Just a little weekend project....

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#1
So for those who remember my trip to Michigan last winter to pick up a cannon tube... here is an update.

I stripped off most of the %$#@ing Powder coating and underneath it's not nearly as pitted as I thought. Some... and a couple of casting flaws. But the black powder coat made everything look far worse than it was.

The big problem was the trunnions. Badly damaged, out of true, deeply pitted. No way were they going to work smoothly in a newly-machine pair of irons.

So after much contemplating about how to fix them (they must be exactly in line and perfectly round) I came up with the idea to make a fixture and use my Bridgeport to turn first one, then the other.. exactly in line. The 'standard' size for this class of tube is 2.75", which is the proper 'Prairie Carriage' and small carriage size. I ended up sleeving the trunnions because they were damaged enough that I had to cut to about 2.6" plus change. So the sleeves, to keep them thick enough, are 2.877" diameter. And I'll cut my trunnion irons slightly over to fit them. But the diameters and strength are right on. And the pair are within .006" across the entire span of 13 inches, tip to tip.

A few pictures... how to use a Bridgeport creatively!



Making the tool to hold the trunnions. Made a bit oversize... more on that later. This was just cutting a 1" plate with a radius in which I can weld the actual recepticle for the trunnions.



Tool/fixture welded up and ready for final boring in place on the mill table.



Final boring the fixture, to ensure it was exactly true on the mill table. I also made an extension for my boring head, which allowed me to turn the tool 'inward' and shape the outside diameter of the trunnion... more on that later. The tool and the 'extension' tool me about 4 hours of machining last weekend.



Great investment... SkyCrane which will lift 500 lbs onto a mill or a lathe. Mounts on the table. I use it to fit the 'big' chucks on to my LeBlond. With a bit of adapting, it also fits the Bridgeport. These things are invaluable when working on large objects! Like 500 lb-ish... cannon barrels.

First trunnion was fitted with some shims to ensure it slipped into the tool with no perceptible movement. And the barrel was fixtured to the table.



Barrel being lowered into the fixture or the first time. Prior to machining the first trunnion. It's rough. See a bit later for before/after. Did I mention that this is a huge-a**ed piece of cast iron!



Tool at work on a plunge cut to start rounding/repairing the trunnion. It took many passes as the trunnions were in bad shape. I cut them to about 2.6" and then fitted steel sleeves with about .001" clearance and an anaerobic adhesive to hold them. I debated pinning, but did not see a need.




Before/after picture of Trunnions. Top one is repaired, second one is ready to get put 'facing upwards' for its repair.



Repaired second trunnion as I am lifting the tube out of the fixture to put it on the floor. Next week, it will go on the big lathe, not for turning but so that I can easily rotate it while grinding smooth and repairing the casting. If you look at one of the pictures, you can see a fitting that I have put in the bore that will let the tube rotate in a large roller-bearing steady-rest. That will let me rotate slightly while using a power grinder to re-smooth and polish the barrel before painting in stove black.

I'll also fit a new copper vent liner next week and make a tool for removing/refitting. I have the copper. Just need to make the new liner.

Onwards and upwards... This one ought to be on its new carriage and ready to fire in the spring.

Also working on two more.... damn... too many projects.

Cheers,

Sirhr














 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
5,851
1,698
113
50
MA
#6
People that use their feet as milling fixtures are jealous.

Awesome work.

Thank you for letting us watch over your shoulder and appreciate seeing "skills" in action.
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#8
Thanks guys... glad to know that someone is interested in the weird things that we get up to now and then.

Turned this up today. Copper vent liner.

[IMG2=JSON]{"data-align":"none","data-size":"full","src":"https:\/\/scontent-ort2-1.xx.fbcdn.net\/v\/t1.0-9\/22688916_1271145696365408_6906784112067782381_n.jpg?oh=3a287c040781cff9d724a4d1832721d7&oe=5A7D48DD"}[/IMG2]

.0.200" hole down the middle for friction primers. No fuses on these things. Too dangerous and unpredictable. Copper lined vent will last through at least a few campaigns... so to speak! Probably outlast me.

Oh and drilling a 0.200" hole straight and true down a bar of straight, solid, soft-as-butter copper is a giant Pain in the A**. Copper is the worst material in the world to machine, including stuff like Titanium and maranging steel. The shi* is just like trying to machine Play-Dough. Took me about 40 minutes to make this thing... including rough-machining the external thread and finishing with a die... then boring by doing peck-cutting.... cut a few thou.. pull drill, remove chips, wash down with oil and re-plunge. What a miserable metal to work with.

Cheers,

Sirhr
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
5,851
1,698
113
50
MA
#10
In high school my metal shop teacher got some new copper electrodes in for our spot welder.

They needed to be finshed to the appropriate shape. I was pretty conscientious in shop so he asked me if I could turn them to the right shape.

Never one to let lack of skills prevent me from saying "Sure I can!" With great confidence I quickly provide him with two electrodes that looked like the stepped hats the members of Devo would wear.
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
5,851
1,698
113
50
MA
#12
Wisconsin or Vermont.

You would both feel at home in either arguing about whose cheddar is better.

Lucky for you Delta it seems Wisconsin has gained some sense regards its politics while Sirhr is in solid Bernie country for the foreseeable future......at least until he succumbs to the anti gun attitude of his party and he cuts his ties with his constituency.

Than likely his Lake Champlain island may be receiving the fruits of Sirhrs freshly reamed touch hole.
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#13
Actually, if you run your boat off the edge of Valcour island, you can still see the cannon ball strikes from Benedict Arnold's Revolutionary War battles against the British. The Cliff faces there still have the scars.

These days... we're just pu**y hats and leftards.

But some of us 'real' Vermonters still have live artillery and blow **it up.

Cheers,

Sirhr

P.S. Our cheddar is better. But then again, we don't wear it on our heads.

 
Likes: ZG47A
Mar 7, 2013
362
34
28
Spokane, WA
#14
This thread makes me miss my lathe, it was only a little 7x10, but it was a great intro to machinery tool, but required too many parts and fixing up as the previous owner didnt treat it well.... some day i will have another. Excellent work Sirhr, love this stuff.
 

MarinePMI

Battery Operated Grunt
Jun 3, 2010
1,948
376
83
San Diego, Ca
#17
Yeah, copper is a real b*tch to turn; I always end up dorking around with the grinder to get the right relief and almost neutral back rack on the tooling. I don't know if it's correct or not, but wax always seemed to work best as a cutting "fluid".

That's some nice work on some really finicky material to turn.
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#19
Thanks, guys.

Cameron... why copper? That's a good question. Partly because, well, it's always been done with copper. Not brass, not bronze. And I did read some old papers that one of the big Confederate 'spying' coups of the Civil War was learning that the Union cannonmakers had figured out that platinum plating their vent liners was making them last a lot longer. No... not going there.

Why not brass or bronze? Good question. I was thinking about that last night and the only good explanation I could come up with is that pure copper is a very stable material, because of its elasticity/softness has great resistance to pressure. And it is a very, very heat-resistant material. Also corrosion-resistant. While brass and bronze both have a high copper content, they also have tin, zinc and other metals that do not react well to the sulfur and other byproducts of black powder. I would also guess that under firing. copper really welds itself to the touch hole, whereas the more brittle metals might shear off their threads and 'launch' out like a bullet! Maybe not at first... but over repeated firings with military loads? That's a lot of stress on yellow metal threads. Copper, being so soft, would tend to squish out and into the threads.

Of course that is all total speculation on my part... but there is orobably a good reason that the makers never went to yellow metal.... and that may be part of it! And bronze was certainly well-known and widely worked... as was brass... in that era.

Any more learned or knowledgable insight certainly welcome!

Cheers,

Sirhr
 

sandwarrior

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 21, 2007
4,241
206
63
in yooperland
#20
Apparently you really know how to massage a touch hole.
That's what I like to hear...:eek::cool:

Anyhow, sirhr,

There is a website for Steen, who does a lot of reproductions.for the National Park Service and various re-enactors. On his website he has a list of "Civil War Resources" The first guy on the list, Phil "boom boom" Sieglen Told me what they used for the primer vent was "hammered copper" In other words, work hardened copper. I'm thinking this is important as un-hardened copper is going to do like you explained, come out of there like a bullet. But, hammered copper is hard enough to take the abuse of the discharge repeatedly.
 
Last edited:

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#21
Thanks, Sand. Yes, I read that. I own one Steen tube already and have another on order. They are a great company. And really, really good at separating a man and his sheckels!!!

To the point about Hammered copper,that would be more 'brittle.' But would also not tend to break down under corrosives.

My liner is semi-hard machiniable copper, electrical grade. But I can't refer to it as "Hardened." Or hammered. First shot from this tube will let me know if it's a good job.

BTW, mine is bored .200" for friction primers. No fuses. Those are useless. Friction primers are, far and away, the best way to fire a cannon. Lanyard and a predictable discharge.

Tally Ho!

Cheers,

Sirhr
 

sandwarrior

Gunny Sergeant
Apr 21, 2007
4,241
206
63
in yooperland
#22
sirhr,

I'm thinking that in that application, brittle would not be an issue. It's a small piece supported by surrounding bronze(?) material. It's not taking a blow, so the brittleness wouldn't allow the piece to break. the heat and pressure would fireform the piece into the cannon body.

That said, brass and bronze can also be work hardened. I wonder if the issue was that the alloys of brass and bronze would melt out or separate to some degree under the heat of firing? I don't know, just conjecturing.
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#26
So... with a long weekend in front of me I dusted off the cannon project! I made really good progress today. Hopefully by next weekend, I'll have the cheek pieces made. But for now, really happy with today's work grinding pits/damage out of the tube and getting the trunnion irons bored to fit the trunnions. I managed to get them both bored to .002" clearance on the trunnions. Absolutely move like glass. That's good and bad... The good is that, well, they move like glass. The bad news is that my task in machining the wood for the cheek pieces is going to be really, really challenging. Because the cheeks have to be perfectly parallel when they mount on the trail.

Of course, you can use (and they originally used) shim disks between the trail and the cheeks to set the side-to-side distances and to align the cheek pieces. So there is a 'plan' as to how it goes together and gets aligned. But I'm going to spend a lot of time fitting the tube to the trail for sure!

I also started grinding the tube. That sucks... because it's a ton of cast iron dust. I'm covered. It's in my damn teeth. Ugh. I should have the grinding finished tomorrow. It's mounted in my big lathe for grinding... only so I can rotate it easily. Once it's smoothed, it will be ready for some minor filling (probably won't lead it... I'll use modern polyurethane body filler) and then painting flat black.

Here's some pictures!


Using the boring head to start boring the trunnions. To ensure they were nice and tight during machining, I temporarily welded the pieces together. You can see the tack welds. Had to take about .150" out of the bores to get them trued and fit to the trunnions.



Here is the barrel mounted up in the big LeBlonde for grinding. Being able to turn it makes it soooo much easier to grind without leaving waves. Note the roller rest at the end. I made a plug for the bore that has a rolling face on it. It's not centered enough well to turn it under power. But I can rotate it by hand like is's on bearings... which it is! Of course grinding on a lathe is not great for the lathe... but I have it pretty covered with rags and sheets. Was great fun fixturing it! Used my crane again. That thing earns its keep!




Here is a final cut in one of the trunnions. +.002" on the trunnions. Which gives a really nice fit!






Trunnions fitted and very much in parallel. But the final fitting of the wood is going to give the opportunity to put everything in perfect line. It's going to be a tough one to get the pieces in perfect alignment on the trail. But that's the nice thing about machine tools. I can put a piece of wood on a mill and work it to .002"... just as easily as I can do it with steel and iron!

Tomorrow I'll finish grinding the tube. I don't look forward to that!

Cheers,

Sirhr
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#28
Barrel fettled and sanded up to 60 grit. It's got some Metal-2-Metal alumized body filler on some of the pits. This is really rugged stuff. Kind of like Bondo, but far better!

Tomorrow I'll get the final fettling done on the tube and trunnions. And pull it down off the lathe so that I can fettle the muzzle and the tail. Then it will be ready for flat black paint... and a carriage! I'll start the cheeks next weekend.

Cheers,

Sihrr
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#30
Hey deltawiskey .... there is nothing to stop anyone with some basic hand tools and some shop skills from playing!

I've done several of these over the years. They cost less than an 8-lb jug of powder... or a case of .30 Match. They are several evenings of entertainment putting them together. And they are a total blast to shoot (pardon the pun.) And they look great on a desk, mantle or in an office... especially if you superdetail them with some fun and easy hooks, chains, etc.

You don't have to be building full-size cannons to have fun!

Cheers,

Sirhr
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#32
A year ago, I drove up to Sheboygan, Michigan to get this one! I was hoping that it was an original tube... alas, reproduction. But the price was right and it's a shooter. So I've been restoring it to shooting condition as well as to fine cosmetic condition... and building a carriage!

You can get new barrels from companies like Steen Cannons (they are the Cadillac!). Or Hern ironworks. And carriage building is not hard. Casting sets are available from Museum and Specialty out in Michigan. Matt casts up parts for every carriage imaginable.

Here's one I finished about 2 years ago. I had pictures on the Scout hide....



Cheers,

Sirhr
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#35
Been a few weeks since I've done some quality cannon-restoration time.... but here are the cheek pieces being fitted to the irons and aligned.

Hard photo to interpret... but the tube is in a big lathe. The cheeks are being epoxy-bedded into their irons (extra strength). And the blocks between the cheeks are keeping them in perfect parallel for later fitting to the trail.

Another set to do in the next couple of weeks... as I am concurrently restoring/building 3 carriages. But this one is the most photogenic.



Cheers,

Sirhr
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#39
And a couple of days in the shop... and more progress!

One of the axle/cheek pairs is getting pretty close. I need some new, sharp long-reach drills!

There is so much engineering on a Civil War cannon carriage. You think it's just a simple bit of wood and blacksmithing.. but try and build a couple! The engineering behind them is utterly amazing.

1520195780713.png

The one in the foreground is ready to have its cheeks final shaped together with the trunnions aligned. Unfortunately, it appears that the trunnion irons have closed up a bit (wood drying more???). Only a couple of thousandths. So i can't get my alignment tool in. I really, really don't want to have to set up the boring head again... to take out a few thousandths. But I may have to. More next weekend, I suppose. In the back is one that has been cross-drilled (except the front latch ties).

1520195932205.png

The 'more complete' one for the Mountain Howitzer barrel. Drilled through the cheeks and almost ready for its bottom irons. I need a new, sharper drill... that will drill through about 15 inches.


1520196034604.png

Same one from the other side and showing the cheek rondelles in place. The rondelles need to be machined on the OD. And the rear one needs its center tube added (reinforces the rear of the trunnion cheek.)

As I said, there is so much engineering that went into one of these. Hundreds of years of improvements to get the cannon carriage to its ultimate stage, which was, pretty much, the Civil War. After that, things basically moved to iron carriages, recoil systems and breech loaders. I have learned more from this process about antebellum engineering than I can imagine. Just the process of building these lays obvious so many principles of design! No substitute for... doing it!

Cheers,

Sirhr
 
Feb 13, 2017
2,302
1,458
113
Camano Island, Washington
#40
And a couple of days in the shop... and more progress!

One of the axle/cheek pairs is getting pretty close. I need some new, sharp long-reach drills!

There is so much engineering on a Civil War cannon carriage. You think it's just a simple bit of wood and blacksmithing.. but try and build a couple! The engineering behind them is utterly amazing.

View attachment 6880410

The one in the foreground is ready to have its cheeks final shaped together with the trunnions aligned. Unfortunately, it appears that the trunnion irons have closed up a bit (wood drying more???). Only a couple of thousandths. So i can't get my alignment tool in. I really, really don't want to have to set up the boring head again... to take out a few thousandths. But I may have to. More next weekend, I suppose. In the back is one that has been cross-drilled (except the front latch ties).

View attachment 6880411

The 'more complete' one for the Mountain Howitzer barrel. Drilled through the cheeks and almost ready for its bottom irons. I need a new, sharper drill... that will drill through about 15 inches.


View attachment 6880413

Same one from the other side and showing the cheek rondelles in place. The rondelles need to be machined on the OD. And the rear one needs its center tube added (reinforces the rear of the trunnion cheek.)

As I said, there is so much engineering that went into one of these. Hundreds of years of improvements to get the cannon carriage to its ultimate stage, which was, pretty much, the Civil War. After that, things basically moved to iron carriages, recoil systems and breech loaders. I have learned more from this process about antebellum engineering than I can imagine. Just the process of building these lays obvious so many principles of design! No substitute for... doing it!

Cheers,

Sirhr
Beautiful, meticulous work Sirhr !
 

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
5,851
1,698
113
50
MA
#41
Sirhr,

Your explanations are good but my laymans mind wasnt capable of following....

Therefore I had to Google "How to build a Civil War Howitzer carriage" and came up with this...

http://www.buckstix.com/HowitzerCarriage.htm

Now I understand the steel rounds and whats going on here.

Great project. Thanks for letting us watch.


Interesting that those roundels were partly put in place for the purpose of being able to vary the width of the carriage and account for manufacturing tolerances built into the barrel OR to be able to mount captured barrels in existing carriages..
 

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#42
Yeah, I know Buck. I bought my Mountain Howitzer barrel from him. He got an original... very rare barrel. Sold me his Steen tube.

I am amazed by the engineering in these things. But if you think about it, it's the culmination of 300 years of engineering... much of it very Darwinian... since war and artillery are ground zero for survival of the fittest!!! So by the Civil war, you have the last generation of what we would think of today as field carriages (and prairie carriages, etc.) Just a decade later, it was riveted iron and steel carriages and then breechloaders with hydraulic buffers, etc.
So what we see being built is the absolute ultimate in carriage engineering. After that, total change in direction. But we are seeing 300 years of engineering improvements!!! From the 1500's to the 1870's... These were seriously, seriously thought through!

Cheers and thanks for the interest!

Sirhr
 
Likes: crackerbrown

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
5,851
1,698
113
50
MA
#45
John Smith third generation blacksmith from a long line of blacksmiths, labor, and dont discount the water powered mills and lathes of a sort that were put in motion by miles of leather belt.

If you are ever near Springfield MA there are some great museums to see in one of the northeasts finest dumps and at the top of that list would be Springfield Armory.
 
Likes: ZG47A

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#46
PM... Exactly! Springfield Armory Historic site is amazing, though primary was small arms. They currently have a huge new exhibit on WW1, including 'stuff' brought back by their people who scoured the battlefields of post-war Europe looking for technology and intelligence to bring back.

The other two good ones are "The Precision Museum" in Windsor, Vermont. Birthplace of the modern machine tool. And the Springfield Museum, also in Springfield. It incorporates the Smith and Wesson, Rolls-Royce, Indian Motorcycle and Dr. Seuss collections... The Dr. Seuss museum alone is amazing.

I am not sure if the museum at Watervliet Arsenal ever re-opened. I think not. Amazing museum in its day. That's where the cannons largely came from.

Jet... Your question is phenomenal. And I keep asking myself some of the same questions. "How would they have done this." Yes, blacksmiths and craftsmen with saws and chisels. But was that all there was to it? I doubt it. Belts and machine tools and lathes, by the Civil War... for sure.

But I don't have a good answer. So I am going to do some research on that this evening... and see if I can buy a couple of books on the topic! More, along with photos, later.

Thanks for not only asking a good question... but the 'right' one!

Cheers,

Sirhr
 
Last edited:
Likes: ZG47A

pmclaine

Gunny Sergeant
Nov 6, 2011
5,851
1,698
113
50
MA
#47
I live near Watertown, MA.

There was an arsenal there strangely on Arsenal Street. It is now a Home Depot and collection of tech businesses/artsy fartsy businesses.

When I was a kid .mil still operated some of it but the loooooooonnnnnnnggggg ass brick buildings that made up the bulk of the arsenal were dormant with windows broken here and there.

Back in the 90s they tore it apart to build its present configuration. Commandants house and other historic buildings were saved, neighbors were surprised to learn onsite nuclear reactor was an tricky piece of work to dispose of.

I think they built cannon barrels there, coastal gun type but unsure what else. Pretty sure during the Civil War they built arms for that effort. The facility actually strikes me as bigger than Springfield, especially when you take in the sprawl of the munitions bunkers along the Charles River.

Fascinating place that Im sure employed thousands when it was running.
 

kraigWY

CMP GSM MI
Feb 10, 2006
2,254
43
48
70
Wyoming
#49
Found this set up in a little museum in Utah, nothing fancy but was the shop of the best gun designer (in my opinion) in history. John M. Browning



These two I found on the internet and was impressed, Army Armors


 
Likes: ZG47A

sirhrmechanic

Command Sgt. Major
Feb 23, 2010
9,205
5,312
113
53
The Snobbiest Town in The Snobbiest State in the N
#50
So just some random pictures of things I worked on over the weekend....

1520802576052.png

Heating up bolt head for cross bolts. These are wafers of mild steel, drilled and threaded for the 5/8" rod. Heated red and then brazed. Made a pile of these!
1520802663300.png

Setup before it gets red hot. The propane torch is just there to pre-heat. All done with Oxy-acetylene.

1520802741892.png

Three down lots to go. One's still cooling! After these get turned down on lathe to look like this:

1520802811543.png

These are turned and will get painted black upon assmembly.

1520802881007.png

These are nut blanks. Drilled 1/2 or 5/8ths depending on which thread they'll be on. Made them in 1" 1.25" and 1.5" across flats and varying threads. No hex nuts on cannons from that era... and modern square nuts are the wrong profile. So have to make them all. These are slices off a bandsaw. .600" thick. Then drilled. Later the edges will be profiled. Made about 50 of these. And need about another 50 before I am done.

1520803019006.png

Turning the rondelles. These were a bitch because the edges where they were cut out of the steel were harder than woodpecker lips. Nice thing about a plasma cutter... works fast. Bad thing... hardened edges. But once the edge is cut through, they cut easily enough. Cutting in pairs.

1520803124133.png

Linstock holder. Brazed up four of these from flat steel and mild pipe. These are on the side of the carriage and hold the 'linstock' or match holder.

More in a few moments.

Cheers,

Sirhr
 
Likes: ZG47A
Top Bottom