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Announcing a new design of spring vise for big locks, and now it functions with medium and small springs! Right hand locks only.

Click on any photo to see the details.

Here is a large lock, with a long mainspring. The elbow of the spring is in the ‘U’ of the vise, and the swivel foot of the screw is centered on the tip of the spring. Tighten the screw until the spring can be lifted out of the lock. So simple.

Large spring

Shown below is the large spring compressed and lifted out. At this point, you can unscrew the vise, and put your spring aside. Easy enough to re-compress and install it.

Spring out

There is a middle screw location for smaller locks, such as the ubiquitous Siler, and others. This idea came from Jim Chambers when we were discussing one of the prototypes. Great idea, this position adds so much versatility.

Siler size

The innermost location can be use for frizzen springs and cracking pistachios. This location was suggested by Eric vonAschwege on one of my earlier versions. Thank you, Eric.


Years in development, and after many versions, this tool is the latest version of a long-needed vise for removing gunlock springs safely. Safety for the workman and protecting the spring from breakage, were the biggest concerns in the design. A critical design consideration was the broad range of locks and springs that need to be compressed and removed.

This design of this vise grew out of a need to manage the large and powerful gun lock springs that started coming out on the market, notable examples are Chambers’ Round faced English locks and R.E. Davis’ Colonial locks. These are long and mighty mainsprings, that need to be handled with care, and removed with a proper vise.

Thankfully, Jim Chambers was willing to partner with me to produce these units. They will be available from Chambers Flintlocks on line and at shows. We will carry some at the shows we attend, to sell and demonstrate their function. If you want to order them by mail or phone, call Jim or Barbie Chambers.

I attend the 18th Century Artisan’s Show, Dixon’s Gunmaker’s Fair, Contemporary Longrifle Association show (CLA). I try to have vises in stock, and carry them at shows.

Price of unit: $45 each, plus $10 shipping and handling, and any applicable sales tax.

Send personal check or money order for $55, to Tom Curran, 1 Center St., Chatham, NY 12037

Alert: these are currently sold out.

This tool is made to smooth and contour the ramrod of a muzzleloading rifle.  This unit has grooves of different radii to match the diameter of the rod you wish to smooth.

Scraper, 1 1/2" x 2"

Scraper, with grooves from 1/2″ to 1/4″

It is made of casehardened mild steel to an .04 depth, and a Rc hardness of 62, about as hard as steel will get. You can grind or stone the face to refresh the cutting edges should they ever get dull.

View of scraper cutting edges

View of scraper cutting edges

Use a rasp or a plane to rough the rod down from a split blank or a larger dowel. Note in the rasping picture, there is a fence of pine behind the ramrod to take the thrusting of the rasp. Turn the rod continually while rasping, watching for straightness and diameter.

Rasping the taper on the rod

Rasping the taper on the rod

Planing out the high spots

Planing out the high spots

The scraper is especially good for tapering the rod to fit in the stock of the gun, also it shines in forming the ‘tulip’ or bulb on the loading end of the rod. Just scrape lightly, keeping the ramrod almost parallel with the side of the groove. In this way, you can easily control the depth of your cuts. If you try to cut too aggressively, you may develop ridges, which will have to be rasped or planed, and scraped again. If you try to scrape against the grain, you may develop ridges. In this case, turn the rod around and scrape from the other direction.

Smoothing and tapering

Smoothing and tapering, rod is almost parallel with flat of scraper

These are currently sold out, and will post when available again.

American and German rifles of the 17th and 18th Centuries frequently were built with a ‘patchbox’, that is, a small compartment on the side of the buttstock. This small box might contain bullets, or patches to wrap the bullet in, or the cavity was often filled with tallow to lubricate the patch.

Here is a rifle with a wooden patchbox. The dovetailed wooden cover slides to the rear when the catch is operated.

lock and butt114_1452

This plane is inspired by the old fashioned wooden planes. This one is a special purpose plane, just for cutting dovetails.

Below is a picture of the complete plane, with a rough patchbox lid in position to be planed. I used maple for the body, and poplar for the wedge.


The knobs tighten the cutter body to the main body, to adjust the depth of the dovetail.


Various views of the parts


Click on each below to download a PDF plan of the plane parts. Format: legal size paper.

These little carbines are Civil War vintage, made in Worcester MA. Invented by Charles Ballard, they were manufactured by Ball and Williams. These rifles are very popular with the North-South Skirmish Association (N-SSA) for their carbine matches. The internals are high quality, well fitted and very functional. Easy to clean and maintain. This action was one of the most successful Civil War era breechloaders.

Originally chambered for .42 rimfire, these guns cannot be used until converted to a more modern cartridge. These are a natural for the .44-40, an old blackpowder centerfire shell, as it is a low pressure cartridge, and bullets and brass are readily available.


This is the substance of my conversion design: a firing pin, a return spring and a retaining screw. A special screwdriver bit is needed to span the firing pin. The breechblock is shown with the parts in sequence of assembly.


Two receivers of different manufacture, but of the same Ballard design. Note the pin under the forestock… a manual extractor.


The breech is opened by the lever, which makes the block drop, and slide backwards. I’d call this a ‘wedging style action’. You can only operate the extractor while the block is down. Pretty neat.


I will only perform this on safe and reliable actions in good condition. This conversion removes very little metal, so the breechblock strength is not compromised.

Designed for carousel horse carving, this substantial vise/platform is built like a truck. The work position is easily changed by releasing the clamp(with red handle). The work can then rotate, swivel, angled, etc for presenting the most convenient work attitude.

The sturdy work platform is on the upper left, with a handy bolt pattern for attaching the carving. The slotted workplate  is most useful for quick changeout when you work on a series of carvings..


The vise bolts to your benchtop through the four bolt holes provided. The baseplates are 1/2″ thick steel. This is built to last a lifetime. The heart of the swivel is a steel ball, as seen in the right hand photo.


Much of my machine shop work involves making a tool for a specific application, and no machine is known to exist for such. So I work with my customer to determine what is needed, and through brainstorming and sketching, testing, etc, we can come up with a machine to fill the requirement.

The Band Gage

The machine below is what I have termed a “Band Gage”. It is used to measure the circumference of parts to compare their diameters with a known ‘master’ diameter. If your molded parts need to stay within certain specifications, this machine will help you determine which parts fall within specifications, and those that do not.


The band is a thin steel strip which surrounds the part, and is tightened on the part with the red handle on the left of the picture.