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Old 23rd March 2009, 06:15 PM   #1
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Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Posts: 4,310
Default Wheel-Lock Spanners ca. 1520-1620

The earliest forms are, of course, the rarest to find. Many specialists in weaponry seem to have no clear basis of dating them because they (the former) lack the basic formal and decorative criteria.

Wheel-locks are known to have been in use since at least the early 16th century even though Leonardo da Vinci may not actually have invented them but rather made drawings of mechanisms he had seen to be in use.

The earliest spanner in existence is luckily in my collection. It is combined with a charger for priming powder and retains a generally Late Gothic to Early Renaissance form. Let us ompare it to the copper alloy barrel of an important Nuremberg wall piece in my collection which, on the grounds of its specific staging, can be dated to ca. 1515-20. I posted it in an earlier thread but will repost the barrel again.

Starting at the rear, we have a cubic basal section decorated with scales on both the barrel and the spanner/priming flask combination. The next stage is octagonal, followed by a long round stage, and the most forward stage is round again. On the grounds of this comparison we can attribute the combined spanner and priming flask to the 1520's, allowing for some retardation. The trefoil shaped rear finial of the spanner is still a Late Gothic feature. The riveted ring was for suspension.

Now let us have a look at the time line of my earliest spanners, left to right:

- combined spanner and priming flask, Nuremberg, ca. 1525

- combined spanner and priming flask, Nuremberg, ca. 1560; the trefoil finial has now developed into a screw driver - a good example of an early ornament becoming a practical device. An almost identical sample was posted by cornelistromp yesterday- thank you and congratulations, Cornelis!

- North Italian spanner, ca. 1530's

- three little spanners combined with screw drivers, each ca. 1540; they were originally kept in the so-called patchboxes in the butts of the small contemporary harquebuses.

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