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Old 5th August 2009, 11:53 PM   #1
fernando
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Default A stupendous hand cannon

This is really a little beast ... all 7,7 Kgs of it .
I was wondering why the touch hole is so advanced, almost in the middle of the barrel .
Guys, i couldn't believe it. The touch hole in right on the basis of the bore; which means that this cannon a thickness of 8 cms. on its rear.
Perhaps the user was thinking that this piece lasted long enough to be loaded with contemporaneous smokeless powder .
Say Michael, is this a common characteristic in (early) hand cannons?
Its total length is 23 cms. and the caliber aprox. 3 cms.
Meanwhile i am making a rest for it. The wood is afzelia. I will have to decide if i give it some colour, like dye it with vieux chaine.
The screws are provisional; i will replaced them with early handmade rustic nails. I will try and find an old ring to apply in its rear, to simulate a suspension option
Ah, the cat is Adriano; he didn't want to move away .

Fernando

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Old 5th August 2009, 11:55 PM   #2
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A couple more
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Old 6th August 2009, 11:16 PM   #3
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See the difference.
Two coatings vieux chaine infusion, ancient handmade nails ... and no cat

Fernando

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Old 7th August 2009, 03:54 AM   #4
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Congratulations, Fernando!
A fine acquisition, the patina on the metal is impressive. The recessed touch-hole is interesting, am wondering if it has been "bushed" or lined to reduce its diameter after being eroded after extensive firing. At any rate, the fact that there is a deliberately-made "crater" around it leads me to think that here we have the first steps toward the development of the priming-pan, to make ignition faster and more sure with the slow-match.

As far as the thickness of metal behind the bore, maybe Michael or another forumite who has examined far more European handgonnes than I have can comment. I can only suggest that such a thick breechplug be looked at in light of the rapid evolution of gunpowder technology at the time, and the understanding of chamber pressures must have been limited considering the variability in powder composition and granulation. A bit of "over-engineering" certainly wouldn't hurt!

The late Dr. Joseph Needham of Cambridge University, in Vol. V part 7 of his monumental SCI. AND CIVILIZ. IN CHINA (Cambridge, 1986) presents interesting data on gunpowder composition and manufacture in the West, the Near East, and China during the late medieval period until ca. 1700. He cites two factors influencing the increase of gunpowder's efficiency as an explosive propellant: the increasing proportion of saltpeter (potassium nitrate) relative to sulfur and carbon in the formula, and the introduction of "corning", i.e. the manufacture of powder in granules as opposed to a flour-like powder. A comparison of surviving European formulae show a rise in average nitrate content from about 33% at the beginning of the 14th cent. to something very near the modern theoretical 75% which was already known by the second half of the 17th. A graph on page 349 of Needham's book shows that by 1400, the typical gunpowder used in firearms contained about 40% saltpeter; the figure had risen to about 55% a century later.

The corning or granulation of powder probably dates from ca. 1450, in Nuernberg. Corned powder allows for more efficient combustion because of the air spaces between the grains that exist even after the charge is tamped home with a rammer. More explosive energy to push the projectile out of the barrel also means greater pressures inside the bore during firing, however. The French traveler J. Tavernier two centuries later that mills in Vietnam and Thailand were making powder whose grains were in the form of "little rods" -- a very modern concept which has been common in the West only since nitrocellulose ("smokeless") powders supplanted black powder in the last 120-odd years. Tavernier regarded this rod-granule powder as superior to anything known in Christendom.
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Old 7th August 2009, 07:19 PM   #5
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Dear Philip,
Thank you so much for your knowledgeable comments on this piece and for the treatise in gunpowder. Next time you come over, i will be glad to take you to a visit to Barcarena gunpowder factory, a Royal complex that started as an arms factory in the XV century and remained producing gunpowder till just the other day. It is nowadays a very interesting museum.
Concernning the cannon, i see what you mean about the recessed touch-hole and hope that Michael comes around, expecting that he can situate this characteristic in time or and place of origin.
About the possibility of the hole rectification and bushing i can't figure it out by myself, as age dust and patina would 'disguise' any possible marks of a seam.
I understand that gunpowder evoluted both in composition and form (granulating and so) between the XIV and XVIII centuries. Certainly the bringing into practice of such technology advances, contemplated some nations and or forces more than others. I was paging a little book i have, a sort of catalogue of an artillery exhibition occurred in the Portuguese Oporto Military museum and, amazingly, the gunpowders described to have served the (twenty five) exhibited pieces only changed from fine to granulated powder in the XVIII century. This obviously proves nothing, but it is somehow symptomatic, though ... or the guy that wrote the legends is not such an expert .
OTHH, this cannon is assumedly a very early specimen, most probably from around 1400. In my ignorant perspective, it could have been that the rather thick rear end was intended to create a weight to avoid the piece to recoil too much with the kick back. Naturally this would be useful for both weak and strong gunpowder. Maybe the idea was, in any case, to have the cannon mounted in a device that demanded stability ?.
I hope Michael comes in some time and switches the light in the subject.
Fernando

Last edited by fernando : 7th August 2009 at 07:30 PM.
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Old 8th August 2009, 02:49 AM   #6
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Default multiple purpoises / Fabrica de polvora de Barcarena

Fernando,
I think that your idea explaining the thickness of the breech also has validity. Added stability in a short barrel is a good thing. Very often there is more than one factor that explains why something is designed the way it is.
Thanks for offering me a visit to the Barcarena factory, I had no idea it was in your neighborhood. Years ago I had a couple boxes of 8 mm ammunition for the Modelo 1886 rifle marked to this powder-mill; the "bullets" were made of wood and there was very little powder in the shells. I think that they were made either for volleys fired as ceremonial salutes, or to give novice soldiers the experience of loading and firing the rifle before being allowed "live ammo" for target practice.
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Old 8th August 2009, 01:30 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
...Thanks for offering me a visit to the Barcarena factory, I had no idea it was in your neighborhood...

Well, it is not; i gave you a wrong idea. It is not far from Lisbon (Oeiras county), by the Barcarena stream, whose waters powered the mills (galgas).
... but the visit invitation remains .

Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip
...Years ago I had a couple boxes of 8 mm ammunition for the Modelo 1886 rifle marked to this powder-mill; the "bullets" were made of wood and there was very little powder in the shells. I think that they were made either for volleys fired as ceremonial salutes...

Yes, for military funerals, as also for simulating fire exchange in trainning exercizes and so. I didn't use simulated ammo in my service, but i once had a 7,9 mm for the Mauser, with a brownish wood round point "bullet".

Fernando
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Old 8th August 2009, 04:39 PM   #8
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Default A Very Important 'Handgonne', ca. 1400

Hi Fernando, my friend,

You really deserve being congratulated on this fine, rare and early piece which can doubtlessly be dated as early as ca. 1400!

I attach photos of two handgonnes from my collection which you certainly remember. The smaller of them, ca. 1380-1400, retains one of its originally two iron bands to fix it on the (missing) stock. Just like on your piece, the octagonal barrel shows a broad flat next to a narrower one alternatingly - a very early feature, together with the touch hole being situated quite a bit forward of the rear end. On my piece, the touch hole is 4 cm from the rear, which is about the same relation as my barrel is only 13.8 cm long.

The touch hole of the larger barrel, made in ca. 1460-80, is 6.3 cm from the rear end and has a bulged pan like area around it.

As the touch hole on your beautiful barrel is surrounded by a finely polished and well centered pan moulding which is not by far as heavily corroded as the surroundings, and which is too early for the time your barrel was made, I think that it is a working time amendment of ca. 1450-60 when such pan mouldings first arise.

Well done, my friend! I think your path to early hand cannon has led you far back to their origins already!

Best,

Michael - mad with sheer envy

P.S. May I add that your lovely cat Adriano adds an overwhelmingly natural charm to the old barrel!
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Old 9th August 2009, 02:15 PM   #9
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Hi Fernando,
Getting ever closer to that 21 gun salute.
My Regards,
Norman
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Old 9th August 2009, 09:53 PM   #10
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Thanks Norman,

Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
Hi Fernando,
Getting ever closer to that 21 gun salute.
My Regards,
Norman

However ...
That's too far, though . Isn't there a salute with fewer guns?

Fernando
.

Last edited by fernando : 9th August 2009 at 10:18 PM. Reason: punctuation
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Old 9th August 2009, 10:16 PM   #11
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Hi Michael,
Thank you so much for having brought the Cavalry.
Congratulations must be shared, though .
I have registered that precious detail about the touch hole having been "modernized".
That thing of sheer envy ... are you kidding me? . Just look at your "jewels", like the ones in the pictures shown here ... and there... and there .
I have passed your compliments to Adriano; he told me to thank you on his behalf .
Herewith a (lousy) picture of the cannon rest, in a (provisional) final status. I have added one carrying/suspension ring and side reinforcements.
This rest setup was idealized after considering the rest of your Nischengeschütz, the replica of the Loshult cannon in the Crecy museum and the bombard shown by Cornelistromp at the Chateau de Castelnaud.
Maybe it has nothing to do with any of them, but that's where i got the "inspiration".

Fernando.

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Old 9th August 2009, 10:51 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by fernando
Thanks Norman,


However ...
That's too far, though . Isn't there a salute with fewer guns?

Fernando
.


Hi Fernando,
I'm afraid not, after many hours consulting copious medical text books the only treatment I could find for your condition is to reach 21 and even then there is no certainty that the 'cannonmania' will be cured.

P.S. The above 'medical' diagnosis may come in useful when explaining aforesaid collecting compulsion to wives, inquisitive felines etc.
My Regards,
Norman.
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Old 9th August 2009, 11:21 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Norman McCormick
...The above 'medical' diagnosis may come in useful when explaining aforesaid collecting compulsion to wives, inquisitive felines etc. ...




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Old 15th August 2009, 06:15 PM   #14
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Hi Fernando,

I have to congratulate you on the very beautiful stand you made for your High Gothic barrel! All aspects considered, it conveys a good impression of how the complete piece may have looked like some 600 years ago - imagine!

Also, your gift of close oberservation has to be praised: the proportions of the iron bands as well as of the rear iron ring look very convincing to me.
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Old 15th August 2009, 06:25 PM   #15
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Hi Michael

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matchlock
Hi Fernando,

I have to congratulate you on the very beautiful stand you made for your High Gothic barrel! All aspects considered, it conveys a good impression of how the complete piece may have looked like some 600 years ago - imagine!

Also, your gift of close oberservation has to be praised: the proportions of the iron bands as well as of the rear iron ring look very convincing to me.


You let me speechless with pride.

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