When I decided on a Gillespie project, the first person I contacted was Dennis Glazener. Dennis set me up with a copy of his book, “The Gillespie Gunmakers of East Fork N.C.” along with a full size drawing of a Mathew Gillespie rifle. My intention was to build a simple iron mounted North Carolina rifle.
After reading Dennis' book, my project started to evolve. My research became more in depth. I started emailing Dennis and asked many questions. These questions ranged from details as simple as barrel pin spacing to the more complex, like the design of Gillespie double set triggers. A total of 35 emails were exchanged with Dennis during the build, most accompanied with multiple pictures from his personal Gillespie collection. I also managed to sneak in a very enjoyable Saturday visit with Dennis while traveling to Norfolk Naval Shipyard on business.
What started out as a Mathew Gillespie inspired rifle ended up with influence from Mathew, John and Phillip. The lock is a Jim Chambers late Ketland flintlock with the tail rounded off and the addition of one of Bob Roller’s Ketland double throated cocks. The cock throw was a perfect match to the Chambers lock. I acquired a plain hard dense quarter sawn blank of black walnut from Dennis for the stock. The tapered and flared .40 caliber Green Mountain barrel is 44” long. The 2 piece steel buttplate was riveted and copper brazed together. Pretty basic rifle so far, right? Now here is where the rifle takes a turn for the unexpected. The bimetallic trigger guard was inspired from Phillip Gillespie. Since I fabricated a brass grip rail to a steel bow, I thought, why not brass thimbles? The brass thimbles are my idea of something Phillip might have done. The thin, (.015”) thimbles are fastened to the stock by bending over the tabs and sandwiching them between the barrel and the forestock. 4 silver bands were inlayed into the barrel, 2 at the muzzle, fore and aft of the copper based silver bladed front sight and 2 framing an inlayed brass name plate near the breech. 3 cast brass barrel lugs aid in pinning the forestock to the barrel. In front of the second breech band is a hand filed rear sight copied from an original Gillespie. The full length tang extension is 2 piece. The over the comb tang extension is pinned to the stock midway between the nose of the comb and the buttplate return. The touch hole was drilled and then internally coned.
The handmade double set triggers were filed from 1018 bar stock with springs made out of 1085. The triggers, trigger plate and adjustment screw were case color hardened using bone/wood charcoal as was the lock plate, cock, frizzen and screws after being lightly engraved.
The ramrod is hand split from a hickory plank. A tapered sheet metal tip was rolled, brazed and pinned to the ramrod to accommodate either the handmade ball puller or tow worm.
The barrel, buttplate, toeplate, triggerguard bow, tang, tang extension, side plate and screws were heavily rust browned. The rust was sanded off to reveal some of the pits as well as smooth metal. The sharp corners of the barrel were softened giving it the look of worn soft iron. Cold bluing was rubbed on the bare surfaces.
The stock was sanded and scraped to as new condition, sharp corners, scratch free etc. After a few coats of Tru-oil, the stock was lightly distressed in an attempt to give it a lovingly used and cared for look.
Copy and photos supplied by David Rase.