Tuesday, February 20, 2018

The End of the Series – Tips & Tools with Fred Stutzenberger – Part 22

I want to thank Fred Stutzenberger for authoring this series and tribute to his friend Tom Harbin. I also want to note that Mr. Stutzenberger has been patient with me in publishing the series in drips and drabs. He has been timely and responsive throughout and I appreciate his time and dedication to make us all better in what we do in the muzzleloading hobby.
Rick Sheets, Editor



Tips & Tools #22 Passing on Information and Just Passing On.

T&T #22 will be the last of the Tips & Tools Series. I set out to create this series for two reasons: as an abbreviated blueprint for the first time rifle builder to follow and to honor the legacy of my good friend of 34 years, Tom Harbin.  During that friendship, Tom taught me a lot about how to build an architecturally graceful rifle. By the time I met Tom, I had already built several rifles and a few pistols. When I first saw his rifles, my first reaction was a question: “Why are his rifles prettier than mine?” His wood-to-metal fit was not as close as mine, nor was his metal finishing as smooth as mine. The answer came pure and simple—the architecture of his rifles—the slender grace was there in his rifles, much more evident than in mine. Tom didn’t have to point that out to me (and never did), but it was there for me to see and to gradually emulate. After Tom built his stock duplicator (and I started using it more than he did), the slender grace came to my rifles automatically from his master patterns. By the time Tom quit muzzleloading and moved on to centerfire bench competition, he had become the admiring one, praising me for my decorative adventures, not so much verbally, but by turning over his last few shaped rifles to me for carving and engraving.

The week before he sold out his land, cabin and shop on the Chauga River, he told me to come up and take what I wanted before the auctioneer parceled out equipment and tools into boxes and baskets and buckets for the serious, the curious and the commercial interests to paw through. I didn’t go back there the day of the auction. There wasn’t much that I needed—Tom had already given me all I needed—not just in goods, but in gentle and generous goodness.

In Tom’s last few years incapacitated by arthritis, gout, a failing heart and too many prescriptions, I visited with him on a weekly basis. There were no exciting new projects, no trading of skills and abilities, no giving of tools and materials with never a thought of who was getting the better of the exchange. By that time, our exchanges had gone back beyond the days of enthusiastic brain-storming, building and experimentation, back to our indelible experiences that shaped our lives and crowded our childhood memories. We had each other to ourselves now, uninterrupted by visitors expecting something for nothing other than thanks for Tom’s generosity. The only tangible vestige of our past was what I brought along for show-and-tell: a lock I had just engraved, a roughed-in barrel stock combination, a finished rifle gleaming with its inexperience. Those were good times right up until the end.

And now the Tips & Tools series is at its end also. I thank Rick Sheets for his invitation to spend time on his website as guest author. There is much more that needs to be recorded than what has been recollected. I apologize for omissions that have erased footprints in the trail to a finished rifle, but Tips & Tools was never meant to be an instruction manual, but rather only an inspiration to get started in the right direction.

I started #22 entitled Odds and Ends and then went back for a separate chapter #21 to cover a multitude of little bits that I had dropped along the way. Now I realize that it is better to let the reader determine his or her own odds and ends that need to be addressed. E-mail those to me at sfred@clemson.edu. I’ll try to do my best to answer.

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