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Author Topic: Touch holes and pan powder  (Read 356 times)

Online Rob DiStefano

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Touch holes and pan powder
« on: December 28, 2018, 06:53:19 AM »
In 2008 Larry Pletcher did a series of flintlock testing, one was about the touch hole and pan powder locations with respect to their efficacy.  His results are interesting and should put to bed a number of perpetuated myths.  His data and findings are good to review every so often ....

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Conclusions:

These conclusions are those of the experimenter. You may have different opinions.

I wish to point out that every trial produced a report that sounded as one sound. The fastest (.032) and the slowest (.060) sounded the same. Even though one was almost twice as fast as the other, the sounds were indistinguishable. So my first conclusion is that the human eye and ear are terrible tools to use to evaluate flintlock performance. If differences can be determined by human senses, then the trial was indeed very slow.

The idea to bank powder away from the vent to improve flint performance is flawed thinking. In every test I conducted, the banked away trials came in last. Percentages varied, but banking the powder away was always slower. I found no evidence to support the old “bank the prime away from the vent.” (In the low vent test, banking powder away was 17% slower; in the high vent test, banking powder away was 23% slower.)

The idea that one should not cover the vent with priming powder because of having to burn through the vent instead of flashing through seems equally flawed. While I did not try to fill the vent, covering the vent did not cause slower times. The closer I could get priming to the vent, the faster and more consistent the results. In fact the consistency I found in positioning the priming powder close to the vent occurred at all vent positions – low, level, and high.

The last conclusion involves the reason for this whole experiment – proper location for the vent in relationship to the pan. I found that the location of the vent in relation to the pan is far more forgiving that we have believed. Tests when the vent was extremely low or high both gave quick reliable ignition. A look at the chart below shows that all vent positions gave fast ignition when primed close to the vent (This is what we learned in the preliminary tests.) Also all vent positions gave uniformly poor performance when the priming powder was banked away from the vent.

————————–Banked way—————-Level Prime—————-Close prime

Low Vent—————–.046—————————.037—————————-.038

Level Vent —————.043—————————- * —————————–.036

High Vent—————–.048—————————.043—————————-.037


*I did not time level priming when testing the level vent/pan position.

I began this series of test thinking that the big variable would be the vent location. However, I am now concluding that it is of minor concern compared to the location of the priming powder in the pan. I still like a vent level with the pan flat - i won’t loose sleep over a pan a little high or low.

All of the work represented here was based on igniting the powder “artificially” using a red-hot copper wire. This was done intentionally to remove the variables in amount, quality, and location of the sparks. In reality the flint shooter must manage his lock to minimize these variables. Regardless of what the experiments show us, the shooter must place priming powder where his sparks will land. Time with his gun will determine this. However the shooter need not be afraid of priming powder too close to the vent – that is to be encouraged. It is far better to have the prime too close than too far away.

Online doc nock

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Re: Touch holes and pan powder
« Reply #1 on: December 28, 2018, 05:44:29 PM »
I guess that really is handy reference when one is assembling a gun that shows some variance in pan/vent location...?

Offline Eric Krewson

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Re: Touch holes and pan powder
« Reply #2 on: January 19, 2019, 10:53:14 AM »
The fuse effect is another common myth that is passed on like the gospel, perhaps this was the case when all touch holes were a simple drilled hole through the barrel wall. The "fuse" effect is impossible with the modern tapered liners because the main powder charge is "right there".
« Last Edit: January 19, 2019, 10:53:36 AM by Eric Krewson »

Online Rob DiStefano

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Re: Touch holes and pan powder
« Reply #3 on: January 19, 2019, 11:03:27 AM »
back in the 18th century, at least some of the gunsmiths coned the touch hole from inside the barrel by removing the breech plug and inserting this little "egg beater" gizmo ...

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Online Rob DiStefano

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Re: Touch holes and pan powder
« Reply #4 on: January 19, 2019, 11:13:31 AM »
personally, i prefer using a touch hole liner, and that means a chambers white lightning in s/s.  very hard to beat a WL as i've recently found out.

as to the "fuse effect", yup, there is none.  if there's a "kaaa-booom" delay perceived 'tween the pan going off and then the main charge lighting up, there are some things to check out.  the first might be insuring the touch hole and chamber are clean and clear of bp residue, and dry.  the main chamber charge is ignited by the HEAT of the pan charge and sometimes the touch hole is a tad too small of diameter.  i make sure to drill 'em all out to .062" and that usually does the trick.


Offline Eric Krewson

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Re: Touch holes and pan powder
« Reply #5 on: January 20, 2019, 01:13:08 PM »
There is a guy still making the eggbeater coning tool, I have seen it in several posts.

Online Rob DiStefano

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Re: Touch holes and pan powder
« Reply #6 on: February 09, 2019, 07:57:38 PM »
i heard of another internal coning tool that's basically a tiny countersink bit placed inside the barrel that accepts a tiny threaded rod through the .062" touch hole and the rod/countersink gets run by a drill.  pretty neat.  i'd still rather just install a chambers white lightning and be done with it all.  8)