Introduction: Age and Enhance a Replica Flintlock Pistol
I thought fellow pirate cosplayers might like to see how I modified a replica flintlock pistol to look more authentic. I'm not aware of anyone who makes really good replica flintlocks, at least here in Europe, so I bought a very cheap Denix replica 'Kentucky' while it was on sale for £30. I'm glad I didn't pay full price; it has cheesy black gloss hardware, the screws were rusty right out of the box, they're not countersunk on the trigger guard, and it has a ridiculous solid-cast ramrod that doesn't even fit the contour of the wood! It needs a makeover.
Step 1: Stripping the 'Steel'
After dismantling the gun I removed the glossy black coating from the metal parts (they're made from cast alloy, so at least they won't rust like the real thing). I tried dipping them in paint stipper but this had no effect so maybe it's a power coating? Anyway I ended up using my drill with a wire wheel to remove it, followed by a little sanding with some 400-grit wet and dry paper. I used a file to remove the casting lines, which made a big difference to the realism. I then wiped all the parts with Iron Paste (also called Grate Polish) to give it a slightly blackened steel finish. Other details I added were drilling a touch hole in the barrel and filing a channel into the pan, to make it look more like a real black-powder mechanism. Then I painted the flint to look more like, well, flint.
Step 2: Make Some Brass Fittings
I didn't like the side-plate thing on the gun, even after filing off the Denix name. I therefore bought a piece of 1mm brass plate from eBay and used it to make a new side plate. Brass always makes things look old and hand made. I used brass screws of course, and added a third, larger screw because I liked the look of it. I had to saw the screws shorter to stop them poking into the trigger mechanism inside the gun. Tip: File and sand the top of the screw heads to remove the modern-looking machining marks!
I also went as far as inlaying the side plate into the wood so it's completely flush, although looking at photos I see not all guns did this. In fact, some pistols had no side-plate at all, just the screw heads countersunk into the wood, so if you want less work I suggest copying that.
I made another brass piece and inlayed it behind the barrel to simulate the breech plug found on real guns. I don't know what kind of wood the stock is made from (it's pale underneath the varnish/stain) but it has some very hard grain running through it which makes it difficult to chisel. I'd probably think twice about inlaying next time.
I also tried to make a belt hook from the piece of steel you can see in the photo, but it turned out to be too thin and flimsy so I abandoned it.
Step 3: Make a Ramrod
I really, really hated the one-piece ramrod on this replica. It's so obvious that it doesn't slide into the stock in any way. I therefore went to the trouble of making a proper one. First I drilled into the stock to create a hole into which the new rod will fit, progressively enlarging it to 8mm. I did get some cracking in the wood which I later filled with PVA glue. Dirtying up the stock will hide the defects.
Next, I made a thimble from some more 1mm brass sheet, bending it around a piece of bar in my vice and generally hammering and swearing at it until it formed a tube, before filing a couple of decorative grooves into it. After sanding and burnishing with steel wool you can't see the hammer dents. To fit the thimble I drilled a line of small holes into the gun stock and used a needle file to turn them into a slot, into which the brass tab of the thimble fits. I then drilled a small hole through the side of the stock -through the brass tab- and inserted a nail to hold the thimble firmly in place. This is exactly how the real thing is made, so I feel happily authentic.
I made the ramrod itself from dowell, sanding it to shape until it fit. I couldn't find any stain to match the gun stock, so I used paint instead. Finally I waxed it.
Step 4: Dirty It Up!
To make the gun look suitably well-used (and to hide the defects in my workmanship!) I bashed the wood all over with a screwdriver to give it plenty of dents, use a soldering iron to add some burns and symbols, then polished it all over with brown furniture wax. Finally I reassembled the metal parts. I had to cut down the screw which holds the barrel in place since it no longer passes through the ramrod. I also replaced the trigger-guard screws with brass ones, and drilled countersinks into the guard itself so the screw heads no longer scrape my fingers. I'm pleased with the result; it's more detailed and looks a lot more like a sea service pistol -the kind of pistol a pirate might actually have carried, rather than an overpriced toy!
Step 5: Update:
Since writing this instructable I have bought another pistol and a carbine musket. I gave these the same treatment as before, but they also had a rather bright orange colouring. The stain used by Denix was kinda powdery and sticky too, it's weird, I didn't like it.
Fortunately it is very easy to sand away the top layer of stain/varnish. I also sanded away the musket butt so it fit the butt-plate properly. I then applied some much darker brown wood stain, plus some streaked black paint for good measure. Finally I applied genuine shellac for a truly antique patina. I'm much happier with the result.
(One photo shows the musket after sanding, and you can see it is actually made in two parts, with the join disguised by the brass (effect) collar.)