Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Bailey Mercantile in Fuquay-Varina. NC’s best kept secret!

June 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Builder, Merchant

Bailey Mercantile Colonial Shop is housed in a simple building on Highway 42  in Fuquay-Varina. If you are not looking for it, youJim Bailey shows a rifle. might miss it. What a shame that would be. When Jim Bailey is not in his familiar canvas tent at black powder events, he is here in his shop creating handcrafted flintlocks.
Jim has been building flintlock rifles for thirty years; the quality of his work shows off this fact. His longrifles are beautiful, well-researched, wonderfully executed and a joy to hold and shoulder.

His favorite rifle to build is in the style of early Virginia- wider in the butt and not overly adorned with carving.

Now is a good time to contact Jim if you need a custom rifle. His delivery time is 3 to 4 months on a rifle.

Jim’s wife, Mary, is a seamstress of the first order; she specializes in Colonial and early American clothing. She has a variety of ready to buy clothing in the shop, but most of her work is custom made to fit the customer.

Bailey Mercantile has a good inventory of balls, bags, journeyman’s bags, Colonial clothing, un-worked horns, powder horns and the list goes on.

If you are in the area, call Jim and Mary to see their shop. Here is a link to their contact information- www.baileymercantilecolonialshop.com.

Bailey Mercantile

Bailey Flintlock Rifle

Charles Wallingford, BladeSmith

May 18, 2010 by  
Filed under Builder, Knives and Hawks

Charles Wallingford is a knifemaker or better yet a bladesmith. He works in the style that would be found on a frontiersman of the 18th or 19th Century. Charles and I have had a couple of conversations about his knife making…

How long have you been involved in black powder?
Charles: I was first introduced to muzzle loading rifles in 1968. I shot with the Kentucky Longrifles club in Morehead, Kentucky. My job required a move to Northern Kentucky in 1971. That is when I first met Jack Rouse. Jack taught me the rifle building sequence that I use to this day. Since those early days of my life, I have built several rifles that are still shot regularly. I also built a rifle that hangs in the ward room of the Ohio Class Submarine, USS Kentucky. That was a thrill to take it to Groton, Connecticut and hand it to the Captain of the boat.

How did you go from building flintlock rifles to building knives?
Charles: In the early eighties I became interested in the knives that Joe Keesler built. At first I would remove the steel until I got the blade shape I wanted. And then I attempted to forge some blades. It wasn’t until I paid a visit to Hershel House’s place that I finally got on the right track. I have been fortunate to have watched Hershel on numerous occasions do his magic with the hammer.

I am blown away by the look and heft of your knives. What are your design criteria?
Charles: I try to build knives that could have been used in the 18th and 19th century. I don’t make exact copies of any particular knife but rather a knife that is usable and comfortable to the hand with the old, well-kept look. I use carbon steel, primarily 1084 and spring steel from old hayrakes, and only natural materials for handles. I make my own hand stitched sheaths for each knife unless I have someone do a quilled sheath for a special order.

You supposedly retired in 1999; are you busy? (If you know Charles, you will recognize this bit of sarcasm!)
I do attend several events each year. Friendship, Ft Frederick, MD, the CLA show and most recently the 18th Century Artisan Show in Lewisburg, PA. I still build a rifle on occasion but my knife business is my primary focus since my retirement in 1999.

I am a member of the American Bladesmith Society, NRA, NMLRA , and past President of Kentucky’s Corps of Longriflemen.

What separates a bladesmith from a typical knife maker is not only the result, but the process. Note in the picture above Charles is beating a blade out of a hayrake! Charles’ cartouche is a CW in an oval.

Click to see Charles’ website for additional pictures and information.

Thanks for reading,

Rick Sheets

Click on a picture to see a larger version.

Fred Stuzenberger, a prolific writer and builder of Flintlock Arms

Fred Stuzenberger has published approximately 300 articles on the history and construction of muzzleloading arms in periodicals such as Muzzle Blasts, Muzzleloader, The Accurate Rifle, Precision Shooting and The Gun Digest. So you are familiar with his writing, but you might forget that he is a very good builder of flintlock arms. Here is a reminder of Fred’s skill as a gunsmith and a few facts that I bet you don’t know.

Fred Stuzenberger at Rendezvous

Fred’s Southern Muzzleloaders is not so much a business as it is an educational entity dedicated to information on the construction and use of muzzleloading firearms.  Occasionally a rifle or pistol that has been produced during the development of an article is sold to a private buyer or donated for public display. Sometimes, a rifle is built on request from a government agency, for example, the rifle built for the National Park Service’s Living History Program at the King’s Mountain National Military Park.

Fred has organized seminars through local muzzleloading chapters to demonstrate specific techniques useful in the building of muzzleloaders He has had 27 years in active Scouting and occasionally gives demonstrations of safe firearm use to Boy Scout troops and church groups.  From time to time, students interested in the history and construction of muzzleloaders visit with Fred and receive instruction or materials for building their own muzzleloader.

Fred’s professional career as a research professor in Microbiology and Molecular Medicine has spanned 45 years across three continents. He is a life member of the National Muzzleloading Rifle Association, Sigma Xi Scientific Research Society and the National Geographic Society. Currently, he is a staff writer for Muzzleloader magazine and a member of the National Rifle Association.

When Fred is not building or writing, he enjoys other activities such as his daily swim, hiking, restoring old original cabins, writing rhyming poetry and experimental bread baking.

Fred Stuzenberger Teaching Scouts

I for one want to thank Fred for sharing his building techniques, scholarship and  research through his writing on our great black powder hobby.

Thanks for reading,
Rick Sheets

Here are the pictures of his guns as promised.
Click on the picture to see a larger version.

Thanks again.

King’s Mountain Rifle and Horn by Fred. Scrimshaw by LaMar Wilson, Shelby NC. Bag by Gary Winkel, Rock Hill, SC.

Fred Stuzenberger Armstrong Patchbox

Fred Stuzenberger Rifle Cheekside

Fred Stuzenberger Iron Patchbox. Rifle and Horn by Fred. Scrimshaw by LaMar Wilson, Shelby NC. Bag by Gary Winkel, Rock Hill, SC.

Gunmaking Legacy Continues in Rural Indiana

October 23, 2013 by  
Filed under Builder

Highly carved Virginia Rifle by Marvin Kemper.

Highly carved Virginia Rifle by Marvin Kemper.

Please enjoy this article about Marvin Kemper, who is an amazing builder living in Indiana.
The article is by a guest author Amber Kirk.


Marvin Kemper in his shop.

Marvin Kemper in his shop.

In the early fifties, the contemporary longrifle movement was still decades from becoming the popular area of interest that now includes a countless number of artisans crafting fine Kentucky rifles, horns, bags, knives and related items.  Shortly after returning from the Battle of the Bulge in 1945, Cornell Kemper of Ferdinand, Indiana, began building custom cabinetry for the homebuilding trade.  Through the encouragement of a local school teacher and avid gun collector, he would soon apply his skills to crafting Kentucky rifles from the myriad of old busted up Kentuckies that were collecting dust in closets, attics and in gun dealer shops throughout the country.  Little did he know that running an ad in a number of national publications that read “Building fancy Kentucky Rifles from your old parts,” would result in droves of requests for newly stocked longrifles.  At times, gun dealers would box up and send Cornell 5 or 10 old rifles or an assortment of used parts.  By 1952, he was building Kentucky rifles on a fulltime basis.  He would continue his craft for nearly fifty years, building his last rifle in 2000 at the age of 84.  He was a prolific builder who amassed several thousand rifles over his career.  Cornell and his wife, Doris, would raise six daughters and one son, Marvin.

In the early 1960s, a very young Marvin Kemper would spend countless hours playing in the piles of sawdust and wood scraps under the bench in his father’s gunshop.  Cornell would exercise great patience and perhaps wisdom in allowing his son to experience his trade, even at a pre-school age.  Essentially, Marvin was born into the trade.  Today, he still possesses his father’s old bench, complete with all the battle scars of a lifetime of gunmaking.  It even includes a number of grooves in the edges where Marvin first polished his skills with a rat-tail file…albeit at the age of 5.  Like so many of the gunsmithing families of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, it became apparent that Marvin’s daily exposure to his father’s craft would prepare him to carry on the craft.  Marvin would build his first rifle at the age of thirteen and continue with various additional rifles of increasing complexity as time went on.  Cornell always outsourced the engraving of his rifles.  When his engraver moved to Colorado in 1991, he was left without an engraver.  Marvin found this to be appropriate time to teach himself this skill and was soon engraving his father’s work.  While college, marriage and childrearing consumed much of Marvin’s time over the years, he always maintained a serious interest in the longrifle and continued a dedicated hobby of gunmaking.  In the spring of 2013, he made a decision to move away from his corporate “day” job and follow in his father’s footsteps on a full-time basis.

Marvin Kemper now builds quality Kentucky longrifles and pistols on a custom order basis.  Each piece is typically equipped with flintlock ignition and premium components fitted into a curly maple stock.  All are built from the blank and thus, can be built to replicate the work of virtually any of the original Golden Age Kentucky rifles and pistols.  Embellishments include relief and/or incised carving, as well as inlays of brass and coin silver.  Certain pieces also include fine silver wire inlay.  All are engraved in a style consistent with the original makers.  Marvin does not consider himself a niche builder, as he finds great fulfillment in building in a broad range of styles.  Like many gunmakers, he crafts replicas of the Golden Age arms from Pennsylvania, Virginia and North Carolina regions.  He has expanded his work to include a number of accurate replicas of the rifles made by the Bryan family of Lexington Kentucky.  One such rifle was recently built and donated to the Contemporary Longrifle Foundation for their annual live auction at the Contemporary Longrifle Association show in Lexington.

Marvin resides near the small town of Wadesville, Indiana, located in Southwest Indiana.  He spends each day working the metal and wood that ultimately are transformed into a completed rifle or pistol.  When asked what compels him to continue his father’s legacy, he recants, “Like my Dad, I find great joy in producing lonrifles that may ultimately be around hundreds of years from now.  Perhaps the greatest indication that my work is genuinely appreciated comes when I have a repeat customer.”

Anyone interested in Marvin’s work is encouraged to visit his website at:  www.libertylongrifles.com or contact him at (812) 985-9325 or via email at libertylongrifles@gmail.com.

Jerry Eitnier, Maker of Iron Mounted Southern Rifles

August 24, 2010 by  
Filed under Blacksmith, Builder, Knives and Hawks

My friend Mark Thomas is well known as The Craftsman to the Past and he exists in a rare category as one of the finest artisans in the country. Whenever Mark is impressed, I listen.  He and I spoke about Jerry Eitnier. And we agreed that an article about the man is appropriate to showcase his skills as a builder and blacksmith as well as recognize his undeterred spirit!   Please enjoy this article by Mark Thomas…Thanks, Rick Sheets

Jerry Eitnier, Maker of Iron Mounted Southern Rifles

I would like to introduce my friend Jerry Eitnier to the world. Jerry has given me an opportunity to understand a little better the passion that one can bring to his craft. My meeting of Jerry at our Annual CLA show in Lexington, Kentucky is always a joy. He is a man that that has humbled me in a number of ways. He was going through some personal health issues but was at the show with the biggest grin I’d ever seen on the face of a fellow craftsman. The shear fact that he was there was the main reason for his broad smile. He has always apologized for not being a better craftsman. The quality of ones work isn’t the test of the person, it’s the passion that person brings to their craft.

Jerry is a charter member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association and a member of the NMLRA since 1973. He was inspired to build longrifles around 1987.

An observant person can see, his work is influenced by the Woodbury School fostered by Hershel House. Jerry’s focus is to build a safe shooting gun, and as he says, “the more you use them, the better they look.”  He likes to forge the iron for the hardware on his iron mounted rifles but he is also capable of making other items in his blacksmith shop. Most of his blacksmith work is for his own projects but once in a while he will offer some things for sale or take in an occasional order. He may have a knife or two, an axe or maybe just trigger guards and butt plates.

I’ve included a couple pictures of some of the work that Jerry has made. The next time you pass by his table, take a look, give a smile and meet the man with his dry sense of humor and willingness to laugh. I look forward to the times I get to see Jerry if only for a moment; it is a moment well spent.

Mark Thomas 7/29/10

Click Here to view Jerry Eitner’s contact information.

A Blanket Full of Eitnier Southern Guns

Eitnier Iron Patchbox

Eitnier Iron Mounted Southern Rifle

Eitnier Knives

Joe Scott Belt Knife and Nate McKenzie Flint Pistol

September 22, 2011 by  
Filed under Builder, Knives and Hawks

The best thing in the Longrifle Culture is the people. I must admit I got into history and living history through enjoyment of the material culture of the 18 and 19th Centuries. Later I found that folks could replicate the items in a artistic way; I fell in love with the new-old “stuff.” Then I got to know the people who created the items. Again, it is the people who make the black powder arts special.

Anyway, two of the folks I have gotten to know a bit are Nate McKenzie (gun builder and horner) and Joe Scott (bladesmith and Journeyman horner) and caught up with them at Dixon’s Gunmakers Fair in Kempton, Pennsylvania. Both have helped fuel my enjoyment of the good stuff.

Mr. Scott is a Journeyman with the Honourable Comapny of Horners and I admired an 18th Century, bone handled belt knife on his table at our Fort Roberdeau meeting earlier this year. I got busy and did not buy it. I kicked myself for months until Dixon’s. He still had the knife and I bought it. I am still working on my kit and this knife fit the bill exactly.

Now about my new pistol. I really like cobbled together Colonial American guns. Our resourceful ancestors did not waste a thing and many of their working firearms were made-up of disparate pieces. I have known Nate McKenzie for a few years and I have threatened to have him make such a flint pistol. I wanted a pistol with a strap guard, brass barrel on a maple stock. The Dale Johnson flintlock (by Jim Chambers) sparks like crazy and I must say Nate’s trigger breaks better than my Ruger single action. The knife and pistol will soon be belted together.

If you see Nate McKenzie or Joe Scott at a show, stop and say hello to them. Both are first class artisans and very nice people.

Best regards,
Rick Sheets

See Joe Scott’s contact information by clicking here.

See Nate McKenzie’s contact information by clicking here.

Mark Thomas, Craftsman to the Past

January 17, 2010 by  
Filed under Builder, Engraver, Folk Artist, Silversmith

Mark Thomas Featured Artist

Mark Thomas is a self taught artisan of diverse accomplishments featuring hand engraving of the various items he creates. Mark is a proficient hand engraver, wood carver and silversmith of objects relating to the time period of Colonial America to the mid 19th century. Flintlock rifles, powder horns, knives, tomahawks and various other objects of the time are examples of his talent. The sterling silver jewelry is an extension of the rifle, in a sense that the first jewelry pieces were influenced by the escutcheon plates used on the fore stock of a rifle during the Golden age of the Kentucky rifle. His jewelry and other silver objects are unique, one-of-a-kind, heirloom quality pieces of art made one at a time and engraved one line at a time. Mark works in various materials from silver, steel, copper and brass to ebony, ivory, various other woods and cow horn to name a few.

Mark began his artistic career with the assembly of a flintlock rifle in 1978. Moved to the beautiful Shenandoah Valley of Virginia in 1980 and in 1993 began his full-time venture as artisan of fine folk art. Over past decade Mark has collaborated with Mike Small to create a set of awards for the Contemporary Longrifle Association. In 2005, Mark built the powder horn presented to, Fess Parker, for his inspiration to the many members of the CLA with his portrayal of Davey Crockett and Daniel Boone.

He is a nationally recognized charter member of the Contemporary Longrifle Association, also member of the NMLRA, NRA, and FEGA.

The rifle shown in these pictures is a close rendition of an early gun, known for the engraved name on the side plate. This rifle was turned up in Virginia and had been handed down through an early Virginia family if memory serves. The other photos are of a variety of pieces that have been made within the last year or show a unique item of historic interest.

Please click on an image to see a larger version.

Rum cups, handwrought from sterling silver sheet and hand engraved with various patterns.

A low relief engraved sterling silver bracelet.

Three folding knives, the silver and cow horn in the middle is the very first folder made by Mark, all made from old files and cow horn. The lg. figural is ivory and cow horn, the other figural is all cow horn scales.

This pipe axe was inspired by the “Gadson” flag of 1754, “Don’t Tread on Me” with the segmented rattlesnake. The snake is one piece alternating silver and brass.

Spoon rack fashioned after a piece shown in a magazine ca. 1820 this one is made from poplar wood and the chip carving took many labor of love hours.“Craftsman to the Past”

Mark Thomas
“Craftsman to the Past”

10547 Union Springs Rd.
Dayton , Va. 22821

540 867 5829



Nate McKenzie, Gunmaker

February 19, 2010 by  
Filed under Builder

I know Nate McKenzie mainly through his work. I saw a rifle by Nate on the contemporarymakers.blogspot site last June and have been a fan ever since. Subsequently I met Nate at Dixon’s Gun Makers Fair in Kempton, Pennsylvania last year and found him to be very well spoken on the subject of the longrifle and gun making. I understand from Nate that he has attended Dixon’s every year to take seminars and to soak-up everything he can to advance his skill as a gunmaker.

Nate McKenzie at the 18th Century Artisan Show 2010

Nate McKenzie began his interest in muzzle loading guns when he was given his grandfathers cut down M 1842 Civil War musket at the age of eight. He has since restored this musket and it still has an honored place in his collection. He built his first long rifle at the age of twenty-two and it hangs over the stone fireplace in his log home today. I have included pictures of Nate’s first build in this article. He has come a long way, but his first flintlock has a folksy charm of its own and has a lot of artistic merit.

Since retiring in 2004 he has been steadily building rifles, smooth bores, powder horns, and wing bone turkey calls. Nate also does restoration work on old rifles and muskets. He has worked on guns for the Luzerne County Pennsylvania historical society and the Montour County Pennsylvania Historical Society. His work was well received at the Eighteenth Century Artisans Show in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.

Nate also does Revolutionary War, Civil War, and WWII living history programs for schools, historical societies and other organizations. He is a life member of the NRA and a member of the CLA.

As a full-time artisan, Nate takes on commissioned work.
Nate’s contact information is on his website, please click here.

Thanks for reading,
Rick Sheets

To see a larger version of the following pictures, just click on them

Nate's First Rifle - Adams County

Nate's First Rifle - Cheek Side

Two Lehighs and a Christian Spring rifle. Patch Box Side

Two Lehighs and a Christian Spring rifle. Cheek Side.

Old Salem, NC a haven for old-time gunsmithing and Moravian History

My girlfriend, Pam, and I went to Old Salem for a fun day In September. It was a beautiful day with low humidity for the Piedmont, which is always welcome. We hit the MESDA (Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts) and various artisan and craftsman venues offered there.

Drew Neill is the shoemaker. Drew was kind enough to tell me about the brogan or work shoe of the 1840’s period. Here is Drew explaining how the “last” would be built up with leather to be the same shape as the customer’s foot so the finished shoe would be a custom fit.

As a fan of such things as antiques, Moravian and North Carolina history, flintlock rifles, leather working and wood turning where else would I want to be on a beautiful North Carolina day? (And I want to thank Pam for never rushing me though museums or living history events.)

Here is just a little bit about the history of Old Salem. It was founded as Salem in 1766 by the Moravians, who were ex-Europeans who came down the Great Wagon Road from Pennsylvania, to establish a religious community. While Old Salem is not an operational religious community today, it retains its Moravian flavor through the painstaking restoration of the original buildings, the staff in period clothing and their sharing of the town’s history.

Our Old-Salem day began at the MESDA. Our guide through the museum was Jenny Garwood. Jenny was conversant on anything I asked about. The museum has many period interiors from simple to quite fancy antique southern homes. You begin the tour in a simple room with simple furnishings and wind your way through doors leading from one reassembled interior to another. The rooms are filled with antiques and art that are appropriate to each room’s period of history. The tour ends with seeing the MESDA’s collection of longrifles and shooting accouterments. You will see super rifles from makers such as Kennedy and Vogler.

No pictures are allowed in the museum so you won’t see any here.

Here is the exterior of the Museum of Early Southern Decorative Arts. (Copyright pamlappegardphotography.com)

Bill Bailey is a real-deal gunsmith working in the Vogler Gunshop across from the MESDA. Bill’s historical impression is of an 1840’s gunmaker. He nails it! (Copyright pamlappegardphotography.com)

Bill Bailey tells the history of the Vogler Gunshop. (Copyright pamlappegardphotography.com)

Here is Bill's personal powder horn and bag. (Copyright pamlappegardphotography.com)

Blake Stevenson is the guy in charge of the Vogler Gunshop. Blake is a hands-on interpreter as well as the department head. Here is Blake with his copy of a Vogler rifle (with the iconic eagle patchbox). It is a shooter and has not been babied. It could pass for an original.

Here is Blake’s Personal horn with his own engraving. He says that his scratching is better these days, but I really like the folksy quality of this engraving.

I am lucky that Old Salem is just an hour and a half from me so I can go back soon. There are other artisan shops that I have not written about, but I will when I go back next year.

Here is the link to Old Salem. www.oldsalem.org

Thanks for reading,
Rick Sheets

Rifle Building with Fred Stutzenberger – Part 1


Fred Stutzenberger takes his limit in 1960.

When Rick invited me to publish rifle-building information on his website, I considered it to be a two-fold opportunity: first, to provide encouragement to the beginning builder and second, to establish a fitting legacy to honor Tom Harbin, my longtime friend, mentor and builder of 147 muzzleloading rifles.

I built my first muzzleloading rifle as a teenager well over a half century ago. I had no instruction book, no mentor, not even an idea of proportion in the stocking of the rifle. My inspiration came from a visit to the Kentucky State Museum. Uncle Albert was a friend of the curator there. One day, when my uncle and I were at the museum, the curator asked us to stay past closing time. He took us to the display case where a rifle purportedly to have been used by Daniel Boone was kept. He opened the case and let me briefly hold the rifle. Even to my untrained eye, it looked crude and weathered. I thought to myself “I can build a better rifle than this.” It took me years to learn how wrong I was in that arrogant conclusion.

In the next few years, I built two matchlock pistols and a cannon complete with carriage. By the time I was 17, I had saved enough money to buy a barrel, lock and hardware from Turner Kirkland at Dixie Gun Works. The stock was a slab of rough-cut walnut from my father’s stack of lumber in the barn loft. I sawed out the stock without his knowing…he was born in 1895 and had no regard for antique firearms…and I feared that he would not take kindly to my ruining one of his valuable walnut planks. By the time that he found out, I had already inlet the barrel. I was too big to spank so I got off pretty light.

Gradually, the rifle came together. Homely as the rifle was, it was a tack driver once I developed a proper load: 38 grains of Dupont Powder and a .389 caliber ball patched in pillow ticking lubed with sperm whale oil. The first time my friend George and I went squirrel hunting with my rifle, I got a clean limit of six without a miss. George was so impressed that he took a picture of me (Fig. 1) after the hunt. I wish every first time builder the same success that I enjoyed with my first homemade rifle. Hopefully, my Tips & Tools series will help you along that path.

Fred Stutzenberger

Next Page »