Elisha J. (Elisha Jarrett) Lewis.

The American sportsman online

. (page 36 of 42)
Online LibraryElisha J. (Elisha Jarrett) LewisThe American sportsman → online text (page 36 of 42)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


vented from making them weaker by filing and brazing after the
proof is stamped on them.


There are a great many modes adopted as well as receipts given
for the staining of gun-barrels : the basis of all, however, is the
action of acids on the metal. Great numbers of inferior barrels
are thus colored to resemble those of a superior quality, and these
deceptions are very difficult to be discovered by inexperienced
eyes. It was formerly supposed that the presence of " smoke-brown
staining" was a positive guarantee of the quality of the metal from
which the piece was manufactured : such, however, is no longer the
case, as the gunsmiths are now enabled to produce this particular
coloring even on the most ordinary barrels. In fact, so numerous
and artful are the tricks now resorted to by the Birmingham people
to deceive their customers, that the only safe plan left by which
to secure a good and trusty gun is to order one of " a competent
and honorable artist," of whom there are several on this side of the
water as well as on the other.


Very few sportsmen are acquainted with the peculiar kinds of
iron used in the manufacture of gun-barrels. Although they fre-
quently make use of the terms "stub-and-twist," "wire-twist,"
"Damascus barrels," &c., they are generally quite ignorant of the
real meaning of these terms, and know nothing of their import,
origin, or application; in truth, they palaver often like parrots,


without understanding the very phrases they make use of. This
being the case, we shall endeavor to enlighten them on the subject
in as short a space as possible, as we have so many other topics to
treat of that we fear to dilate on any subject lest our work become
too voluminous for our sporting friends to wade through.


These barrels are very scarce, that is, the real genuine stub-
twist , owing to the great difficulty of collecting the materials
from which they are manufactured, the cost of working, &c. This
may at first sight seem a strange assertion to some of our readers,
many of whom, no doubt, are under the impression that most of
the guns in the possession of their friends, as well as those they
have themselves, styled "stub-twist," are really and truly as
genuine specimens as could be produced in any part of the world.
Stop a moment, however, my incredulous friends, till you have
learned from Greener of what a stub-and-twist barrel is com-
pounded, and how it is wrought into a gun, and then tell me if
you can expect to purchase one of these "rare gems" on this side
of the water, or even on the other side, for the paltry sum of
twenty-five or thirty dollars, lock and stock included.

" Old horse-nail stubs have, for a great number of years, been
considered the best kind of scraps for the purpose of making the
most superior gun-barrels. Numerous attempts have been made
to find a composition of scraps to equal it, but so far without
success. At what time the practice of using old stubs was adopted,
we have no certain data. From the appearance of the oldest bar-
rels, I should venture to say that it was coeval with their invention.
It requires, however, no gift of prophecy to say that their use will
not long continue, from the difficulty of obtaining them good,
being only now to be procured from the Continent, and that with
increasing difficulty.

"Before proceeding to manufacture them into iron, women are
employed to sort and examine each stub, to see that no malleable
cast-iron nails or other impurities are mixed with them. They are


then taken and put into a drum, resembling a barrel-churn, through
the centre of which passes a shaft that is attached to the steam-
engine, which works the rolling-mill, bellows, &c. When the
machine is put in motion, the stubs are rolled and tumbled over
each other to such a degree that the friction completely cleanses
them of all rust, and they come forth with the brightness of
silver. The steel with which they are mixed, (generally coach-
springs,) after being separated and softened, is clipped into small
pieces, corresponding in size to the stubs, by a pair of large shears
working by steam. These pieces are then, like the stubs, also put
into a drum, in order to be divested of any rust they may retain,
and are subsequently weighed out in the proportion of twenty-five
pounds of stubs to fifteen of steel.

" After being properly mixed together, they are put into an air-
furnace and heated to a state of fusion, in which state they are
stirred up by a bar of the same mixture of iron and steel, until,
by their adhesion, they form a ball of apparently melting metal.
During this process, the bar has become sufficiently heated to
attach itself to the burning mass, technically called a bloom of
iron, and by its aid the whole is removed from the furnace to the
forge-hammer, by which it is reduced to a bar of iron of far less
weight than the original mass, the weight lost being wasted in the
process of welding and hammering. From the forge it passes to the
rolling-mill, where it is reduced to the size wanted. By this mode
of manufacturing, the iron and steel are so intimately united and
blended that the peculiar properties of each are imparted to every
portion of the mass, and the whole receives the degree of hardness
and softness required. The process is admirable ; and the mixture
is calculated to produce a metal the best fitted, under the circum-
stances, to answer the purpose of manufacturing gun-barrels of the
best description."

Spanish barrels, manufactured of the stubs of the nails used in
putting on the shoes of the mules and horses, formerly had a great
and deserved reputation among English sportsmen, in fact, com-
manding prices far beyond any guns produced in England. So



great was the demand for these far-famed barrels, and so eager
was every one to possess them, that it was not uncommon so Blain
informs us for purchasers to be found at twenty, thirty, and even
forty pounds for a single barrel.

The labor bestowed upon the manufacture of these barrels was
excec-ded alone by that of the operatives on Damascus arms ; and to
such an extent was the hammering of the lusty smith carried, that
it was not unusual for a mass of stubs, weighing from forty to fifty
pounds, to be reduced by repeated beatings to a rod sufficient only
to make a single barrel. By this long and arduous process the
utmost ductility, tenacity, and purity were acquired, which ren-
dered these guns superior for safety and shooting-powers to all
other manufactures. Spanish barrels are no longer sought after
with the same eagerness as in former tunes, owing to many circum-
stances that have operated to prejudice the public against them, as
well as the present superior character of the stub-twist manufac-
tured by English artists, and which, we opine, cannot be ex-
celled by any barrels coming either from Spain or the East.

Great deception was practised in the getting up and sale of
Spanish barrels as soon as it was known that there was such a
demand for them in England, a demand, in truth, which could not
be supplied in the ordinary course of trade, as there was not suffi-
cient genuine stub-metal in all Spain to make these barrels fast
enough for their foreign, much less their home, consumption. In-
ferior barrels consequently were imported from Spain, having the
names of the most celebrated makers of Madrid engraved on them.
Nor was this the only deception practised upon the public, for
Spanish barrels were actually counterfeited in the manufactories
of Germany, and the country consequently soon became flooded
with the most worthless and spurious trash imaginable, all purport-
ing to be of real Spanish origin.

There is considerable difference between a stub-twist and a
wire-twist, or a stub-twist and a plain-twist. All twists are not
stub-twists ; neither is it necessary for all stub -barrels to be twisted
barrels. Although there is a wide difference between all these


terms, it is very usual for our dealers in guns, as well as sports-
men, to make little or no distinction in their application. We
do not, however, wish to find fault with our hardwaremen for
the exhibition of such ignorance, when real, as they hare but few,
if any, sources from which they can obtain such information as
would set them right on these subjects. There are, nevertheless,
some importers as well as traders in guns among us who do know
better than to impose upon their ignorant customers in the shame-
ful manner in which they do, as they are well aware of the differ-
ence in cost, workmanship,, and quality, between a genuine stub-
twist and a wire-twist, and they should not boldly assert the one
to be as good as the other, when they know what they say is false
in every particular. Such conduct is yery culpable, and more so
when they are fully aware that the weapons they are selling are
imperfect and often really dangerous to


This is the next quality of iron used in the manufacture of gun-
barrels, and the mode of making the bar of wire-twist is thus de-
scribed by Greener : " Alternate bars of iron and steel are placed
on each other in numbers of six each: they are then forged into
one body or bar ; after which, if for the making of wire-twist oar-
rels, they are rolled down into rods of three-eighths of an inch in
breadth and varying in thickness according to the sue of the bar-
rel for which they are wanted ; if for Damascus, invariably three-
eighths of an inch square. When about to be twisted into spirals


for barrels, care must be taken that the edges of the steel and iron
shall be outermost, so that, when the barrel is finished and browned,
it shall have the appearance of being welded of pieces the size of
wires the whole length of the barrel." A little further on, our
author remarks : " The objection made to the wire-twist is that,
owing to the iron and steel being perfectly separate bodies, run-
ning through the whole thickness of the barrel, there is a difficulty
in welding them perfectly, and of course there is a danger of its
breaking across at any trifling imperfection. This objection is
certainly well grounded, as many barrels break in the proving. I
have myself seen a very strong barrel indeed broken across the
knee without the slightest difficulty, while to all appearances it was
perfectly sound. This is the reason why the manufacturers have
ceased to make them, except for the American trade."

It is well known that every description of gun-barrel made in
England that is deemed of a very inferior quality in fact, too
dangerous to be manufactured into a gun at home is shipped to
our country for sale. The knowledge of this circumstance should
make all sportsmen rather chary in the purchase of guns from the
hands of those who, from ignorance or want of principle, are ready
to palm upon them any kind of a weapon, no matter how inferior
or how dangerous.


" Are pretty to look at, but they possess no advantage over the
wire-twist barrels ; if any thing, they are inferior in strength and
tenacity. The twisting which the barrels go through before they
are welded together, for the purpose of forming into a barrel, in-
stead of adding strength to the body of the metal, rather loosens
the texture, by tearing asunder the parallel fibres, the close adhe-
sion of which constitutes the power and strength of the metal."

These barrels are made as follows: "When about to be con-
verted into Damascus, the rod is heated the whole length, and the
two square ends put into the heads (one of which is a fixture) of a
description of lathe, which is worked by a handle similar to a


winch. It is then twisted like a rope, or, as Colonel Hawker says,
wrung as wet clothes are, until it has from twelve to fourteen com-
plete turns in the inch. By this severe twisting, the rod of six
feet is shortened to three, doubled in thickness, and made perfectly
round. Three of these rods are then placed together, with the
inclinations of the twists running in opposite directions. They
are then welded into one, and rolled down to a rod eleven-six-
teenths of an inch in breadth."


This species of iron, we believe, is the kind of metal from which
most of the guns imported into our country by hardwaremen are
manufactured. When we say most of the guns, we mean most of
the best guns, as there are thousands of guns made of still more
inferior metal than charcoal iron, expressly for the American
trade. These barrels are generally palmed off upon the ignorant
as the real stub-twist; they are, however, far inferior to the
genuine article. The metal is composed entirely of old iron
without any admixture of steel, and therefore is greatly deficient
in the strength or elasticity of either the stub or wire-twist.


There are several other varieties of metals or compounds from
which gun-barrels are manufactured for foreign trade ; they are
generally far inferior even to charcoal iron, and are wanting not
only in strength, but also in the tenacity and ductility so neces-
sary for the making of an instrument which is intended to hold
within bounds so dangerous and powerful a composition as gun-
powder. Great numbers of these worthless weapons find their
way to this country, and hundreds of individuals are crippled with
them every year. A full description of all these metals will be
found in Greener, as also a general exposi of all the deceptions
carried on in the gun-trade.



Walnut is universally preferred in America for stocking ; it is
abundant, strong, durable, and handsome, and therefore combines
many, if not all, the qualities calculated to recommend it to the
gunsmith. Its natural beauty is very much improved by staining,
and many useful points under this head may be learned from
Hawker. The following method, however, we meet with in
Greener's work ; and, as we have tested its merits, we feel no hesita-
tion in recommending it to our readers : "After having got them
(the stocks) dressed and sandpapered as fine as you possibly can
for walnut, take a composition of unboiled linseed-oil and alkanet-
root, in the proportion of four ounces of the latter to half a pint
of oil. These, after being amalgamated for a week, will be of a
beautiful crimson color, and will not fail to make walnut a hand-
some brown, on being laid on three or four times with a sponge."

Bird's-eye maple is also used for stocking, and is preferred by
some to walnut on account of the greater beauty of its grain ; we,
however, and most other sportsmen, consider it far inferior to
walnut. Greener remarks that maple possesses less " conducting
principle" than any other kind of wood, and therefore is well cal-
culated to lessen the recoil, and on this account is best calculated
for gun-stocks. Of this argument, however, we think very lightly,
for the reason that no partridge-gun properly loaded should recoil
with sufficient force to give a disagreeable shock, whether the stock
be made of walnut, maple, or any other kind of suitable wood.

The following method for staining maple, taken from the same
source as the above, we have also used, not on a gun-stock } how-
ever, as we have no gun stocked with this description of wood ;
but we tried it on some articles of furniture, and found it to
answer a most excellent purpose, in fact, imparting a beautiful
and elegant appearance to the wood :

" Mix an ounce and a half of nitrous acid with about the same
quantity of iron turnings or filings. After the gas which is created
by the mixture has evaporated, take a piece of rag and dip it in



the liquid left, and wet all parts of the stock you wish to stain.
Let it stand until it is quite dry ; then lay on a slight coat of the
oil and alkanet-root. Take a quantity of joiners' shavings : set
fire to them, and pass the stock through the flame until it becomes
quite black or the oil is quite burnt off. Re-sandpaper it, and
you will find it, if possessing any figure, of a beautiful mottle.
Add a few more coats of oil ; it is then ready for varnishing, or
any other way you may fancy to have it finished."

Maple stained in this way looks very beautiful, but we do not
consider it either so handsome or so suitable for stocking as
walnut ; it is much more brittle and knotty, and is liable to break
if roughly handled.



" God sends meat:" who sends cooks?

Nequaquam satis in re una consumere curam :
Ut si quis solum hoc, mala ne sint vina, laboret,
Quali perfundat pisces securus olivo."

not imagine, brother sportsman, that we
are going to dive into all the mysteries and
complicated paraphernalia of a cookery-
book, or, as a scientific gourmand, that we
are about to extol alone the pleasures, the
delights, and the joys, of a well-spread
table. In extenuation, or rather in sup-
port, of our trifling efforts to promote the
happiness of our sporting friends when as-
sembled around the convivial board with appetites made vigorous by
the manly labors of the field, we beg to call their attention for a mo-
ment to the sage remarks of the philosophic Rumford when speaking

on this subject : " The enjoyments which fall to the lot of the bulk



of mankind are not so numerous as to render an attempt to increase
them superfluous. And even in regard to those who have it in
their power to gratify their appetites to the utmost extent of their
wishes, it is surely rendering them a very important service to
show them how they may increase their pleasures without destroy-
ing their health." Dr. Mayo, in his "Philosophy of Living," also
remarks that "man, unlike animals, is in best humor when he is
feeding, and more disposed then than at other times to cultivate
those amicable relations by which the bonds of society are

Who among our readers will not cheerfully acknowledge the
force of such sentiments, emanating, as they do, from men of study,
reflection, and practical observation ? Who among them will not
concede, in the fulness of his heart, that "a good dinner is one of
the greatest enjoyments of human life"? Who ever knew of a
philosopher refusing to participate in the festivities of a banquet ?
And who ever encountered the still stranger sight of a disciple of
Hippocrates living up to the dietetic precepts laid down for the
guidance of his refractory patients ?

Look around you on every side, ye carping cynics and snarling
bigots, and see how many men of the greatest talents and rarest
virtues, whether of the present day or of ages past, have sought
pleasure in the innocent enjoyments of the table, and thus convince
yourselves that these indulgences are not "incompatible with in-
tellectual pursuits or mental superiority." Doctor Johnson, with
all his wonderful attainments, did not consider a good dinner or a
recherchi supper beneath his attention ; for we are informed by
Boswell, his biographer, that "he never knew a man who relished
good eating more than he did ; and when at table he was wholly
absorbed in the business of the moment." The doctor himself
says, in his usual quaint and philosophic style, "Some people have
a foolish way of not minding, or pretending not to mind, what
they eat: for my part, I mind my belly very studiously and very
carefully ; and I look upon it that he who does not mind his belly
will hardly mind any thing else."


How perfectly correct and natural do these remarks appear to
us, when we reflect for a moment on the intimate sympathy and
peculiarly direct communication existing between the head and the
stomach ! If the least irregularity in the natural functions of the
bowels takes place, with what rapidity is it followed by a propor-
tional degree of malaise at the very centre of life, the brain !

In fact, the healthy operation of the whole natural economy is
dependent in a great measure upon the state of the stomach ; but
the brain watches the actions of this organ with a most jealous
eye, and in most persons is the very first to strike the alarm at the
presence of gross or badly-cooked food; and it has been most
justly remarked that "he who would have a clear head must have
a clean stomach"

If such be the fact, (and no one certainly will dispute it,) how
necessary is it that we should not only regard the quality of our
food, but that we should have an eye to the proper preparation of
it by the cook before receiving it into so important an organ as
the stomach ! We do not now address our remarks to those whose
health is so robust, and whose habits and associations in life have
been such as to force them to remain happy and contented with
the coarsest fare, and whose stomachs consequently have attained
the vigor of an ostrich or the capacity of an anaconda ; such in-
dividuals, we know full well, would naturally accuse us of over-
refinement and ridiculous nicety. Neither do we wish to encourage
or uphold in their effeminate opinions those delicate and epicurean
dandies who cannot enjoy a meal beyond the vile precincts of an
eating-house or the luxurious saloons of a club-room, or whose
pampered stomachs are never sated, save when tempted with all
the niceties that the markets can produce, artistically concocted
into savory stews, outlandish fricandeaux, greasy ragotits, high-
sounding fricasstes, and dainty salmis.

Such fellows as these latter, "quibus in solo vivendi causa pa-
lato est," whose brains, (what little they may possess,) as well as
their hearts, are located in their bellies, are objects rather of our
commiseration, and wholly beneath the notice of any sensible man,

Tfiifi ART Off COOKltfG GAME. 491

save that, like peacocks at the grand congregation of the feathered
race, they serve the purpose occasionally of adorning a dinner-
table, of amusing the good-natured host by their senseless fripon-
nerie, or perhaps, by the stateness of their wit and the dulness of
their speech, of setting off" the more cultivated jeux-d' esprit of
some favored ban compagnon.

In fact, we have an utter abhorrence for a man in good health
who cannot "rough and tumble it" in perfect good-humor for a
few days when circumstances require it, whether it be to repose
one's wearied limbs even upon a shaggy buffalo robe, under the
wide canopy of a starless heaven, or to stretch them on the soft
and downy feathers of a luxurious bed, surrounded by all the
gaudy trappings of an ambitious upholsterer; whether it be to sit
down to a mess of cold pork and brown bread, or to a round of
juicy roast-beef: in fact, a sportsman should be ever ready in all
cheerfulness to exclaim in the words of the ancient bard, "Rure
meo possum quodvis perferre patique." But, at the same time,
we must acknowledge, on the other hand, that we equally despise
an ignorant, low-minded fellow, who affects to prefer salt pork to
savory venison, or a barnyard duck to a Chesapeake canvas-back,
or rotgut whisky to sparkling heidseck. Such a savage as this is
more fit for the negro quarter than the banquet-room of the polished
and refined.

The rational gratification of a natural appetite with such dainties
as a kind Providence, in his infinite goodness, has given us in this
world, cannot justly be called gluttony ; nor can a proper attention
or nice discrimination in serving them up be termed sensuality ;
as both the one and the other are the actual gifts of the Almighty,
the different varieties of viands on the one hand to tempt our
palates, and the exquisite sense of taste on the other to enable us
to appreciate them when laid before us. We have observed
that those among our acquaintances who most frequently speak
discouragingly of the pleasures of the table, and most vociferously
disclaim all pretensions to what they significantly term good eat-
ing, which, in truth, means nothing more nor less than having


good food cooked in a wholesome and sensible manner, these same
individuals, we say, when seated at the festive board, are the very
foremost to find fault if the dishes are not served up in becoming
style, or rather in accordance with their own peculiar and some-
times outlandish notions.

What gluttony, forsooth, or sensuality either, is there in prefer-

Online LibraryElisha J. (Elisha Jarrett) LewisThe American sportsman → online text (page 36 of 42)