Tips and Tools with Fred Stutzenberger- Part 2
Planning, Progress and Procrastination- by guest author, Fred Stutzenberger
The building of a longrifle is often an overwhelming prospect for the first-timer. What type of rifle and its dimensions? Where should I buy the parts? Should I buy a kit or start from scratch? What tools will I need? Is there be an experienced builder in my area to whom I can go for advice if I get into trouble?
When I built my first rifle at age 17, I had the answers to none of those questions because I was too naïve to even consider them. I just knew that I was going to build a muzzleloading rifle. And so I did. It turned out as ugly as a swatted fly on a barn door, but it was a dependable tack driver that took its deadly toll of squirrels, foxes and starlings. Within the context of my limitations, it was a success.
Today, there are many advantages available to the first-time builder: a wide range of parts and materials suppliers (just look around this website), access to the internet, books by experienced builders and historians, blueprints of various styles of rifles, activities of the NMLRA and CLA that bring together the rifle-building expertise of the world. Yet I hear lamentations such as “I really want to build a rifle but just don’t know where to start” or “I could never build something like that”. Some go so far as buying all the parts and then letting them gather dust and rust in a closet for decades. Some plan and plan and plan again, surrounding themselves with borrowed books that show every conceivable school of longrifle, but never arriving at that magical moment of action. They literally plan themselves out of building the longrifle of their dreams.
For many, it seems that the major impediment is the fear that they will waste a valuable piece of wood or ruin an expensive barrel. If that is you, then buy a good quality kit for your first attempt. The stock is shaped, the inlets are cut, the holes are drilled and all the parts “know” where they should go. Sometimes all it takes is just looking at a kit or a disassembled rifle to create enough courage to start on your own piece of wood. Once you start, don’t procrastinate. Keep the momentum going even it is just a few minutes of effort a day. Momentum feeds on success and success feeds on momentum.
At my age, I tire quickly. Standing at the bench for hours at a time is beyond the capacity of my feet, knees and back. So I work a few minutes, accomplish a little and let my subconscious mind feast on that progress while I take a break. The subconscious mind is a wondrous thing. For example, when I draw the initial carving or engraving pattern, I never cut it right away. I let my subconscious fiddle with it a while I concentrate on other tasks. The next day or two, there is the product of my subconscious now risen into the conscious, prodding me to improve the initial design. I guess that’s where the old saying “Let me sleep on it” comes from when mulling over an important decision.
In Tips & Tools #3, we’ll discuss some options as to what type of muzzleloading rifle you choose to build.