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I've never done this before... 1849 First Model Prairie Carriage

21416 Views 107 Replies 14 Participants Last post by  TM333TX
I put up a flag pole last May. It is a great setting at the top of the hill up from the lake we live it. As I looked at it the thought came to me that I needed a cannon sitting next to it. My initial thought was to build a naval carriage (using treated wood, nothing overly fancy) and get an all-weather, non-firing cannon so I would not have to worry about it being out in the weather.

As I explored options... I thought, what about a REAL cannon? And so my adventure began...

I did all the internet research I could. I found out where I could buy a cannon. I decided I really preferred a field carriage as I would not want to leave my cannon sitting in my back yard getting hit by my irrigation sprinklers (a nice yard in the Texas summer requires a lot of water and with 28K acres of it in my backyard, I water a LOT).

I learned there are different field carriages, and thinking I'd start on the small side of cannons, planned to purchase a Mountain Howitzer so I decided I'd build an 1849 First Model Prairie Carriage. I bought the book (plans), studied it and learned all the parts of a carriage parts of the field carriages. It did not take long to realize a field carriage is much more complicated than they look. I also realized that if I built something I was proud of it would be around a LONG time and would need to be built correctly so that it would be as safe to shoot, for me, or others down the road.

I had read ZULU's post on the Alamo Carriage he built - truly awesome. I also had seen the post on the Verbruggen Cannon mold he made for Hern Iron Works, and casting pics Hern posted and then the first Verbruggen they sent Zulu. To cut to the chase, I ended up with it. And that was the beginning...


(My wife is a retired teacher, I still work !!)

More to come. TM
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Thanks Northwoodneil and Carbineone1964. It sure would have helped me to have a carriage nearby to look at. There are a lot of on-line pictures, and I've studied many, many of them but its not quite the same as taking my own tape measure to something. ZULU and Ken @ Cannon Parts LTD are GREAT resources and have been very helpful.
The upper end of the trail required some work but not like the lowered end.


I cut away what I could. And then... my BFF, the belt sander :tango_face_surprise






I may have made a tactical error not notching the trail for the axle box prior to tapering it. My thought was it would be easier to cut the notch while I was working on a flat surface rather than cutting the notch once was the trail was tapered / sloped. I knew there would be belt sanding and was concerned it might "grab" either edge of the notch and the forward end of the notch is not very deep and wanted to ensure the front lip notched over the axle box as much as it should. Not sure how I will do it next time (the comment that always gets a reaction from my wife Stacy!!)

The parts are getting closer to fitting together correctly.


Getting close to something I could live with.
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My friend in Cypress taught me angle grinder and Kutzall wheel.

You can see the start here with chisel.

Then progress with the Electric Beaver!

My friend in Cypress know lots of cool tricks.
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I'm not asking enough questions when I talk to that guy in Cypress :tango_face_sad:
I'll tell you a secret about the Cypress guy, he will work for food.
I'll tell you a secret about the Cypress guy, he will work for food.

"Money for nothin' and chicks for free".:tango_face_wink:

TM333TX, It's obvious you inletted the trail for the axle but are you/did you also inlet the axle to slip onto the trail? I had that question when I built my carriage but never got an answer. I thought the plans show both being inletted but it's hard tell. I did inlet both on mine and it makes for a super solid connection. At this point it would probably change to many measurements and is a moot point.
Northwoodneil, I did not inlet the axle box for the trail though I likely would next time. I checked my plans and do not see a reference to doing so. Even if it was a very small inlet it would have cleaned up the trail to axle box fit - or at least any gap would be out of sight, but it pretty much is anyway. I can see how it would add strength.
Drilling the holes thru the cheeks for the trunnion plate bolts, the trail for the assembly bolts, the axle strap bolts, and elevation screw / screw box, was my next adventure. Every hole meant a lot of measuring, and measuring, and then some more measuring, top and bottom, both sides, trying to ensure the bolts did not run in to one another... good lord who designed this thing anyway !!

Tire Wheel Bicycle Wood Flooring

Wood Bicycle Wheel Line Floor

The bolts for the trail axle strap were fun.

Wood Wooden block Hardwood Wood stain Gas

Tire Wheel Wood Automotive tire Table

As I continued to get further and further along, I became very aware that that I needed to be very careful and not make a mess of something - I did NOT want to start over - especially on the trail !! The last hurdle on the trail was the elevations screw box, and of course, it is drilled at an angle also and really needs to be in exactly the right place to meet the cannon where it should.

Automotive tire Wood Hardwood Fender Gas

Wood Wooden block Wood stain Hardwood Toy block

I was happy to get all these holes drilled, and knew there would be more for the lunette and trail plate...
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Getting the cheek and trail axle straps to fit tight to the axle box is a bit tricky - attempting to leave a small enough gap that would close when bolted to together. Once again Jeremy at the fab shop near me (truly an awesome shop that I visit frequently) did a great job making sense of my measurements and templates to build the straps.

I ended up with a very shallow slot in bottom of the axle box to close the gap for the trail strap.

Notching both the trail and cheeks to fit together, and accounting for the width of the rondells, went very well.

I was beginning to gain some confidence (and peace of mind) that the carriage might actually come together :tango_face_smile:

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With the cheeks, trail and axle box complete and all holes drilled, I started finishing the carriage wheels. It takes a while to sand, stain, and finish the 28 spokes and paint the steel.

The wheels are hickory and after the initial staining (Jacobean) it was pretty clear I'd need to keep staining to get them as dark as I could, knowing the mahogany would end up pretty dark.

I was able to hang them in my shop as I worked on them which was a huge help.

When all of the wood was finished I went to work painting the steel bands and tires. Once I had the wood taped off the actual painting went pretty quick.

The next step was finishing the cheeks, trail and axle box. Fun to work with nice wood. I'm much more experienced finishing wood than working steel and looked forward to seeing the wood come to life.
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Nice shop!
The shop got bigger when the Ranger moved to the boathouse :tango_face_smile:
So are you going to paint the wood Field gun Green?
So are you going to paint the wood Field gun Green?
I have an aversion to painting good wood :tango_face_sad: It will all be stained (Jacobean) with a satin poly finish.
Having spent a lot of time working on the raw wood I was very glad to get to the point of beginning the finishing of it, and was not disappointed with how it was looking once I began to stain it.

Any light on the mahogany really brings out the "ribbons" in the wood.
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You make a good argument for not painting pretty wood. :tango_face_grin:
You make a good argument for not painting pretty wood. :tango_face_grin:
I have to agree with you Moose this wood is spectacular. Not a straight grain ordinary Home Depot piece of red oak that's for sure.

This is when you should not paint.
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