Thursday, February 3, 2011

Artillery - Part 1 - A New Labor of Love

So, I have made a Vivandiere, a drummer, an officer with a bicorne, experimented making a pickelhaube and a hoplite helmet, so what next? How about an artillery piece and crew?

Here we go, my new labor of love.

The Wheels

Most of this model is made from balsa wood because of the ease with which it can be shaped (sometimes too easy to shape) and because I have a lot of it laying around. The wheel should be about chest height, so I draw a 1 1/2" circle for the outer part of the wheel. The balsa is 3/16" thick.

The center piece, which will hold the spokes and the axle, is a 7/16" dowel cut 1/4" thick.

Although an artillery wheel in Napoleonic times should have 12 spokes, my dowels for the spokes are too thick and the center should be slightly larger so I have to use only 8 spokes. I am sure the purists will scoff, but they probably would about all of the other figures, so who cares?

Drill the 1/16" holes in the dowel and put the spokes in. Drill a hole through the center for the axle.

As the outer diameter of the wheel is 1 1/2", the inner diameter will be 1". I used a 1" fender washer to draw it, using the whole in the center of the washer to mark the center of the wheel. Now comes the hard part: cutting out the circles inside and out. It took me three tries to get two wheels that work. (I can't wait to get that laser!)

Center the spokes on the wheel and mark where the spokes should be shortened. Note that the spokes are slightly longer than the inside diameter of the wheel even after being trimmed.

Using the trimmed spokes, mark the wheel where notches should be made. Use your Dremel to sand out the notches.

Make sure the notches go deep enough that the spokes will sink down below the surface of the backside of the wheel.

On the frontside, it looks a lot better than the backside. This also helps you better to shape the wheel.

Using the Dremel sander (shown below) you can indent the wheel, leaving only outer area raised. This will represent the iron binding on the outside of the wheel, with the inside wooden.

Here is a view at an angle, so you can see the indentation better.

Here is a fitting with the axle in place. Glue and filler will cover the spokes notches on the backside.

The Cannon Barrel

I found a spindle used for a chair rail that looked just right. I think it cost me about $2.50 for two spindles, with each spindle able to produce two barrels, so that is about $0.63 a cannon.

Start by cutting off the bottom piece.

Cut off the top. The center piece is now the basis for the cannon barrel.

Using a Dremel I hollowed out the muzzle end.

For the opposite end I added a 1/4" flat head plug. It would have been easier to use a round head plug, or better yet a mushroom button. But, this is all I have at the moment.

Glue the plug on the end and shape it by rounding it off.

Here is a basic fitting of the barrel on the axle and wheels.

The Trail

I took a piece of 3/16" thick balsa wood and marked out some preliminary measurements. The piece is 3 3/4" long - basically slightly longer than the barrel - and 1" high. The other measurements are shown in the figure below to give the basic "curved" shape of the trail.

The figure below shows the trail cut out and fitted to the wheels and axle. Note that my measurements are off as the trail's angle has the tail off of the ground. Oh well. Nothing a sander can't fix.

Here is the fitting of the barrel to the trails, wheels, and axle.

That's it for now. Need to add the cross-pieces for the trail and the spindle for the barrel so it can be elevated, then it is on to painting and maybe a few little details.


  1. Lovely...just like the old toys from the 1900´s. I look forward to seeing this painted.

  2. That is amazing!

    Must have taken quite some time and thought!

  3. I "eyeball" the designs, which is why they don't always work out the first time...

    In this case I compared pictures of artillerymen next to the wheels of the artillery pieces are used that as the basis for the measurements. Also, the barrel length was pretty much set by the size of the ready-made piece. :)

  4. Cool blog. I was making wooden chess sets 4" square with the pieces filed from quarter inch dowels a few years ago. Knights could be horse or elephant based, bishops mitres done with a pencil sharpener, queens like a topless French bowsprit piece--amazing what you can carve like that. But I found the half inch didn't work at all, only the quarter inch. Until I made it magnetic, they'd all fall down, too, with the slightest sneeze. Hand made in the USA, I'd have to charge at least 300 for the time, but compete with other chess sets at 3 bones.




Popular Posts

Labels I Use in Posts