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One of the most difficult things I
must accomplish is to get folks to understand exactly what I do.
This task is frustrated by practically
everything written about Gunsmithing. That's because writers write
about the experiences they see in front of them. And, they don't
see examples of what I do.
Let me quote a passage from one of
the many writers I respect and enjoy reading. Sam Fadala has written
a number of books on muzzloading blackpowder rifles and the many
and varied sports centered around those fine guns. He's a very
through researcher and explains his subject well. I respect his
In his book, "The Complete Blackpowder
Handbook - 3rd Edition", there's a chapter on "The Custom
Muzzleloader". Within that chapter (on page 84 to be exact),
is the following statement. I quote from the book . . .
"Finding and buying parts has
become more of a problem in recent times than in the past. I've
listened to complaints from gunsmiths who have trouble finding
the parts they really want to work with." . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . . . "After all, parts that can't be located
and purchased must be handmade by the smith, and that takes time.
My own Mulford long rifle has many metal pieces handmade by the
artist." . . . . . End quote.
Did anything strike you there? It did
me. I'll explain in a minute.
Fadala goes on to describe the extreme
skills required of the gun smiths as they assemble and tune their
purchased parts. He says "these steps require time, patience,
knowledge, and skill." It's all true. Imagine the additional
time, patience, knowledge, skill (and tools and machinery) that
would be required if they were ACTUALLY MAKING the parts!
Now you see my point. The gunsmiths
in the first quote were "complaining" that the parts
they wanted were not available - good heavens, they might actually
have to MAKE something from scratch!
The gulf between assembling purchased
commercial parts OR designing, manufacturing, and assembling handmade
parts, is a gulf so wide most can't see across it.
The economic comparison of commercial
parts to handmade parts is a no-contest every time. Commercial
will always cost pennies on the dollar to handmade. (Unless you
have layers of middle men inflating commercial prices, and slave
labor providing handmade products). The unbelievable requirements
of tooling and machinery needed to make each and every component
of a project is staggering. So, most Custom Gunsmiths will buy
commercial parts from which to make their custom rifle. Most work
in a small shop and hardly have room for a complete machine shop
anyway. Doesn't that just make sense to buy as many parts as are
available? If that suits you, sure. BUT, we can just go buy a
commercial rifle too - right? Wouldn't that just make sense?
It seems to take folks so very long
to absorb the idea of actually designing and manufacturing each
and every part of a project. I don't buy a lock assembly, I manufacture
each of the dozens of parts which go into an assembly I personally
build to my own design specifications. I've assembled all of the
machinery, all of the cutters, tools, jigs, and blueprints, to
make each of my rifles from an idea and a few raw materials.
Understanding this concept is instrumental
in us developing a type of working relationship which can be successful.
I can tell you honestly, the price I ask does NOT account for
the effort expended. I build my rifles for those who bother to
become friends. My products are not simply catalog items which
are being retailed. The level of involvement required from me,
over and above the cost of the product, is so significant that
I'm simply only willing to do it for those who have taken the
time to understand what I actually put into my work.
One of the tools I've set up to develop
this working relationship is my payment program. This is not simply
for the purpose of spreading out the cost. The regular contact
between us, over the months which pass, allow us to mature the
project and allows me to become familiar with the personality
I'm working with. While I have many wealthy customers who could
purchase my work (or my entire business for that matter) without
need for a payment program, they still comply with my request
for such regular payments and contact. In this way, those who
are blessed with plenty and those who are blessed with enough
are made equal in terms of the ledger book. As we maintain the
program, we develop the concept of the project, and; in the end,
I make my work for a friend.
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