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THE CLASSROOM

To Fire a Blue Barrel

An interesting method of finishing the barrel of a muzzle loading rifle is described here. The color obtained matches that observed  on several antique long rifle barrels. The method is not difficult but does require some courage. The idea of heating your rifle barrel to ret hot puts a scare into most contemporary long rifle  makers. Rightly so, as you have both time and money invested in the making of this rifle. What if that beautiful, long swamped rifle warps? What if the bore scales? This is not a method for the faint heart. The author here states that he is not responsible for ruined barrels. So pilgrim beware!
Actually I haven’t had any problems myself and since it has been a lot of fun, I encourage you to try it. The finish color of the barrel is a gray blue with some irregularity. The finish is durable. This differs from temper blue, which is a brilliant blue, that is quite fragile.
I begin by digging a trench in my garden about six feet long, 18” wide and 18" deep. Build a wood fire in the trench and get it burning vigorously full length. While the fire is maturing, I attach a 4’ length of iron wire to the front under of the barrel and another to the rear under loop. The wires will be used to place the barrel in the fire, reposition it, and remove it at the end of the heating process. Also at this time I fill the bore of the barrel with small pieces of charcoal. The theory here is that when the barrel comes to a dull red heat, the hot charcoal will scavenge the oxygen present and help prevent scale forming in the bore.
When the fire has formed a good bed of burning coals, using the wires I lay the barrel right in there and let it heat up. Colors will quickly form on the surface of the steel, first yellow, then brown, followed by purple and the blue. After blue, the barrel will turn sort of gray and then dull red though it is difficult to see in daylight. Since the fire has been built in the trench, I figure that carbon monoxide, being denser than air, helps displace a lot of the oxygen from around the barrel. Therefore the amount of scale that might form would be reduced. Again just theory but sounds impressive.
At this time I take a pine stick about 1”x2”x4’ and start rubbing the top five flats of the barrel with the end of the stick. The end of the stick starts burning in the fire and actually becomes a charcoal polishing stick on the surface of the barrel. Again this seems to rub off any scale that might be forming. This definitely makes the finish more even. The barrel can be easily rolled in the fire by looping the wires over the muzzle or breech and then lightly pulling on the wire. Whatever barrel flat you want to polish can be brought up into position by manipulating the wires in this manner. The polishing also goes better if the pine stick has a slight notch in the end to keep it on track as it slides up and down the length of the barrel.
After half hour of rubbing a very hot barrel with a shrinking pine stick, I am ready for something else. Using the wires I lift the barrel out of the fire and hang it up in a safe place to cool. Then the charcoal is removed from the bore and the surface of the barrel rubbed lightly with a rag to remove any adhering ash. The bore is wiped clean and oiled. The outside of the barrel is coated with a thin coat of linseed oil and allowed to dry.
Now if everything went well the barrel has a nice gray blue finish, and the bore is smooth as well as still straight. A good muzzle loading rifle barrel should be soft steel. The old ones were made of wrought iron. So this process on a modern low carbon steel barrel should actually improve it by annealing it. Well there you go, a primitive way to stress relieve a barrel.

Violin Red Finish

In July of 1997 I attended the Contemporary Longrifle Association Show in Cincinnati, Ohio. It was a great show and pleasant experience. New and old friendships were made and renewed. One old friend encountered there was an Allentown rifle that I made in 1986. I was very please to see it again as it was one of my favorites. The rifle was incise carved with a side opening patch box. I received numerous compliments from other makers and collectors about this rifle and especially the violin red finish. Several people asked how I was able to reproduce this type of finish, which survives on some antique Allentown and Bucks county rifles. I was also flattered that Jim Wright of American Pioneer Video asked to video this rifle at the show for his video titled “Contemporary Kentucky Rifles” (1-800-743-4675) in two volumes, this rifle being shown in volume one.
At the time I built this rifle I was fortunate to own a nice antique Bucks County rifle attributed to A. Verner. This rifle retained 90% of its original violin red finish. It is very helpful to have as reference the original of what you are trying to imitate.
It was observed by studying the Verner rifle that the red color was in the varnish and not a stain down in the wood. In areas where the finish had chipped off the wood or where the stock had worn through the varnish, the honey colored wood was exposed beneath. Unfortunately many rifles from this period and region have had their finishes stripped yielding the undertone color with the loss of red. I believe that this honey color base was achieved by staining the maple stock with nitric acid.
There is some evidence that the old makers doing this type of finish used spirit varnishes. That is a finish where the resin is soluble in alcohol. With a  rapidly evaporating solvent like alcohol a “French polish” technique is possible. Speed and shine are advantageous products of this approach. The disadvantage is that the varnish being soluble in alcohol will be removed if the stock is ever “cleaned” with alcohol. Might it be that the rarity of surviving violin red finishes is due to their alcohol solubility?
For the Allentown rifle that I made in 1986 I used the following method. The maple wood stock was coated with a  10% aqueous solution of nitric acid and then held near a red hot element on an electric stove. A chemical reaction took place as evidenced by a change  in color of the wood to a honey color. This color is quite stable, pleasing and accents the figure of the wood.
After this treatment some makers insist on neutralizing the acid residue in the wood by washing with a  solution of baking soda. I am of the opinion that the old makers did not neutralize the acid. One does not see many worm damaged stocks so treated. Whether intentional or fortuitous this would be an effective insecticide.
The stock was next varnished with several coats of polyurethane which had been tinted dark red with aniline dye concentrate. The result was a built up red finish with an undertone of honey yellow. This matched the antique A. Verner rifle except for the scratches, chips, crackling and dirt of nearly 200 years of age and use.
This type of finish is easier to apply to an incise carved or non carved stock than a relief carved one. With carving standing above the plane of the stock finish tends to build up unevenly in these areas. It is interesting to note that the rifles from the Allentown and Bucks County area during the period 1790 to 1820 were predominantly incise carved when displaying decorative carving. This may be due in part to the type of finish discussed here and to aid in its application.

To Inletting a Butt-Plate

A few of my students have shared how difficult it is for them to inlet the butt-plate when stocking a long rifle. Often they spend three or four hours on the task and still not satisfied with the resulting fit. So I want to share a method that works well and should only take about an hour to complete and yields a good fit.
First we will prepare the butt-plate casting. The edges of the casting that contact the stock must be filed smooth and the problem holding the odd shaped part troubled me for years. The great thing about teaching is that you always learn something from your students. I watched Fred Dimke soft solder a 1” square steel bar about 3” long onto the outside curve of a butt-plate casting. After it cooled he was able to easily position the butt-plate for filing by gripping the steel bar in a machinist vice. Why hadn’t I thought of that? You will need to do a little filing on the end of the bar so that the solder will flow between the surfaces.
Butt-plates are designed to contact the wood only on the outside edges. So these can be quickly trued up and smoothed with a  mill file. See figure 1. Span the casting side to side with the mill file and work both sides at the same time with a lengthwise motion. The heel extension is worked the same way but with some care in the corner. The outside of the butt-pate casting will be filed up and polished after it is inlet and attached to the butt-stock. Remove the steel bar from the casting by heating the butt-plate to release the solder.
Assuming that you are stocking this rifle from a blank, the profile should be sawn out but the butt-stock is still “in the square”. Hold the butt-plate up to the side of the stock in the desired position and with a pencil carefully draw the contact profile on the side of the stock. Now carefully saw away the wood to the rear of the pencil line, taking care to stay perpendicular to your butt-stock center line. A band saw will speed up the operation but is not necessary. The butt-stock should look somewhat like figure 2.
With the butt-stock gripped in the vice, hold the butt-plate in position and mark the places it touches the wood with a pencil. Use a cabinet maker’s rasp to remove these high spots. Try the fit again and mark with the pencil where the casting touches the wood. Use the rasp to remove only the wood marked. When the butt-plate starts touching the wood in several places, stop using the pencil and soot the casting with a candle. Position the casting on the butt stock and tap it lightly with a  wood or rawhide mallet. The contact points will readily show on the wood as soot is transferred to the high spots. Use the rasp to remove the marked wood. Take care to remove only the wood that has the soot marks. Repeat the sooting, fitting and rasping process several times until you have full contact as indicated by the soot print. When full contact is achieved you have a near perfect fit and need only to attach the butt-plate to the stock with wood screws.
Now for a few cautions. This entire inletting procedure is done with the rasp. Don’t start whittling on the inlet with your carving chisels. Use the rasp because it is much easier to control the depth of cut. If you struggle with perfectionism go to files and scrapers if you must. Remember that you filed the butt-plate contact surfaces flat across from side to side. So the wood should be rasped flat across the inlet side to side to mate nicely with the butt-plate. Don't round the surface but take care to keep the wood flat across the inlet. Having a lot of control here pays off in speed.
I like the method of inletting the butt-plate because it is fast, accurate, and authentic. With few exceptions the old rifles that I have examined show the witness marks of the rasp under their  butt-plates.

A Leman Patch Box

H.E. Leman was a gun maker in Lancaster, Pennsylvania from 1834 till his death in 1887. He built a factory and was very successful obtaining government contracts for Indian guns. The patch box described here is from one of his full stock percussion rifles probably made for the Indian trade.
The four piece brass patch box is not engraved but has a pleasing design. A release button is located in the toe plate and still operates smoothly after 150 years. This would be a good patch box to make at your first attempt.
There are some unique details discovered upon study of this box. These are probably indicative of Leman rifles as he seemed to design things well and then stay with that design.
The brass side plates are not fastened with screws or nails but are dovetailed into the wood and held in position by being trapped between the butt plate and the hinge knuckles. These dovetails are easily cut into the wood with a triangle rifle.
The release button located in the toe plate is formed from a thin piece of brass. This button looks like a hat in the toe plate is chamfered on the inside and the crown of the hat extends up through the hole. The end of the iron push rod rides inside the crown of the hat. This is all very neat, simple and functional.
The kick open spring is also interesting as it is made from spring steel wire coiled up. At first glance it looks like a clothes pin string. The spring has a spike formed on one end to help secure it in the neatly done inlet under the hinge and finial.
This patch box really is a statement of Henry Leman’s work ethic. His work was pleasing to the eye, sturdy, and functionally practical. Something we should try to emulate. 

In-letting a Swamped Barrel

It seems that one of the most intimidating operations involved in building an authentic long rifle  is inletting the swamped barrel. Since this is also one of the first steps required, many beginners never begin at all. I would like to describe a simple, straightforward method for accomplishing this. By using simple hand tools that were commonly available to period gun stockers, my method is probably a more historically correct approach than commonly used today. If you have ever had the desire to hand-make an authentic long rifle, it is hoped that you will be encouraged to jump in and get after it. Part of my philosophy on doing authentic work is to use authentic methods whenever practical rather than approaching an 18th century with a 20th century solution. Rifle makers of the past were fast and efficient, not wanting to make the job any more difficult than necessary. Some modern approaches cause more problems than they solve. Since you are obviously interested in history. I encourage you to try the old way.
Let us consider what a swamped octagon barrel is. A typical barrel is about 42 long, octagon in cross section, and widest at the  breech end. The barrel tapers from the breech width to a minimum width at about 10 from the muzzle and then flares to a width at the muzzle somewhat less than the breech width. This configuration results in a barrel of reduced weight as compared to a straight, constant-width octagon barrel. Not only is the weight reduced but the balance is moved closer to the breech which also helps reduce that muzzle heavy feeling. Most all antique American long rifles have barrels of this form. The question is often asked why the barrels flared back larger at the muzzle instead of being straight tapered. I really do not know but a big part of the answer lies with tradition and aesthetics. Anyway, all this tapering and flaring of an octagon barrel tends to make a 20th century stock maker nervous. I doubt that an 18th century stock maker worried much about it, since almost every barrel he ever saw was swamped. Maybe one of our problems today is just too many straight lines! Lets just enjoy the experience if inletting the barrel and get on with it.
The first thing to do is to prepare a flat surface on top of the stock blank to receive the barrel. At the breech area the wood will rise up to support the breech and tang of the barrel. This step will be half the width of the barrel breech above the top flat of the stock blank. If your barrel is 1 wide at the breech, then this area will rise up about ½” above the flat area. A barrel is typically inlet halfway into the stock. Leave the breech plug installed in the barrel and using a straight ½” wood chisel, remove enough wood so that the breech plug extension can drop down into the wood allowing the bottom of the barrel at the breech to rest on top of the flat area previously prepared on the stock blank. Since the barrel is tapered and flared it will rest on the stock only at the breech and muzzle. All of this should take you about 15 minutes, but whos watching the clock.
With the barrel in position use a pencil to sketch lines on top of the stock blank corresponding to the outside of the barrel. Remove the barrel and, using a wood gouge, start removing wood between the pencil lines. A number 8, thirteen millimeter wood gouge is the right size for this work. Staying about 1/16 inside the pencil lines remove wood full length and to a depth of about ½ the width of the barrel at that point. With your straight ½” wood chisel, remove some wood from under the breech plug extension so that the whole barrel will drop down into the full length groove. At this point the bottom of the side flats should be very nearly resting on the top of the stock blank. This is shown in cross section in figure 1.
Holding the barrel firmly in this position, use a skew chisel to inscribe a line into the top of the stock blank. The side flats of the barrel will guide your chisel. Be careful to stay right next to the sides of the barrel. Remove the barrel and use a straight chisel to stab straight down along the inscribed lines, taking care to keep the cuts perpendicular to the top of the stock blank.  Remove the wood from between this cut and the groove you chiseled earlier. Deepen the stab cut and repeat the wood removal until these side cuts are half a barrel deep. At this point the inlet should look something like the drawing in figure 2.
Use your gouge to round out the area where the side cuts and the groove meet. The resulting cross section should be U shaped. With a little trimming your barrel should drop down into the inlet full depth with a nice fit along the sides of the barrel. If the barrel is hanging up somewhere use a candle to soot the bottom of the barrel to the inlet. Wherever the barrel is touching it will leave a soot mark on the wood. Trim this wood away carefully using your chisel, scrapers, or mill file, and you can achieve a very close fit if you desire.
I have had the opportunity to remove the barrels from the 18th century rifle stocks, all have had a round bottom inlet for the octagon barrel. Generally, the bottom corners of the octagon are in contact with the wood, but the stockers did not seem to worry about full contact with the barrel flats. Some of these rifles that Im referring to were made by men named J.P. Beck, Nicolas Beyer, and J. Bonewitz. We would do well to make rifles as well as these old masters.
Now if you must have that London quality octagon inlet, you can still achieve it by using an octagon scrapers and few more hours of work.
I have been using this method of inletting barrels for the past few years. It takes me about four hours to the complete the inlet. I have an antique stock blank in which barrel inlet was begun but never finished and it shows evidence of this approach. I would say that this method is efficient, fast, and authentic. I encourage you to try it.

Making Ramrod Thimbles

Traditionally American long rifles have three metal pipes or thimbles attached to the fore stock to retain the ramrod. Typically these were formed from thin sheet brass. Though ramrod thimbles can be purchased today ready made, it is desirable to know how to make them. As with many things the ability to make it yourself gives one more freedom and satisfaction. My purpose here is to share a method of making ramrod thimbles and to share some observations from antique long rifles.
The thimbles we will reproduce are from an antique long rifle, circa 1770, attributed to Isaac Berlin of Easton, PA. This rifle has been used as a model in several of my classes at the NMLRA Gunsmithing Seminar held each year at Western Kentucky University in Bowling Green, KY.
This rifle has three brass thimbles which are graduated in inside diameter and decorated on the outside with filed flats and simple moldings. As with most antique long rifles the entry thimble and ramrod hole is 3/8 in diameter. The middle thimble is about 0.390 inside diameter and the front thimble is about 0.420 inside diameter. This allows the hickory ramrod to be tapered giving it more strength but keeping the stock profile slender. The sheet brass used to make these thimbles is about 0.032 thick.
Two mandrels will be made if steel rod to reproduce these thimbles. The mandrels are easily made on a metal turning lathe.
The first mandrel is made from a 7/16 diameter steel road about 8 inches long. One end of the rod is turned to 0.375 diameter for 2 inches. The next 2 inches is turned to 0.390 diameter and then the next 2 inches to 0.420 in diameter. This mandrel will be used to shape each of the three thimbles. The front thimble being the largest and the entry thimble the smallest.
The second mandrel is made only for the entry thimble. This thimble is more difficult to make because it has an off set and extensions built into it.
This second mandrel is made from a piece of 5/8 diameter steel rod about 4 long. One end is turned to 0.375 diameters for 2 inches.  A radiused transition shoulder is turned on the rod for about 3/16. Two flats are filled on opposite sides of the 5/8 portion of the rod to help grip the mandrel in a vise. The distance from side to side also corresponds to the width of the entry thimble extension. The offset of the antique thimble was about 1/8 so the top of the mandrel in the area of the extension was filed down about 0.025 and blended over. Three flats are then filed on the extension area of the mandrel but leaving a decorative lump. See illustration.
The entry thimble mandrel now has much the shape of the finished thimble. When the entry thimble is made, it is easier to hammer up the facets on the extension than to file them into the thin brass. The effort to make this mandrel is well worth it. 
The next thing that one might want to do is make a set of patterns out of a sheet brass. It takes almost no time to trace around a pattern and mark out the fold lines. Your next rifle might have longer or shorter thimbles but this can be easily adjusted. The inside diameters of these thimbles are typical for rifles that are 45 caliber and larger. See figure 2 for full size drawings for patterns. Notice the scribed fold lines on the patterns. The distance between the two fold lines can be calculated using 3.14 times the diameter or measuring around the mandrel with a piece of paper.
With mandrels and patterns prepared the thimbles themselves can be made. Let us begin with front and middle thimbles as they are much easier to make.
Lay the patterns on a piece of 0.030 thick sheet brass and scribe out the patterns with a sharp pointed scribe. Mark out carefully the fold lines and cut out the thimble blank with shears. Heat each piece red hot to anneal the brass and cool by quenching in water.
Grip the thimble blank carefully in a metal vise so that the fold line is right at the top of the jaws. Bend the brass over forming a right angle and tap the corner with a hammer to form a tight corner. Remove the blank and grip the piece again along the other fold line. Repeat the folding operation making sure that is being bent in the same direction as the first bend. This operation can be repeated on the other thimbles at this time.
Now with the vise jaws open about ½” take the thimble blank with the folded edges pointing down and lay it across the vise jaws so that each folded up portion stands on an opposite jaw. Take the first mandrel, the long one, and position it over the top of the thimble blank and open vise jaws. Push the rod downward and the brass will start to bend around the mandrel forming a U shaped piece when viewed from the end. Remove the piece and turn it over and using the vise squeeze the tabs together with the mandrel inside at the appropriate diameter on the rod. With the vise jaws positioned tightly in the corners close the vise tightly. The result should be a nicely formed tube with a pair of tabs on the bottom.
Repeat this bending process for the other simple thimble. Make sure that that thimble is formed around the correct position on the mandrel.

Now for the fun part! Using the entry thimble mandrel bend the entry thimble blank into a U shape across the vise jaws in much the same way that the others were bent. Turn the blank over and using the vise squeeze the tabs together. The mandrel will try to squeeze out the end a bit but it can be tapped back into position with a hammer. This will form the offset shoulder. Adjust the position of the mandrel if it has turned or slipped out a bit. Squeeze the tabs together to form a nice tube. Remove the thimble and mandrel grip the mandrel on the sides of the extension area and rap the thimble several times in the off set area with a rawhide hammer to finalize the shoulder. Then finish shaping g the extension facets and step downs using a 2 piece of ¼” square stock steel which is tapped with a small hammer.
The next step is to file the decorative flats and simple moldings into the tube areas of the thimbles. The side flats are filed in first and full length on the front and middle thimbles. In other words the moldings do not extend down onto the side flats but are just on the top three flats. This is quite common on antique long rifles and it makes the take easier of inletting into the wood a lot easier.
Sometimes we moderns make things more difficult than they need to be.
To file these side flats grip the thimbles end to end in the vise with the tabs extending to the side parallel with the top of the vise. Then using a mill file, file a flat about ¼” wide or slightly less. Angle this flat slightly tipped toward the tabs which will help the inletting process.
After the side flats are filed, grip the thimble by the tabs and file the top flat. Stop the flat about 1/16 from each end of the thimble to form a simple raised molding.
The two quartering flats are filed in next by gripping the thimble end to end with the area to be filed up. Again stop 116 short of the end to form the molding. A sharp corner can be filed easier if the teeth are ground off one edge of the file. After the front and middle thimbles are filed up proceed to the entry thimble.
The flats on the entry thimble are filed up much in the same way except that the side flats stop just short of the shoulder area. The extension area flats which were hammered up are easily cleaned up with files. The sides of the extension are trimmed up with the mill file by holding the thimble by the tabs in the vise and filing sides. Also a small amount of angle or draft can be obtained by tipping the file slightly. This also will aid in the inletting.
The thimbles can be polished with progressive grades of emery paper. The tabs which were left long to help in their forming can now be trimmed.
More complicated moldings and facets can be found on more antique rifles but these are both simple and attractive, a good place to begin. A fine old rifle usually has its thimbles graduated in inside diameter to receive a tapered ramrod. These sorts of little touches make a new rifle more like an old rifle, which to a traditionalist is a good thing!

 

How Do You Stripe a Leman stock?

The method that I am going to describe replicates the artificial striping present on many antique rifles made by Henry E. Leman, PA. These are probably better methods for doing quality faux finish of curly maple but our goal is to duplicate a “Leman” stock.
Several years ago I was helping my friend make a Leman rifle. It was our good fortune to have access to three antique Lemans with most of their original finish still intact. By studying these examples closely I developed the following method.
When the stock of plain maple is smooth and ready for finish, coat the stock with 10% nitric acid and then heat the wood by holding it near an electric stove element which is glowing red hot. The wood near the heat will turn a reddish brown as the acid reacts with the wood. Move the stock slowly past the heat source until the whole stock has turned this color. This is the base color upon which the stripes will be painted.
The striping is done with a special multi-finger brush which is made from a 1 ½" china bristle paint brush. Cut off the bristles leaving a length of about 3/8”. Now cut away much of the thickness of the brush followed by notching the remaining bristles so that eight small, evenly spaced fingers remain. I had observed that on the Leman rifles that I was studying that the stripe pattern was repeating itself every eight stripes.
Now with your brush prepared the real fun begins. Dip the brush into dark brown Fiebing’s Leather Dye and start painting on the stripes. Actually you should practice a little on little scraps of wood to get a feel for the work. Too much dye and the stripes flood together, too little and the brush skips, overlaps and unparallel stripes can also occur. Actually most of these problems can be witnessed on the antique rifles. So don’t get nervous!
After the entire stock is striped which doesn’t take very long, eight stripes at a time, allow the stock to dry. Then brush on a coat of varnish. At this point the stock seems to come alive. The base color from the nitric acid is now an orange butterscotch contrasted by the dark reddish brown stripes. Usually one or two additional coats of varnish will finish the job. And yes, the old stocks will show some brush marks and an occasional run in the varnish.
Now I am not trying to justify sloppy work but of the many stocks done this way, my favorites were those done in a relaxed manner. It has been said that a stock maker in Leman’s factory made 1 ½ to 2 stocks a day by hand. Whoever was striping and finishing these stocks wasn’t dragging an anchor.

Making a Barley Corn Front Sight

Now you might wonder what does barley corn have to do with long rifle front sights? From a book titled suhler Feuerwaffen by Jurgen Karpinski, pages 92-93 list some antique firearm nomenclature in German. The word Korn is indicated as a front sight. Could it be that the German speaking gunsmiths that were settling in America during the 18th century were saying barrel korn and it sounded like barley corn to their English-speaking neighbors?
Before we begin butting and folding, cutting and filing let us examine an antique front sight to guide us. The type of sight we are considering is a blade sight with a dovetail base. The base fits in a dovetail groove in the top flat of the barrel with the blade of the sight extending fore and aft. The blade extensions fit snugly on the top barrel flat so the blade doesnt get snagged against anything. It also looks better with the extensions sitting flat upon the top surface of the barrel.
Windage adjustments are made by tapping the sight base to move the sight right or left in the dovetail groove. The fit of the sight base in the dovetail should be tight enough so that the sight stays where you set it. Figure 1 shows two views of a typical front sight with approximate dimensions. Notice that the profile of the blade when viewed from the side slopes up gradually at the front (muzzle end) and drops off quickly at the rear with the high point of the blade to the rear of center. This seems to be the tradition with the old makers. Occasionally you will see one slope the other way, probably due to a modern owner putting it back in place backwards.
Also notice that the thickness of the sight blade tapers with the front being sharp and the rear of the blade being rounded. You can do a lot with a file to improve the looks of a store bought front sight. The major thing wrong with store sights is that most of them are too big. Most antique long rifle front sights are in the range of 1/16 to 1/8 high while many modern made long rifles have sights that range from ¼” to 3/8 high.
Making a sight: Determine the thickness you want the sight blade to be and select a piece of sheet metal of one half that thickness. A piece of 0.032 thick sheet metal will yield a sight baled about 1/16 thick. The sight base will clean up to about 0.030 which will be the depth of the dovetail in the barrel.
Cut out a rectangular piece of sheet metal about ¾” wide (approximate length of the blade) and 1 long. Fold the piece of metal in half across the narrow dimension using a machinist vise with the smooth square jaws. Squeeze the fold tight. This folded edge  will be the top of the sight blade. Mark a line, at an angle to the fold line, which approximates the vertical taper of the sight baled. See figure 2a. With the folded edge down in the vise jaws, align the marked line with the top edges of the vise jaws, and clamp tightly. Using a screw driver separate and spread apart the ends the ends of the metal and fold them down tightly against the vise jaws. Tapping with a hammer will help to form square corners. Now the piece should look like figure 3. With the sight  still held in the vise jaws, mark off the base and cut down with a hacksaw to the top of the vise jaws. Use a sharp cold chisel to remove the four pieces leaving the base. At this point the should look like figure 5. With the sight still gripped in the vise upside down use a triangle file, with the teeth ground off one flat, to form the edges of the dovetail on the sight base. Use the top of the vise jaws to guide the file letting the smooth flat of the file ride on the top of the vise jaws. See figure 6. the triangular file will cut the desired 60 degree angle on the sight base. File both sides of the base keeping them parallel and perpendicular to the blade. Remove the sight and grip it by one side of the base (figure 7). U se a mill file to shape the profile of the blade. The fold will stay intact for most of the length of the sight blade giving plenty of strength. The thickness of the blade can be tapered with the mill file by filing each side of the blade while it is held in the vise in a similar manner. Polish the sight with emery paper an it is ready for installing the barrel.
All of this should take about as much time  as it took to read this. Of course speed comes with repetition, but you should be able to make a nice sight in 15 methods using this method. Concerning authencity, I have seen front sights made this way on antique long rifles. Generally, brass front sights are solid and were probably sand cast in one piece. I own an antique long rifle by John Bonewitz that has folded up silver front sight.