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Tag: model cannon

Who Would Like a CANNON for Christmas?

So, the first model Armstrong 80lb RML is finished. Final photographs following. I admit that some artistic license has been taken, as directed by SWMBO, and some scale details have been modified slightly in order that it is finished in time for Xmas.

Yesterday I fished out the components of the other model cannon, the “A” version, which I am making for myself, and which will be used in model engineering exhibitions. I predict that it will take another 2-3 months to complete. I am intending that it will be more rigorously an authentic scale model, and probably less pretty and decorative than the version pictured below. But it will look interesting alongside the 24lb long gun of the Nelson era, the 32lb carronade, and the huge Ottoman 1465 bombard, all to 1:10 scale.

Here are the final photographs of the “artistic” B version.

The FIRING position. The gunpowder bag and projectile have been loaded, the gun captain has set the elevation and locked it. The dog clutch has been disengaged. (the dog clutch handle is behind the squared shaft in the above photo).
After firing the recoil has pushed the carriage up the inclined chassis. The big handwheel will be used to position the carriage higher on the chassis for loading.
After swabbing to douse any embers, the gunners will lift the gunpowder bag onto the loading cradle and it will be rammed into position, then 2 of them will lift the 80lb projectile onto the cradle and ram it into position. A rope quoit stops the projectile from sliding out of the barrel. The barrel is levelled, then rolled forward into the firing position, controlling the descent with the brake. Brake lever shown here. The elevation is set and locked (locking handle on the other side), ready for another firing.
The rear bumpers were the final parts to be made and fitted. Just seen here.

When I make the sights for my “A” model, I will also make some for this one.

There is a name plate which was lasered by my colleague Stuart Tankard but that reveals a bit too much information to show here. Suffice to say, it names the cannon, a few basics specs, maker’s name, and year. It will be fastened to the wooden base. It also states “NEVER FIRED IN ANGER”.

Thankyou to all of my readers, many who have supplied useful advice and welcome encouragement. Particular thanks to Stuart Tankard for his lasering expertise and machine, and other technical advice. And thanks to SWMBO, who has warmed to this project as it approached completion, despite having absolutely no interest in weapons of destruction. She does have a good eye for form and colour. And mostly for putting up with my foul moods when things went wrong.

Now. It will be interesting to see if the recipients of this model actually like it.

Wooden Base for Model Cannon

I have machined a wooden base and I will fasten the central column of the cannon chassis to the base. The reason is that people cannot resist swivelling the cannon around on its column and the the wheels tend to mark/scratch polished surfaces. Better to mark a wooden base than a polished mantelpiece. But how to finish the surface of the base? Any polish/paint will quickly develop marks from the wheels. I have decided against making steel railway lines for this model.

I have used an Australian hardwood (mountain ash, a very hard dense wood, reclaimed from a demolished building). I am thinking that I will just oil it. The colour of the wood will darken with age, but will never be as dark as the table, which I made decades ago from Australian Iron Wood. (note, not iron bark. Iron wood. The hardest, densest wood I have ever used. And yes, I have worked with lignum vitae, and Australian red gum. The marks in the surface of the table are only in the polish. The wood is almost impossible to scratch. My kids used to dance on this table 30 years ago.)

The burn mark on the end of the base is from the belt sander. I will remove it with hand sanding before oiling.

The machined finger grips on the ends were made on my vertical mill with a steel moulding cutter intended for metal machining. It worked well.

I discussed the finish which I wanted to achieve with my resident finishes expert. SWMBO. I wanted a slightly darker, low sheen finish, which would not get scraped off with the cannon wheels.

She recommended this stuff. It is a stained, penetrating oil. Smells very chemically.

It is actually a surface repairer, rather than an overall finish but I did what I was told.

OK. That looks good. The surface will be easy to touch up if required.

Then I read the rest of the label….


One down, one to go.

1:10 Model Armstrong rifled muzzle loading 80lb cannon WILL be ready for Xmas.

Apart from minor touch-ups, the model and painting is completed.

I will take some careful photos before it goes to its final home, but here are a few snaps to show how it appears with some paint and lacquer.

Oops. Forgot the big handwheel.
The gears, brake and dog clutch all work well.
and a few more chassis bolts to insert.
I extended the recoil piston rod to allow full travel of the carriage on the chassis. The join is smooth.

So, was SWMBO correct about not painting the chassis? I like the look of this finish scheme, but now have to decide what to do in that regard with the “A” model, which was put aside while I finished this one.

p.s. I weighed the model, because I was curious. The full size original barrel weighed 81.5cwt/4.1 tons plus the carriage/chassis, about 5 tons/5080kg total. The 1:10 scale model should weigh 0.1 x 0.1 x 0.1 or 1/1000th of that which would be 5kg/11lbs. It actually weighs a tad under 10kg/22lbs which is almost exactly double the predicted. It is a bit of a lump to carry around and I do NOT know where the extra weight came from. Or maybe my mathematical assumptions are incorrect.

(note added 1 March 2021. See the post added 1 March 2021. The total weight of the gun barrel, carriage, and slide – which I have been calling the chassis, was close to 10 tons! So my assumption that the model should weigh 1/1000th of the original was very close to correct!)

Pointy Projectiles

The accuracy of cannons was dramatically improved in the 19th century with several developments.

  1. The bore was machined rather than just cast, as result of the invention by Wilkinson of a powered boring machine. Incidentally, this process was also adopted by Trevithick in making steam engine cylinders, significantly improving the efficiency of steam engines.
  2. The adoption of sights, calibrated for distance, and movement of the target, instead of just eye balling along the barrel.
  3. Changing from round iron balls to cylindrical projectiles, with a pointy front and slightly rounded rear.
  4. Rifling the barrel bore, causing the projectile to rotate.
  5. Standardising the weight and granularity of the blackpowder, making shots more repeatable.
  6. Increasing the power of gunpowder by increasing the size of the “corns” which sped up the rate of combustion. This permitted flatter, more accurate trajectories.
  7. Improvements and calibration of degrees of barrel angulation.
  8. Increased research and knowledge of the science of ballistics.
  9. Increased training and professionalisation of gun crews.

The Armstrong 80lb rifled muzzle loader had a projectile which weighed, you guessed it, 80lb (36kg). A bit later cannons were categorised by the weight of the barrel. e.g., the 80lb Armstrong would have been named a 4 ton cannon. The gunpowder was standardised at 20lb per firing. The gunpowder filled silk bag, then the 80lb projectile were manually lifted onto the loader cradle, then ram rodded into position. Later, bigger cannons, needed a small crane to do the lifting, but in 1866, the 25 Armstrong 80lb cannons which were made specially for Victoria and South Australia, and were the most advanced cannons made at that time, required strong gunners to do the lifting and ramming.

My model Armstrong cannon is basically a display, rather than a working (firing) model. So, for the display, I have made some projectiles, and fake gunpowder bags. I was fortunate to find some old diagrams of both.

As you can see, for an 80lb RML cannon, the projectile is 15″ / 380mm long, and just under 6.3″ diameter. The barrel bore is 6.3″ diameter, and to cope with heat expansion the projectile must have some “windage” (a gap) to avoid jamming. The 1866 projectile has a pointy end, and a rounded rear, which is relatively aerodynamic, and similar to the form used in many modern guns.

Attached to the rear of the projectile is a (dark shaded) copper disk, which expands into the rifling grooves after firing, and further reduces the windage, and causes the projectile to rotate. The copper disk separates from the projectile after they leave the barrel, and it falls to earth. The best examples of the copper “gas checks” have been retrieved from the sea, in front of shore batteries where these cannons were located.

Before gas checks were introduced, the projectiles had copper studs attached to their exterior. The studs fitted into the rifling grooves. The studs were effective at causing the projectile to spin, but they caused rapid wear of the cannon barrel, excessive drag and lower muzzle velocity of the projectile, and were slower to load. The 25 Victorian Armstrong 80lb RML cannons were designed so that studded projectiles could NOT be used. (n.b. note added 7 Jan 2021… that last sentence is incorrect. The 80lb RML’s would have used studded projectiles until mid 1880’s, and then changed to gas check projectiles. instructions were issued then that studded projectiles should not be used.)

The following drawing shows a silk bag, containing the gunpowder. It also shows the central wooden rod which prevented the bag from bursting during ramming. This powder charge is for a 10″ RML, so it is bigger and heavier than the one for the Armstrong 6.3″ RML, but the design is essentially the same.

After loading and aiming, the gunner would perforate the silk bag with a long spike, then insert a quill or later a copper tube, full of fine gunpowder which extended through the vent from the touch hole to the perforated silk bag. Royal Gun Factory experiments showed that the best firings occurred if the silk bag was perforated about half way along the cylindrical bag, so the vent and touch hole were located at that point.

Some scaled projectiles in mild steel and copper gas checks. Some more shaping required for the gas checks, then they will be attached with gunmetal (bronze) pins to the projectiles. The 1866 projectiles had a cast iron case, were packed with explosive, and a fuze. The book is a reprint of an 1897 publication. It has been consulted many times, as you can see from the workshop stains.

The method of igniting the gunpowder will be described in a future post.

Assembly Modules

First, I have decided to NOT rivet the final joins of the chassis. Instead I am using dome head stainless steel bolts and nuts. The main reason is that the other end of the rivets are in impossibly small (for me) cavities and spaces, and I could predict that the final riveting result would be horrible. Even using threaded rivets would be incredibly difficult. This decision does cause me to reflect on the 1866 cannon builders who managed such perfect results with red hot rivets in confined spaces, and again, to be awed.

As you can see, the bolt heads are same shape and size as the 2mm copper rivets. My intention was to paint the rivets and the bolts (after filling the hex holes) and then they would be virtually indistinguishable. However, that plan was blown out of the water by SWMBO. (read on).
The copper rivets and stainless bolts. Not kosher. But interesting?

To divert, back to the painting.

Question. When painting a model, is it best to assemble the whole model then paint, or to completely disassemble every part, paint the parts then reassemble?

1. Disassemble and paint the parts then reassemble. This results in complete paint coverage of all parts. It results in clean separation of different coloured parts. Mistakes involve limited areas and are easier to correct. However, the thickness of the paint can alter carefully machined tolerances. And surfaces can be painted which were intended to be unpainted.

2. Assemble the entire model, then paint. This can make some recesses, corners and hidden areas difficult to access. But the appearance of the entire model can be assessed as the painting progresses, and major mistakes in colour choice can be corrected. The painting process does not alter dimensions or fitting together of components. But paint edges and joins can be difficult to keep neat and straight, particularly in my inexpert hands.

3. (Obviously what I chose to do). Partial assembly, into modules, then paint the modules separately. This has the advantages of both 1 and 2. The modules can be stacked together to periodically assess the results. The modules are smaller than the complete model, and easier to handle. Difficult decisions regarding colour, or whether to paint at all, can be deferred until the easier parts are painted, and some idea of appearance ascertained progressively.

So that is what I am doing. I have painted the bottom part of the chassis, and the carriage. Etch primer at this time, but already firming up ideas about final colour. And my colour and design expert advisor (SWMBO) has had some input into this decision.

These are the main modules, 4 of them. The barrel assembly is stainless steel and it will not be painted. At the rear are the carriage and bottom part of the chassis, which have been primed. The main chassis beams containing the movement gears are unpainted. The carriage looks naked without its bling.

At this stage, I asked for advice from SWMBO. She has suggested that the primed modules should be painted satin black, which should contrast nicely with the brass/bronze components. Avoiding gloss will minimise the finishing defects. Some filling of defects will be required in any case. The black colour will be tested on the carriage, and if it looks OK, the chassis subframe will receive the same colour.

SWMBO’s most interesting suggestion is to NOT paint the main chassis beams at all! Well, a clear lacquer will be required to prevent rust.

But. What about disguising the copper rivets/stainless bolts?

SWMBO: “they look interesting. Leave them.”

Me: “but, but, but, they do not look authentic.”

SWMBO: “This has to look like a work of art, otherwise it will be just a boring dust gatherer.”

She wins.

Warts and All

A few more photos of the model Armstrong RML cannon. Close ups which are useful to me, because they show up defects in the finish which need attention before painting.

Makers mark (mine) to be added to the recoil tube cap. And rubber washer to the bumpers.
Screws and bolts to be replaced with rivets
Metal polishing required for the muzzle
Oil holes for the shaft bearings, and replace the wonky rivets
File and finish the trunnion cap keys
finishing and polishing the loader cradle.
ditto more finishing.
Attach the left side buffers. And make chassis wheel axles. Those M5 hex screws are wrong.
Distance hides a multitude of faults

Sights Set On Completion

Today the gunners’ platform at the rear of the chassis was completed and fitted. It has vertical handles at each side, presumably for the gunners to steady themselves, while aiming the cannon.

The platform, ready to be attached to the chassis. The wood here is Australian Jarrah. The handles are stainless steel, discoloured from silver soldering them to the side brackets. They will eventually be painted. ps. a day later I decided that the fasteners were too big, so I have replaced them with something more appropriate. Pics later.
The platform in position. This photo shows up my first efforts at riveting. Some of those rivets will be replaced when everything is disassembled prior to painting. Those brass nuts holding the wooden boards are too big and will be replaced also.

So, just 2 more parts to be made for this model cannon. Those are the sights.

The information which I have to base the sights on is a bit sketchy. But I do have photos showing these cylindrical holes in the Port Fairy cannons….

The sights are placed in the holes in the right hand trunnion shoulder, and in the breech.

After extensive searching I found several books which were published in the 19th century. This is the best diagram which I found of the rear sight. It is calibrated vertically up to 3600 yards, and there are lateral adjustments to take into account speed of movement of the enemy. The sight is angled at 2+º to the left to compensate for the rifling, which causes the projectile to deviate to the right. The front sight is located in a relatively shallow cylindrical hole. The front sight is a fairly simple point.

Fitting the Loader.

The bracket is now bolted to the chassis. The arm is stainless steel, and the top bracket is silver soldered to the arm. The loader cradle is bolted to the top bracket, the angle being determined with a neat fitting rod inside the bore. The rod looks interesting, no? I will turn up a projectile to sit there.

Then I fitted the bracket which restrains the movements of the elevation gear lock-release…

This is the “locked” position. The handle drops into a recess. The bracket looks a little rough in this magnified view. A bit more filing and sanding required. A simple curved piece encloses the handle. I will make and fit that tomorrow.

So those are the last major parts to be fitted to the cannon. Oops. I forgot. I need to make the aiming sights, and bore the holes in the barrel to hold them. None of the cannons which I have inspected have exisiting sights, presumably stolen-souvenired, but some 19th century publications have good diagrams which I will be able use to make scaled versions.

I will add a rear wooden platform, and the eye bolts.

Then a complete teardown, painting some parts, polishing others.

33.9/34 Not Bad.

It was a bit too warm for casting bronze today. 33ºc/91.4f. But I went ahead. It was sweaty.

I had installed a new thermocouple in the potters oven and it performed flawlessly. Fumes from burning out the PLA and wax from the mold had caused the older thermocouple to behave erratically, but the new stainless steel type was unaffected.

And, as I displayed yesterday, I had made a very ambitious tree with 32 parts to be cast, and a second tree with 2 largish parts.

No vents. No vacuuming of the melt. Just a straight pour.

A few minutes after the pour, the bronze is still at a beautiful fluorescent red heat.
The cast 2 trees. NO bubbles (I painted the PLA trees with a slurry of investment before the investment pour). All parts look perfect, except for a tiny area of moth eaten edge on one of the parts in the top tree. Too small to show up, and quite repairable.
The other side. Not much surface oxidation (phosphor copper used).

So, a very successful pour. Some careful hand sawing required to cut off the parts.

More Gearing Up, and more to come.

This was 4 days ago.
Today. Re the gears on the right, bottom row…. one was machined from bar stock, the other was cast, had the outer ring removed, and a new ring soldered on, then the teeth were cut. Can you pick which is which? And all of the round gears have spent 3 hours in the gemstone tumbler to remove sharp edges. The tumbling has reduced the surface oxidation on the large gear castings, but some more time required to totally remove it.
CNC milling the spokes in one of the intermediate gears. Neat job, but the internal corners with fillets are not really kosher. This gear is barely visible in the finished model.

And the gears with ratchets attached need 2 mates. I tried to make them yesterday, but we had a wild day with thunderstorms and high winds, and my machines were playing up. I might get back to them today. (the ratchets can be seen in the header photo).

In country Victoria we are out of level 3 lockdown! Hooray! Still can’t see family from Melbourne, and minor restrictions on visiting local friends, and need to wear masks when out and about. But things are on the improve. I doubt that we have seen the last of the virus however.

Trunnion Mounts -3

I did not expect these mounts to require a third day session, and they are still not finished!

I discovered that two of the drilled holes in each bracket were in the wrong position, by approx 1mm.  That is a really bothersome error, because the correct position includes half of the existing hole.

I managed the problem by threading the errant holes, and Loctite gluing in some threaded rod.  Each rod was trimmed flush with the surfaces.   Then drilling the new hole, partly through the Loctited metal patch.  That fix worked well.


Threaded rod glued into the errant hole.  Trimmed flush later.  Then redrilled correctly.



The pins hold the trunnion caps in place.  And they took another whole day to make and install.   Ah….  just as well I enjoy all of this.  They are tiny, and I spent at least 50% of the time looking for them on the workshop floor after accidentally dropping them on several occasions.


Milling the pin handles from 2mm steel.  The handles ended up at 7mm long.  The holes were drilled before the outlines were cut.  Then the tabs were ground off using my newly made belt sander belt.  The belt lasted 15 minutes before the belt itself tore, with the join still intact!


Then some delicate silver soldering of a ring to attach a securing chain later, then the pin shaft itself.  The wire through the ring is just to hold it in position during soldering.


And that is one of the 8 pins made.  I will polish them in a gemstone tumbler next session.


On the model, the pins are jammed into position with a cam action, after some filing-shaping.  On the original cannon there was a small protrusion on the inner end of the pin shaft, which fitted through a slot in the side of the carriage.  I could not figure out a method of making such a tiny slot (1mm wide x 1mm deep) through 4mm of steel plus 2mm of brass, but the cam action seems effective.    I will attach some chain soon, because I do not wish to make any more of these.  And yes, the pins handles are slightly over-scaled, but I think not outlandishly so.

So, apart from polishing riveting and painting, I think that the trunnion mounts are finished.

Now planning to make the gear train for the carriage positioning on the chassis, and the pinion, quadrant gear, and bevel gears for the barrel elevation.  We are currently in level 3 lockdown for Covid containment, with level 4 looking likely any day, so obtaining brass for the biggest gears is difficult.  I am considering workarounds.  Apparently community anxiety and depression, family violence, and even suicides are mounting.  When I am in the workshop I am in a different world, thank goodness.








Trunnion Mounts -2

It took a whole day making and fitting  the top caps of the trunnion mounts from brass.


A 76 x 76mm piece of brass was milled to 10mm thickness.  The trunnion straps will finish at 9.5mm , giving me a 0.5mm machining allowance.


The 4 straps were cut out using a new 4mm endmill.  Rounded internal corners were milled square, and the bottom tabs were milled to 2mm thickness.


2mm wide slots were milled into the brackets, and ends of the slots were filed square.  None of my rifling files were small enough, so I ground one to size, leaving the faces and one edge  intact.


Trunnion mount almost finished.  Pins in the tags to come, and they will pull the strap down tight with a cam action.  The half circle line on the bottom bearing is a painting border to delineate the bottom bracket from the bronze bearing surface which will not be painted.  If you inspect the full size trunnion in the previous post you will see what I mean.



Now I can take some measurements of the model, and start the barrel elevating gear.  There are 4 gears to be cut, including  bevel gears, handle, shafts, gear case, and some complex mounts.

Recovering from Friction Welding

Back to the model Armstrong cannon carriage this afternoon, and fitting 2 internal transoms, which provide rigidity to the carriage.

The transoms had been laser cut some months ago.  I cut the floor from 2.8mm stainless steel.

Each transom is attached to the sides and floor by angle iron, 2mm thick.  In the original cannons the angle iron was mitred at the corners, and for this model “A” carriage I decided to try to replicate the mitres.

The angle iron was again bandsawn from RSS tube and milled to 10x10mm.  I used the following setup to form the 45º angles…


This is the Eccentric Engineering tool sharpening arm, set up to 45º on my RadiusMaster belt sander, about to form mitre angles on the angle iron resting to the right.


The Angle iron pieces were glued to their respective transoms, and 2mm holes drilled.  Bolts progressively inserted.  The lengths and cutouts will be trimmed later.


Then milled and filed the corners until the parts fitted neatly into the carriage.  Rivets will be inserted later.


…and for your interest/amusement, depending on your UFO opinion…  Listen to the information, and try to ignore the appearance of the narrator.


….and do I think that UFO’s are real?    I would say that my “belief” has risen from 95% to 99% YES.   One of my readers, with whom I have spoken directly, and for whom I have no doubts about personal veracity, has seen one at close quarters.  Do I think that they are of non human origin?  A bit less positive about that one, but it does seem more likely than not.  Waiting to see if and what NYT does publish.


Friction Welding

Friction welding is a technique which is used in industry.  It involves rotating 2 metal surfaces against each other, under considerable pressure.  The heat generated from the friction is enough to make the contact surfaces to become red hot, then melt together.   There is a funny and instructive YouTube video on the subject by AVE.

I had a costly and unintended demonstration of friction welding in my workshop yesterday.  I was drilling multiple small holes in the 2mm thick sides of the model Armstrong cannon, when, somehow, I activated the Z axis downward in fast motion.  Probably I miskeyed G0 instead of G1.

The hole was drilled in a fraction of a second and the chuck continued downward.  My reflexes are not TOO bad, but by the time I hit the big red button, the bottom of the drill chuck was grinding into and bending the workpiece.  Which was glowing red hot!

“Oh Dear”! (Or something along those lines.)

I could tell at a glance that the workpiece had been destroyed.  I had a spare piece, so it was going to cost some time to repeat the work already spent on the part, probably at least a day.

But that was only the beginning.

I backed off the quill, and tried to remove the workpiece from the of the chuck.  It would not budge, so I released the 2mm drill bit (actually a carbide end mill) from the chuck.   Well, I tried, but the chuck key would not rotate.  The chuck was frozen solid.  So I went and had a cup of coffee.

On return, it was apparent that the workpiece was welded to the end of the chuck, and the chuck jaws were welded together at the tips.

So, I released the chuck and its arbor from the mill, and broke off the workpiece from the chuck with a hammer.  The weld and the drill bit broke.  But the jaws of the chuck were still welded together.

You might recall that I had accidentally destroyed an expensive Japanese chuck some months back, and this one was its “temporary” replacement.  Obviously I will need to buy a replacement this time, but I am in the middle of my cannon build, and want to get on with it.  What to do?

On close inspection the weld between the jaws stopped about 3mm from the jaw tips.  It involved the surfaces between the jaws and the still present carbide drill shank, and the sides of the jaws.   So I ground about 3mm off the ends the jaws until they started to move.  Then used a tiny grinding wheel in my Dremel to remove most of the weld between the sides of the jaws.   At this stage the chuck is looking very ugly, but it works in a fashion, and I was able to resume my drilling.   Very carefully.

I did straighten the bent workpiece, but it is RS.  I spent the remainder of the day using my spare workpiece, repeating the lost work.    No photos of the damage.  I was not in the mood.


These are the sides of the second carriage.  For this one I am drilling the holes in both pieces simultaneously, by clamping, and then bolting them together.   Pretty obviously a better method.  Sometimes I am slow learner.  But I do try to not make the same mistake more than 3 times in a row.


The “B” carriage on the left, and work to date on the “A” carriage on the right.  The bolts will eventually be replaced with rivets.

BTW,  I have de-monetised this blog.  You should not see any more advertisements.  I noted that the income from the ads from the one post on which they appeared, was one cent.  Yep.  One cent.  If I had monetised the site from its beginning, 6 years ago, I would have earned approximately $AUD6 dollars.  Nuf said.

Meanwhile, I discovered some more videos from posts 5-6 years ago.  I have deleted the videos.    A pity about that, but it has created some more storage space and allows me to continue to post on the current plan.

Carriage Assembly, and Gun Spiking.

If you have been following the build of the model Armstrong cannon, you might remember that most of the steel panels for the carriage were laser cut a few months ago. In the past few days I have been drilling dozens of 2mm holes, ready for final riveting.  Meanwhile the parts are held together with 2mm bolts and nuts.  I expect that the rivets will not be installed until I can see that everything fits and works as it should.


Only a few fasteners so far, but it is surprisingly rigid.



The angle iron is cut from the corners of rectangular section tube with 2mm wall thickness.  It does require some more finishing and rounding off, but the scale is accurate.  The big hole is to allow the hydraulic recoil tube to be inserted.  The recoil cylinder will be 18mm diameter.

SWMBO’s comment….  “It looks like it is made from Meccano”.  I guess that there are a lot of holes.

Meanwhile I have discovered an excellent reference source, published in 1879.  It is a free book, available online at Google Books.  “Treatise on the Construction and Manufacture of Ordnance in the British Service”.  517 pages.  Original price 9 shillings.  It is full of gems for the cannon modeller.  As an example, this is a drawing of the sights on the 64 pounder RML converted to 80 pounder.  You will see that the barrel shape is different from the one which I am modelling, which is a mark 3.  But it is probable that the sights remained the same as those pictured.  A great find, with enough detail for me to scale down and model.

Screen Shot 2020-07-19 at 12.18.03 am

Note that the sight on the right is not vertical, but sloped at approximately 2º.  That is to compensate for the slight deflection of the projectile to the right, caused by the rifling.

Screen Shot 2020-07-19 at 12.07.37 am

From the same book, a detailed description of the Vent / touch hole / ignition hole.  It was NOT just a simple hole drilled into the barrel, but a copper cylinder which was threaded into the barrel.  The touch hole was drilled through the copper.  The reason for this was that the touch hole gradually became bigger with use, and needed replacement after a certain number of firings.  It also allowed repair of the touch hole if the gun was “spiked” by the opposition, but that was a major exercise which required specialist knowledge and tools, and a return to the factory or one of the 5 workshops listed above.

Model Armstrong Gun Cypher

Yesterday I spent some time with 600 grit emery paper on the barrel.  A bit more elbow grease is required, but I took some pics of the progress….


From the left, the sighting line called the “line of metal”.  There will be a corresponding line on the muzzle.  Next is the weight of the barrel in hundredweight.  81cwt = 4 imperial tons plus one cwt plus 2/4ths of a cwt plus zero pounds.  One hundredweight = 112 lbs, so this barrel weighs 9128lb / 4140kg.   The arrows indicate that the barrel has been “proofed” and accepted for service and also possibly mark the end of bore.  The dot would be where the “vent” would be located (the ignition or touch hole) usually about half way along the powder cartridge.  Then the reigning monarch’s cypher.  In this case, Queen Victoria, with her motto, that of the Order of the Garter.  HONI SOIT QUI MAL Y PENSE.  The translation from French is  “Shame to him who thinks ill of it” (“it” being the Order of the Garter)


The Royal Gun Factory number of this barrel, and axis lines.  One reference stated that they mark the centre of gravity of the barrel, but according to my assessment, the COG is well behind this point.

The other trunnion marks are yet to be lasered.  Maybe late next week.

I am delighted with the quality of the laser “engraving”.  It is sharp, crisp and finely detailed.  Again, thanks to Stuart Tankard for the use of his laser, and for operating it.

How were Trunnions Joined to 1866 Barrels? Correction of a previous post.

The earliest cast cannon barrels were cast in one piece, and the trunnions were included in the casting.

By 1866 however, large barrels were made from 4 or more separate pieces, which were heat shrunk together, and additionally forge welded together.

The following information comes from “Naval Gunnery” by Captain H. Garbett, published in 1897.

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The diagram is of a 64lb Armstrong rifled muzzle loader.  The 80 lb muzzle loader, which I am modelling, was very similar to, and based on the 64lb gun, except that the diameters of the sections were larger, giving greater wall thickness.

The “A” tube, containing the bore,  was made from best quality forged steel, in one piece, although earlier models used the “coil” method described below, and earlier than that it was wrought iron.  It was permanently closed at the breech, but in slightly later models it was open, sealed with a copper disk which was held against the cascabel.  The A tube was bored and rifled after assembly of all of the barrel pieces.

The “B” tube, or tapered chase was heat shrunk onto the “A” tube.  It was a coil construction. (see below).

The “Breech Coil” had 3 components, plus a cascable which screwed into place with a deep, asymmetric thread.  One of the components was the “trunnion ring”, which was welded to, and separated the other 2 components.


When steel is forged into a strip, apparently it is strongest along its length due to the orientation of the crystalline structure.   It was discovered that the strongest cannon barrels were made from long strips of forged iron or steel (up to 200 feet long), which were then wound around a mandrel, while red hot, forming a cylinder.  The red hot coil was then hammer welded into a solid cylindrical mass, with most of the steel crystals aligned circumferentially.  It was then machined into its final shape, with allowance for final heat shrinkage onto its mates.



The trunnion ring was forged from a single billet of steel.  Two holes were punched through the red hot billet, expanding the sides.  Further hammering shaped the trunnions from the lateral expansions.  The final shape was then machined.

The three breech pieces were forge welded together, and heat shrunk onto the “A” tube and the “B” tube.  I could not discover the construction sequence of welding/shrinking these components.

This post is to correct an earlier post about the trunnions in the Armstrong cannon  construction, in which I stated that the trunnions were heat shrunk into the barrel.  The incorrect implication was that the trunnions were heat shrunk into holes in the barrel sides.  My recent reading indicated that the “trunnion holes” method, which I used in my model, was NOT the method used in 1866.  I am not losing sleep over this lack of authenticity in construction of my model.  One of many compromises which are made when scale modelling.



Lasering the Model Armstrong Cannon

This is the Queen Victoria emblem and motto on the original cannon at Port Fairy, Victoria.

3349 emblem

The “Victoria Regina” emblem, and Order of the Garter slogan motto.

And this is what is now lasered onto the model cannon..


Pretty good, Hey?  On the model, the emblem is 20x12mm.    It was downloaded from the internet, edited with Corel draw, saved as a BMP file, and then lasered onto the steel model barrel.   This is a photo of the emblem on the model cannon.  The rectangular background will disappear with polishing.

It was made with a 30 watt fibre laser, driven by its owner, Stuart Tankard.  It took about 30 minutes, 200 passes.   Shows up my substandard turning.





Shows the emblem appearing after 100+ passes.


and this is an enlarged image of part the laser engraving.

I have some videos of the process, and I will make them available after some editing.

This was incredibly exciting.  The model cannon requires more polishing, and colouring with a gun blacking chemical.

We also engraved the cannon weight, sight marks, and year of manufacture on the trunnions.  I will post those photos when available.



and some Carriage Wheels….

The wheels on the carriage, not the chassis.


I made 20 of these, 20mm diameter,



The small cap screw bolts will be replaced with solid rivets.

The wheel axles are yet to be made and pinned.  (the Philips head bolts will replaced with solid pins and washers, and held with taper pins.)

And just to remind you of the appearance I am aiming for…

whole cannon R obl

I do wonder about the original colour of these 1866 cannons.  The rusty iron colour has some attraction, but I would be certain that it is not original.  So far I have had no luck finding out what the original colours were.

Firing a Model Cannon

If you want to watch a video of a model cannon being fired, try YouTube.  Or you could watch the following video, sent to me by one of my readers.  This is a slightly larger scale than my model, and a breech loader.  Superbly built.  Click on the arrow to watch it.

When anyone finds out that I am building a model cannon, the inevitable question arises “are you going to fire it?”

Up until recently my answer was “no”, because,  1. I do not have a shooter’s licence, 2. I did not intend to register the cannon and 3. Australia’s gun laws which I support, are strict and policed.

If a model cannon is capable of being fired, it must be registered.  As an owner built gun, it would have to be “proved”, i.e.  be inspected by a gun expert, and have some proving shots with powder alone, powder doubled alone, powder plus shot, double powder plus shot, and finally double powder plus double shot.  Then the gun is certified for the particular weight of powder plus shot.  I think that I got that sequence right.  It was explained to me by a gun testing expert recently.

For a model cannon not required to be registered it must be incapable of being fired.  For one such such as I am building, a muzzle loading, black powder cannon, that would mean not drilling the touch hole.  In my case I could have the appearance of a touch hole, by making a dot at the site, but no drilling.

To investigate the situation, I have checked the Victorian Government website, spoken to police, and spoken to a firearms safety course instructor.  I also visited a shooting range where a blackpowder gun club was having a target shoot.  Members were shooting black powder guns and rifles at targets 50-100 meters distant.

About 50 years ago I was in the Citizens Military Forces, a university infantry company, and had instruction and practice in using a 7.62mm SLR, an F7 submachine gun, and an M60 machine gun.

My point is that the black powder guns were VERY loud.  Painfully loud in fact, until ear plugs were fitted.  Substantially louder than I remembered SLR’s, F7’s or M60’s.  But maybe I have just forgotten.  And the blackpowder shots were accompanied by a gout of flame, and a large puff of smoke.  Spectacular, in fact.

Then, under the close supervision of a gun owner, I fired a black powder hunting rifle myself.  It was loaded by the owner, using a ram rod for the charge, and a mallet then ram rod for the ball.  2 triggers.  The first was a heavy pull to ready the shot.  The second was a hair trigger to fire it.  And hair trigger it was.  Just a touch and it fired.   Despite the BANG, some fire and smoke, and the instantaneous puff of dirt where I had aimed, the recoil was minimal, more of a firm push against the shoulder.  It was an interesting and exciting experience.  Less smoke and flame than the other blackpowder guns nearby, but maybe being a hunting gun, he had used a more modern powder.  The following short video shows my son in law taking instruction.

I have put in an application for the firearms safety course which is supervised by the Victorian Police.  Then there is a 2 part multi choice examination, with no incorrect answers permitted on critical questions, and 18/20 (I think) for the rest.  If passed, there is a criminal history check, and references required.  Then a compulsory 4 week wait.

I will get the shooter’s licence, to keep my options open, but have not yet decided about registering the model cannon.  It would be nice to have a video of it being fired, for this blog, but it is very likely that it would be a once only event.  My interest in the cannon is its historical associations, and the technology, plus the challenges of building it.

If the cannon is capable of being fired, it would have to be registered indefinitely, and the owner would need a shooters licence.  After all of the time and effort in its research and construction I  would hope that someone in my family would eventually own it, so I am thinking that I will not make a touch hole, and make it incapable of being fired.  Another possibility which I will explore, is to register the cannon, make a video, then make it incapable of being fired by partly filling the bore and touch hole with molten metal then deregistering it.

Meanwhile it will have no touch hole.