Wednesday 24 September 2014

Savealls or Save-Alls

In the 17th and 18th century, and quite possibly earlier, people used what was called a saveall in order to use all of the candle. The saveall could be a three pronged device for holding a candle stub, or as seen in the sketch below of the girl selling spunks and savealls, they can be square with a spike in the center. These savealls fitted in the top of a normal candle holder.

Sketches by author.

This later 18th or 19th century image shows a different type of saveall, looking more like a gunsmith's hand vise! Perhaps it is?

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Loading and Firing A Flintlock Fusil.

Chilworth Gunpowder Mill.

My thanks to Lesley Ward for the links on this article that also led to the video. 
My thanks to Paul Wingfield for this video.

Secluded in the surrey Hillside, near St Martha's church is the old gunpowder works. Chilworth Gunpowder works was established in 1625 by the East India Company and finally closed in 1920. It was worked by a number of private companies and became an important supplier of gunpowder to the Government. A significant number of buildings from the gunpowder factory can still be found. The buildings and area are now looked after by Guildford Borough Council and English Heritage.

Keith's Chilworth Gunpowder container.

Photo By Andrew Norris.

Photo By Andrew Norris.

Photo By Andrew Norris.
“I do not remember to have seen such Variety of Mills and Works upon so narrow a Brook, and in so little a Compass; there being Mills for Corn, Cloth, Brass, Iron, Powder etc.” John Evelyn 1676.

Sunday 14 September 2014

Gun Laws Australia. To satisfy their conceit, they manipulate statistics to suit themselves and pretend that “the science is settled”.

Image courtesy of the late Dr R.A.F. Gilbert of Falkirk Scotland.

The Australian government is so inadequate in its appraisal of gun legislation that it requires permit to purchase, registration, and licensing for flintlocks, wheel-locks and matchlock muzzle-loading guns, rifles and pistols. 

Wednesday 10 September 2014

Muzzle-Loading Gun Suppliers Australia.

  • Forbes Wholesale Pty. Ltd.
    P.O. Box 589
    Victoria 3095

    Phone: (03) 9439-6111
    Fax: (03) 9439-7288
    Mobile: 041-937-6624
    Email: forbes@alphalink.com.au
    Web Page: http://www.forbesws.com.au

    Blackpowder Specialists.
    Muzzleloading rifles & equipment.
    Black powder & long range rifle specialists.
    Sharps & rolling block rifles.
    Target shooting equipment.
    Target shooting & muzzleloading supplies.
    Licensed Gun Dealer No. 407-000-00F
    Pedersoli Colour Catalogues $5.00 posted.
  • Martin's FirearmsDealer and ImporterMartin Dorney
    P.O. Box 68
    NSW 2223

    Phone: (02) 9579-5126
    Fax: (02) 9580-3826

    F. LLI Pietta, accessories & spare parts.
    Lic. Dealer No. 400098799
  • Wagga Small Arms Co.
    Lic'd Firearms Dealers

    Military Books Bought and SoldABN 21 082 441 665
    P.O. Box 260
    NSW 2650

    Marilyn & Graham Perritt
     (02) 6921-8533
     (02) 6921-8572
     Graham 041-924-3452
     Marilyn 041-921-8078
  • Mike Bateman Muzzle Loading Builders Supplies 
    Lic'd Firearms Dealers

    Green Mountain Barrels, Left & Right Locks and Triggers.
    The following are available on special order-
    Drop in replacement barrels for Thompson Center Hawken rifles. Comes complete, blued, sights, breeched, and ramrod. Available to suit round ball or conical projectiles. $250.00 approx, depending on the US dollar exchange rate at time of ordering. A complete range of BPC barrels in .32, .38, .40, or .45 in four different profiles, all in 4140 steel suitable for jacketed bullets as well as lead bullets. Call for information and availability on all other items such as bullet moulds, cappers, rifle furniture, inletted stocks, etc.

    Phone: (02) 6281-6115

18th century Cow-Pens.

Artist's interpretation of the Catherine Brown cow-pen.

Plan view of Brown cow-pen.

"From the Heart of the Settlements we are now got into the Cow-pens; the Keepers of these are very extraordinary Kind of Fellows, they drive up their Herds on Horseback, and they had need do so, for their Cattle are near as wild as Deer; a Cow-pen generally consists of a very large Cottage or House in the Woods, with about four-score or one hundred Acres, inclosed with high Rails and divided; a small Inclosure they keep for Corn, for the family, the rest is the Pasture in which they keep their calves; but the Manner is far different from any Thing you ever saw; they may perhaps have a Stock of four or five hundred to a thousand Head of Cattle belonging to a Cow-pen, these run as they please in the Great Woods, where there are no Inclosures to stop them. In the Month of March the Cows begin to drop their Calves, then the Cow-pen Master, with all his Men, rides out to see and drive up the Cows with all their new fallen Calves; they being weak cannot run away so as to escape, therefore are easily drove up, and the Bulls and other Cattle follow them; and they put these Calves into the Pasture, and every Morning and Evening suffer the Cows to come and suckle them, which done they let the Cows out into the great Woods to shift for their Food as well as they can; whilst the Calf is sucking one Tit of the Cow, the Woman of the Cow-Pen is milking one of the other Tits, so that she steals some Milk from the Cow, who thinks she is giving it to the Calf; soon as the Cow begins to go dry, and the Calf grows Strong, they mark them, if they are Males they cut them, and let them go into the Wood. Every Year in September and October they drive up the Market Steers, that are fat and of a proper Age, and kill them; they say they are fat in October, but I am sure they are not so in May, June and July; they reckon that out of 100 Head of Cattle they can kill about 10 or 12 steers, and four or five Cows a Year; so they reckon that a Cow-Pen for every 100 Head of Cattle brings about 40 pounds Sterling per Year. The Keepers live chiefly upon Milk, for out of their Vast Herds, they do condescend to tame Cows enough to keep their Family in Milk, Whey, Curds, Cheese and Butter; they also have Flesh in Abundance such as it is, for they eat the old Cows and lean Calves that are like to die. The Cow-Pen Men are hardy People, are almost continually on Horseback, being obliged to know the Haunts of their Cattle". "You see, Sir, what a wild set of Creatures Our English Men grow into, when they lose Society, and it is surprising to think how many Advantages they throw away, which our industrious Country-Men would be glad of: Out of many hundred Cows they will not give themselves the trouble of milking more than will maintain their Family."
 "Extracts of Letters from an Officer" (London, 1755).

Monday 8 September 2014

The Old Foodie: How to Cook a Grenade.

The Old Foodie: How to Cook a Grenade.: Last week I gave you a brief story about the pomegranate ( here ). In it I mentioned the old-fashioned dish called a grenade (granade, gran...

The Old Foodie: Cookery Words in 1706.

The Old Foodie: Cookery Words in 1706.: It is a long time since I had fun with old food words. I was reminded of this when I referred to the definition of granade (in yesterday’s...

Saturday 6 September 2014

What is Authentic, and what is not?

What is Authentic, and what is not?
Way back when I first got into 18th century living history, there was a belief among many that if an object was made out of authentic natural materials, then it must be right. This was called being “primitive”. But later on I learnt that this was not how it should be done, a lot of research has to be done to make sure that (a) a particular item did in fact exist, (b) what materials that item was commonly made from, and (c) the item would have been available to your persona in your particular chosen period.
We, those of us who are serious living historians, do not wish to invent something new because it makes life easier; we are only concerned with what actually was. It is simply not good enough to say “well the material was available, and someone may have thought to do this”, yes they may have, but did they? Where is your proof? Where is your documentation?
I have seen items like tricky cap holders made from horn and wood, I have seen holes drilled in the base of knife handles to be used as a powder measure, knives that are also fire steels, and shelters that there is to my knowledge no record of ever existing. Take the diamond shelter for instance, just like the 20th century “Baker Tent” the Diamond shelter seems to have become accepted at Rendezvous because it is made from canvas.
 But no where is period writings have I read that this type of shelter was ever used, the most common shelter used seems to have been the lean-to, whether made using a blanket or an oilcloth. So if you want to use a diamond shelter or a Baker Tent, fine, but don’t kid yourself that you are camping in 18th century style.

"The hunting and target rifles by their various makers, intended for the use their title denotes, had the octagon barrel turned cylindrically at the muzzle for about one inch to fit the guide bullet starter which was used in loading the rifle when used for target work... weighed from about 9 to 14 pounds, and had a longer accuracy range than the hunting rifles as well as being more accurate. These were also provided with a 'straight starter,' much lighter than the other, for use when hunting with these rifles and had various combinations of sights"


"Some earlier percussion rifles are 'turned for a starter' i.e., have their octagon barrels turned cylindrical for an inch or a little less at the muzzle in order to accept a plunger-like arrangement for driving the bullet the first few inches into the barrel."

Holman J. Swinney, NEW YORK STATE GUNMAKERS, 1952
New 19th Century Plungers.


Non authentic turn screw/nipple wrench combination tool with horn handle.

The short Starter, did it exist?

An Essay On Shooting 1789.

No mention above regarding a short starter, and it is quite precise in all other regards.

Thursday 4 September 2014


A follower of my video channel (https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCHEOMSZJETfj3GnoyONuvCQ) asked me what books did I recommend on 18th century woodslore. I told him that I learnt myself from being in the woods since a small child, and learnt nothing of woodslore from books, so I was unable to make any recommendations.
Woodslore covers a wide variety of wilderness living skills, for those of us who learnt from actually being in the woods it was a matter of trial and error, or the sudden realisation that what you just did was dangerous and you make a mental note not to do it again. I am not sure that I can remember everything that I now do in the woods just naturally, but I will try and list a few things that could be useful and perhaps save you injury or death. These are not listed in any priority.

·        Some Woodslore I have learnt over the years:
  • ·        If you want to learn what nature has to teach, you must first understand that you are just another animal and have a natural place in this environment.
  • ·        Never rush through the woods unless you have to, you can miss a lot along the trail by rushing. Take the time to stop frequently and to look and listen.
  • ·        Always remember to look up when in the woods & look out for “widow makers”. Widow Makers are branches which have broken off and are just hanging there waiting for the wind to bring them down.
  • ·        Always check the safety of the trees around you when choosing a camp site. Especially look out for widow makers.
  • ·        Never step onto a log which may not hold your weight. You never know what may be inside it.
  • ·        Never step over a log without knowing what is on the other side.
  • ·        On very windy days, it is best not to wander in the woods. Even a small stick from high in a tree can be driven into the ground.
  • ·        Never use your axe for cutting firewood if there is no real need. Plenty of firewood can be collected from the forest floor, and wood can be broken over a rock or on another piece of wood.
  • ·        Pay attention to the sounds around you, any and all sounds should be watched for. A falling branch, a falling tree, animal noises, breaking sticks, rolling rocks etc. Always trust your instincts even though it may seem not to have come to anything. If it does not feel right, pay attention.
  • ·        Always clear a debris free area around your camp fire area and your shelter so that fire can not spread in the night.
  • ·        Never make a fire in very hot weather.
  • ·        If you do not want to attract attention, do not make a fire.
  • ·        Always carry enough food supplies in case game is scarce.
  • ·        Always carry some foods that do not require cooking.
  • ·        Always carry your gun loaded when there may be potential danger.
  • ·        Always use a hammer boot/cap on your flintlock as a safety precaution.
  • ·        A gun shot can be heard for miles in the woods.
  • ·        There is very little edible plants available in winter time.
  • ·        Traps will save ammunition and they will be working for you while you sleep or are busy with other chores.
  • ·        Keep an eye out for natural shelters on your travels, you never know when you may pass that way again and be in need of a quick shelter.
  • ·        Always look after your equipment and keep it in good order and your blades sharp. Your tools have a specific functions, don’t use them for any other purpose if you don’t have to.
  • ·        If you are going to make a shelter, do it before you make fire. If it starts to rain or snow, you can make fire under shelter.
  • ·        Always store spare kindling at the back of your shelter in case your fire goes out in the night.
  • ·        Stack firewood close so you can stoke the fire without leaving your blanket.
  • ·        Use rocks at the back of your fire to reflect some warmth into your shelter. Never use rocks from a creek or river.
  • ·        If you dig a fire pit, use the earth to surround the pit to stop rain water flowing in and extinguishing your fire.
  • ·        Make your bed on a pile of sticks to keep you up off the cold ground and to let water flow under you should it run through your shelter.
  • ·        Collect water for you water bottle at every opportunity. You never know where the next water source may be.
  • ·        Water is a source of food, always follow a water course if you can.
  • ·        Other animals can teach you much, pay attention to them. Animals do not naturally rush through the woods without reason, pay attention. Other animals may have better hearing and scent than you do, and this can save your life. Pay attention!
  • ·        Always carry spare tinder in your pack.
  • ·        Look for tinders along the trail if you are getting low.
  • ·        Make sure to top up your tinderbox at every fire making if it needs it.
  • ·        Always have your fire steel securely tied to your person so that it can not be lost.
  • ·        Before making fire, remove your powder horn and place it at the back of your shelter and cover it with your blanket.
  • ·        Always try and set up camp in daylight, and check the camp site for ant and spider nests.
  • ·        Layer your clothing on a trek so you can remove or add to suit the temperature. Don’t push too hard and perspire, if your clothes do get wet in winter, take them off in front of the fire and dry them out before bedding down, or you will get cold in the night.
  • ·        Always carry a candle with you in your fire bag, it will help to make fire if the kindling is damp.
  • ·        When your gunpowder wallet is empty, it is a good place to store spare tinder.
  • ·        When looking for dry kindling in wet weather, look under rocks and fallen trees, look in hollow trees, cut wood from dead trees; under the surface it will be dry.
  • ·        Prepare several sizes of kindling before making fire.
  • ·        Trees will usually fall down hill, but not always!
  • ·        The bark will come off a living tree easier in the summer than in the winter.
  • ·        Any large animal is dangerous if wounded.
  • ·        Snakes can be slow to move and aggressive in spring, take care where you tread.
  • ·        When drying your moccasins in front of the fire, do it slowly! Do not overheat the leather.
  • ·        Always plug the vent hole before making fire with the lock of your gun.
  • ·        Always make sure your gun can’t fall when not in your hands!
  • ·        If you should lose the trail when tracking wounded game, mark the last sign with your handkerchief or neckerchief or patch cloth and move in ever increasing circles around your marker until you pick up the sign again. Always take care the game is not waiting in ambush!
  • ·        Be sure to clearly sight your game before you shoot.
  • ·        Be sure of the area beyond your target.
  • ·        A ball or bullet can ricochet off water.
  • ·        When using an axe or hatchet/tomahawk, make sure you are clear should the tool glance off the wood.
  • ·        Always carry a bandage for injury or snake bite.
  • ·        Some people have survived 3 weeks without food, but depending on exertion and weather conditions you will need water within 3 days. Always carry water with you.
  • ·        On long treks, carry a ball mould and a lead ladle. You can remould the spent lead you retrieve from game.
  • ·        Do not use dried grass or bark as wadding if there is a danger of starting a fire!
  • ·        Char your tinder in the fire and extinguish it by placing it in your tinderbox and closing the lid.
  • ·        Keep some uncharred tinder in your tinderbox.
  • ·        Carry your fireworks in a greased leather fire bag to keep them dry.
  • ·        Always wrap the head of your hatchet or use a sheath when carrying.
  • ·        A button closure on the flap of your shot pouch will keep all inside safe if you should take a fall.
  • ·        Wear your powder horn toward your back when hunting so as to stop sparks landing on the horn.
  • ·        Seal inside your lock mortise and barrel channel with beeswax.
  • ·        A smokeless fire is made with small dry kindling.
  • ·        To keep a straight line in the woods without a compass in daylight, place your back to a tree and focus on another two successive trees in front of you. When you reach the first tree, put your back to that tree and repeat.
  • ·        Marking trees to mark a trail is a good idea to maintain direction, and to aid you should you wish to return. But remember, other people can follow your trail.
  • ·        To keep you warmer at night with only one blanket, carry extra clothing in your blanket roll.
  • ·        When packing for the trail, there must be a compromise between two principles: maximum self-reliance, and minimum weight.

This is not a conclusive list, there may be some I have missed. But there is always more to learn, we never stop learning and nature never ceases to amaze and surprise me. Take care wherever you roam.