Author Topic: Spencer Shotgun Project  (Read 4546 times)

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Spencer Shotgun Project
« on: October 27, 2019, 03:38:43 PM »
Like most of us, I am fascinated by the guns of Christopher Miner Spencer.  I have a rifle, carbine, and a couple of bannerman pump shot guns.  Some of you may have seen my post on fixing my 1896 on the Spencer information page. I still have that gun but it has never worked flawlessly.  I have always wanted a gun I could really shoot. 

A few years ago, I bought an 1890 bannerman that had a good receiver and block.  The barrel was pretty rough, the stock was broken and repaired, and there are a number of other issues that need to be addressed.  Despite all that, it is a good start for a shooter. 

The first thing to do is replace the old Damascus barrel with a modern steel one.  It turns out that a Remington 870 barrel is big enough to serve as a blank.  I found a 3in magnum 870 barrel at my local shop for $50 and set to work.  I cut off the barrel extension,  turned it to right profile, and threaded it to fit the receiver.  I could have made it a long barrel but I always wanted a short barrel (Spencer made a 20 inch for his wife), so I cut the barrel to 20.5 inches.  I also made a new magazine tube and plug out of 41-40 seamless tubing and bar stock.  I need to make a new stud to hold the magazine to the barrel. 

The next step is to shape the face of the barrel to match the inside curve of the receiver, cut the extractor notch, and set the headspace.  Many steps follow, but I thought folks might like a picture of the progress. 

Offline Two Flints

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #1 on: October 29, 2019, 01:25:49 PM »
Roscoe,

Do you have the link to your original post regarding your Shotgun?  Never mind . . . here they are:

https://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php/topic,25381.msg332618.html#msg332618

https://www.cascity.com/forumhall/index.php/topic,25381.msg332643.html#msg332643

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Offline Herbert

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #2 on: October 29, 2019, 02:52:27 PM »
Happy to see this tread revived ,very helpful hints if I ever find one

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #3 on: November 09, 2019, 01:45:35 PM »
I am waiting for some steel to make the stud between the barrel and magazine tube and an tool for cutting the curve in the back of the barrel, so I am working on other things.  Today it was time to tackle the face of the bolt, which was pitted and had a depression around the firing pin hole.  These were not deep but they were enough that I wanted to fix it to have a smooth bolt face when I set the headspace.  I started by putting some dykem on the bolt face and sanding it using sandpaper glued to a flat stick.  This revealed where the low areas were (visible as dark spots in the 1st picture).  I then used diamond hones and sand paper glued to flat sticks to carefully polish the bolt face to remove the pits (2nd picture).  I left a couple of tiny pin hole pits in order to take as little off as possible.  I made sure the keep the bolt face square to the sides.  The bolt and receiver will be re-case hardened later. I will set the headspace to account for the material removed.  There are a lot more steps to come. 

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #4 on: November 13, 2019, 12:56:38 AM »
In many ways the heart of the Spencer shotgun is the cam that moves the bolt up and down and cocks the hammer.  It lives on the left side actuator arm and in my experience is subject to a great deal of wear and tear.  On my 1896, the cam was loose and needed to be tightened.  On the 1890, the cam was tight but showed a lot of wear.  It started out round, but it is worn to very oddly shaped oblong (picture 1). Since the cam positions the block, this wear means that the block does not fully open, causing wear on the extractor assembly and poor ejection.  It also means that the firing pin is not properly centered on the primer. 

The solution is to drill and drive out the old cam then make and install a new hardened cam that is of the correct size.  Because there is some wear on the block where the cam runs, this involves making it slightly larger than original to compensate.  Picture 2 is a shot of the old cam removed and the new one I made tonight out of 4140  I need to harden it, then soften the small part in order to peen it once it is pressed in place.  Not too complicated, just a couple of more steps. 

I hardened the stud and pressed it in.  I softened the tip so I could peen it in (figure 3).  Seems to work well but I need to assemble the receiver and figure out if the larger stud has changed the gun?s timing. 

Oh, I also improved the quality of the photos for this post.  I was using small ones due to size restrictions but they were bad.  Turns out that medium will work fine and are a lot better.  I hope folks are enjoying the project. 

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #5 on: Today at 02:14:47 PM »

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #5 on: December 01, 2019, 02:19:20 PM »
Yesterday, I went and used a friend?s mill to do some work on the Spencer.  The first job was To complete the new magazine tube.  The original magazine tube on the 1890 and my 1896 are made from a sheet of steel formed into a tube.  This was done because seamless steel tubing did not exist at the time.  There is some stress on the magazine tube as it supports the pump mechanism.  This caused the magazine on the 1890 to start to open up along the seam.  Someone had tried to hammer it back into shape, but this was not very successful.  As a result, the magazine was a little loose.  A while back I made a new tube out of seamless steel tubing and a new magazine plug for the end.  Yesterday, I drilled the mounting hole through the tube and the plug so it can be mounted.  The first picture shows the old tube and the new one.  The next job is to cut the stud that mounts the magazine tube to the barrel. 

The second thing I did yesterday was cut a flat in the threads on the bottom of the barrel.  The Spencer?s have a wedge that uses this flat to lock the barrel in place.  The original barrel on the Spencer was actually pretty loose, so the wedge would have been important.  The new barrel I made fits much better, but I wanted to include the wedge.  I took a little less off of the threads than they did on the original, as the wall between the flat and the chamber is pretty thin.  I will fit the wedge to account for the difference.  The second picture shows the flat on the old and new barrels.

I also started work on a tool for cutting the curve on the back of the barrel.  I am putting a bit of work into a tool I will only use once, but it should do the job.  When it is together I will post some pictures. 

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #6 on: December 13, 2019, 08:19:24 PM »
I am waiting for some steel, some walnut, and an internal threading cutter for the lathe, so I thought I would talk a little about what I am aiming for.  Any of you who own or have seen a Spencer shotgun know that they normally come with long barrels, but Spencer made at least 1 gun with a 20 inch barrel for his wife (first picture).  This gun was paired with a shortened magazine.  There is some evidence that you could order special order barrel lengths.  I wrestled with doing a long barrel, but I settled on 20 inches, with a standard length magazine. 

I need to make a new forearm.  The 1890 came with a gutta percha forearm, but it was broken (third picture).  This was a problem in period and Bannermans replaced these with wood forearms on later models (see the second picture for all the forearm variants, with the oldest variant at the top and the newest at the bottom).  The forearm I have is longer that the ones used on the original Spencer guns.  I have always liked the look of the shorter forearms, though the longer ones a probably more practical.  In disassembling the forearm, I found out that the threads on the forearm tube were rough and allowed cross threading.  Since I need to replace both the tube and the forearm anyway, I have decided to make a shorter forearm like the Spencer.  luckily, it turns out that  Bannermans actually used the shorter forearm on some of the 1890 guns.  Making a new forearm will be fun.  I think I will make two and try my hand a checkering one, since I have a set of checkering tools I have never used. 

The materials and tools I am waiting for should be here in time for me to work with over my Christmas/ New Years vacation.  Watch this space for progress!

Offline Oregon Bill

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #7 on: December 16, 2019, 12:10:22 PM »
Great project Roscoe. Seems you have the tools, the skills and most importantly, the patience!

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #8 on: December 16, 2019, 08:54:12 PM »
Thanks Bill, nice to know someone is enjoying the post.  I have to have patience since I have a stressful full time job and a 5 year old, which means I only get to work in short spurts of free time. 

The steel I was waiting for came today, so I am looking forward to getting to work on it again.  I spent some time last night working on the barrel tool.  Pictures soon. 

Offline Two Flints

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #9 on: December 17, 2019, 07:18:32 PM »
Roscoe,

I still own two Spencer Shotguns . . . I rarely use them now, though.  One has a full length barrel and the other has a shorter barrel that I had cut so that I could Grouse hunt in the thick woods around my home . . . the shorter barrel made moving through the trees a lot easier.

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #10 on: Today at 02:14:47 PM »

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #10 on: December 17, 2019, 08:22:59 PM »
It?s not a bad design.  There is a lot of pressure in a few places, which leads to wear over time, especially with the steels they were using.  Still, when properly set up they work fine.

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #11 on: December 29, 2019, 06:41:07 PM »
I am sorry to say that everyone in my house has been sick one way or another over the last few weeks, so I have not gotten as much done as I hoped over the holidays.  However, today everyone was well and I got into the shop to make the new forearm part.  You may recall that the original was roughly threaded, which allowed cross threading.  It was also for the long Bannerman style forearm, which is two inches longer than the Spencer style.  The original gutta percha forearm was also broken.  Since I needed to make a new forearm (including both the iron and wood) I decided to make it to fit the shorter Spencer forearm.  The photograph shows the old and new forearm tubes next to the forearm iron.  I need to buy some walnut to make a forearm. 

By the way, the old forearm part was made using a thin seamless steel tube, which means that my earlier statement about seamless steel tubing not being available for the magazine tube was incorrect.  The 1896 uses a different design that does not use seamless tubing, but a google search shows that the first seamless steel tubing was commercially produced in 1891, which makes its use in the 1890 an early use of the material.  Learn something new every day.

The next job is to fit the barrel and wedge so I can cut the curve in the back of the barrel.  The tool for that job is almost done.  Pictures to follow. 

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #12 on: January 01, 2020, 06:29:47 PM »
As some of you know, the inside of the Spencer shotgun receiver and the front of the block are curved.  As such, the back of the barrel is also curved. For this reason, I need to cut the back of the barrel to match the curve of the receiver.  The barrel needs to be flush with the receiver because shells being lifted to the chamber could catch on any protrusions.  I could carefully mark and fit it using a file, but it would be a bit of a challenge to get exactly right.  I thought it over and decided to make a tool to cut the curve in the back of the barrel while it is mounted on the frame.  The tool pivots on the same bolt as the block, so it will have the correct curve.  It has an adjustable file in the end that can be set for depth.  The file had to be hand cut so that it would cut on the narrow edge going sideways.  I made the blanks out of O1 tool steel and my dad cut the file teeth with a chisel (he makes his own chisels for fun in the Japanese style).  After that, I hardened them.  I need to do the final fit on the barrel and install the barrel wedge, then I can cut the back of the barrel.  Here are a couple of shots of the tool in and out of the frame.  Cant wait to see how it works. 

I am waiting on some steel to make the stud between the barrel and the new magazine tube.  I also ordered some steel to make the screw that goes into the stud and a new firing pin.  I hope to get the whole front end together soon and set the headspace.  Then I can look at getting it to function and maybe make some new action screws to replace any that are worn or have buggered slots.  Then I am going to look into a replacement stock.  There is an outfit that sells replacement Spencer shotgun stocks on line, but they are not very good looking, having been made out of a very light walnut.   

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #13 on: January 21, 2020, 08:42:47 PM »
In the last few weeks I have been working on the stud between the magazine and the barrel (first picture). This is a simple part but it?s a bit fiddly to make. It involves cutting two holes of specific diameters to fit the barrel and the magazine at the correct distance apart, then cutting it to a specific size and drilling and threading it to align with the hole through the magazine tube.  It all has to be made exactly right to fit properly. I still need to make the magazine screw. 

I have also been cutting the back of the barrel to match the curve in the receiver (second picture).  This has been a slow process, but the tool worked well.  The next step is to cut a 55 degree bevel in the back of the chamber to match the bevel on the front of the shell rim.  The depth of the bevel will set the headspace. 

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #14 on: February 21, 2020, 05:58:42 PM »
To get out of the snow, I took a trip down to California to visit family.  I took the Spencer along with me to do a little work in my father?s shop.  The first job was to silver solder on the magazine stud I made to mount the magazine to the barrel.  I looked closely at the two Spencer barrels I have to see how they were originally mounted.  The 1890 looks like it was dovetailed into the barrel.  The 1896 looks like it was silver soldered on.  Given how thin the barrel is, I thought silver soldering was the better way to go.  My dad is a whiz at this so I got him to do it and give me pointers so I can do it next time.  We used an 1100 degree solder and really got it on there.  I will need to clean up some of the excess, but it?s not moving.  We also managed to get it in exactly the right spot, so everything fits just right (picture 1).

The second job was to engrave the top of the barrel with the correct markings.  A search of the web shows that the markings on some Spencer and Bannerman guns were hand engraved (usually on the fancier engraved guns).  Luckily, dad is a professional engraver so I talked him into doing it (picture 2).

I hoped to find some walnut for the stock and forearm while I was down there, but I was with the whole family and not near any wood suppliers.  It is proving difficult to get wood shipped up to Alaska, but I think I have worked that out.  Wish me luck. 

Offline Arizona Trooper

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #15 on: February 22, 2020, 07:12:31 PM »
If that walnut doesn't work out, drop me a line. I'm headed up to southern Indiana in a week and there are several good places to pick up walnut. Just made a new forestock for an Enfield P-56 project with some Indiana wood

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #16 on: February 22, 2020, 08:11:50 PM »
Thanks, I will get in touch if this falls through. 

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #17 on: March 06, 2020, 08:01:09 PM »
I got the walnut in this week and made a new forearm.  I still need to fit the screws and finish it, but it looks pretty
Good.

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #18 on: April 11, 2020, 04:26:20 PM »
With all the time at home I have had of late, you would think I have made more progress than I have on the Spencer, but work, taking care of a 5 year old, and other projects have slowed things down some.  The forearm wood and associated hardware are looking good.  The original short wood forearms were held on with screws but the later forearm irons don’t have a provision for them.  As a result, I made a steel sleeve that is glued inside the forearm that two screws are threaded into.  This made for a stronger forearm (they are quite thin under the barrel), gave it the right look, and made it work with my front end iron.  I made custom screws out of cap screws to get the right size head and finished the wood with true oil (figure 1).   It looks a bit shiny to me and I am going to tone it down when I figure out what I am going to do for a stock. 

The other job was to cut the mouth of the chamber to allow shells to feed, set the headspace, and cut the extractor slot.  The original barrel had a 55 degree taper in the mouth of the chamber.  This matches the 55 degree angle on the front of the shotgun shell rim and provides a “funnel” to feed the shell into the barrel.  Cutting this cone was complicated by the fact that the barrel is tapered.  I machined a man aluminum ring that fit tightly around the barrel threads and drilled and tapped it for a set screw that bore on the flat cut for the barrel wedge.  I put the ring in a 4-jaw chuck and indexed it so the chamber was centered (the tip of the barrel was held in a “spider” at the other end of the headstock to get a proper alignment) then cut the taper.  The depth of the taper set the headspace.  Determine the proper headspace was a bit of a pain.  Most folks just use a go-no go gauge to check headspace, but they don’t know how much headspace is actually ok.  It turns out that the SAAMI specks for a 12 ga chamber show the max an min depth for the rim cut and there is a 14 thousandths difference between the two.  From this, I calculated that the I needed to have less than 14 thousandths clearance between the back of the shell and the bolt face.  A check of my other Bannerman gun showed that I could get a 14 thousandths feeler gauge between the bolt face and the head of a chambered shell.  You don’t want to make this too tight so the gun will feed shells with different rim thicknesses.  With a little care and calculation, the new barrel was cut and measures 10 thousandths headspace when installed.  I wouldn’t have minded it a little tighter, but it’s in the acceptable range.  Once the barrel was installed, I filed the extractor slot with some Swiss files.  Now it all looks good and should work (figures 2 and 3).

During the process, I also made a new pivot pin for the block.  The old one was made about 5 thousandths smaller than it should have been and did not fit the frame as well as it should have.  I made it out of 4140 and will harden and temper it so it will be plenty
Strong and tough. 

The next stop is to get into the guts and get it running properly.  The hammer is a bit buggered and may need some work.  Not sure yet.  Always more to do. 

Offline Roscoe Coles

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Re: Spencer Shotgun Project
« Reply #19 on: May 08, 2020, 10:17:11 AM »
I the last couple of weeks I have been working on several other gun projects, but I got back to the Spencer.  I drilled the hole for the front sight bead and am waiting for the tap and bead from brownells.  I made a new hammer screw to go with the new action screw (see first picture).  These were fitted tightly to the action to tackle up slack caused by wear on the originals.  But the biggest task was addressing a timing issue with the action.  The hammer was coming to a stop before the bolt was free to come up to eject the empty shell.  This was an issue with the new stud I made for the left action bar.  I made it slightly oversize to compensate for wear in the slot in the block. The stud needed a flat that would allow the action bars to move farther to the rear.  Using a safe edge file, I cut a flat on the stud I made.  Through trial and error, got the action to work, but the stud was pretty butchered.  I made a new one with a flat and installed it (see figure 2).  The original stud also had a flat, but it showed a lot of wear and was not in exactly the same place as the new one. 

I am polishing all the parts that need blueing and will send them out to get that done.  I am trying find someone to color case harden the receiver, bolt, and trigger guard.  If I can, I will polish them up and send them out.  I will make a stub to screw into the barrel hole and a brace to go between the action tangs to minimize warping during the color case.   Based on the surviving finish, the receiver was not that highly polished originally.  There are file marks visible under the surviving color case in some places. I can do better than that.  I am also looking to find a new black walnut stock and a buttplate. 

More to do, but having the action cycle is a milestone.   

 

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