by Jymm Hoffman
British Musket Tool
Starting material: 3/16 by 3/4
Finished overall size:
Approximately 3 tall by 3 1/2 wide
Wide blade Approximately 9/16 wide
Narrow Blade approximately 1/4 wide
Threaded blade, 1/4 wide at base, tapering to blunt point to allow 10-32 threads
This project can improve your hammer control for splitting and drawing out.
This musket tool was the standard pattern used by the British army for over 75 years with little change. After many request to reproduce these, I started to study as many originals as I could and colleagues started sending me photos and tracings of as many originals they could examine as well. There have been a few misinterpretations about musket tools found during archeological digs. For example, some thought the narrow leg of the tool would be used for pushing pins out of the stock in order to remove the gun barrels. This was due to a couple of musket tools being found in such poor condition that the threads were either completely gone of very hard to discern. One colleague had taken a trip to exam the collection in the Tower of London. He reported to me finding many musket tools in new condition, all of which had worms attached to the narrow and rounded third leg. I have since obtained a reprinted copy of Timmons Tool catalog from the 18th Century. Indeed, the Y shaped gun tool in this catalog is shown with a worm attached, as well as other gun tools with worms attached. The conclusion we have made is it was simply a way to store the worm so it would be harder to loose. Several of us do discredit the idea of using the narrow leg as a pin punch to remove the barrels and promote the idea that the common soldier would have been discouraged to do this for fear of loosing the small pins while in the field. We also agree that this tool is more than adequate to change flints and remove the lock from the stock for basic cleaning. More than this would risk loosing valuable parts that would be too difficult to replace. While I have not seen the tools in the Tower of London to compare, of all of the ones on this side of the pond, no two are exactly alike. Overall size varies from 3 1/2 by 4 as the largest and down to 2 by 3. Another area of variation is the leg that holds the worm. Some were wide enough that the threads were on the very end while others were so narrow that the threads were close to the base of the fork. There were less variations in thickness. I have also seen 2 of these that had 3 flat screw driver blades. While it is not necessary to produce these to machine shop tolerances and exactly alike, it is a project I encourage students to make several to see how close they can get them. For those wondering what a worm is: it is a cork screw type of device that would be attached to a ramrod for cleaning the barrel of these muzzle loading weapons. Most of these worms were made of 2 wires of about 1/8 rod, attached to a round slug to form a double worm. I have not had the time to take on the task of figuring out ways to make the worm affordable yet. So here is the method that I use to make this pattern tool:is also how I hold the tool to draw out the two legs of the Y, rounding one to be threaded.
Start with a piece of 3/16 by 3/4 by about 30 long, long enough to not need tongs for the first few. I start to forge a double shoulder about an inch into the bar and drawing it down to about 3/16 thick by 1/2 wide at the shoulder and flaring it back out to 3/4 wide as the blade is thinned down to about 1/8. I use the corner of the hammer on the shoulder and the edge of the face as a fuller to speed up the drawing out process. Then cut off from bar about 1 1/4 from the shoulder, cutting all the way around the bar.
To make the other two legs of the Y, I prefer to use the splitting method I learned from Peter Ross for making forks. Use a very narrow chisel, hold the part to be split vertically in the vise and split while hot. I will also use the chisel to pry open the split and finish opening at the anvil while using a tongs to hold the wide blade near the split, which is also how I hold the tool to draw out the two legs of the Y, rounding one to be threaded.