Saturday, May 27, 2017

My New (Old) Horner’s Bench

March 29, 2012 by  
Filed under Living History, Powder Horns

If you are a horner and attend events and like to show a little horn work, you have thought about having a portable honer’s bench. The only problem is there really is not a true example of such a thing in history. We know our ancestors liked to sit to work when they could as one finds cobbler’s benches, broom maker’s benches and the ever-present shaving horse. But no horner’s bench. (If I have that wrong, PLEASE send me pictures.)

I was at the Salvation Army the other day and found a cobbler’s bench. No, not an antique, but a 1960ish coffee table made in the form of a cobbler’s bench. Fourteen bucks. How could I resist!

I used my organic approach of building to outfit it to do horn work. (Organic= Create the design as I go using what I have on hand.)

Fortunately the cobbler’s bench was over-built by the fellow who made it and it holds my weight easily. It is so comfortable and practical you would not believe it.

The horner's bench is modifyed with three holes for attachments.

Horners bench has a built in drawer.

All of the accessories fit in the drawer.

The horners bench has a horn holder and other features.

The accessories.

The cow horn holder is wedged in place.

The tapered stops and horn holder are jammed with a piece of oak.

This arrangement makes for a very solid horn holder.

You can change the angle of attack by moving the horn holder and the stops.

Steel pin acts as a lathe for horn work.

Jeff Bibb calls this a poor man's lathe. The transverse pin is put in the horn spout, while you turn the horn use a file to round out the spout easily.

The sandbag platform is jammed into place.

Here is the platform with a couple of sandbags in place. Works great.

My new, old horner’s bench may not be absolutely period correct, but it does look plausibly defensible as something that could have existed. (I sound like a politician.) It works wonderfully and I am very happy with it.

Thanks for reading,
Rick Sheets

James City County Militia encampment at the Yorktown Victory Celebration 2010

The Yorktown Victory Center delivers on its promise to inform the visitor of the collective American and French defeat of the British under the command of George Washington on October 19, 1781.

I had the pleasure of visiting during the Yorktown Victory Celebration on October 16th. The museum invited Revolutionary War re-enactors to display camp life, cooking, fife & drum music and militia drill. I was awed by the spot-on impressions and the exact nature of the participants.

I spent a bit of time with the James City County Militia. These folks are actually a Roger’s Rangers Battalion that also provides a Revolutionary War impression when they need to.  If their Roger’s Rangers portrayal is as good as their Revolutionary War impression, I want to experience it!

Dennis Loba Militia Private

Dennis Loba portrays a private in the James City County Militia. Dennis described the use of a flintlock fowler by this member of the Militia. Note the forestock is cut-back to accept a bayonet. Dennis’ powder horn was made by Lee Larkin, who is a master horner with The Honourable Company of Horners (www.hornguild.org).

Bruce Roberts Camp Artisan

Bruce Roberts is the camp artisan. If his company needs a horn scrimmed, a sheath stitched, a flintlock made or anything bodged at all Bruce is their man. Bruce’s alter ego is Gideon Lott.

Gideon Lott His Horn 1756

Now this is a neat powder measure arrangement. The measure is on a thong threaded through a hole in the stopper. You cannot lose your stopper!

William Blair lights his pipe.

William Blair’s persona is that of a common soldier, today he is a camp cook. Note his patched over-shirt protecting his clothing.

There are about thirty members of the Jaeger’s Battalion in Virginia, see their website at www.rogersrangers.com.

The website for the Yorktown Victory Center is www.historyisfun.org.

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

The Ferguson Rifle at King’s Mountain National Military Park

Most of us who have a love of history get cynical at times. We like to think that we are alone in our passion and everyone else is playing computer games or gossiping on their mobile phones and have not a clue or interest in how we became America. After visiting the King’s Mountain National Military Park yesterday, I am so happy I am wrong.

I witnessed a dedicated group the Hesse Kassel Jaeger Korps, who set-up a primitive camp and demonstrated Revolutionary style military life, come together with the Cub Scout Pack 173  out of Harrisburg, NC. The Scouts were well behaved and inquisitive. Out of the few dozen Scouts were there, I am sure the spark was ignited in a few to learn more of history and maybe even eventually learn about black powder.

King’s Mountain is famous for the battle where the British officer, Major Patrick Ferguson was fatally shot by several over the mountain, Scots- Irish using long rifles. Of course, Major Ferguson is most known for his breech loading flintlock rifle (which was not used at the Battle of King’s Mountain). The museum at the park has a wonderful display and explanation of Ferguson’s rifle. Additionally, this weekend had a very special firing demonstration of the gun.

Ricky Roberts, one of the reenactors, brought his Ferguson Rifle and provided a good demonstration of the gun’s reputation as being the first “assault rifle.” Here is a video of Ricky shooting a timed fire exercise and being cheered on by Cub Scout Pack 173.

UPDATE February 2012.
I am pleased to announce that the definitive book on the Ferguson rifle is now available from Ricky Roberts and Bryan Brown. See www.everyinsultandindignity.com.

To learn more about King’s Mountain National Military Park, go to their website….

The Hesse Kassel Jaeger Korps is a dedicated group who portrays an elite unit of the Germanic Hesse Kassel Jaegers, who fought for Briton during the American Revolution. They give many living history programs throughout the year. Look at their schedule on their website at… Be sure to scroll down the pages!

David Gillespie – Carver of Slate Tombstones – Pickens, SC

David Gillespie is a stone cutter; he creates period correct tomb and gravestones from slate.

David Gillespie is standing by his latest work. This stone is loosely based upon the Nathan Basset Stone, the first portrait stone in America. The original is at the Circular Church in Charleston, SC.

Why slate? David says it is as permanent as granite, is easier to work with and has better detail. And unlike marble it is impervious to acid rain. But I am sure the most important part of all is the way the material responds to the folk artist’s hands using only tools available two hundred years ago.

David says the basics of carving the slate are similar to wood. And David admits he would rather cut stone than wood. He can cut left or right without worry of the grain changing. But don’t let that statement about wood fool you. David can build a credible Gillespie rifle! And curiously he is not a descendant of the Gillespie rifle building clan.

David and his wife Renee, who is a spinner and artist, attend many events in period costume to demonstrate their skills. Their website has a schedule posted.

Please visit PumpkinTownPrimitives.com to see many samples of this folk artist family’s work.