Archive for September 2012


As most gunsmiths have access to a milling machine, they would normally use that to cut any dovetails. However, for this exercise we have to ours by hand. These are practice pieces intended to teach us how to do the work by hand if we need to. I used a pice of barrel that was cut from one of my projects and used that for this project. The dovetails are standard dovetail blanks that was purchased from Brownells. Here I am getting ready to start the first dovetail.

Blank start

The first step is to cut or file the center portion of the cut down to depth.

Starting cut

Once I reached the required depth, I started the undercuts. These are done with a special triangular file cut to 60º with a “safe” edge. The safe edge is smooth and allows me to do the undercut without deepening the depth of the center cut.

Starting the undercut

This does take some time and eventually you will get to this point. The dovetail blank is now fitted in and checked for clearance. The rule is that there can be no daylight seen in the sides and bottom of the cut. In other words, the dovetail blank needs to fit the cut precisely.

Cut complete

The only step left is to install the blank and check the fitting and repeat it for a second dovetail.In the next picture you can see the completed barrel piece with both dovetails. Yes, I know that one was not installed square on the barrel but that was not a requirement in this project. I only needed to fit the dovetails.

Barrel blank with both dovetails

Close up of a dovetail


Semester 3 (summer 2012) preview

In our third semester (final semester of year one in the program) I have to complete the following tasks for grading.

  1. Reloading: 100 rounds each of pistol, rifle and shotgun ammunition. The caliber/gauge choice is up to me
  2. I have to hand file and fit two dovetail blanks. The fitment needs to be tight enough so that no light shows between the dovetail and the metal the dovetail is installed on
  3. Manufacture a L.C. Smith mainspring and a L.C. Smith bolt spring
  4. Do four firearm repairs of my choice. I can only use a firearm for one repair
  5. Strip and refinish a one or two piece stock
  6. Do six group presentations covering the history, function, features and the field strip and assembly of a firearm. The choice of firearm is up to the group but three presentations must be handguns and three presentations must be rifle/shotgun

I will address the repairs in separate posts, but the rest of the requirements for this semester will be covered in one post per topic.