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  1. #1

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    DIY GUNSMITHING: 1899 Lefever Double-Barrel 12 ga. Shotgun Resto

    I recently purchased a pretty decent 1899 Lefever SxS Double-Barrel 12 ga. Shotgun for my collection. The barrels are Damascus and after a gunsmith's inspection, they were stated to be in good condition to shoot, as long as they were low pressure/low charge, 2 1/2" shelled rounds with a small shot payload. The bore walls are in pretty good condition too, with only slight pitting in some random spots throughout it's length.

    This is a "numbers matching" gun, where are the serial numbers and gun grade letter matched the parts as I disassembled them, as verified by the factory stampings on each major part. The action is tight when closed, there is minimal wear on the breech face where the barrel closes into it and this particular model is equipped with automatic shell ejectors.

    This gun is in pretty good condition overall, but it's got approx. 112 years of dirt, grime and scum build up on it that needs to be cleaned up before it's put back into use.

    I've never owned a gun this old before and I wouldn't have purchased it if I didn't see a diamond in the rough that I could restore back to new or at least bring back to good working condition AND one I could shoot from time to time.

    All of my guns I own are "shooters", as I don't want, nor am I interested in, a wall hanger or safe queen that only gets taken out to be gawked at and coonfingered to death... If I'm going to have an antique gun of any kind, it MUST be able to be shot...and shot safely.

    I've already got the gun disassembled and it's ready for cleaning. I don't plan to anything "trick" to this gun while it's apart- only give it a thorough cleaning, a re-oiling with high quality gun oil and wash/treat the timbers with some oil soap to clean them up to nice condition. I'm leaving the century-old petina intact, as to not take away from the nostalgic look of the gun, which in my opinion, makes it pretty cool to own!

    Here is where I am thus far:

    Last edited by backfire; 02-16-2012 at 14:55.

  2. #2

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    1.) Started this project by working on the timbers first, since the treatment I gave them will need ample time to fully dry before they are ready for re-assembly. The wood is in pretty good condition overall, but it's caked pretty heavy with old nasty gun oil, hand sweat, body oils and who knows what else has accumulated on them after 112 years!

    2.) Since the wrist area of this gun has a steel plate secured to it on either side that didn't want to come off without damage, I played it safe and left it there while I re-conditioned the rest of the wood; especially since it doesn't serve a mechanical purpose for the function of the gun.

    I do want to make the metal look "cleaner" when finished, but I DON'T want to remove the century-old petina that has formed over the years, so I *LIGHTLY* rubbed them with 4-ought (0000) fine steel wool in the direction of the metal grain. This method brightens up the metal just enough to give it a clean, untarnished appearance, without removing that awesome 100+ year-old character petina. A little goes a long way here...

    3.) Next, I filled up the kitchen sink with hot water (don't tell my wife...Haha!) and added 1/2 cup of Murphy's Oil Soap per the instructions to wash the timbers in. I've used this stuff before on old furniture and it works VERY well in getting all the old grime off. It's strong enough to strip the old wax, oils, etc. from the wood, but gentle enough where it won't harm the original stain, the urethane finish or the wood itself. Plus, it leaves a lemon-ny fresh scent behind!

    I use the 600 grit wet/dry sand paper to gently smooth the wood's edges, then use a green kitchen scotch brite pad to lightly, gently and evenly scrub the wood in the soapy mixture. The "washing" really cleans the checkering out also, which really brings back full appearance that was once lost due to it being packed with grime... Do this task brisk and quick, so you can get the wood out of there quickly, then hand dry off with a towel, letting it set out to air-dry for an hour or so.

    4.) This is how NASTY the water was after cleaning just these two small peinces of wood! That's 112 year old dirt right there fellas!!
    Last edited by backfire; 02-16-2012 at 14:57.

  3. #3

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    5.) Then, after the timbers were fully dry from setting out in the open air an hour or so, I applied a light, even first-coat of Old English wood preservative to the stock and forearm to give the wood a drink, so it wouldn't crack as it dried out.

    I like this stuff, because once you apply it, let it soak and then wipe it off, it leaves the wood feeling dry to the touch, but smooth and "soft"- not slimy and fake shiny looking like some other wood preservatives do... I can't stand that!! Plus, it really brings out the wood's natural, rich, grain and color!!

    The 112 year old wood was THIRSTY!! I'll give it another coat when the gun is all together for the final assembly.
    Last edited by backfire; 02-16-2012 at 14:58.

  4. #4

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    6.) After giving the timbers their first coat of preservative, I gave each one some specific attention by picking out all the old wax, oil residue, dirt, grease and what-not from all the tiny nooks and crannies of the machined areas of the wood.

    In doing so, I can't help but be amazed and in awe with the craftsmanship and hand fitment those assembly workers must have put into these high quality collector guns of the past! I mean....the wood rear stock is actually a functioning part of the gun, where without it, the gun wouldn't even fire! How cool is that?! No wonder they are highly prized and STILL shoot to the day- 112 years later!!

    I'd bet there were no "lifetime warranties" or "shoot 250 rounds through it to break it in" crap you hear of these days when these highly crafted guns were built... The expert craftsman back then obviously built them with American pride and they KNEW their finished product would fire on the 1'st round as good as the 1000'th round! I'd bet a simple handshake warranty of, "It'll work" was all that was needed back then.

    Neat stuff!!!

  5. #5

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    7.) I used 4-ought (0000) steel wool on all the metal parts that had the outer exterior exposed such as the side plates, trigger gaurd, upper back strap, lower back strap, action lock lever, screw heads, safety lever backing plate, triggers, and any other misc. parts that "faced" the outside of the gun. Using this fine steel wool cleans the surface of the metal cleanly, while still leaving the aged petina appearance behind. The gun will still "look old", but it'll be as clean, crisp and smooth as a whistle!

  6. #6

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    Update Progress: 2-17-12

    8.) I began cleaning the many little parts that make up the trigger and safety mechanisms, barrel action lock parts, etc. Since many of these moderately sized internal parts are of bare metal and won't be seen once the gun it together, I decided to use an air powered media blaster on them equipped with fine corn cob media.

    9.) The corn cob chaffe does an excellent job of removing surface rust, grime and light corrosion of these fragile parts, without hurting or etching the host part itself. When they come out, they look like they were just produced new from the factory, where they even have the factory matte finish.

    Note: There were a number of other parts of the gun that have the factory "rainbow" discoloration on them from the manufacturer's heat treating process 112 years ago and I didn't want to disturb that. So, I used only the fine steel wool on those parts, which cleaned them nicely, but left the "rainbow" intact. I don't want to make the gun look "new" on the outside, but rather have it appear as its cared for 112 year old self, only function and work like new on the inside.

    10.) I also only used the media blaster on the non-exposed side of the action lock lever and the forearm trim piece, so I could still keep the old petina on the outside "visible" metal surfaces. Steel wool was used here also, as before on the other parts.

  7. #7

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    Bookmarked to see how it turns out!

  8. #8

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    I'll be watching this as well.
    I'm a Lefever fan.

  9. #9

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    Quote Originally Posted by 03A3 View Post
    I'll be watching this as well.
    I'm a Lefever fan.
    I'm now a LeFever fan too!

    I'm simply in awe at the craftsmanship and quality of these shotguns, (now that I've seen them up close and apart) especially the machining precision of the metal parts, using all they had in the 19th Century. No calculators.. No slide rules.. No computers.. No CNC.., etc. etc. etc., yet they STILL put out a high quality, precision fitted, mass-produced shotgun! Awesome engineering!

    Those guys back then were real American Craftsman, that's for sure.

  10. #10

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    11.) I found that someone had taken the gun apart sometime in the Gun's past, where they boogered-up some of the screw heads, leaving them with burrs and marrs. If I was restoring this gun to be a show queen, (and if it was of a much higher grade) I would try to find new replacements for them, as each one actually has engraving on the heads. Since I'm not and this gun will be a nice shooter, I went ahead and took a micro-file to lightly file down the sharp burrs and marrs from each screw head to clean them up a little so they are presentable. I tried my best to only take down the high spots and not disturb the engraving.

    12.) I took a micro-file to all the internal parts that had raised edges, burrs, marrs or sharp corners in an effort to smooth them out for cleaner gun operation. This particular part is the shell ejector.

    13.) This is the trigger set that just came out of the media blaster w/ corn cob media. I only blasted the inside of the part clean that wouldn't bee seen and left the 100+ year old petina intact on the outside.

    14.) I found that one of the triggers must have broken off and had been repaired in the Gun's past, where they brazed the broken piece back on. It seems to be a nice braze job, so I won't disturb it, but I will polish both triggers to give the gun's assembled appearance a bit of class.

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