Who Says Cannon Carriages Can’t Be Classy?

 

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As many of you know,  I have been working as part of Lawrence’s business, Campbell Cannon and Carriage Works, for the past couple years.  I’ve been assisting in creating cannon and carriages for all sorts of projects, learning the process as an apprentice, which generally means I do a lot of the dirty work.

While work, natural disasters and other real-life situations have made me scarce online and at events, I have missed everyone and have missed blogging.

So, I thought why not combine the cannon foundry work I’m doing with my Presenting the Past blog.

Today I return to the world of blogging with an image-heavy post about one of the carriages we completed over the past year and a little education about this type of carriage.

May I introduce you to a custom Dutch 12-pounder Mahogany and Bronze Naval Carriage.

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This carriage was ordered to be a ‘beautiful naval display piece for a real 1600s Dutch cannon’.

Since this was to be a display piece, Lawrence chose a rich mahogany as the wood. Instead of iron and steel strapping and accents, we cast and blacksmithed all the metalwork in bronze.

Then,  we decided to do as the Dutch would do and put it on a Dutch naval carriage!

In case you are new to cannon carriages, the naval carriage is the style that would be in use on a ship. Since this cannon was found in a shipwreck, Lawrence thought a naval carriage would be a perfect complement.

These four-wheeled carriages have four small, wooden wheels. Since these were on the deck of a ship, which was made of wood, you would not want metal wheels, as they would damage the deck.

What makes this a Dutch carriage, you may ask? A few things.

First is the way the wood has been cut along the back of the cheeks (sides). See how it looks like ‘steps’ were cut going down the back of the piece?  The number of steps and the spacing of those steps as well as the curvy flair cut at the top and bottom of them are unique to Dutch carriages.

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A second item unique to Dutch carriages is the way the axle straps are made and installed.

Dutch axle strapping is far more intricate and time consuming than many other country’s carriages. The long, solid straps are blacksmithed to make twists and curves which curl around the axle and then flatten out on the cheek. The finished look is magnificent, but it’s a much more difficult process than axle straps for carriages from other countries where the strap needs only 90 degree bends to be fit into place.

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The third thing seen in Dutch carriages, not usually seen in carriages from other countries, is the method they employ to install the trunnion cap wedge (pin) receivers. In the picture below, the receivers are those little nobs sticking up through the trunnion caps.  Notice the wedges that are pushed through them?  That’s how the trunnion caps are locked in place, holding the cannon firmly in the carriage.

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While most carriages have trunnion cap wedge recievers, its how they are attached that makes the Dutch carriages different.

In most carriages,  the trunnion cap wedge receiver is the top of a bolt that runs through the carriage cheek. The Dutch made them part of the decoration. Those straps going down the side from the top are part of the receiver.  Instead of a bolt through the middle, they are a fork-style strapping piece that is fastened down both sides of the carriage cheek to keep it solid.

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The trunnion caps (cap squares) are a traditional, basic design, made to fit the cannon snugly.

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Putting It All Together

For months, we worked on the pieces of this carriage in the shop, making everything from the wheels to all the bolts and accents. When we put it together, we were thrilled with the look, but a carriage never looks complete until a cannon is sitting on it. That’s where the excitement comes in. You always take in a breath when you watch the cannon close in…

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…and be fit in place.

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Voila!

 

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A Bit About the Barrel

So, now that I’ve talked about the carriage, let’s talk about this fantastic barrel that is sitting atop!

This barrel was recovered from a shipwreck, which explains why it has a lot of wear on the bronze. It was sloshed around and encrusted, all taking away from the fantastic original designs. Yet, there is still a lot to see.

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One of the things that is a bit different about this barrel is the mer-men on it.

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Finally,  the who, when and where of this cannon can all be found on the Breech ring.  In the video below, the camera will pan along the breech ring which has the words “Kylianus Wegwart me fecit Campis Ao 1640” which translates to “Kylianus Wegwart made me at Campis in 1640”

This was likely one of the last cannon made by Kylianus Wegwart, as he died later that same year.

Want to see it for yourself? You can if you are taking a trek through the Florida Keys. The cannon and barrel are now on display at Ocean Gardens in Islamorada.

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