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Cival War Cannon restoration

StanFoster's picture

Years ago...back in 1979 to be exact...the city of Paxton had a 6 pound civil war cannon barrel without the carriage.  They were looking for a volunteer  to restore it..and I took on the job.  The cannon used to be fired every fourth of July until 1898 when someone blew their arm off with it by improper reloading.  They welded the touch hole shut and the cannon soon fell to the ground years later.

I agreed to restore it with one condition...I was going to fire that cannon again.  I ordered some 6 pounder carriage plans to hold this 900 pound barrel.  I built everything except the wheels. Wheels are very involved with lots of stuff that has to be just right. 

I have fired cans of concrete over 3/4 of a mile with this...and every Memorial day..including todays..I get to fire it at the Memorial Day celebration in the cemetery.


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thanks for the picts,  Stan - - a nice job,  for sure - - did the wheels come from an Amish shop?  wooden bearings? - - I've done just a little work with steel wheeled farm wagons,  this is neater -

"there's enough for everyone"

"there's enough for everyone"

(post #128462, reply #3 of 21)

David:   The wheel has a steel sleeve inside it.  The hub is elm.

He heated the steel tire on a bed of hot coals and then place it on the fellows and spun it in a trough of water to shrink the tire and keep the fellows from burning.   It was neat to watch.


I was a little nervous about shooting it the first time..and gradually worked the loads up in it. I shoot a whole pound of 1F blackpowder and a pound of flower for back pressure.  It really roars. 


(post #128462, reply #4 of 21)


Very cool!  I'm curious.  Do you need some kind of permit to fire cans of concrete 3/4 of a mile???

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading." ~ Henny Youngman


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Roger:   No permit needed.  It was on our family farm. 

(post #128462, reply #7 of 21)

Whew!  That's good to hear.  That does sound like more fun than a potato cannon!

"When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading." ~ Henny Youngman


My grandson wants one! (post #128462, reply #18 of 21)

My grandson wants one!

(post #128462, reply #2 of 21)


By far, your the man! Nice work, but was it a little scarry the first time you shot it?

I know that you posted once that you used to build black powder rifles, I collect antiques and have several Kentucky long rifles, someone is always asking me if I would shot one, my answer is always the same, no way Jose!


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I thought potato cannons were cool! 

I want one of those.

What was involved in the restoration of the actual gun?  The ones I've seen are usually in pretty rough shape, depending on how long they were stored/lay in the weeds.



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are u up to a visit mid june?


(post #128462, reply #9 of 21)

Stan , Now what can be so hard about these wheels? Looks like a spiral stair that basicly goes nowhere. And you tend to work in circles any way.

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Don:   A wheelwright is a very long study to learn.  Sure...I could probably make a wheel that looked similar...but the iron tire would more than likely not be giving the right tension on the spokes and wheel fellows like it should be.  These Amish guys teethed on this type of work and it is amazing to watch such skilled work being done so quicky and correctly.

(post #128462, reply #11 of 21)

message to myself ...


make mental note ...


"don't piss off Stan ......"



I saw a wheel being banded on the woodwrights show years ago ... like ya said ... got the size ... then heated it ... set over the wood ... and poured water over it to cool it down ... cinched up real tight. Would be neat to see in person.

Very cool stuff.



Buck Construction, llc   Pittsburgh,PA

     Artistry in Carpentry                

    Buck Construction

 Artistry In Carpentry

     Pittsburgh Pa

(post #128462, reply #12 of 21)

Hope I didn't PO Stan . I have seen the spiral stair that he made around that oak collumn . Then when I saw the hub on the cannon . I also remember watching Roy Underhill  build the wheel on his show . Put it together and figured that Stan could do that with ease .

Stan , where did you order the cannon frame plans from ?  Did it come with the plans for the supply cart also?   And by the way nice jobon that cannon.

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Don:   I have no idea what would PO me? 

You asked a good question.  

 I got the carriage plans from Dixie Gun Works in Union City, Tennessee.  

I had a limited budget at the time I restored that cannon..and also limited skills as well.  If I were to build it now...I would have really made it exact.  The iron work was just hacked out with a torch in the farm shop..and resembles s-o-m-e-w-h-a-t the intended plans.  Any true Civil War historian would utterly scokk and what I did...and I am sincerely serious.


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Be careful out there Stan. (And I know you are).  A local Boy Scout was killed last summer as a cannon at summer camp came apart. They were doing evening flag ceremony. Seemed to be safely supervised, etc. OSHA studied the accident. I can't remember exactly what they came up with. Something about not all oif the previous powder had been evacuated (?).


All that said, I wish they had cannon duty when I went to that Scout Camp.

cannon restoration (post #128462, reply #15 of 21)


I hope you can help me, or at least put me in touch with someone who can.

I work at a school in the north-east of Scotland and we have a pair of cannons, one of which is pictured. I would really love to get pupils involved in restoring these two cannons but I have no idea how to go about it.

They have stood outside the school for decades guarding the entrance and unfortunately they have been completely neglected. The timber hasn't had any treatment for as long as I can remember and it's this part of the restoration that concerns me the most. What can be done with really old timber that just seems to soak up anything that is put on it?

Please note that we have no intention of restoring these cannons to full working order, we just want them to look their best.

Any help will be greatly appreciated.


Banff Academy


cannon.jpg847.91 KB

What's the conditon of the (post #128462, reply #16 of 21)

What's the conditon of the wood?  Is it rotted in more than a few small spots?

If the wood is sound then simply washing/scrubbing it with TSP (tri-sodium phosphate) and maybe bleaching it with oxalic acid would clean it up and lighten the wood.  Then you'd apply some sort of clear sealer -- a good paint store can probably point you in the right direction.  But be sure to try all this on the mythical "inconspicuous place" first, to be sure you like the effect.

(Note that any cleaning you do will produce a rougher surface than you currently have, so it's a trade-off.)

For very small spots of rot there are epoxy-based wood fillers that are good -- dig out the rot first.  For larger spots there are "rot consolidants" -- thin epoxy that soaks into the wood (though you should drill some small holes to help with this.  For significant areas of rot it's probably best to cut away the bad area and glue in place a "dutchman" -- a piece of similar wood, attached with waterproof polyurethane glue.

I suspect the "funky" areas (like the area around the second "step" from the right) are most likely to be rotted.  You probably don't want to fill these in, but they need to be well treated with a consolidant and sealer.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville

As a history buff, I want to (post #128462, reply #17 of 21)

As a history buff, I want to say thanks for keeping another piece of history alive!


Good Job.

Where's the cannon located?  (post #128462, reply #19 of 21)

Where's the cannon located?  I might make it up there one of these days to check it out in person.


BTW - I switched jobs.  At the moment I'm working for Altamont in Thomosboro.  They make gun stocks and pistol grips.

Guys...hate to rain on the (post #128462, reply #20 of 21)

Guys...hate to rain on the parade, but this thread has been inactive since 2004, and the last time I saw Stan around here was before the "Great Catharsis".

But who knows......maybe his ears are iching as we type......

Well, I was replying to the (post #128462, reply #21 of 21)

Well, I was replying to the recent post by shoz, that was essentially a new thread.

Of all the preposterous assumptions of humanity over humanity, nothing exceeds most of the criticisms made on the habits of the poor by the well-housed, well-warmed, and well-fed.  --Herman Melville