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Cannon Questions

Discussion in 'General Gun Discussions' started by whalerman, Jan 1, 2011.

  1. whalerman

    whalerman member

    Over the years, I was able to collect a few black powder cannons. Two of the biggest have 23" long barrels, and 1.25" bores. They are very strong, no cracks or anything close to it. The guy I bought them from was from Philadelphia, PA, and he used them for NSSA artillary competitions. His wife had passed and he had lost interest. I'd like to fire them up. He told me to weigh out an ounce of powder in a tube of tin foil. Slide it down the barrel, then poke nail holes through the touch hole. Thread a fuse in and light it and stand back. Obviously, I'm doing some research before I make the move. What do you guys think? They are half scale Napoleans, very well made.
  2. TCB in TN

    TCB in TN Well-Known Member

    What are you planning on shooting out of them?
  3. ZeroJunk

    ZeroJunk Well-Known Member

    We shot a 1/2 scale 10 pound Parrot quite a bit years ago. Usually shot metal drink cans filled with concrete.

    The people I have heard about getting hurt doing re-enactments etc. was from putting a new charge in with a hot ember still in the barrel and blowing the ram rod out of their hands and maybe a finger or two.
  4. TCB in TN

    TCB in TN Well-Known Member

    A good rule of thumb is to find out the specs on the cannon to start with, then start light and work up to that in both charge and weight of projectile (with a long fuse and observing from a safe distance) until you get to where you want to be. Inspect the cannon after each and every shot for signs of stress/damage etc.
  5. FROGO207

    FROGO207 Well-Known Member

    Yep I would approach it like a really big smoke pole and go slowly to a point that I knew was safe and be happy that it worked for me. My experience was with a 5/8" by 4.5" starting cannon. I think that you have a couple of coool things. There must be someone here that is working with reenactments and would be able to give you a few pointers. BTW Make sure when using black powder or substitute to pack everything in tight with no air gaps to avoid dangerous pressures. Also wait between shooting and reloading again to make sure all the powder has stopped burning before refilling the chamber.
  6. btg3

    btg3 Well-Known Member

    The various forums at the NSSA website may offer help.
    Various re-enactment organizations may also be a resource.
  7. whalerman

    whalerman member

    I hadn't planned on shooting anything out of them, just making a big thump for now. The guy who sold them to me used dowell, formed a cone of tin foil around one end, slipped it off and put in an ounce of power. He then sealed it up in a cylinder type shape, slid it down the barrel and seated it. Then he poked a nail hole from the touch hole into the cannister of power. Insert fuse, light, and the show begins. Questions involve what size powder, how much powder, should I use any wadding to hold it in? Any help at all would be appreciated.
  8. Mot45acp

    Mot45acp Well-Known Member

    Nothing to add here. Just a tag for info.
  9. Avenger29

    Avenger29 Well-Known Member

    YO! You rang?

    I don't have any experience firing projectiles. But I do have some experience with a 3lb Grasshopper cannon. We used charges wrapped in aluminum foil...1-1.5 oz was pretty typical, IIRC. We had to wait 10 minutes between sponging the piece and loading another round. It's essential that the vent hole is covered tightly to deny O2 to the breech when you are loading rounds after the first firing. Usually a guy with a leather thumbstall does this.

    1) Cover vent (and hold it until charge is loaded and seated)
    2) Run down the worm and pull out any scraps of whatever in the bore, also this checks the bore for obstructions
    3) Sponge the piece
    4) load cartridge
    5) ram down cartridge
    6) Remove finger from vent
    7) Prick and prime the vent. We used quill tubes, you can use fuse.
    8) FIRE! Ensure that you remain clear of the cannon carriage as it recoils, if it's loaded with a projectile.

    Cannons are lots of fun and are always a hoot at reenactments. You won't have to use period correct gear, so there may be some modern substitutes that makes stuff easier or cheaper. We just did it the old way.

    Now, at some events I've seen cannon fired at max rate and moved around on the battlefield by hand, serviced under combat conditions, and with reduced crew. Very interesting, but dangerous if you don't know what you are doing.

    "The people I have heard about getting hurt doing re-enactments etc. was from putting a new charge in with a hot ember still in the barrel and blowing the ram rod out of their hands and maybe a finger or two."

    Hold the implement with your palm as flat as possible, facing up and keep as many fingers out of the way as possible. And for God's sake, be careful!
  10. hso

    hso Moderator Staff Member

    We have some very knowledgeable folks here (thanks Avenger29), but considering black powder cannon is a whole other world from small arms and the consequences of failure can be catastrophic on a whole other scale it you may need the expertise of the folks at a black powder cannon website to work with you.
  11. svtruth

    svtruth Well-Known Member

    I'm guessing

    that there are tables, using charge and projectile weights that would give you the pressure, and what ever safety factor is appropriate to not exceed the strength of the breech.
    Good luck, sounds like fun.
  12. Avenger29

    Avenger29 Well-Known Member

    No wadding or anything, the aluminum foil cartridge was sufficient. We tended to use the coarser grades of blackpowder. If you are thinking of using a blackpowder substitute type product, I don't know anything about those.

    What material are your cannons made out of?

    I'm glad that you aren't planning on shooting a projectile out of one for now. Probably safer that way.
  13. whalerman

    whalerman member

    Avenger asks what these cannons are made of. One is bronze, the other is steel. Both have a steel lining or tube inside the main body of the cannon. The bronze cannon is a bit bigger in diameter, as the guy I bought them from said it needed to be to handle the pressures. He was a machinist for the Philadelphia Naval shipyard and was about 80 when I bought the pieces. I've been trying to contact him but have been unable to do so. He was very proud of one construction aspect. The trunions, which are I believe the pivot point for the barrel, and the barrel are constructed of one piece of metal. "They're not fused on like most people do." He was a really nice guy. I hope he is doing well.
  14. Avenger29

    Avenger29 Well-Known Member

    Sounds nice and like they are made of good material. How are you fixed for the carriages?

    From your description, it does sound like the guy knew what he was doing. Wish I still had access to the Grasshopper I used to work with...
  15. Cosmoline

    Cosmoline Well-Known Member

    HSO has good advice there. I'd follow the standard cannon protocols--step by step just as if you were loading a full size cannon with a crew. Maybe even yell the orders at yourself.
  16. whalerman

    whalerman member

    The carriages are just as nice as the barrels. Rock maple is what he called them. He pointed out that the spokes were made individually so none are the same. The wheels have a metal outside rim. Give me a couple days. I'll get photo or two posted. Thanks for all the help.
  17. TexasRifleman

    TexasRifleman Moderator Emeritus

    Don't know a thing about it, but you should post some pictures :)
  18. Avenger29

    Avenger29 Well-Known Member

    Man I'm jealous. One tip- wooden carriages need exposure to enough humidity to keep them tight and in good condition. Storing a cannon(replica) in a museum, we ran into big problems because of the climate controlled environment. If we went a long time without firing the cannon, we had to go so far as to soak the wheels in water to tighten them up...and we had cracking problems.

    Verbal checklist helps, for sure.
  19. MikeJackmin

    MikeJackmin Well-Known Member

    There have been a few threads in the blackpowder forum here on this very topic - the folks there are quite knowledgeable. Perhaps the mods can move the thread?
  20. unspellable

    unspellable Well-Known Member

    DON'T use a nail to punch a hole in the cartridge. There is a potential for a static discharge or spark to ignite the powder. Use something non-conductive, plastic, wood, etc. A goose quill is traditional. In fact they used to fill the goose quill with powder to act as the fuse.

    If you fill the goose quill with powder, be aware it's quick, you must light it with a linstock (the proverbial ten foot pole) so you can stand to one side and not be too close or behind when it recoils. As advised above, be sure it's safe before you fire it from that close.

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