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Rough cast percussion frames (parts)

5649 Views 18 Replies 7 Participants Last post by  Oyeboten
So about 5 or 6 years ago I was at the Crown Point Indiana gun show and a fellow there had a box of maybe a dozen cast frames (rough unfinished) for the 1851 Navy, and also some for the 1860 Army. I looked at them, decided against it, and continued on my way to Wyoming. Hit the dreaded Illinois line and figured I made a mistake not buying them. Two years later I was back at the show and of course not only were the parts not there but I could not recognize the dealer who had them and no one there knew what i was talking about.:bang_wall:
In the back of my mind was an idea to one day build an 1851 Navy. In fact, now I want to build a dozen or so of them. As a result I have been getting data on making a small rifling machine, data on steels, data on pattern making for the brass guards and straps, and taking measurements off of 1st, 2nd, and 3rd gen 1851 navies. Actual metal cutting would only start once (if) I make it to retirement in maybe 5 or so years . The frame is the big issue....while I want to make all parts including the screws, the frames I saw were so rough cast the required machining would be the equivalent of me making a pattern and then having the frames cast.
Thus my question. Does anybody out there in Colt Forum land know where I can get these castings? Has anybody ever seen them at gun shows? Who did the casting?
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Sounds like something that would have come from Dixie Gun Works.
They used to sell revolver kits with brass or steel frames, and over the years I'd bet they had raw cast frames.
Of possible interest, I have had various parts copied by . I send in a part, they have it copied by the lost wax process in a steel that can be heat treated to spring temper. All my parts came rough cast & required a lot of finishing. OTOH I have seen some of his work with detail copying of engraving. My work has all been with parts for early pre-percussion guns. But parts are parts and he might be interested in copying Colt frames. You will see from the website that it is well established. Their catalog is about an inch thick.
Thanks guys...I have some leads now. Will look into it.
There are a few frames listed on E-Bay....Jim
I thought the original Frames were Forgings?

And or Wrought Iron Forgings, to be precise.



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The frames on ebay are already made, I want to make them myself.
I thought early frames were castings of iron. I may be 100% wrong on that and would appreciate input. Some companies now make frames from brass, so I assume a cast steel/iron frame would be plenty strong and safe.
Original plan is to machine them from a solid block of tool steel. If this is what I have to resort to I can assure you I wont be making a dozen of them!! Using a casting saves gobs of labor.
I am pretty sure the original Colt Percussion Revolver Frames were Forged Wrought Iron.

I think the Barrels were Wrougt Iron also.

Grip Frames, I am not sure, but, when of Iron, I suspect those would have been Wrought Iron also.

Cylinders I think were Steel, machined from Castings.

One way to approach this, would be to begin the undertaking of using Anvil and Hammer and Hearth and Bellows...and learning to work ( true, actual ) Wrought Iron.

Drop forgings would be much more efficient, and, likely, were what was done then, but, Drop Forgings reauire a typically large stationary Machine, which is either expensive to buy, or, to build from scratch.
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I seem to recall that Colt used cast iron frames for revolvers. I'm not sure when they started using steel.
I know up until sometime in the 1880's the Winchester 1873 had an iron frame.

Getting a cast iron frame today might be harder then getting cast steel.
I don't think even the early Italian replicas ever used iron, only lower quality steel.
Brass has been used for revolver frames at least as far back as the Civil War, but brass was never as durable or strong as iron or steel.

Price-wise having steel casting made in anything like small quantities is going to cost a fortune.
You could have a mold made to hot forge steel forgings, which will be nothing but vaguely gun shaped lumps of steel, just like the raw forgings Colt has made for their Single Actions.

A second method would be to have made or make wax models and use them to cast steel frames. This is basically what Ruger does using the lost wax method.
Again, this is going to be expensive.

If you're up to it, you can buy jewelers wax in various hardnesses and make a frame from casting wax. Then you make a rubber mold using the original wax model.
Using the rubber mold you cast more wax models, and use them to cast steel frames using the lost wax method.
The is is expensive to get into, since you need some equipment to work the wax, vulcanize the rubber mold, etc.
Then you need to either have the wax models cast in steel or do the risky job of doing it yourself, which means building a casting furnace, etc.

I just don't know what to tell you other than to contact Dixie Gun Works and see if they have any castings.
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I have three steel and one brass partially finished frames if you are interested. Metal Hardware accessory
Auto part Metal Hardware accessory
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jmc00 where did you get those? the one on the left in the second photo is what i am after. Did you have them cast? Out of what material? On the other 3, did you do the machining?
All of these frames came from High Standard. Back when they were closing the Hamden plant in about 1977, the company that I worked for bought a large quantity of shotgun barrel blanks. When I went to pick them up, one of the contacts brought me into the toolroom and gave me some parts because we were talking about the Uberti guns and the Colt/Uberti guns. They copied Colt's idea and were importing parts and were assembling revolvers on domestic frames. What you see is what I have and there aren't going to be anymore.

These are castings made by Hanquette Belgium for the Centaure revolver.

Hope this helps.
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There are still some smaller Foundries which will do small runs ( one item, or a handful ) of Iron Castings.

These would be 'Sand Castings' ( and one typically must insist on the Casting being made in their finest particle-size Sand ).

For which, one would want to study up a little on Foundry Patterns, Shrink Rates, and, how the Pattern needs to have 'Draft' ( taper, so it can be extracted from the compressed Sand ) and how it would be mounted on to a Fall Board, and, to do all of that part one's self.

That way, one can get a decent deal on the Castings themselves.

One would also want to communicate with the Foundry, as for the kind of Cast Iron one wants, and, for it to not be 'chilled'.

One such Foundry which comes to mind, who I used to do Business with sometimes, is "Leerock Foundry", in Ontario, California -

In the 19th and early 20th Century, Cast Irons ( plural ) were of enormous variety and of differing properties.

Malleable Cast Irons were used for many things, and, these would not crack or break, but were still enormously strong.

No such variety is available to-day, even if some variety is.

The overwhelming expense in having Castings produced, is in the cost of having the Foundry Pattern(s) and Fall Board arrangement made.

Some of the items I was having cast, ( mid 1980s ) the Pattern took me about four hours to make, but, I was getting quotes of 2 to 3 Thousand Dollars to have the non-fall-board free standing Foundry Pattern made by others.

This was just for a small, somewhat ornamental Handle, about 4 inches long, and fairly thin.

Precise Castings of course require precise Patterns, and, for the Pattern to incorporate the anticipated Shrink of the Alloy/Metal which is to be used - so the Pattern is then so-much larger, than the intended Casting, since the Iron or other Metal/Alloy shrinks as it cools.

This is why one generally can not use an existing item, as a Pattern, since it will be too small.
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Large-enough production runs of small items of Cast Iron or Steel, now-a-days tend to be done as a kind of investment Casting.

These can be extremely precise, and, one would tend to have more say in the actual Alloy used.

Set-up for the production is expensive though, and difficult to justify unless producing large quantities of the item.

If had to guess, I would guess set-up for Colt Navy 'frame' elements, would be about $60,000.00 by now...maybe more.

These are done ( or used to be done ) in ceramic Molds, and were assisted by a Vacuum or by pressure on the Molten Metal ( in excess of Gravity ) to help the Molten Metal fill out the Mold well.

In the mid 1980s, my little 'Handle' - I think the quotes for this, ( investment Casting 'set up' costs alone ) were running about $22,000.00 or so.

With my simple nicely made Foundry Pattern, no Fall Board, Leerock was charging me $5.00 a Casting ( latter 1980s ), in Cast Iron, so I was able to manufacture my Product that used the Handle, without excessive costs for that component.
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Can anyone Post some good images of original Colt Percussion Frames? By themselves? So I can see them from different angles?
These are castings made by Hanquette Belgium for the Centaure revolver.

Hope this helps.

These Castings would appear to me to be investment Castings.

Investment Castings do not care what the item is shaped like, the Pattern does not need to have any 'draft' for allowing it to be drawn from each half of the compressed Sand of each half of the Sand Mold/Flask.

Typically investment Cast Steel or Iron does not require any subsequent Machining, since it is usually done more or less to perfection and to final form to begin with, where, typically, Sand Castings are made with the anticipation of being Machined to final spec, in whatever ways those happen to be, for what it is.

Most all of the early Pneumatic and portable Electric Tools for example, the ones with Aluminum-Alloy Bodys, the Tool 'Bodys' were Sand Castings, and, these were then subject to however much ( usually, only a little ) Machining...but by the late 1920s or so, everyone went to some form of Injection Mold-Casting, where, virtually no further attentions were needed to 'finish' the object so Cast...other than Tapping Threads in Holes maybe.
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THANK YOU for the information. Lot to digest here. I fully expect to do a large amount of machining on the cast frames. like I said, I found several a few years ago at a gun show and really regret not buying them. Jimc00 i sent you a PM.
These Frames are really q very sophisticated part.

Now that I think of it, I am very impressed, no matter how they made them back then.

The Walker or Whitneyville Dragoon had the same kind of Frame I suppose. And that was 167 years ago.

Whitneyville was very skilled in Casting and Forging, but I do not know which method was used for the Walker Frames.
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