Photos of readers

Today’s photo and narrative comes from reader Max Blanke and his trusty hound. Max is engaged in an very interesting quarantine project, and his commentary is indented:

Here is an image of the dog and myself today, working in the shop. One of my current projects is on the table. It is a hand cannon, of a type that would have been used in Western Europe around 1750. The originals would have been used to lob bombs over fortifications (“bombs” in the cartoon sense of iron balls filled with gunpowder with a fuse stuck into it) .

I, however, am building this for a different purpose. I sized the bore so that I can shoot racquet balls for the dog.  Almost any other device for shooting rubber balls would have been much simpler to make, but I have never built a flintlock before, and it was on the list of things I wanted to know how to do.  I have built percussion guns before, but they are easier to design and build.

I sort of had the idea of this project in the back of my mind for several years. But recently I was working on a more important project, and ended up with just the right piece of 4150 tubing, so I just stuck it on the lathe and got started. The stock is walnut.

My current quarantine routine is that every other day, I go over to help an elderly friend with his restoration of a 1940 ford convertible. The rest of the time I either do chores around the house, or go down to the shop and work on frivolous projects like this.

28 Comments

  1. rickflick
    Posted May 31, 2020 at 3:20 pm | Permalink

    That’s one lucky dog!

    • Janet
      Posted May 31, 2020 at 3:40 pm | Permalink

      Exactly what I’m thinking! Hey, Max what is your pup’s name?

      • max blancke
        Posted May 31, 2020 at 6:01 pm | Permalink

        He is Kaiju, in every sense of the word.

  2. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 31, 2020 at 3:23 pm | Permalink

    Sam Elliot called, Max. He wants his mustache back. 🙂

    • Max Blancke
      Posted May 31, 2020 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

      I would bet $100 bucks that Sam Elliot could not tie a diamond hitch.

  3. Posted May 31, 2020 at 3:30 pm | Permalink

    Um, is that thing legal? I don’t know if the law distinguishes between “firearms” and “firearms that only shoot racquet balls”.

    My eye is actually drawn more to the interesting tools and jigs hanging on your wall!

    • Max Blancke
      Posted May 31, 2020 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

      Since it is a flintlock, it is not even a firearm, except in NJ.
      At least one company sells a kit that you can assemble-
      http://www.therifleshoppe.com/catalog_pages/hand_mortar/hand_mortar_(819).htm
      But mine is shop made. Some of the lock parts I purchased as rough castings, which required shaping, finishing and hardening, but I prefer making pretty much everything myself, including the powders used to fire them.

  4. Ken Kukec
    Posted May 31, 2020 at 3:33 pm | Permalink

    It is a hand cannon, of a type that would have been used in Western Europe around 1750. The originals would have been used to lob bombs over fortifications (“bombs” in the cartoon sense of iron balls filled with gunpowder with a fuse stuck into it).

    In building those ancient little bombs, buddy, be extra careful not to get hoist with your own petard.

    • Max Blancke
      Posted May 31, 2020 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

      fun etymology!

      • merilee
        Posted May 31, 2020 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

        I know that a petard is a bomb but it always seems strange to be hoist by such. Seems that one would more likely be hoist by a sword.

        • Max Blancke
          Posted May 31, 2020 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

          Hoist is to raise, lift, or elevate. That can certainly be a consequence of unexpected detonation.

          • merilee
            Posted May 31, 2020 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

            Yeah, I guess so

    • Jonathan Wallace
      Posted June 1, 2020 at 5:15 am | Permalink

      “The pétard, a rather primitive and exceedingly dangerous explosive device…”

      Curious comment here on the Wikipedia page. Most modern bombs would be far more dangerous to the intended target and any bomb is surely meant to be dangerous. I guess the author had the danger to the person setting the bomb in mind rather than its intended victim.

  5. Laurance
    Posted May 31, 2020 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    Here’s another dog with staff who entertains him:

    • merilee
      Posted May 31, 2020 at 4:32 pm | Permalink

      🐾🐾

      • Terry Pedersen
        Posted May 31, 2020 at 5:32 pm | Permalink

        Wonderful and very smart dog!Dachies have to work hard to keep their weight down too.

        • Debra Coplan
          Posted May 31, 2020 at 6:37 pm | Permalink

          Don’t we all–

          • merilee
            Posted May 31, 2020 at 7:03 pm | Permalink

            +1

    • Posted May 31, 2020 at 6:46 pm | Permalink

      I’m entertained just watching this! 🙂

    • rickflick
      Posted May 31, 2020 at 6:53 pm | Permalink

      Yes, but the mechanism looks complicated. How about heading outdoors and tossing the ball. That way you both lose weight. 😀

  6. Debra Coplan
    Posted May 31, 2020 at 6:39 pm | Permalink

    You are definitely dog’s best friend!

  7. Posted May 31, 2020 at 6:51 pm | Permalink

    I suppose you could even make your own gunpowder. There is the ‘potato gun’ option, with ether and a lighter, but this has it beat.

  8. Mark R.
    Posted May 31, 2020 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

    Love your Brittany. Beautiful dog…smiles.
    What kind of charge and range you lookin’ for? You tryin’ to trim time off your play and your dog’s retrieve? I can see the ball going off into places your pooch can’t find. Nice looking device though. Keep us informed. Interested to see a video of the tennis ball launch by ancient weapon.

    • Max Blancke
      Posted May 31, 2020 at 10:16 pm | Permalink

      I have been testing it with 30 gr of homemade FFG powder, and only getting about 150 feet. The way the barrel is designed, the first two inches from the muzzle are slightly undersized for the racquet ball. It then tapers down to a further two inches of .45 cal. That way, I can put the charge in, follow it with a wadding to keep it all near the breech, then put the ball in.
      Unfortunately, what seems to be happening is that when the charge goes off, it sort of flattens the ball, so it does not travel in a normal ballistic trajectory.
      Phase two of the experiment is going to be a racquet ball filled with foam. Hopefully, it will be able to maintain it’s shape and travel at least 100 yards.
      If that fails to yield the desired results, I will cast projectiles from latex or whatever.
      The dog already can catch a Frisbee in the air as far as I am able to throw it. He loves racquet balls as well, especially if they have a little quail scent.
      Bird dogs often get gun training, so they associate the sound of a shot with locating the bird, and are not alarmed by the sound. Even if he does not see the ball land, he can learn to find it by scent, and by following my arm signals. A hundred yards or so is a reasonable distance for locating a winged bird on foot.
      Now, the truth is that I rarely hunt. I will sometimes accompany my Dad, but I primarily shoot targets, and occasionally nuisance animals. But I have a dog from a long line of very accomplished bird dogs, and it seems wrong to not train him.
      And it is an excuse to build this ridiculous yet formidable object.

      • Mark R.
        Posted June 1, 2020 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

        Interesting. Thanks for the added info. The foam filled ball seems promising.

        For the last 20 years, we’ve had German Shorthair Pointers; my folks breed them. I trained a couple, but man, once they’re trained they get a little schizo around other animals (not just birds). Since I don’t hunt (like you, I’d go out with my dad) I don’t train them anymore. Much more mellow, though they are a high energy dog regardless. We have 15 acres, so they get plenty of running room. Both of our pointers are primarily mole/rabbit hunters; birds interest them, they just can’t catch ’em. They live up to their classification of “fur and feather” hunters, that’s for sure.

        • Max Blancke
          Posted June 1, 2020 at 8:46 pm | Permalink

          The German Shorthairs are pretty dogs. We have had nothing but Brittanies since I was a baby, and I have no experience whatever with other breeds.
          I am alone a lot, so having a pup with me all the time sort of keeps me sane and happy.
          Brittanies are very good at adapting to other animals. They very much look to their human for how to react to new creatures. I am casual around the cows, mules, and horses, so the dogs treat them as friendly. We have a neighbor who has lots of chickens roaming around, and the dogs just ignore them as well.
          When I am working in the fields, the dogs are absolutely brutal towards the moles and prairie dogs. And they will go after bobcats. They are collar trained, so when they are chasing something dangerous, I can give a little vibrate signal to their collar and they will break off and return to me.
          We have a big place, so there is lots of room for them to run. Generally, the dogs will keep within 500 yards or so of me, and sort of orbit around me as I move around the property. They are good at sitting with me on the four wheeler or tractor when I am making long transits.
          I cannot imagine how anyone could have these breeds of dogs in an urban or suburban setting. It is a challenge for me to wear them out each day so they will settle in at night. Where we are, the dogs really need to be inside at night for their safety.
          The best method we have devised is throwing bamboo sticks into the river, which the dog will fetch over and over again until he just lays down in the shallows, exhausted.

          • Mark R.
            Posted June 1, 2020 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

            “I cannot imagine how anyone could have these breeds of dogs in an urban or suburban setting.”
            LOL, no shit.
            We have 2 acres fenced in and that’s where our two generally roam. Like you, it’s dangerous out here letting pets roam free without company. Coyotes and bobcats pose serious threats…esp. coyotes. I’ve seen my dogs on the opposite side of the fence just yearning to “meet” the new friend. Back in the brush, the coyote ambushers are waiting. It’s exhilarating to see how they hunt, yet our dogs and cats are easy prey without human intervention. Nuisance animals, for sure. Probably wouldn’t shoot them if I could, but not allowed around here anyway. Plus, I only own a shotgun, no rifle.

  9. Cate Plys
    Posted May 31, 2020 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Well if Max starts his own website, sign me up immediately. I want lots of pictures of these projects.


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