Monday, April 11, 2016

"Re Restoring an Antique Pennsylvania Rifle Signed: "J. Baum"

This early Rev War or possibly pre Rev war rifle was recently acquired at auction.  It is a lovely piece of Americana, and has special significance in that it is a half antique, half contemporary rifle!  The history and specs of the rifle is documented in Shumway's " Rifles of Colonial America Vol 2" Robert Ditchburn acquired the rifle c. 1960's.  It was in poor condition having been left outside for years. The fore- stock was nearly gone, the lock, and side plate both missing. Fortunately, the section from the rear thimble to the butt had survived relatively intact. Ditchburn made a wonderful new fore-stock, nose cap, thimbles, and side plate, and assembled a new flintlock to fit the mortice.  When I acquired the rifle I found a note and a sliver of wood inside the patchbox.
The note was from Ditchburn and it reads:

"This piece retrieved from forestock of J. Baum rifle
Do not destroy - it is the proof that forestock was 
moulded and restoration is correct R. Ditchburn"

In the decades of the 1940's-70's many American longrifles underwent reconversions back to flintlock and areas of wood and other needed parts repaired or replaced. I use the term replaced, because the general approach then was to fix what was needed but not to "historically restore" guns back to an original state. When Ditchburn replaced the fore-stock, he refinished and recolored the entire rifle and it is a magnificent job... but the lock and side plate still needed a complete" historical" face lift.  The side plate had a few engraved lines which seemed somehow out of character with the rest of the rifle's furnishings.  After consulting with several collectors, the general opinion was to remove the engraving, reduce the thickness, and age the side plate.  This neat work was done by Eric Von Aschwege, now a Gunsmith at Colonial Williamsburg.  The flintlock was way more challenging. Though Ditchburn made a perfect new plate, the remainder of the parts he chose were typical modern commerical renditions  of Germanic designs. The lock had no real historical flavor.  What was needed was a 100% antique look. This was made possible by the wonderful work of Jack Brooks. Mr. Brooks has long been interested in using and producing castings from antique originals. For this project Jack choose parts from an original Bonewitz flintlock.  He replaced the Cock, frizzen, frizzen spring, and reshaped the pan. Then the lock was fully re aged and colored.  The result is the rifle now has the overall look of an original... unaltered piece.

Ditchburn note (found in patchbox)

Before restoration

Before restoration

Jack Brooks photo

Jack Brooks photo

Jack Brooks photo












 Copy and photos by Robert Weil.

2 comments:

  1. That's a beautiful rifle. Note the aging around the Patchbox screws where when it was published that area was left untouched as well as the deep tarnish in the trigger guard filings. It would do it justice to repeat this process around the side plate screws. thanks for sharing this rifle I really enjoyed seeing it

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  2. What a wonderful rifle! I so love these smoke poles, and the history behind them :)

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