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Old 24th February 2012, 03:18 PM   #1
Matchlock
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Default An Extremely Rare 16th-17th ? C. Wood-Cased Grape Shot

For a cannon; oaken container made of four parts, of cylindrical shape, the top and bottom roundels nailed with leather; inside a linen bag fixed by strings and filled with numerous lead musket balls.
Painted in red with old inventory no. 424.
Overall length 26 cm, diameter 11 cm.

Best,
Michael
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Last edited by Matchlock : 25th February 2012 at 11:41 AM.
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Old 24th February 2012, 07:27 PM   #2
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"Looks too good to be true" at least as far as being quite that old, but who am I to second-guess the experts at H2? We in the US, and perhaps some in UK would use the term "canister" but no one has ever cleanly defined where the dividing line is. The overall construction is much more similar to Western "canister" than grape, canister often having an enclosed cylindrical envelope, and grape often only a skeleton "stool" structure, separating plates, and/or an outer wrapping of painted or tarred canvas, tightly bound with marline or something similar.

One thing which strikes me is that just yesterday I was re-arranging some things in my company's militaria warehouse, and moved around some very modern projectiles made of plastic, constructed almost exactly like that the round pictured in the H2 sale. There are four segments around the periphery with tiny locking tabs at both ends, to ensure aligment. The interior is moulded to form a rectangular solid cavity into which cube or spherical "fragment simulators" can be placed. These are fired from a high-velocity smoothbore gun, usually 20, 25, or 30mm depending on the size payload required. I'll try and get back there soon and take some photos, because it is almost like the modern engineers looked at that old wooden projectile and said "there's what we need to build."
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Old 25th February 2012, 08:23 AM   #3
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The textile which the auction writeup terms "linen" looks much more like burlap to me, given the color, thick fibers, and very coarse weave. If so, that may assist in dating the piece if the piece is assumed to be European, since fairly good estimates could then be made based simply on when burlap came into use in a given area. Burlap comes from the jute plant, which grows in India and that area of the world. The history of its import of burlap to, say England, should be well-documented in the records of the Honourable East India Company if not in many other places. If the material is indeed burlap, then this piece may more likely date from sometime during the 18th C.

I'd think a good deal might also be learned from close examination of one of the metal tacks holding the leather onto the end, since the manufacturing technique used should be traceable to a certain range of dates.
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Old 25th February 2012, 10:49 AM   #4
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Hi John,

Thank you for your thoughtful inputs.

As to the colors in the screenshots, I would not pay too much attention to such details. All images published by that auction house tend to be discolored.

Of course there is a chance that this item may have been manufactured as late as the 18th or even the early 19th century.
I did not view it personally, so I took over both the images and the description from the auction house.

Best,
Michael

Last edited by Matchlock : 25th February 2012 at 12:05 PM.
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Old 25th February 2012, 03:14 PM   #5
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Thanks Michael. I have had some other thoughts about this object, along the lines that it may not have anything to do with ordnance. My thinking began when I considered the modern plastic ones used in test laboratories. The locking tabs on both ends of each segment are more of a convenience to maintain integrity of the assembled projectile during manual loading, however the 1/8-inch-thick stainless steel disc placed on the rear of the projectile is definitely necessary, or else the segments would almost certainly separate in the bore with one pushing ahead of others. That situation would be very inefficient and might also damage the expensive gun barrel.

My point is that the oak projectile shown here simply will not function as appearance might indicate. The segments contacting the bottom of the chamber will be held in place by immense forces caused by gases flowing over the top side of the projectile (remember the considerable windage allowance in older cannons,) and I'm sure the top segments would almost immediately be torn from the bottom ones, before the latter had moved at all. This projectile would never remain intact to the muzzle. There would also be no reason to use an internal bag of "linen." In most real, antique canister rounds I've seen, when lead balls are used, they are packed in something like sawdust to help keep them from defoming due to the high G-forces upon firing. The wooden "round" shown seems to have no padding between balls.

In addition, both ends are the same, and both ends have a sharp 90-degree angle at the end, which would lend itself to the lower segments being stopped and fragmented by contact with the bore surface. As a minumum, since this had to have been made on a lathe, the turner would fashion the front end with some radius of curvature to ease the travel down the bore. Likewise, the rear end of most canister muzzle-loading rounds I've seen is rebated or has some special provision for the attachment of the cloth cartridge bag. This one is symmetrical end-for-end along with the other suspect areas, makes it an unlikely candidate for an authentic canister round in my opinion.

The leather shown bent over when the one segment is moved, seems as supple as when it was on the animal it came from, bending 180 degrees with perfect flexibility. I don't think this leather has much age.

I have to voice my humble and amateur opinion that the wooden segmented object originally had some non-ordnance purpose , and the sack of balls may have been added recently to give the object a new identity.

Last edited by cannonmn : 25th February 2012 at 03:27 PM.
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Old 25th February 2012, 03:57 PM   #6
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Hi John,

Thank you so much for your comprehensive and well considered explanation!

I must admit that I had quite similar feelings that that object might be dysfunctional, composite, or a fake when I first saw the catalog offer and so I decided neither to view or purchase it; I not even asked for aditional images, which I usually do when I see something of deeper intrerest.

Like you, the dissimilarity between what usual period grape shots look like - just as you ascertained, they are usually heavily packed forming a firm and integral unit - and the appearance of this item, both outward and inward, struck me. For a span of time, I was uncertain whether to put it up for discussion or not.

Anyway, for more information on the usual types of grape shot, I would like to recommend referring to my thread

http://www.vikingsword.com/vb/showt...ight=grape+shot


Best,
Michael
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