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MAKING CARTRIDGES

By Patrick Reardon
After receiving some kind compliments at Avoncroft on the quality of my cartridges I was persuaded by KC to write
some notes about the techniques 1 use.
Firstly let me make one point very clear. Whilst I have studied the War with obsessional interest for most of my life,
I am the freshest of fresh fish when it comes to living history. voncroft this !ay was my first ever event. It had
taken several years of being a reenactment "groupie" before I plucked up courage and put aside my feelings of
e#treme self consciousness. $owever having taken the decision to enlist I was determined to make every effort to
achieve as accurate and authentic an impression as my enthusiasm and the guidance of e#perienced friends could
create.
In the matter of infantry arms and accoutrements I am fortunate in having a reasonably e#tensive collection of
original pieces against which I can %udge the fidelity of currently available reproductions. I am striving to ensure that
the muskets I use are as close in appearance to the originals as it is possible to get. &his can be a frustrating 'and
e#pensive() business as, when one compares an original to a reproduction, the inaccuracies in the latter are all too
apparent. $owever that is not the sub%ect of this note, e#cept to say that accuracy in the appearance of arms and
indeed all kit, should be matched by the accurate appearance of a cartridge.
In the conte#t of my aspiration for accuracy, before attempting to make my first cartridges I set about reading and re*
reading anything I could find on the sub%ect. Without a doubt the two best sources I discovered are the following+
"ROUND BALL TO RIMFIRE, A HISTORY OF CIVIL WAR SMALL ARMS AMMUNITION" PR& ,
-./ 0 &$1!0 P2B3I0$.- B4+ &$1!0 P2B3I5&I1/0, P.1. B16 787,, 9.&&40B2R9, P. ,:7;<
"THE COLUMBIA RIFLES RESEARCH COMPENDIUM" ,0& .-I&I1/ PRI3 ;88, =;<.88. P2B3I0$.-
B4 &$. 5132!BI RIF3.0. >I3B3. FR1! /-4 !.&$./4, PR1-25&I1/ .-I&1R, 7?:
B2RR129$ R1-, B86B1R129$, !00 8,:,@ '@:A) ;?7 ,:<7. .mail+ aimenthenyBaol.com
For those who have an interest in 5ivil War arms and their use, "FR1! R12/- B33 &1 RI!FIR. 'reference
below as FRB&R) is essential reading. &he amount of information the author has collected is astounding and I
unhesitatingly recommend it. It is difficult, if not impossible, to acCuire original live rounds in the 2D and therefore
the photographs and drawings in this book are an invaluable guide to those wishing to make or improve their
ammunition.
"&$. 5132!BI RIF3.0 R.0.R5$ 51!P./-I2!" 'referred to below as 5RR5) is an e#traordinary
collection of articles on all aspects of the life and eCuipment of a Federal soldier. I cannot praise too highly the
dedication of those responsible for this volume. &he article in 5RR5 of relevance to these notes is E5artridges for
the .<A 0pringfield Riflle !usketE by Feff $enion.
Before getting into the substance of this note I should state that what I do is to attempt to simulate, as simply as I
can, the e#ternal appearance of the original cartridge I am copying. !ost of my techniCue follows original methods
of manufacture, but I do vary these slightly as you will see.

MATERIALS & TOOLS
I list below the various elements which are reCuired.
,)

Wooden dowe! "#o$nd w%&'% (o w#") (%e '"#(#&d*e '"!e, )owde# '+&nde# "nd )e#'$!!&on '") ($,e-
&hree dowels are reCuired if you use both a .?@ cal. and a .<A cal. musket. 1ne needs a wood dowel appro#. AE
long turned to a diameter of .<:E" for a .<A cal cartridge and a similar length turned to .?<E dia. for a .?@ cal. For
the latter a piece of <GAE dowel '.?;<E) would suffice. .ach of the dowels should have one end perfectly flat.
&he nose of the .<A type should be formed into the cone shape of the minie ball nose. &he nose of the.?@
e#ample should be turned into a hemisphere to represent half of the round ball. &he dowel, of similar length, for
the percussion cap tube is simply a section of readily available ,G;E timber dowel, flat at both ends.

;)

Te.)"(e! (o "&d &n '$((&n* (%e (#")e/o&d" )")e# !%")e! #e0$&#ed- &he diagrams below illustrate the range
of trapeHoids reCuired for both types of cartridge. I"ve found the best material for these is white rigid
polystyrene sheet, lmm thick. &his is available from model shops particularly those specialiHing in model
railways. -raw the shapes on the plastic, score the fines thus drawn with a craft knife and break on the score
lines. With this material it is not necessary to cut completely through the thickness.


7)

P")e#- &he best paper I"ve found to date is available from the Paperchase chain of shops. &hey have a
reasonably wide geographic spread of branches. 5all 8;8 :I?: ?;88 'head office) for details. &he paper I use is
called ERecycled PaperE and is available in four colours, Plain Draft 'light brown), White Brushwork, 9rey
Brushwork and Buff. .ach sheet measures appro#. ;<E # ;8E and costs ;<p. I prefer Plain Draft as it is a lighter
weight than the other three '@8gsm vs. ,88gsm). &herefore it is slightly easier to fold. &he three colours of
heavier paper I now tend to use as cartridge packet wrappers with the colours differentiating the calibre of
cartridges contained within. For the powder cylinder paper I use the thinnest brown wrapping paper I can find.

I)

Wo#1 S$#2"'e- I do not have access to a smooth, flat worktable hence I use a work surface placed on the
kitchen table. sketch of mine is show below. It"s %ust a sheet of ,Amm !-F with the choking cord and folding
bo# fi#ed to the surface. &he choking cord is two lengths of linen thread twisted together secured at one end to a
nail or screw and with a toggle at the other. I use a piece of old toothbrush handle for this. I show a sketch of the
folding bo# later.


<)

Tw&ne "nd S(#&n*- I have e#perimented with many types of twine. 5urrently I favour a linen thread, in dark
brown or natural, or 7*ply crochet cotton. &his comes in a pale cream colour which suffices for natural thread.
Both are readily available from haberdashers. For tying the cartridge packages I use a natural hemp twine or
string. &he photographs in FRB&R are invaluable for gauging appropriate thicknesses.

?)

Too!- 5utting mat, craft knife with a supply of sharp blades, a long steel straight edge, a pencil, scissors, toilet
tissue for wadding to form the "balls" and tweeHers '( to be e#plained below()

:)

Powde# Me"!$#e- I use a large powder flask with a series of inter*changeable chargers. !y flask I believe it is
called &he EJouaveE model, is obtainable from Peter -yson 'see below). &he chargers, from the same source,
are <I grains, ?8 grains and ?? grains. &hese simply screw in to the top of the flask.
Peter -yson K 0on 3td, 7 5uckoo 3ane, $onley, $olmfirth, 4orks $-@ ?0. &el+ 8,IAI ??,8?; Fa#+ 8,IAI
??7:8@ .mail+ infoBpeterdyson.co.uk Web+ www.peterdyson.co.uk
&he particular type of cartridge I make is based on what has been called the 0t. 3ouis rsenal method. I"ve
found this method to be the simplest and I again urge you to read $enion"s article in 5RR5.
345 '" Ro$nd B" C"#(#&d*e!

&ake a sheet of paper and draw a series of parallel lines I <G,?E apart, i.e. eCual to the base dimension of the
cartridge tube template. 5ut the paper into strips and then, by using the template, cut the trapeHoidal forms.
0everal strips can be superimposed and cut in one operation.

0imilarly prepare the trapeHoids for the powder cases.


Place the cartridge paper in front of you with its long side to the left 'the sloping edge therefore falling to the
right). 3ay the dowel on the bottom of the paper 'edge closest to you) and ensure that the dowel is parallel to
this edge. 0et the dowel, with its hemispherical nose to the left, in about 7GAE ',8mm) from the lefthand edge
of the paper. 4ou may wish to make a mark on the dowel coincident with the righthand edge of the paper. &his
will ensure a consistent lateral position of the dowel on the paper.


0tarting at the bottom roll the paper tightly around the dowel to form a tube.


$olding the rolled paper snugly round the dowel bring the nose end of the paper to the right and take one turn
of the choking cord around the paper"s end. &he position of the cord should be about 7GAE in from the end of
the paper, ie. the same distance as the nose of the dowel is recessed into the tube. With the paper*wrapped
dowel held firmly to the work surface pull the choking cord tight thus choking the paper down over the
hemispherical end of the dowel. Pull the cord down as tight as you can without shearing the paper off.




Release the choking cord, but retain the dowel within the cartridge case. &he paper will remain choked. &ake a
length of thread appro#. ,IE long and, with two eCual tails, take one turn around the choked end, pull as tight
as you can and tie in a single knot. &his completes the choking process. 0till with the dowel in place, hold the
assembly in the left hand as shown in the sketch. $old the nose firmly between the thumb and forefinger and
rotate the dowel whilst applying forward pressure. &his action tends to form the nose of the cartridge into a
true hemispherical form which the initial choking process does not do completely. 1nce the hemisphere is
formed and with the dowel still in place press the choked paper end back over the nose of the cartridge.
Remove the dowel.



2sing toilet tissue as wadding, create the "ball" in the cartridge. It is difficult to specify the e#act amount to
achieve this. 0uffice it to say that when compressed in the nose of the cartridge it should be eCual in dimension
to the diameter of the ball, ie ..?<E. &he wadding is pushed into the tube with the flat end of the dowel and to
do this the cartridge is held in the same position in the left hand as for forming the hemispherical end. &he
wadding should be tightly compressed, but not so much so that the compression distorts the nose of the
cartridge.


With the same dowel form the powder cylinder as shown in the sketch below. &he cylinder is formed with the
flat end of the dowel to the left. When formed, the cylinder should be deep enough to accommodate the . ?@
cal smoothbore service load of ,,8 grains. I"ve found that a depth of , ,G;E is adeCuate for this, but e#periment
if you wish. 1nce you have found a satisfactory depth, mark the dowel so as to ensure consistency. $aving
formed the cylinder, invert the dowel and, with pressure, rotate the closed end on the work surface. &his
compresses the folds. &his complete you may notice small "ears" pro%ecting beyond the circumference of the
cylinder at the folded end. Push these in and over the end, as to leave them pro%ecting may cause them to tear
the cartridge tube when the powder cylinder is inserted.



With the powder cylinder on the dowel carefully insert the closed end into the cartridge tube, %ust a little will
do. &hen, whilst holding the dowel steady, gently push the tube down over the cyli nder. &his removes the
danger of pushing the dowel through the folded end of the cylinder if the fit should be too tight. If, in spite of
your best efforts, the dowel does penetrate the folded end of the cylinder and this happens when the cylinder is
fully inserted, the tweeHers mentioned earlier come into play. /ip the end of the damaged cylinder with these,
gently withdraw it and start again.


Retaining the dowel within the assembly, take the two ends of the closing thread and twist these tightly
together. With the thumb. hold the twisted thread against the cartridge and take one turn a round the cartridge
appro#. .?<E from the nose, ie.at a point eCuivalent to the diameter of the ball. Pull the thread back through
itself and pull taut. 0eparate the two ends of thread, take them in opposite directions around the cartridge and
tie in a tight double knot. 5ut off the e#cess thread and the cartridge case is complete.



&o fill the cartridge I use the largest powder flask I can find 'mine"s from Peter -yson as noted in the
introduction). &he service load for a .?@ cal cartridge was ,,8 grains. &o achieve this I use two shots of the <I
grain charger giving ,8A grains which is close enough. 1nce you have filled the cartridge, tap the nose on the
work surface to settle the powder. Pinch the e#cess tube into a tail as crisply as you can and fold this over at
right angles to the body of the cartridge. $aving done this press down with the thumb on the end of the
cartridge to compress the powder within the tube. Fold the edges of this flap towards each other and crease as
sharply as you can. 4ou will need to lay the cartridge fiat on the work surface to do this. &his may allow some
of the powder to spill back into the folded area. 1nce the tail folds are complete, raise the cartridge to the
vertical and again tap the nose on the work surface to settle the powder. Finally fold the flap back on its elf and
down the side of the cartridge. &he tail may not lie completely flat against the side of the cartridge, but this is
not a worry. &he sketch below illustrates the steps in the folding process.



&o form a package of ,8 cartridges you will reCuire a paper tube to carry ,; percussion caps. &his is where the
,G;E dowel is used. I use a .<A cartridge paper trapeHoid for this and it is formed e#actly as the basic cartridge
tube. Wrap it tightly around the ,G;E dowel, choke and tie one end, fill with ,; caps and fold or twist the open
end closed.


1nce I have made the first ,8 cartridges I set up the folding bo# to receive them. 1ne "3"*shaped side is static,
the other can move to accommodate the two calibres, .?@ and .<A. &he sketch below illustrates this. &o
establish the position of the moveable side, two rows, one on top of the other, each of five cartridges, are
placed against the fi#ed side. &he cartridges should alternate head to tail and the paper tails should be trapped
between. &he other side is then pushed against the cartridge stack till it is tightly compressed. !ark the
position of the moveable side on the work surface and, with the cartridge stack removed, screw the side to the
work surface aligning with the mark you made and ensuring that the sides are sCuare to each other.


&ake a cartridge wrapper, @E # ? ,G;E, and place this centrally in the folding bo#. Replace the ten cartridges as
before which should now be a snug fit within the bo#. Place the percussion cap tube against the end of the
cartridge stack and fold the wrapper around the assembly as shown.



&ie the package with twine, one turn lengthways, then one across the width, secure with a small bow knot and
cut off the e#cess twine. It is very important to keep the tying process as tight as possible indeed when you
pull the twine tight you will compress the package even more than the folding bo# managed to do.


I"m still rather uncertain about using labels. &herefore in the meantime I use two methods of identification.
&he first is to use different wrapper colours for the two different calibres. FRB&R 'table p.7<) states that the
wrapper colour for .<A cal cartridges was EordinaryE which I take to mean unbleached natural paper. &hat for .
?@ cal round ball cartridges is specified as E9reenE. I haven"t yet found an appropriate green paper. &he second
is to make up two simple rubber stamps, E<A calE and E?@ calE using an appropriate period typeface.

367 '" C"#(#&d*e!

&his process is identical to that detailed above with the e#ception that the cartridge only needs to be tied once
at the nose 'take one turn around the choked end, tie with a double knot and fold the end down over the nose
of the cartridge).


&he tissue wadding representing the minie ball should, when firmly compressed, occupy a space of appro#. ,E,
ie. the length of a typica,.<A cal ball.


1bviously the cartridge and powder cylinder trapeHoids are those reCuired for a .<A cal round. &he powder
cylinder should be of a depth able to accommodate a charge of either ?8 or ?? grains.


&he service load was ?8 grains at the outset of the war. &his was increased to ?< grains as the war progressed.
I use the ?? grain powder charger to achieve this. I tend to favour the larger load as, without the use of a
ramrod to compress the powder in the breach, the e#tra powder gives a better chance of ignition, particularly
with the !,A?, 0pringfield.

Gene#" No(e!

&he inclusion of the percussion cap tube within the package gives a rather lopsided effect ccording to the
0eptember ,A?, 20 1rdnance !anual 'p.7< FRB&R) the dimensions of a package of .?@ cal round ball
cartridges should be length ;.?E, width 7.,E, depth ,.7<E. It is silent as to whether these dimensions allow for
the provision of a percussion cap tube. &he dimension for a .<A cal e#panding 'minie) ball package are ;.?E #
;.@E # ,.,<E. I confess to a difficulty in getting the package I"ve made into the lower sections of a cartridge bo#
tin, either reproduction or original. I have attempted to work as closely to original dimensions as possible and
yet my packages fit with difficulty.


refinement in the case of a .?@ cal round would be to have the flat end of the dowel turned to a concave
form. &hus when compressing the tissue wadding with this end it would tend to produce a spherical form to
the wadding similar to the original ball. lso, when folding the powder cylinder end the folds would be pushed
into this concavity, possibly making the folds more secure and reducing the chance of pushing the dowel
through the folded end when assembling the cartridge. I will try this and report as to its effect.


In his e#cellent 5RR5 article, Feff $enion notes that sometimes the choking process, even when tightly tied,
still leaves a small hole in the nose through which the tissue wadding is visible. $e suggests that a touch with
a grey felt pen to simulate the colour of the lead ball would disguise this view.

In conclusion it may seem that this process reCuires an e#traordinary effort to create an ob%ect which is ultimately
thrown away. $owever, my view is that if I dedicate my efforts to achieving the highest level of authenticity
possible then such authenticity as I achieve will not be selective. I will attempt to apply it to all aspects of this most
fascinating field of study.
MAKING CARTRIDGES
B+ P"(#&'1 Re"#don
PART 8 9 M"#'% 8::6
0ince my first essay on this sub%ect I have attempted to refine and improve my techniCues as well
as to correct errors and omissions in the first article.
;3: E##o#! & O.&!!&on!
I neglected to note one operation when rolling cartridge tubes of any calibre. 1nce the cartridge
paper is rolled around the dowel, place the tip of the forefinger into the end of the tube resting on
the nose of the dowel before you pull the choking cord tight. &he presence of the finger forces
the paper out into a consistent EflowerE or ErosetteE. &he cartridge can then be tied off as
described earlier. 0ketch D shows this.
!y earlier description of constructing a .?@cal ball cartridge was incorrect. In ignorance, I had
assumed that the two strands of choking cord at the nose of the cartridge were twisted together
and brought down as one strand to encircle the base of the ball. /ow, having studied an original
cartridge in the collection of &he !useum of the 5onfederacy, it is clear that the two strands of
choking cord are brought down individually on opposite sides of the ball 'i.e, at ,A8 degrees to
each other) to the base of the ball, each being secured by a half*hitch at that point, i.e. /1& tied
together. When both cords are secured, cut off the e#cess fairly close to the knot. 0ketch 3 below
illustrates this.

83:: I.)#o<e.en(!
A3 2ndoubtedly the greatest improvement is entirely due to !r. Fim Danne of 5alifornia, a
fellow enthusiast. Fim recommended a paper which he reckoned was as close to the original in
weight and colour as it was possible to get. &o prove his point he had the great generosity to send
me an original empty cartridge tube so that I could compare for myself. $e was absolutely
correct( &he paper is decorator"s masking paper made by 7! I believe and is available in the 20
in a variety of different roll widths 'I now use ,AE). Fim"s paper demonstrated that my original
paper was far too thick. I am now trying to source a similar paper in the 2D. 1f the earlier
papers I recommended, I have retained the @8gsm brown Draft paper to make powder cases as
this thicker material imparts a degree of strength to the cartridge tube.
B3 s an improvement to the manufacture of .?@ ball and .?@ buck K ball cartridges I have found
a source for moulded pulp paper balls to simulate both the ball and the buckshot. &hese I found
in an architectural model shop 'see details below). &he two siHes I use are ,<mm for the ball and
A.< mm for the buckshot. ,<mm '.<@E) is not Cuite correct for the ball which should be appro#. .
?;<E in diameter. &o increase the diameter I wrap the ball in paper tissue 'Dleene#) as shown in
sketch 3. &his process is virtually identical to the manner in which round balls were patched for
use in muHHle*loading rifles.
&he A.< mm balls '.77IE) are very slightly oversiHe for typical buckshot, but they will do. 0ketch
3 illustrates this.
C3 2sing the pulp paper balls I have now made a reasonable facsimile of a buck K ball cartridge.
&he first step is to glue three A.< mm balls together in the form of a clover*leaf. When dry
'overnight) glue them sCuarely to the nose of a paper tissue wrapped ,<mm diameter ball. Insert
the assembly into a cartridge tube, cut off the e#cess tissue, push home and follow with a powder
case. gain, see 0ketch 3.
&o tie the buck K ball cartridge, the process is identical to that described earlier for the simple
ball cartridge but repeated, once at the base of the buckshot and once at the base of the ball. &he
tying process should be carried out with a powder case in place. 0ketch ! shows the process.

D3 $aving now had a fair bit of e#perience in cartridge manufacture I have found it better to glue
the end of the powder case closed rather than to rely only on compression. If you refer to 0ketch
F in the first essay you will see the construction method recommended. /ow I add a dab of glue
under the flap then fold it flat by pressing it firmly against the work surface. 3eave overnight to
dry.
s I emphasised in the earlier article, freCuent reference to EFR1! R12/- B33 &1
RI!FIR.E will provide the best guide to the appearance of all civil war period cartridges and
packages.
So$#'e 2o# )$) )")e# ,"!-