Making Cannon Carriages Part 2


In my previous article, I showed how to make the basic shape for the sides of a cannon carriage from scratch. I will continue this discussion in this article as there are still many details to add before the complete carriage has been made.

Cannon carriages have a number of eyebolts on their sides used to rig blocks to for operating the movement of the cannon. It is important that the holes for these eyebolts be drilled in exactly the same location on each carriage. You could take measurements from certain points on the carriage side, but that would be time consuming and probably not very accurate since these carriage sides are rather small in dimension. The fastest and most accurate method to use is to set up a special jig.

Photo 1 shows a simple jig used with a small drill press. You don’t even need a fancy miniature drill press to do this. I used a special mount for a Dremel tool, which you can see in this photo.

Photo 1

As you can see, this is a simple jig that has been clamped to the base of the drill press. I used some basswood strips to form a corner that each cannon carriage side be oriented into. The original drawing that you will be working from should show the location of the eyebolts. By taking some measurements from the original drawing using calipers, you can mark the location of each hole that needs to be drilled.

You will drill the first hole in each carriage side before repositioning the jig to drill the next hole. Photo 2 shows three holes I drilled in one pair of carriage sides for this example.

Photo 2

Now we must turn our attention to the axles. These should be made from the same wood type as the carriage sides were made from. In this example, I used bloodwood. Again, you should use your original drawings to obtain the dimensions needed for the axles.

Photo 3 shows the shape of the front and rear axles when finished. The front axle has a raised area in the center so that piece of wood is thicker than than the rear axle.

Photo 3

When you made your carriage sides, you cut two small notches in the bottom edge of each side. The axles will fit into these notches. To make these axles so that they are identical, I once again used my Preac miniature table saw.

First, I used the fence stop to cut the raw wood to a length of 1/2”. The stripwood used for these pieces had been previously milled to a dimension of 1/16” x 3/32” for both axles. Of course you’ll need to cut a sufficient number of pieces for each axle depending on the number of carriages you are making.

Next, I set the fence stop so that it was 3/16” from the outside edge of the blade (not the inside edge). That’s .187” which can be set using a set of calipers. I raised the .057” thick saw blade so that the depth of the cut was .031” or 1/32”. Two passes were made on each piece of wood - one on each end of the wood and on one surface only to produce the cuts shown in Photo 4. This will be the front axle. The rear axle will not have these cuts in it.

Photo 4

The remaining cuts will be the same on both axles and are made in the same manner - that is that the saw blade is set to a certain height for each pass and the fence stop is set to a certain distance from the outside edge of the saw blade.

The first set of cuts will form the outer ends of the axles where the trucks (wheels) are set upon. For this example, the fence stop was set to .093” from the outside edge of the saw blade. The height of the blade was set to .020”.

The rear axle requires that these cuts be made across all four surfaces as shown in Photo 5.

Photo 5

The rear axle requires that the cuts be made across the top surface (the one you made cuts in earlier) and the two side surfaces as shown in Photo 5. The cuts made across the top require that the saw blade be raised to a height of .051”, however the cuts on the sides are made with the height of the blade set to .020”.

Photo 6

After making these cuts, you can finish up the axles by using an Xacto knife to first remove the excess wood that still remains on the outer ends of each axle. Then the axles are sanded on the outer ends to change the squared end to a rounded end using a sanding stick. Photo 3 above shows what the completed axles should look like. (The front axle has the raised area in the center while the rear axle does not.

You will notice that the rear axle’s outer end is centered side to side and top to bottom so its orientation when installed does not matter. However, the front axle has that raised area in the center. That is the top of the axle. The carriage transom will sit on top of this raised area.

The rear axle will have a small piece of wood attached to the top of it which will be used to set the width of the carriage sides at the aft end when they are attached to the axle. This piece could have been milled into the wood by making cuts similar to the way cuts were made to form the raised area in the center of the front axle. However, this would require a thicker piece of wood for the rear axle than what was used on the front axle.

Photo 7 shows the rear axle with this strip of wood attached to the top surface. The strip is 1/32” x 1/32” x 5/32”.

Photo 7

As you can see, the strip is centered side to side as well as front to back.

The carriage can now be assembled as shown in Photo 8. The rear axle fits into the notch that was milled in the bottom of the carriage at the aft end while the front axle fits into the notch at the fore end. Due to the raised area on the front axle which acts as a stop when the sides are attached, the front of the carriage is more narrow than the rear.

Photo 8

You’ll notice in this photo that there is a piece of wire connecting the two sides of the carriage. That piece of wire is used to support the stool bed. The stool bed and the transom are the next pieces to make.

In this example, the bed was made from 1/32” x 1/8” x 3/16” bloodwood stock. First, the pieces are cut to length (3/16”) using the fence stop so that each piece is exactly the same length.

Next, a small notch has to bee cut across one end. The notch is only .018” wide so a thinner saw blade is used. The notch is .020” from thee end and is only .015” deep.

The saw is set up once again to make this cut on each piece that will become the bed stool. The stool is tapered at the end where the notch is cut. This can be done manually using an Xacto knife. Photo 9 shows the completed and uncompleted stool pieces.

Photo 9

The end with notch in it sits on top of the metal wire. The wider end sits on top of the strip of wood that was added to the top of the rear axle.

The transom is made from 1/32” x 5/32” bloodwood. First cut sufficient pieces to a length of 5/32”.

The transom has a flat end which sits on top of the front axle. The opposite end is concave to match the curvature of the cannon barrel. Photo 10 shows the completed carriage with the transom attached. The concave portion was created by using a rattail file. This may require clamping the piece in a vise rather than trying to hold it in your fingers.

Photo 10

Photo 11 shows a pair of completed carriages. You can see the stool bed at the aft end. You’ll also notice that trucks have been attached. I’ll cover the making of the trucks next.

The trucks are made from a 5/32” diameter dowel in this example. First the Preac miniature table saw was set up so that the trucks could be cut to a thickness of 1/32” but this time a .018” thick saw blade was used so that the parts would have a clean and sharp edge to them. Using the thicker .057” blade would have caused problems keeping the trucks from flying when cut and thus losing them.

Next, the same jig used to drill the holes in the sides of the carriages was used to drill a hole in the center of each truck. Photo 11 shows how this jig was used.

Photo 11

Photo 12 shows the carriages with the trucks attached.

Photo 12

Another detail that can be added to the carriage is the quoin. The quoin is a wedge shaped piece with a small handle attached at the wider end. It is used to position the elevation of the cannon barrel. Photo 13 shows a simple quoin made for this example. The handle is simply a piece of brass wire.

Photo 13

Photo 14 shows the carriage after eyebolts and an “O” ring were attached. You can purchase pre-made eyebolts and “O” rings from different sources or you can make them yourself.

Photo 14

The eyebolts are used to rig the cannon once it has been installed on the deck of your model.

Finally, the cannon barrel is added. These can be purchased from a number of online sources as well. Photo 15 shows the completed cannon carriage with the cannon installed.

Photo 15

One other detail that you might wish to add would be the capsquare. The capsquare shown in the photo above is a metal part that came in the kit that this cannon was made for. The capsquare sits over the trunion of the cannon barrel thus holding the barrel onto the carriage. Depending on the scale of your model, you can make the capsquare out of strip brass, but often I’ve used strips of black construction paper to simulate the capsquare. It just depends on how detailed you wish to make your carriages.

I hope you have enjoyed this article and will be able to make carriages for your models using the scratch building techniques that I have showed you.


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