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How to Build a 12 pound Mountain Howitzer Cannon ...by Buck Stix

I decided to build a Mountain Howitzer cannon because I'm from Wisconsin. Let me explain. It all started because of a Civil war Veteran named James Burton Pond of Fond du Lac County Wisconsin. He organized Company C of the 3rd Wisconsin Cavalry and was awarded the Medal of Honor for his bravery at a famous Civil War battle at Baxter Springs, KS.

October 6, 1863 "While in command of 2 Companies of Cavalry, 1st Lt. James B. Pond was surprised and attacked by several times his own number of Quantrill's Raiders. Alone and unaided he fired a Mountain Howitzer three times, throwing the enemy into confusion and causing them to retire."
This is a photograph of James B. Pond and his Medal of Honor.

TO LEARN MORE ABOUT JAMES BURTON POND - CLICK THE PICTURES

*************************************************** FABRICATING THE MOUNTAIN HOWITZER CARRIAGE ***************************************************

The first step in any "build your own cannon" project is to purchase plans. Although Mountain Howitzer plans are available from a number of sources, most are based on original Civil War plans and are only line drawings with few dimensions. Because of the special "enhancements" of my project, all required drawings were computer drawn in Autocad and stored electronically.

To begin the project. CLICK HERE << During my research. using plans. I opted for second type used known as the 1850 #2 prairie carriage. In choosing a style of carriage for my howitzer. I decided to build the carriage first. Although there were many unsightly cracks. There are 3 ways to go about acquiring Mt. Original artillery carriage wheels are very difficult to find. Howitzer carriage wheels. starting with the wheels. Howitzer Cannons evolved using 3 different styles of carriages. I immediately drove from Wisconsin to get them. This caused the wood to dry out.>> If you want a set of Mountain Howitzer Carriage or Barrel blueprints. but they were originally artillery. When I located these in South Dakota. having smaller 42" diameter wheels instead of 58" diameter wheels of the larger carriage. they came with a solid steel "lynch-pin" axle. In addition. or as in this case. They can be built from scratch. many years. they can be restored from original antique artillery wheels. I was very fortunate to find an original set of artillery carriage wheels by searching the internet. the majority of the wood was sound and very restorable. some surfaces had minor worm damage near the edges of the steel tires. As an added bonus. Here is how the wheels looked when I first got them. or purchased new from modern carriage wheel builders. This carriage was nearly identical to the familiar #1 field carriage of the larger guns. for many. I discovered that original 12 pound Mtn. the wheels had been stored indoors in a very dry environment. . Unfortunately. It looked scaled down. The wheels I found were slightly more robust than typical mt howitzer wheels. shrink and crack.

and weigh approximately 70 pounds each. The steel tires were 1/2" thick and 3-1/2" wide.D. axle boxes through the hubs. ) . These wheels weighed 140 pounds each. a 2" wide steel tire. ( Typical mountain howitzer carriage wheels have a 9-1/2" long hub. This provided a long 12-1/2" bearing surface.The wheels were constructed with steel 2-1/2" I.

.The original lynch-pin axle construction provided for quick wheel removal without tools.

Although most of this work was low-tech. 2 coats of boiled linseed oil were applied to the wheels over both wood and metal. During this time. dirt and old paint. the worm damage areas were chiseled out and wire brushed to remove loose wood particles. and very successful. and 2 coats of oil base black enamel on the metal. not new ) Finally. the worm damaged areas and cracks were filled with a good quality epoxy filler. After conditioning. This was followed by 2 coats of oil base "Union Olive Drab" green enamel on the wood. This conditioning allowed moisture to re-absorbed into the wood which reduced the size of the cracks. The excess filler was "scraped" away with no sanding of the wood or metal. both wheels were left outdoors in humid weather for 2 weeks. Compare the before and after results. This was the correct color for an 1850's Mountain Howitzer. .Before starting restoration. it was easy. ( I wanted the wheels to look original.

The next step in the restoration process was the axle. It measured 43-1/4" between the hubs. shortened. The axle as received was 11" too long for the Mountain Howitzer carriage. . instead of the 32-1/4" desired length. and rewelded at the correct length and camber for a Mountain Howitzer carriage. The solid 3" square axle was center-cut.

White oak was cut and planed to dimension and then securely glued around the square steel axle. A departure from original dimension was made to the axle box. we enlarged our axle box to 5" square in order to maintain visual proportion. a wooden axle box was constructed around the steel. Original Mountain Howitzer carriage plans called for axle boxes of a #2 prairie carriage to be 4" square.With the axle shortened to the correct length. Since our wheels were more robust than standard. having 25% larger and longer hubs. .

Although the massive "trail" was typically constructed from a solid white oak beam. Vacuum was applied and in less than one hour drying time. the completed beam was ready for sawing. . A few added clamps kept them from shifting. we chose to fabricate the trail by laminating together four. We selected naturally aged.Original Mountain Howitzer carriages were constructed of white oak so we used white oak throughout the project. This massive beam was next placed inside the heavy bag of a large vacuum table. air-dried wood of 10%-12% moisture content. The surfaces of the 7 foot long planks were coated with glue and then banded together with duct tape. 2" thick planks for added strength.

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. for perpendicular drilling of the marked holes. In order to drill the holes straight and square through the thick beam. the 4 sides of the beam were square planed to 6-3/8" and the ends were sawed to finish length.The roughly constructed beam measured 7" by 7" by 7 feet long and weighed over 80 pounds. All drawing dimensions were pencil drawn on all 4 sides of the trail. a small table top drill press was modified by inverting its machined base. This allowed placement of the machined surface of the base against the beam. Next.

we began to chisel by hand and start shaping the head of the trail.After drilling the holes. Next. double coats of boiled linseed oil were applied inside them. The best way to describe the work is to say "simply remove everything that doesn't look like a Mountain Howitzer trail. Coarse files and rasps were used which made the work go easy." .

matching the surfaces of the wheels. Things finally started taking shape. . Final shaping and surface smoothing was done using coarse files and a small belt sander with 50 grit paper. After painting. To finish the axle box. Before the finish was applied however. it truly looked original antique. We placed the trail in position on the axle box and added the wheels. and then the bottom. This pattern shop's saw had a huge 6 foot square table. the surfaces were again treated by applying 2 coats of boiled linseed oil followed by two coats of the oil based enamel.In order to remove large quantities of wood for shaping the rest of the trail. we located a large band saw at a local pattern shop. We first cut from the side. then the top. to obtain the results below. The large saw table made it easy to handle the heavy beam and follow the pencil lines during sawing. the surfaces were "roughed-up" by adding a few dents as well as some chain and rope marks.

. A large spindle sander was used for the outside contouring. The wood had aged naturally and had a few weather cracks. held together with double-sided tape so that both would be finished identical. The slabs were first planed and cut to size.The remaining wooden pieces to be constructed were the two cheeks. and then band sawed to shape. Once again we tried to match the "antique look" of the original wheels. These were made from solid 3" thick slabs of white oak. This work was done as a pair.

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and a double dose of the boiled linseed oil was again applied.We matched the cheeks to the trail. and then to the axle box. The axle box was notched accordingly and final fitting was carefully done with chisels and files. A small bubble level was used to keep everything square and even. . Once everything matched. the cheeks were slightly distressed. Wooden dowels were used to position and align all the pieces. the cracks were filled. Corresponding holes were transferred from the trail through the cheeks.

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so they were purchased. Parts like the Lunette assembly and the elevating screw and box were readily available at a reasonable cost. it was time to start fabricating the metal parts. were purchased. Several companies manufacture metal parts for the Mountain Howitzer carriage. those parts which were too difficult or time consuming to make.With the woodwork completed. Two coats of black enamel were applied to all the metal pieces except the brass elevating screw box. . Although most of the metal parts were easily fabricated by following the detailed drawings.

And. instead of modifying the carriage. This was useful if an enemy barrel was captured that differed slightly in width. They actually served 2 functions. One function was simply as spacers so that variations in barrel width could be accommodated by changing the thickness of the roundel.A variation from original carriage design might be considered with the roundels. . The roundels are a series of 6 spacers (3 each side) located between the cheeks and trail. the barrel could be fitted to an existing carriage. since both North and South used this design during the civil war. it could also be modified to fit an existing barrel. if an enemy carriage was captured. By changing the roundel thickness.

The second purpose of the rear roundels was to distribute the recoil forces over a wider area than would be had with only a through-bolt. and the cheeks pull back on the trail and axle box.1" circumference x 2 = 10.9" circumference x 2 = 3. The rear roundel has large diameter shoulders that countersink into both the cheek and the trail. the forces pull back on the cheeks. When the barrel recoils.8".2". The stepped shoulder of the large roundel with a 5. provides approximately 3 times the contact area of a 5/8" bolt with its 1. .

Assembly and disassembly is much easier.Unfortunately. using the "stepped" roundel makes for much more difficult assembly. That way the pieces are NOT interlocked and can be individually slipped into place. were double sealed with boiled linseed oil before the hardware was attached. The lunette assembly and the lifting handles were attached to the trail. the whole assembly is interlocked with the roundel shoulders and must be handled as a single unit. you may wish to eliminate the shoulders and make the large roundels with "flat" sides like the small ones. Things were really starting to take shape. Any additional holes that were drilled into or through the wood. Once the cheeks are installed against the sides of the trail. . thereby having virtually no recoil. If the Mountain Howitzer is to be used only for "blank shots".

but all the barrel pieces. only cost about $20 ) manipulate. ( You don't have to get as carried away as I did when making the mock barrel. a "mock" barrel was fabricated using 4" diameter PVC toilet pipe and fittings. Critical points on the barrel such as the "rear rim base" and the "trunnion locations" were duplicated from the barrel drawings. than it would have been if we had used a 225 pound steel barrel. including the wooden cascabel and brass paint.In order to accurately locate the elevating screw box. It was much easier to use a 2 pound plastic mountain howitzer barrel for locating these parts. The lightweight PVC barrel was very easy to .

All of the remaining wood carriage pieces were painted and assembled. it looked like a real Mountain Howitzer cannon. axle bands and the folding handspike assembly. the leather implement straps were attached and the light weight PVC barrel was held in place using 2" wide leather strips that were tacked down with 1" nails. TO REQUEST INFO OR TO BUY DETAILED PLANS OF THIS CARRIAGE CLICK MY FINISHED MOUNTAIN HOWITZER CARRIAGE WITH PVC BARREL IN PLACE . Finally. When everything was assembled. as were the remaining steel pieces such as the wheel guards. even with though the barrel was only a plastic toilet pipe.

Next see how we made the >> CHEEKS < < click to GET A FREE PRINT OF MY GRAMPA HOWITZER .