Heat Treatment

I have been meaning to design and build myself a dedicated heat treatment oven for small items for ages and recently kicked the project off by ordering a PID controller and cabinet and a couple of other electrical parts. Today I ordered the insulating fire bricks and mortar which will be used for the construction. The physical capacity of the oven is small at 154 x154x228mm or 6″x6″x9″ however that is more than enough for a handful of strikers (Firing pins) or replacement hammers or for hardening dies and similar.

The image shows the HT Oven concept with the open door, I have omitted the liner plates and frame as this image was the original I used to determine the physical size of the internal space and the layout of the insulating bricks.

The box on the right hand side houses the controls and I have also omitted the screw catch that holds the door closed and the hinge system.

Frame construction will probably be 25,0mm angle iron and the infill will be either stainless of aluminium sheet depending on what I can source locally.

Maximum operating temperature is a theoretical 1050 Celsius which is  1922 Fahrenheit, or more than I will ever need for most applications.

The addition of the HT Oven is something we have recognised a need for as it means I can more accurately control the temperatures for both hardening and annealing of materials in house instead of resorting to a gas torch with the lights out, or shipping things off and waiting days for them to be returned.

The bar at the top is to enable it to be picked up and moved and will probably be shifted towards the right to bring the balance to a central point.

I will use stainless foil sheet to wrap items prior to heat treatment to minimise scaling as it works surprisingly well if you flatten the envelope you have formed to hold the part to be treated. I guess some pictures at some point would better explain this.

More to follow on this project.

A Winchester 30-30 ready and waiting

This is such a lovely looking Winchester 1894 and came to us chambered in 30-30 looking great in all ways other than one… The barrel had been blown out halfway along on the left hand side which all but left it scrapped as sourcing a replacement 30-30 barrel was not going to be an easy task.

Not easy maybe, however not impossible so here it is, a genuine  Winchester barrel fitted, head spaced, Proofed and ready to go and it really is a superb looking rifle that my mobile ‘phone picture does not do justice.

So what happened to the previous barrel? Well this is certainly not the first burst barrel we have seen this year and they do seem to crop up with monotonous regularity.  The main reason for such a catastrophic failure is usually because of a barrel obstruction which is invariably the previous bullet which failed to get to the end of the barrel. Sending another round up the barrel at a fair rate of knots always ends badly…

The good news is this one is sorted and ready for a happy owner and hopefully many more hours at the range.

Message in a bottle

We are still very busy with gun work. Now you could argue that we are gunsmiths so what is the problem? Well no problem at all however it is important to point out that here at the Shed work is a mix of shiny stuff and gun work and we need to make sure we are on top of both.

Sometimes it is something mundane, sometimes exotic, always interesting and this week has been no exception with shotgun servicing and repairs ready for the season, rifle zeroing and numerous reasons to run both the small and large lathes and mill to make spares and this is a typical example of what comes in. Another Ardesa muzzle loading rifle with a rotted out nipple holder. Sadly spares are simply not available for these things other than the occasional obscure item so such things have to be made by hand. We have seen a few of these come in now so I decided to make four holders.

First job was a suitable piece of steel, I would have probably opted for 316 stainless however shiny does not fit the bill for a period looking rifle so a good quality steel was selected. As I need something to hold whilst machining I cut two long lengths and profiles the basic nipple holder at both ends.

Now comes the interesting part, I always think anyone can grasp the basic operation of a lathe  fairly quickly however getting things in the right sequence often needs some thought.

  • For this part the sequence is measure and record the dimensions for the original.
  • Now cut the chosen material to length and profile the basic nose and thread diameter.
  • Screw cut the M10x1,25 thread.
  • Reverse and face off and tap M5x6 deep.
  • Into the mill and take a couple of cuts to enable the part to be fitted and removed without resorting to a pipe grips or pliers or whatever you have to hand.
  • Now fit to the rifle and note the correct location and angle for the nipple.
  • Remove the part and drill and tap for the nipple which is M6.
  • Back into the mill to undercut the nose to direct the primer flash to the charge.
  • Check fit, clean and black the part and it is ready to fit and the rifle to be used again.

The finished item ready to go. I have no idea how much Ardesa would have charged for this part if indeed it was ever listed so even if the part was made on a full CNC machine and spat out by the hundred it would still be time consuming with the milling operations and final fitting and making a small handful like this is far from cost effective however it gets the rifle back up and working.

Yes I will hold a couple of spares however they are not a straight fit due to the location of the nipple hole itself so will need some time and patience to finish the job.

One none standard part now is I have replaced the M5 steel screw in the end with a stainless grub screw, at least now the screw can be removed without fear of it being rusted in so cleaning should be slightly easier.

On a separate note we headed out to the Salt Marshes with the dogs yesterday afternoon. The pups are at a stage where they can walk a reasonable distance so I took the black pup and my Lab and headed one way whilst the Viking took the Lurcher and other pup with the plan being to meet at a given point. First task for my team was to cross a creek, not an issue for an adult Labrador or myself with wellies on however the pup was going to get wet however the good news is he is OK about splashing about so he dived in with me and walked up the creek for a few meters in what was ankle deep water for me as we were at a low tide point.

Then up onto the marsh and I decided to let the pup off the lead and let him follow the adult and that was it, an enjoyable walk and two dogs returning when called. Then my Lab returned with a washed up plastic bottle which I am never happy about as I cannot be sure what has been in them.

This particular one had something inside and appeared to have been sealed around the neck so I took it and popped it in the back pocket of my coat and we continued the walk.

I have often wondered when the pups would have an opportunity to swim and I am a great believer in letting them get used to water in their own time, however be there to make sure they were safe and today was the day, the bottom fell out of the flooded area and the pup was swimming, he soon turned round and headed for shallower water however he had done it and without any fuss. Another milestone. We met up with the Viking and despite her reservations the yellow pup also eventually got out of his depth and had to swim back to us which he did without a care in the world. I always enjoy watching the young dogs as they learn and they are about as different in nature and approach to life as they are in colour so life is always full of surprises for them as much as myself.

Back home I opened the bottle and found a slightly soggy hand written note and map which appears to have come from Germany. I will take a closer look when it has fully dried out.


I realised after we were home that I had not taken any pictures, mostly because of the wind and sand that was blowing up, so here is a picture of the pups from earlier this week. They are growing 🙂

Today I am rather hoping some spares for a shotgun will arrive so I can get them fitted and the gun tested and ready for collection, I also have some Pheasants and Partridges to check and feed, so a busy day as ever. Hopefully that message will have dried so I can take a closer look as well.

Pointing smaller bullets

Sunday I was experimenting with a new tipping die design for the 53 grain SMK #1400 bullet. Now you could always ask what is the point, these are not the sort of bullet to be pushed to any great distance, in fact given the flat base I would agree they are at best a 300m bullet however I was curious so I tested and this is what the tipped bullet (Right) looks like.

I must admit it does not look like a huge improvement however the average #1400 meplat is around 0.072″ and the pointed version brings it down to 0.051″ which is a reduction of 30% which is reasonable for a dumpy little 53 grain bullet which has a factory declared G1 BC of .224.

Yes I could have looked at the Hornady Vmax with a BC of .242 or the Berger with a BC of around .235 from memory however I have a lot of #1400s on the shelf so I might as well see if I can improve them any and it looks like I can.

This is only prototype tooling and I can usually close meplats to 0.020″ on heavier bullets such as the 123 Scenar and even tighter on the 155 grain class 30 calibre match bullets such as the Scenar or the #2156 so there is certainly scope for improvement.

Oddly enough I enjoy researching for future projects on a Sunday afternoon as I can be nigh on 100% confident I will not be disturbed unless it is by prior arrangement.

Now to get a handful loaded and see how they perform versus the un-tipped version.

Reloading and wet dogs

This lunchtime I have been reloading 6,5-284 (Again!)

I say again as these were for zeroing and load development however the first batch was not good so I pulled the bullets with the trusty collet puller and re-loaded again with 48 grains of N160 which hopefully will get the job done.

The rifle is a Schultz & Larsen M97-DL Sporter and this particular rifle stock is a bit unusual over here in the UK and probably not much more common in Europe. The stock is a fairly typical 300m competition type however it works well for sporting uses as well and can be shot thumb up or thumb down and has a nicely formed palm swell and adjustable cheek riser, all features that seem to fit and suit me well. Unfortunately it has always been my wife’s rifle however she has agreed to relinquish ownership to myself so she can acquire a particular Savage 99 she has been after for a while.

The rifle has a Kahles K312 fitted on Apel bases and rings and currently sports a turner all weather sling which is mine. So with some paperwork I am hoping to be the new owner hence the load development for a bullet to suit my needs.

Our reloading bench is a modest affair, to this day I still use a Lee Cast Classic that I purchased when I first started reloading many years ago. I had wanted a Redding press and eventually acquired one but soon parted with it as the Lee had become a firm favourite. I also use an RCBS Summit press for minor work such as de-capping and mandrel work. Adjacent to the Lee is a Dillon 1000 for repetitive carbine ammunition manufacture as it can churn out rounds by the hundred with very little user input other than a watchful eye. It is fitted with a Dillon case feeder and I do have a bullet feeder for it however it currently off the machine for some tweaks. Next along is a MEC Junior for 12 bore slug and I need to add a method of loading .410 slug at some point as well. Not in shot are the dies and I use a huge range of makes from Redding through Forster to Hornady and Lee with some real oddities in-between for the  esoteric cartridges we load for.

Every round I load is filled with an RCBS Charge Master 1500 and it is interesting to note that I am using a Sinclair run out gauge to test every single round I make on the LEE. Interesting in that I have manufactured dozens of our own design of gauge yet I no longer own one, the same goes for neck wall thickness gauges, I have built so many yet no longer own one however I did spot some parts for one on a shelf the other day so I had better make an effort to produce one for myself and stop using the Sinclair version which I have never been a real fan of despite them performing well.

We are in the middle of a solid 3-4 week run on gun work and slowly getting through the jobs however that does not stop us from our customary visits to the Salt Marsh with the dogs and yesterday saw six of us Myself, the Viking, two adult dogs and the two pups) splashing around in the last of the Sea Lavender after a reasonably high tide. The pups are at the stage where we can let them run free and they, for the most stay near my side along with my Labrador, the Viking’s Lurcher is usually in sight doing whatever he does, probably looking for things.

Last week was the pups first time at the Marsh and they discovered water, this week they are happy to splash around and the black one was very close to swimming at one point however the water was not quite deep enough. His wiser brother tends to try and jump such obstacles if at all possible.

I note also that the black one watches the adult Labrador like a Hawk and emulates his actions which has to be a good thing unless he finds another dead seal and also rolls on it.

The yellow one is turning out well and seems to almost instinctively know what is expected of him, his black brother not so much so however he also shows a keen independence. They are truly poles apart when it comes to character and traits and it is always a joy and a privilege to be out with them.

Back to work 🙂