Tag Archives: cannon

Hand fire-arms

Hand Fire-Arms through History

Hand fire-arms
Hand fire-arms
  1. Hand cannon for foot soldier in cast iron, belonging to the first half of the fourteenth century. The touch-hole (German, Zünderloch) is on the upper part of the cannon.
  2. Hand cannon for foot soldier, from a MS. of the end of the fourteenth century. The touch-hole is on the top of the cannon.
  3. Hand cannon for foot soldier, from a manuscript of the year 1472, in the library of Hauslaub at Vienna.
  4. Hand cannon for a knight, called a petronel, from a manuscript in the ancient library of Burgundy. The articulated plate armour is characteristic of the latter half of the fifteenth century, though the bassinet has a movable vizor. These hand cannons were in use at the same time as the serpentine arquebuse, and even as the flint and steel arquebuses and muskets, ie till the beginning of the sixteenth century, as may be seen from the drawings, by Glockenthon, of the arms of the Emperor Maximilian I. (1505).
  5. German hand cannon, fixed on wooden boards or stands, belonging to the beginning of the sixteenth century. The touch-hole is still on the upper part of the cannon. From the drawings of Glockenthon, done in 1505.
  6. German hand cannon in fluted iron, of the beginning of the sixteenth century, or end of the fifteenth century. It is only 9 1/2 inches in length, 2 inches in diameter, and is fixed on to a piece of oak about 5 feet in length. In the Germanic Museum, where it is wrongly ascribed to the fourteenth century.
  7. Hand cannon in wrought iron, called a petronel, to be used by a knight. It is of the end of the fifteenth century.
  8. Hand cannon with stock of the end of the fourteenth century. The touch-hole is on the top of the cannon.
  9. Angular hand cannon on stock; to be used in defending ramparts. It is a little over 6 feet in length, and the touch-hole is on the top of the cannon. This piece was used in the defence of Morat against Charles le Téméraire (1479).
  10. Eight-sided hand cannon with stock. The touch-hole, which is on the top of the cannon, has a cover moving on a pivot. This cannon is 54 inches in length, and the balls or bullets about 1 1/2 inch in diameter. It belongs to the first part of the fifteenth century.
  11. Persian matchlock cannon, copied from the Schah-Namen, in the Library of Munich.
  12. Hand cannon on stock, end of the fourteenth, or beginning of the fifteenth century. In this piece the touch-hold is on the right side.
  13. Hand cannon with serpentine, a match-holder, without trigger or spring, invented about the year 1424.
  14. Serpentine or guncock for match, without trigger or spring.
  15. Serpentine without trigger, but with spring.
  16. Serpentine with spring, but without trigger.
  17. Serpentine lock, without trigger or spring.
  18. Hackbuss lock with spring and trigger.
  19. Hackbuss (in German, Hakenbüchse) or hand cannon, with butt end and serpentine lock. It belongs to the second half of the fifteenth century. The match is no longer loose, but fixed to the serpentine, which springs back by means of the trigger. This sort of cannon is generally about 40 inches in length, and it is usually provided with a hook, so that when it is placed on a wall it cannot slip back. The hackbuss without a hook is, as a rule, better made, and was subsequently called arquebuse with matchlock. It had also front and back sights (in German, Visir und Kern).
  20. Chinese arquebuse.
  21. Swiss arquebuse of the second half of the fifteenth century.
  22. Double arquebuse (in German, Doppelhaken). This weapon had two serpentines, or dogheads, falling from opposite points, and was generally used in defending ramparts; the barrel was usually from 5 to 6 1/2 feet in length.
  23. Hackbuss, loaded from the breech by means of a revolving chamber, a weapon belonging to the beginning of the sixteenth century.
  24. Hackbuss and gun fork (German, Gabel), from the drawings of Glockenthon; it may also be seen in the engraving of the “Triumph of the Emperor Maximilian I.” From this we see that the hackbuss, or match arquebuse, was used for a long time together with the wheel-lock arquebuse.
  25. Serpentine hackbuss with match, also called musket. It is also furnished with a fork, called a fourquine in French.
  26. Hackbuss or musket, with link.
  27. Serpentine hackbuss with link, also called arquebuse, loaded from the breech by means of a revolving chamber. It dates from the year 1537, and bears the initials W. H. by the side of a fleur-de-lys.
  28. Eye protector, belonging to a musket in the Arsenal of Geneva.
  29. Hand cannon with rasp, early part of the sixteenth century. It is entirely of iron, and is called Münchsbüchse (monk’s arquebuse). For a very long time it was wrongly thought to be the first fire-arm ever made, and to have belonged to a monk named Berthold Schwartz (1290-1320), who was also said to have invented gunpowder. This little weapon is about 11 1/2 inches in length, and the barrel 5 inches in diameter. It preceded the wheel-lock, and appears to have suggested the idea of it. A rasp scatters sparks from the sulphurous pyrites by friction.

The illustrations and descriptions have been taken from An Illustrated History of Arms and Armour: From the Earliest Period to the Present Time, by Auguste Demmin, and translated by Charles Christopher Black. Published in 1894 by George Bell.

Cannon for Duchess of Gérolstein‎

Cannon Carriages

In previous posts, I showed off some foam cannon barrels I built and some giant champagne bottles I helped work on for the Santa Fe Opera. I also built the four carriages they rode around on.

Cutting the shape
Cutting the shape

The main beams of the bases were cut out of plywood. I drew out a full-scale pattern for one of them and cut it out, then transferred it to all the pieces of plywood and cut those out to match. The bottom needed a square notch to hold the axle assembly, and it needed to be in the exact same location on all the pieces so the wheels would sit straight, so I attached all the pieces together and cut the notch out on all of them at once.

Assembling in the jig
Assembling in the jig

Next I built a jig to hold the beams. They sat at an angle and tapered out at the top. While in place, I measured and cut the cross pieces to fit exactly. This part took awhile to get perfectly correct, but once I had the pieces for one of them, I could just duplicate them for the other three carriages.

Attaching the facing
Attaching the facing

The carriages wanted to look like cast iron, so I faced all the edges with some strips of wood that were a little wider than the bases and rounded over on the ends. This gave it that look you might find on I-beams or similar pieces of metal. The photograph above shows a trick I read about that I wanted to try out: clamping a long strip of wood using rubber bands and spring clamps. It was not as effortless as I thought it would be, but it was a better clamping method than anything else I’ve used in the past.

Adding details
Adding details

With the major structure in place, I began adding details, like bolt heads and plates. These were all applied pieces; I cut and shaped the larger bolt heads out of MDF, while the smaller bolt heads were just short lag bolts that I screwed in.

Positioning the axles
Positioning the axles

The wheels we used were bought from a place that makes wooden carriage wheels; I’ve made wheels in the past, but it’s very time-consuming, and hard to make them as strong as a legit wooden wheel. I attached a pipe to each of the wheels as an axle, and found a slightly larger pipe that could sleeve over them. I welded this larger pipe to some plates so I could bolt it to the carriage. In the photo above, you can see the axle pipe is in two sections. When building a carriage like this, you need the wheels to be able to spin independently of each other, because when you make turns, they spin at different speeds. The long aluminum pipe going through both larger pipes in the photograph was used to line them up with each other while attaching them.

Cannon for Duchess of Gérolstein‎
Cannon for Duchess of Gérolstein‎

The whole thing got a pretty interesting paint treatment by the paint crew. Overall, it was a very fun project that saw a lot of stage time during the performance. It was also interesting to compare it to the previous cannon I have built, which could not be more different than this one both in appearance and in methods of construction.

Turned barrels

Foam Cannon Barrels

Last week, I showed off some giant champagne bottles I made, and mentioned that they would act as the barrels of some cannons I was also building at the Santa Fe Opera. Today, I will show you the actual cannon barrels I made. We needed four cannons, so that meant four barrels.

Bandsaw Cutting Jig
Bandsaw Cutting Jig

I made the barrels out of foam to keep them lightweight; the Santa Fe Opera runs their shows in repertory, so any savings in weight is much appreciated by the running crew, who have to move all the props from the basement to the stage on a daily basis. I whipped up a quick jig for the bandsaw to cut the corners from the blocks of foam I got. This meant less time turning, less dust, and it allowed the foam to actually fit on the lathe.

Turned barrels
Turned barrels

I designed a full-size template of the shape of the barrels based on the designer’s sketches and my own research. I could also use this template as a pattern on the lathe to make all four barrels exactly the same as each other. Turning foam on the lathe is fun and easy, but it makes a gigantic mess.

Coating and sanding
Coating and sanding

After the barrels were taken off the lathe, I began the long and laborious process of coating and sanding them. The designer wanted them to look like smooth brass without any distressing, so they needed to be absolutely flawless. I used Aqua Resin, which provided a sandable hard coat with far less toxicity than Bondo. I spent nearly a week just coating and sanding all these guys.

Drilling straight through
Drilling straight through

I built a jig so I could hold the barrel and a cordless drill perpendicular to each other. This provided a pilot hole for the trunnion I would add; the trunnion would be a piece of PVC pipe which would hold the cannon on the carriage and allow it to pivot up and down.

Hole
Hole

With the pilot hole drilled, I switched to a hole saw that was closer to the size of the PVC pipe. You can see in the photo above that I have an extra long pilot bit on the hole saw. This bit was long enough to pop out the other side of the barrel so I could be sure that the hole saw would exit in exactly the right place.

Finished Barrels
Finished Barrels

I pushed the sections of PVC pipe through the hole and capped off the ends to make them look like a solid bar. I also added some lauan rings to the ends of the barrels to help reinforce them when they were standing up.

Painted Barrels
Painted Barrels

With the barrels finished, I handed them off to the painters, who gave them the great brass paint treatment that you see above. In a few days, I’ll post about how I built the carriages to these cannons, and you can see pictures of the final piece.

Turning foam

Giant Champagne Bottles

With this summer’s season at the Santa Fe Opera at an end, I can begin to show off some of the props I’ve built there. First up is a giant champagne bottle.

We needed four champagne bottles of a very specific size; they were going to be the barrels of cannons that I would also build. Nobody manufactures champagne bottles that large, so we had to make them. Since we would vacuum-form them from plastic, I began by making a solid foam bottle.

Blank and pattern
Blank and pattern

I drew out half the shape at full-scale on a piece of plexiglass. We have a duplicator on our lathe, which allows us to rough out the shape by directly following a pattern like this. I also got the block of foam ready. This piece was so wide, it barely fit on the lathe; I had to take most of the attachments off and round off the foam by hand before there was enough room to put the attachments back on.

Turning foam
Turning foam

As you can imagine, turning a block of foam this large creates quite a bit of debris. I am still finding bits of foam in my clothes to this day.

Splitting the foam in half
Splitting the foam in half

To vacuum form this piece, I only needed half of the bottle. I built a box so I could hold the bottle straight. The top of the box reached the exact middle point of the bottle, so when I ran a hot wire along it, it sliced the foam bottle directly in half.

Vacuum formed half
Vacuum formed half

I mounted the foam onto a board and drilled holes all around the circumference, as well as holes in the concave portions to ensure the plastic would be sucked all the way down. I also coated the foam with Aqua Resin and sanded it smooth. I posted a video a few weeks ago showing the vacuum forming machine in action; check it out if you want to see how I made the piece in the photo above.

Painting the halves
Painting the halves

With a successful pull on the vacuum former, this project was turned over to the crafting department, and my work on it ended. They began manufacturing clear plastic halves like you see above, and spraying them down with green dye to match the color of a real champagne bottle.

Finished bottles
Finished bottles

They glued the halves together and added some labels and gold foil to complete the look. The final bottles were over four feet tall.