Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Bavaria, Germany - the center of 15th and 16th century gunmaking
Rare 15th and 16th Century Ball Molds
This, I am afraid, is another topic rarely ever paid attention to.
I wish to present a few items from my collection, togehter with others.
The earliest molds in the 14th/15th centuries seem to have been bipartite forms made of stone. The oldest source of illustration, dated 1411, depicts one part of a multi hole mold (Cod.Vind. 3069, Austrian State Library) and some original pieces have been excavated at Hochkönigsburg in Alsace-Lorraine at a castle site.
We may safely assume that in the course of the 15th century, molds cast of copper alloy began replacing those made of stone. I is true that we do not have any sources of illustration before the early 16th century but there are various finds known. I attach a few pics. Most of them have loops denoting that they were originally equipped with iron handles for convenience.
The next stage, with earliest illustrative records extant from the 1460's, is a funnel shaped casting device consisting of two halves each joined to an iron handle. There seems to be only one actual piece known and this is in my collection; the mold is of relatively thin hammered copper alloy with robust joints to the handles. For this specimen I should tentatively postulate a date of ca. 1500.
All the molds mentioned so far are for relatively small caliber balls, ca. 12 to 16 mm, correspondig to the average early harquebus calibers. What, however, about molds for larger pieces like wall guns and haquebuts? Of course they must have existed since an early stage, as well as those huge guys for casting the iron balls for the bigger artillery pieces.
I can only bring forward one single sample of a late 15th/early 16th century wrought iron mold for casting balls for wall pieces and haquebuts. It is of impressive dimensions and shows the same roughly hammered surface as most iron haquebut barrels do. Its weight is almost 2 kg and its caliber 31 mm. There also stylistic reasons for dating this mould: one of the handles of a pair of pliers in the Maximilian Arsenal Books of ca. 1507, as well as the trigger of a beautiful Late Gothic crossbow in the collection of a friend of mine, show the same curved back form as my mould does.
Of the same period is a fine copper alloy cast multiple mold for ten balls of 24.5 mm each, the average caliber of a haquebut barrel; also the general form of that mould reminds me of the rear end of a copper alloy, vulgo 'bronze', haquebut barrel. It retains its polished wooden grips.
Last in line for today, the small wrought iron mold for balls of 13 mm diameter with some sparce Early Renaissance decoration reflects the style of the first half to mid 16th century. It is preserved in unusually crisp condition thoughout.