Art Gallery :: Club Butt Fowler:


Custom Made 1710 Club Butt Fowler

History of the Club Butt Fowler

Club Butt Fowlers were some of the first guns brought to this continent through the Upper Hudson River Valley by the Dutch traders who established a trading post at Fort Nassau. Once this post was abandoned, these guns were then taken to Fort Orange, farther up the Hudson River. This region was heavily populated with many Native American tribes eager to trade furs for newly discovered goods with the gun being one of the most valuable and important items.

These fowlers were well liked and became popular from the 1650s well into the late 1700s. The specific features of a fowler that made it a favorite to the Indians included better quality locks, barrels, stock wood and fancier brass mountings than any of the trade gun available. It was said that an Indian would trade twice the amount of furs to acquire a fowler than a trade gun. The Club Butt Fowler was used daily by the Indians as these guns were well-suited to their needs so much so that the barrels became thin and worn and sometimes even fractured. When this occurred, the barrels were often cut back and shortened to make them useful again.

In addition to the Club Butt Fowler, some other favorite fowling pieces of the Indians included the New England, Hudson Valley and the French, English and Dutch Fowlers. Each of these fowlers had their distinguishing characteristics and were traded North well into present day Canada and West to the Ohio River Valley.

Why I chose to make this gun

I chose to build this gun because of its unique and pleasing architecture. The flowing features and tasteful drop of the butt stock with a long thin barrel line caught my eye as well as the fact that it’s one of the most unique fowlers I’ve even seen. The characteristics that make the gun unique include double set triggers enclosed in a rifle style trigger guard and a rear sight typically found only on rifled guns (not found on a smoothbore).

About this Club Butt Fowler

The Club Butt Fowler that I replicated is featured in the Early American Flintlocks book by James B. Whisker and David B. Hartzler (page 32-33). The original is in the David Condon Collection.

Specs:
  • All features of this gun are hand made by myself with the exception of the lock and the double-set triggers.

  • The 69 cal., 50” hand-turned round barrel features a two-piece brass sighting rib on top.

  • A dove tailed steel rear sight is proportionally positioned between the two-piece brass sighting rib. The front sight is a low blade type made from brass and silver which is soldered to the barrel.

  • The ignition for this fowler is supplied by a Brown Bess lock that has been reworked to resemble an early Dutch style one. I flattened the round Bess plate, stepped the tail and added file molding. To maintain the early style of the original, the round faced cock was also flattened and the bottom of the plate was banana shaped. The original fowler did not have a fence on the pan but I retained it for the safety of a modern-day shooter.

  • I elected to use English Walnut for the stock, which is what the original was made from. The stock blank was donated by Dunlap Woodcraft. After receiving the blank, I cut it to a Club Butt pattern and began to hand inlet the barrel. All parts were inletted using correct hand tools, no machines or modern power tools were used.

  • Furniture for this fowling piece is made from old sheet brass. Although the original had no sideplate, I opted to stay with features seen on many early original fowlers, and made this one a pierced dragon, which works well with this gun.

  • One of the most unique aspects of the gun is a double set trigger. I used a Davis trigger but wanted a different look for the front, so I forged a long slender front trigger, more closely resembling the style of the early originals.

  • To cover the double triggers, I made a rifle style guard, very similar in shape to the original. It had a somewhat c-shaped bow and a curled finger extension that laid up against the bottom of the wrist which set it apart from other fowler guards. This guard fits very well with the gun and is extremely comfortable.

  • Ramrod pipes were formed from very thin sheet brass and were hand filed with several bands which is a characteristic of a high grade firearm.

  • The butt plate was replicated from a Hudson Valley fowler seen in Tom Grinsdale’s book Flintlock Fowlers: First Guns in America. The plate was also custom made from sheet brass, formed and fit by hand.

  • The ramrod was hand scrapped and soaked with a mixture of oils and other “back yard” brews.

  • The various custom decorations on this gun include shell style tang carving, double barrel molding, ramrod entry pipe molding, thin lock and sideplate molding, wavy entry pipe accent on the side of the fore stock, and a deep wrist notch into the side of the butt stock.

  • A silver and brass escutcheon decorates the wrist area, which is engraved with small border lines.

  • Engraving on the fowler was done by Ken Netting and performed in a Dutch style. The lock is engraved with tulips and florals. The top brass barrel ribs are done with small rococo and vines. The butt plate has a large Dutch tulip and various other flowers and vines. A stylized bird standing on a limb decorates the bottom of the trigger guard.

  • A silver cartouche has been chiseled into the barrel and is stamped with my touch mark. Also the top brass rib has been engraved with my name, which closely follows how original makers distinguished their work.

  • Because of its style and balance, the gun is a joy to handle. Characteristic of many of the higher quality original fowlers, this gun is very thin and light, which makes it swing very easily.

  • This gun was stained with traditional stain recipe that I formulated, and coated with a hand rubbed oil finish. All parts of the fowler were aged to resemble a 300 year old original, every ding and scratch tells the story of it use in maintaining it’s owners well being.
About my work and myself as an artist

I’ve always been interested in the culture of the Eastern Woodland Indians, particularly during the French and Indian War to the post Revolutionary War periods. With this interest, as a child I would make my own bows and arrows attaching wild bird feathers and making my own arrowheads. As I got older, this interest evolved into re-enacting which for me, required extensive research to accurately portray a native warrior. I needed historically correct, well aged guns, other weapons, accoutrements, etc. to bring to life the true essence of an original 18th century artifact.

Today, as an artist reproducing these period weapons over the last three years, this passion is what drives and inspires me. I strive to make these pieces in the true style, form and function of an 18th century original with all of their uniqueness and character. In making a piece that truly looks, feels and balances like these originals, it is important for me to relay a story of the piece’s history of use in serving its owner. Through the owner’s everyday trials and tribulations of survival, these pieces had taken on various dings, cuts, scratches, breaks and achieved a well-worn patina that resulted from continuous and hard use. It is my goal to represent this wonderful character and patina in my re-creations of these period weapons. I hope to inspire thoughts and inquiries as to whether the piece is an original due to its character. There’s no better compliment to me…at this point, I have truly evoked the spirit of the piece and its place in history.

Upon client request, I commonly reproduce originals from private collections, museum pieces, books, auction sites, etc. To discuss a commissioned piece, you may reach me via email at ToddBitler@Yahoo.com or via phone at 614-305-3773. I welcome client collaboration and input within historical context. I regularly consult with potential clients so please feel free to contact me with questions.