EARL KATHAN, GUNSMITH
GUN REPAIR FOR GOOD OLD GUNS
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03/04/16

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Step back into the 16th century to fire flintlock muzzleloaders when we introduce you to an Acworth, New Hampshire gunsmith who has forged a family business out of his love of history and predilection for tinkering with all things mechanical.

Forging History

From Out & About

Watch Episode #4


Click HERE

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My dad taught me to hunt and do everything that the out of doors has to offer when I was young.  He helped me get my first deer at the age of eleven and I have filled my tag almost every year since then.  I'm now 50 years old and have enjoyed Rifle hunting (with my 30/30) Bow hunting (with my Browning, recurves and self-bows) and have always participated in the muzzloader hunting season with my TC Hawken.  Now, I gotta tell you that the more primitive something gets, the more I like it.
 
This hunting season I didn't get the big buck everyone dreams of.  In fact the buck I bagged was a respectable 125lb. 3 pointer.  So what was the big deal?  For me it was the challenge of hunting with a Matchlock Rifle.  Most people, even hunters, don't know what that is.  For a little time-line history of guns you'd find that the percussion muzzleloader used by most is from the 1800's.  Before that was the flintlock in the 1700's, even earlier was the Miquelet, Snaphaunce, and Wheel-Lock of the 1500's and 1600's.  One more step back in time gives us the Matchlock also known as the Arquebus.  It's development was realized in the early 1400's and was wide spread through the orient.  By 1425 the matchlock had made its way to Western Europe and shortly after that, to the New World.  Yep, were talking Pilgrim guns!
 
My matchlock  is .45 caliber and weighs in at 14.8 pounds.  I had carried it around for the first few days of the hunt and my arms were getting tired.  I decided to take an evening stand "down in the hole".  I hiked in and had just sat down on a stump at my favorite intersecting trail when the sound of a snapping twig caught my attention.  Sure enough it was a deer coming straight to me.  I reached in my pocket to grab my lighter...you gotta light the "slow match".  The match is a cotton, linen or wool cord soaked in a solution that allows it to burn at a slower rate without going out.  It's what provides ignition to the gun.  Earlier the same day I had a small deer standing not 25 feet away and I'd be darned if I could get that slow match to light and when it finally did the deer was gone.  Thank goodness the lighter lit the match on the first try this time.  The deer was still coming down the trail straight at me, I pulled up and put the bead on his chest and squeezed the sear bar (trigger).  The lit match cord lowered into my pan of powder and .......nothing!  The deer is still coming so  I let up on the sear bar and still pointing at the deer I gently blew on the small weak coal at the end of the match cord.  The coal grew brighter and let out a few tiny sparks of life.  Carefully I drew my sighted attention back on the deer who had now stopped dead in his tracks because he sensed something wasn't right (or maybe he smelled smoke?)  Again I squeezed the sear bar and uttered under my breath  a small prayer for the little spark on the end of the match cord to do its job ..........
WOOOSH BOOM!  The smoke cleared and I could see the young buck lying there.  A big grin drew across my face as I thought to myself of each person who laughed at me when I showed them the gun I was going to hunt with this year.  The Matchlock
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     Welcome....If you are looking for a black powder gunsmith you have come to the right place.  I specialize in the repair of early period black powder firearms from the 1500's, 1600's, 1700's and 1800's.  This covers firearms like wheelocks, snaphaunce, flintlocks, caplocks, matchlocks, many black powder cylinder guns, under hammers and more.

      I am happy to work on originals which you can find examples of on the                                                         I also service most reproductions like Pedersoli, Traditions, CVA, Japanese Miroku, India made guns, Uberti, Colt, Remington and many more.    Click on the SERVICES page above and to the left for more info and shipping instructions.



Matchlock Hunting Story

THANK YOU!

TO THE ACWORTH COMMUNITY CHARITABLE TRUST

The Acworth Community Charitable Trust provided grant funding to attend a workshop with Master Blacksmith, Jeffrey A, Miller of Flintlock Forge in Woldoboro, ME.

Jeff has been a blacksmith and gunsmith for over 40 years reproducing historically accurate firearms and utilitarian items.  Jeff worked at Old Sturbridge Village in Massachusetts and the Fort at No. 4 in Charlestown, NH.  Other noted clients would be countless museums, historical sites, living history museums, art museums, iron shops and more.  Jeff is VERY accomplished in his field and has an amazing amount of knowledge and skill.  If he lived closer I would be in his shop every chance I had.

My week long class with Jeff was cut short by my dad (85 years old) ending up in the hospital. (He is out now and feeling much better) At the same time my shortened class turned out to be a private lesson and I was able to learn much more than I would have in a group setting.  Jeff's attention was all mine!

While we worked, we talked a great deal about materials, technique, heat, quenching, welding, casting, tools, fire building, forgotten formulas, metallurgy, and more.

With my head spinning at the end of each day I put pen to paper to remember the things that would surely get lost.  Not so much the things I saw or did with my hands but the quick little conversations in between the lessons telling the differences between the materials used today from the materials used during the 17th century and the difference in technique used.

Thanks again to Jeff for sharing his valuable knowledge to others, his beautiful wife, Louise who always cares for me like family when I'm there and to the Acworth Community Charitable Trust for making this all possible for me.


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Master Blacksmith, Jeff Miller


Building a proper fire in the forge

Forging the cock of a flintlock mechanism is a long process with many steps.  Check out the "string cheese graining" in the top photo here.  A strong characteristic of wrought iron.

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The cock is cut off and the shaping process is continued until you have the roughed product.  The cock will then be filed, polished and engraved to finish.
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I also made thimbles from flat brass.  We used a jig  to get the bends and the rest is a lot of tedious file work.
Below are a few other projects we did that just teach certain disiplines in gun building used over and over again.
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Lastly I built a pair of drop forged tongs.  "Drop Forge Welding is a technique that not too many people can do no matter how many years they've been blacksmithing.  It took me several tries to get it right but I did it!  This was an exciting moment for me. On my own or reading about it in a book would have never been enough to teach me how to do it.  Thank you to Master Blacksmith, Jeffrey Miller.

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NEW GUNSMITH SHOP!

The Blacksmith shop is now operational!  I have made several items in the forge and have a few bugs to work out but happy to be working in there.



Currently I am battling head & neck cancer and the treatment is kicking my ass.  Working in the shop is very limited and I am not taking any new projects at this time.  I hope to get back to it in the future but for now my new job is 5 days a week at a cancer treatment center trying to get better.


We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers and hope to return to the working world fixing your old guns as soon as possible.


To help keep my family afloat while I do treatment, I have set up a GoFundMe page.  If you'd like to help, please click on the link below.  If not, that's okay too.  It's as tough to donate as it is to ask for a donation.


Humbly.

Earl Kathan


https://www.gofundme.com/earlkathan



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Ben got his first deer with the flintlock his dad made for him!


Ben experienced all of the highs and lows of deer hunting with a flintlock in 4 short days from your standard miss to a miss fire with a nice buck standing not 15 yards away.


On the 4th day in the final hour of the hunt, Ben made a perfect shot with a steady hand  for a quick kill on this nice 125 lb. doe.


Thanks to our friends in NY for providing a great hunting experience for our son.