Monday, April 1, 2024

Contemporary Makers: Ian Pratt, Longrifles from the 2008 Broadside

Ian Pratt is excited.  Is so very evident when you talk with him.  This contemporary builder loves iron mounted rifles which is obvious in his work.  In speaking about his early efforts of forging he says he must have made enough scrap iron to build a bridge.  Since his time spent studying with Hershel and John House the scrap pile is considerably smaller.  

His rifles have a wonderful feel about them.  They have a mellowness and warmth that is often lost in contemporary pieces.  He builds a range of rifles from squirrel rifles from the nineteenth century to wide butted guns from the eighteenth century.  His carving is tasteful and cleanly executed, his file work is crisp and his engraving is well done.  It is obvious that he carefully selects the wood for his stocks and finishes them with a great deal of attention to the final results.

Ian’s early guns are reminiscent of some of Hershel’s work but with his own unique take.  They have a look and a feel that are so widely sought after.  His Federal Period rifles are also extremely well done.  One of his latest pieces, a Southern squirrel rifle has a unique patch box which Ian designed especially for his client.  It is not exactly like what you would have seen on the originals but looks very appropriate.  It feels like it could have been.

Ian, his wife Mary Ellen and his son John live in Ohio.

This early rifle is one of Ian’s projects. The barrel was made by Getz and is 34 inches long. The lock is a reshaped Chamber’s deluxe Siler. The hardware was all custom made. The inlaid star and feather holder are silver. Note the unique vent pick. 


Q: Ian when did you build your first rifle?

A: I built my first rifle in 1996.  I had wanted to build one for quite some time.  It took months to build since I was working full time.  I was mighty proud of it and did well with it in local shoots.

Q: What made you decide to build another rifle?

A: The more I looked at my first rifle the more I began to see things I was not satisfied with.  I built a string of rifles.  Each time I built I tried to improve on the previous effort.  I was always trying new things.  I sold my work at Friendship, at shooting matches and at The Log Cabin Shop.

Q: When did you start building full time?

A: I started building full time about three years ago.  I had reached a point in my life that building rifles full time felt like the right thing to do.

Q: Are you entirely self taught?

A: No. I took a class with Jim Chambers on lock tuning.  That was such a great experience.  I use what I learned every time I build a rifle.  While I was there studying with Jim I happened to meet Hershel and John House.  I have since attended Classes with Hershel and John at Canter’s Cave and studied engraving with John Shippers at Conner Prairie.

Q: What type of guns do you like to make?

A: Iron mounted guns.  I appreciate the brass mounted guns but they are not for me.  A brass mounted rifle is like a pretty girl, but an iron mounted rifle is like a pretty girl with something very special about her.

Q: Is Hershel a big influence?

A: He certainly is.  I have learned so much from he and John.  After time spent with them my rifles have begun to look more like I wanted them to when I first got started.  The House’s have been so generous in sharing their knowledge and skills as well as providing antique and contemporary pieces for study.  After spending time with them it felt as though I had suddenly figured out how to steer a tornado with my bare hands.

Q: What do you do for fun when you’re not working in the shop?

A: I love being in the woods.  I hunt deer and squirrel.

This rifle is styled after a Federal period rifle. It is stocked in curly ash. All of the iron work was hand forged by the maker. The lock is a Chamber’s lock that has been slightly altered. The Getz barrel is 45 inches long and is 45 caliber. 

(Editor’s Note: Hershel House has been so very helpful to any number of new builders.  He has always been ready to share his knowledge and his time with anyone who showed a genuine interest in his work.  We are grateful for all his contributions.  His work will be continued by these dedicated followers.)

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