Monday, October 28, 2013

The Log Cabin Shop -- Lodi, Ohio

The list of interesting places in Ohio is a big one and now I can check one more off the list.  This weekend I visited The Log Cabin Shop in Lodi, Ohio.  I've been aware of this supplier of all things black powder for many years but never made the trip until now.  The Log Cabin Shop is a second generation business founded in 1940 that has for 73 years proudly supplied traditional muzzle loading guns and related equipment to black powder hunters, history reenactors and target shooters.

The retail section of the shop is amazing and must really be seen to be believed.  Glass cases line the walls and shelves display for sale every imaginable piece of gear a primitive shooter would need; Pistols, long guns, caps, balls, flints, molds, ramrods, powder measures, horns and patches just to name a few. All kinds of accoutrements from huge buckskins, belts, bags and period clothing to outfit a 17th or 18th century buckskinner or adventure seeking rifleman.  A multitude of examples of  locks, stocks and barrels can be found.  If a person possessed the skills all the components could be hand picked to build a fine and functional one of a kind black powder long gun.

I knew I'd be overwhelmed as soon as I walked in the door so I made up my grocery list ahead of time. Needless to say I found all the items I was after and then some!

The retail establishment is amazing enough standing on its own but it was the other half of the operation that had me curious to check out with my own eyes.  Passing through a door off to the side I entered a large room with a massive stone fireplace at one end complete with rocking chairs and a warm fire crackling away on the hearth.  A grand collection of authentic weapons, gear and tools from the past has been gathered and meticulously displayed in museum form.  I mostly just wandered around shaking my head in awe but I did mange to take a few pictures.

One wall held racks of muskets and rifles from both America and around the world.  Some of the specimens were in amazing condition for being around a couple centuries or more. 

Below is a selection of American made smooth bore muskets from the early 1800's.  What a treat to be able to stand just inches from these old pieces checking out the armorer's engraving and wondering of the places these guns must have seen in their long history. 

The opposite wall was all Ohio made long guns.  Small white tags designated the gun's maker and the county from which he worked.  When one thinks of old side lock guns common styles like "Kentucky" or "Pennsylvania" rifles come to mind.  In reality rifles were made just about everywhere in young America.  I think it is interesting how design elements of English, French and Germanic guns were brought to the New World and over time and the westward expansion these traits blended and evolved into weapons best suited to the needs of their owners.  Uniquely American just like the first generations of immigrants who used these tools to tame the frontier as the population of a young nation grew.  And later in darker times when divisions among countrymen unfortunately came to blows.

Here is an awesome collection of authentic powder flasks and below powder horns.

Some of these powder horns show intricate scrimshaw designs carved by their owners.  Perhaps during rare spells of downtime around the camp or cabin the more artistic hunter or soldier would decorate his horn with a motif to personalize it.

Bullet and ball molds and one very large Bowie knife.

A nice collection of Native American artifacts.

Pictured above is a barrel drilling machine.  I have always wondered how the bore was drilled and rifling was cut in the early days.  As a woodworker I know how hard it is to drill a straight hole in a piece of wood just a couple inches deep.  I've got big time respect for the guys that pulled off this precision work in metal before the days of electricity.

Exiting from the museum room a third door leads into the library.  Benches are lined up in the center between the stacks where workshops and classes are held.

It goes without saying that basking in the glow of all that firearms history gets me in the mood for gun smoke!
After paying for the goods to resupply my shooting box we headed outside to the large muzzle loader-only range behind the shop.  Nice.

I am a fan of modern cartridge firing guns but there is just something special to me about bringing out my Hawken rifle and going through the steps just as rifleman have done for hundreds of years.  I think of muzzle loading as bringing not only the gun to the range but the reloading bench too.  Shooting black powder for sport allows me to practice my marksmanship as well as a peek back through the window of history. 

While in the shop I bought a new adjustable powder measure.  That's the brass cylinder that I'm holding with the wide mouth.  From the powder flask the black powder is slowly metered out until the measure is full.  A charge of black powder is measured by volume not 
 by weight.  Once the powder is poured down the barrel a lubed patch cut from pillow ticking is placed over the muzzle.  Next one of the .54 caliber 
round balls that the RoadQueen and I cast the other day is placed with the sprue facing up.
The hardest part of the loading sequence is using a short starter; the round wooden ball in my hand, to force the patched ball down past the crown of the muzzle.  With a pop the ball and cloth patch material will engage the rifling and from there it is much easier to start the ball down the barrel.  
At this point I can drop the short starter and use the gun's ramrod or a range rod to fully seat the ball against the powder charge.  After just a couple shots the bore will become fouled with black soot and it will get progressively harder to push the ball down unless the bore is swabbed out.  

My rifle employs a caplock system to ignite the charge.  By the mid 1800's firearms technology reached  the point where mass produced percussion caps supplanted the older flintlock ignition.  Like most hobbies today's muzzleloaders fall into various camps and endlessly debate the merits of their preferred ignition system.  I have a flinter too but it doesn't matter much to me how it goes off as long it does.  If it makes a boom with lots of sparks and smoke coming out of the business end it's all good.  The final step is placing the cap on the nipple.  At that point the rifle becomes a deadly weapon and utmost care is taken to keep it pointed in a safe direction.

Using 60 grains of Goex ffg black powder and thanks to the heavy mass of the 34" x 1.00" across the flats barrel the Hawken barely kicks.  More of a dull boom instead of the sharp crack of a modern rifle and the lighter recoil makes for an enjoyable shooting experience. 

Thanks to RoadQueen for her excellent camera work during the range session.

Just because I crossed the Log Cabin Shop off my list of places to visit does not mean I won't be returning.  On the contrary I can't wait visit again when I have a whole afternoon to spend.  The folks at the counter were very friendly and helpful.  And the customers too were laid back and took their time looking over the museum exhibits or shopping for supplies.  Very much a friendly, old-fashioned vibe you don't see to much these days.


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