and also allows it to flow into any cracks that did not close completely.
If you know you still have holes or cracks that will let the Acraglas leak out, cover them with masking tape. You won't be able to remove the tape but you can sand it off later. When the Acraglas sets up, you simply have to cut one more patch to cover the hole you poured it into and the repairs are .done.
Sand the stock down, blending the patches into the original wood, and things start to look pretty good. You still have a patchwork quilt of walnut but a lot of that will be hidden by staining and recheckering the stock. If you have a good selection of walnut so you can match the color of the original stock and cut your patches to follow the grain, it will look even better. Once the glue has get, there should be absolutely no movement when you hold the ends of the stock and try to bend, twist, or wiggle it.
It is almost impossible to find parts for some of these old guns, and I had to measure the threads in each hole and try to find screws of the right length to fit. In some ways, this was the hardest part of the job. Being an English gun. at least none of the threads were metric, but I can tell you that no two threads were alike.
A call to Gun Parts Corp. at 914-679-2417 with the thread size did get a trigger guard on the way and I had a steel buttplate on hand that took only minor fitting. If you would prefer to install a recoil pad, now is the time to do it. You have to refinish the stock anyway, and you can sand the pad with the stock and get a perfect fit without worrying about scratching the finish.
The ebony tip was missing from the front of the fore-end and whittling one out would have been a major project. Instead, I used masking tape to build a dam around the cutout and once again poured Acraglas that had been stained black into the inletting, letting it overflow the area. Once it wag set up, I removed the tape and sanded the epoxy down to the surface of the wood. It looks great and the fit is perfect!
At this point I thought all that was left was to refinish the stock and recur the checkering. Not that recurring checkering is easy or fun. but it would hide some of the patched areas and the gun was engraved so I felt I just had to.
The gun had always seemed heavy to me, but I hadn't given it much thought until I reassembled it and discovered that the chamber swallowed a 12-gauge snap cap. Having been built long before chamber sizes were standardized, careful measuring showed the chambers to be between 12-gauge maximum and 10-gauge minimum dimensions, so effectively I had an 11-gauge gun on my hands.
Fortunately, there is a fast and easy fix for this situation. I called the folks at Gauge Mate (1-800-709-9910) and asked about the possibility of having a set of their chamber adapters made to reduce the chambers to accept 12-gauge shells. They asked for the chamber dimensions and said their 10-gauge to 12-gauge adapters would fit.
If you aren't familiar with sub-gauge adapters, let me explain that they fit into the chambers of a break-open shotgun and reduce the size to fit a smaller gauge. The best known was probably the Savage Four-tenner made back in the 70s. They were only made to fit 12-gauge chambers and allowed .410 shells to be fired in the gun. They were discontinued, by Savage many years ago, but today Gauge Mate can provide adapters to fit all the common sizes and allow them to shoot a smaller gauge shell.
If you have an old 16-gauge shotgun sitting in the closet and you are tired of hunting for 16-gauge shells and then paying a premium for them, a set of 16- to 20-gauge reducers will allow your old 16 to shoot 20s. I ordered a set of 10- to 12-gauge reducers and cut a section of the rim off so the gun's extractor would extract the shell and not the entire unit. I later found out that Gauge Mate has what they call the Gold series with this cut already made and ready to drop in.
For a little money and some shop time I now have an English hammer shotgun in 12-gauge. Before you ask, yes, I only shoot blackpowder shells in it and I bet that if I put it up for sale I can easily pay for my time.
Photos by: James Waiters & Sal Scarlata *
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|Date:||Oct 20, 2009|
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