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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Is anybody in the same boat as me?

I'm a big fan of hand-cranked guns (I know, technically not a machine gun) but like nearly everybody in this world, I don't have 20k to plunk down on a replica.

What I do have is I decent shop with some machine tools (only missing a mill, for now) and lots of spare time, and I love building and tinkering.

My gripe is this, save for the .22 cal Gatling plans floating around (which are NOT any one correct model in particular) I can find no plans for any of the old, hand cranked guns.

Well, I should rephrase that, I have found them, I just can't by them....

Now I won't spout a blanket statement about everybody building replica guns, but everybody I have contacted has sent me in the other direction, empty handed. And its not like I'm not offering to PAY for plans, and I'm not a cheapskate, I'll shell out several hundred dollars for quality, full-size plans for an 1862 Gatling, Gardner, Nordenfelt, Ager, etc.

I understand some of these guys are trying to make a living or fund their retirement, but I will never shell out 20+ thousand for somebody else to build me a gun... never. So they haven't gotten me to spend more with them, they have just assured that I will never be a customer...

I'm not an economic expert, but to me this is one situation that selling plans wouldn't dent their business, not one bit. The wallets are still gonna spend the money to have their guns built, no matter if plans are available or not. The small guys will just have to pound sand instead of buying plans, and maybe building our own gun. IMO, selling plans is just gravy for them, most people who purchase them will never do anything. They could always copyright their work and be protected from illegal copies.

Rant mode off. Sorry guys, I just had to vent to my fellow gun enthusiasts.
 

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You make some excellent points

I happen to be on the other end of the situation. I have taken the time and paid the expense to generate full 3D CAD drawings for the P&W Gardner gun, English model 2BBl gun, 1BBl gun and I am most of the way through plans for the Nordenfelt 5bbl gun. I have spent the better part of 7 years doing the work and spent many tens of thousands of dollars on tools, research, materials, etc. in order to develop these drawings. Counting the miniature Gardner that graces my living room, I'm over six figures.

I have been asked to sell prints many times and if I could find a way to protect my investment and make these available to everyone, I would love to do that. Here are some of the challenges:

1) Everyone wants perfect prints. Mine are done in CAD and proven out in CAD, but not made into working gun. I've worked from real guns for almost every piece, but some stuff has had to be done from research and guessing. Every single print needs reviewed with an eye to standard engineering practices and redone to provide correct materials and tolerances. As with any reverse engineering, it is the product of your experience and knowledge. I think I've done a great job, but I'm not stupid enough to convince myself that these are perfect. Do you want to be the first guy to have patterns, core prints and a 75lb bronze casting made to the wrong print?

2) Protecting my work. A certain well known person is magically producing Gardner guns out of the blue. Not the guy who got drawings from Dave. I made the mistake of sharing my data once and now I have the very sinking feeling that this person seriously betrayed my trust. Other people feel ripped off having to pay an outrageous $100 for drawings and they have no problem making and SELLING copies to recoup their 'investment'. I can't afford to find, fight and chase these people. Can anyone here provide a way to work with this that will protect my work?

3) The actual business of selling the prints. I'm closing one business as I relocate to a new state. My real job requires real time and my family requires more time as my son gets old enough to want to play with dad (he's 1yr old). Generation of drawings, printing, packaging, mailing and formalizing a new business with the legal and tax stuff accounted for is very time consuming.

So, these are my realities. I expect to complete work on the Nordenfelt drawings within the coming year. It's taken years and an amount of money that staggers me when I review the bills. I LOVE these guns and have accumulated some amazing knowledge in the process. I would LOVE to share these and, frankly, enjoy some of the fruits of my work not the least of which is the pride in being able to show people what I feel is some pretty cool work.

If you have real solutions to help deal with the above issues, I would love to hear them.

Best regards,
Joe
 

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Discussion Starter · #3 ·
I totally understand your point,

Like I said, I understand that you have spent considerable time and resources researching and creating your plans.

I really don't have any answers on how to protect your work, short of copyrighting it. Again I'm not up on copyright laws, so that may not work.

You may be able to slightly modify the original design, making it easier to produce, eliminate complicated castings, etc. and then patent the modified design. This could also protect you, and is along the lines of the company that sells the 1/3 scale 1874 Gatling.

I don't think $100 is out of line for good set of plans, in fact, I don't think $250-300 is out of line for a good set of plans. You could also sell all the plans on CD, that would be cheaper for you to produce.

Since you have spent so much time and money reverse-engineering these guns to create a set of plans, I'm sure that you are hoping to start selling replica guns. I also know that to do that requires a large sum of capital even get started....

But lets face it, you market is limited. Few people are really into the old guns, and fewer still can drop tens of thousands of dollars on a finished gun. But plenty of people would be willing to buy plans hoping someday to build their own gun, and 9 times out of 10 those plans will forever gather dust in a drawer... I would like to see your recoup your investment and profit from your time, but I honestly believe you can make more profit by building guns and selling plans to people like me.

I really due sympathize on the issue of having your work stolen, in fact I know that is why honest people like me can't purchase plans :(

Again I wish I had answers for you, I wasn't trying to demonize those who have spent time and money to recreate these works of art. I'm just frustrated that I don't have money to purchase a finished gun, the talent to create plans myself, or the ability to purchase plans and build one with the skills I do have.

If you ever do find a way to protect your investment, I'll be first in line to pay good money for Nordenfelt plans :).
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
One quick bit to add:

D&E ( who sells plans, kits, and completed 1/3 scale replicas of 1874 Gatlings ) has their stuff copyrighted....

Speaking with the owners about how they protect themselves might be the way to go. I'm sure they would be happy to talk, since Gardeners and Nordenfelts aren't direct competition with them.
 

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Copyright is worthless without $$$$$

All of my work is copyright protected. The problem is backing it up. It's not as though you get to call the copyright police and they kick in the doors. In my current situation, I have no proof that the person is using my work to produce his product, just the knowledge of specific personal connections and the reality that they are able to manufacture something in amazingly quick time. So, what can I do? At best, I can get lucky and someone will walk up and provide definitive proof that I can act on or just prove me wrong...which would certainly be a nice restoration of my faith in people.

So,copyright is nice. It gets nicer when you have pre-paid lawyers to give it some teeth. Without the pile of cash to pay for the 'enforcer', your ability to do anything is limited.

Really, the only way I can think of to beat this is to offer the plans in large enough quantities and low enough cost to inspire people to buy from me. This is also the reason why I thought of publishing in book form. Useful for reference and allowing people to make themselves a gun but not easy to scan and burn to CD.


Copyright is probably the smallest issue. The largest is the proof of the drawings and refining them into something that represents a true technical data package. Every drawing needs proofed and in addition to the gun and tripod, there are drawings to produce casting patterns and core prints and then the reconciliation of the castings to a final product. The mini Gatling plans out there avoid this by changing the design to eliminate castings. Regardless, this is an enormous amount of work and trial and error here is expensive. How pissed would you be if you built everything to print and everything had to be reworked?

Here's something that I have attempted in the past without luck, but I'm still open to trying. If someone lives near Richmond Virginia, has a fully tooled shop, can present proof of their ability to see a difficult project to completion and is willing to pay for their own stuff, I will consider working with them to build their gun in exchange for their proving my drawings and allowing me to be able to actually sell them in the future. I've tried working with individuals at distance three times and will not consider this again.

Clearly, the reality has frustrated me. I love these guns, love talking about them, love building and reverse-engineering them and I'd love to help the world bring hundreds of these out to the firing lines again. I just don't know how to do this without devaluing my work. If any of you have a creative idea, I sincerely invite you to email me or just send a PM.



Joe
 

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Discussion Starter · #7 ·
Joe,

I've been thinking about the issue of security, and I think the best way to protect yourself is the modify the design in some way and patent it. If somebody suddenly appears building guns to your "improved" design, sue them for patent infringement.

The problem with an exact replica is just that, its an exact replica of somebody else's design, and proving that somebody stole your plans is, as you pointed out, tough to prove. I'm sure Nordenfelts patents are long expired. Unfortunately, even if you build exact copies of original Nordenfelts and don't offer plans, sooner or later the secret will be out. Some low life individual will get their hands on one of your replicas and steal your hard work. The best way to fight them is beat them to the punch.

Going the way the of the .22 Gatling guys seems to be the way to go, doing nearly any search for involving "gatling gun" comes up with them at the top. Of course other companies build replicas too, but they are much more difficult to locate. The two companies that sell .22 Gatlings don't offer the same product, one is a fairly close copy of an 1874, and the other doesn't mimic any one model in particular, I'm sure this is because their "improved" designs are patented.
 

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I have a number of reasons for not handing out drawings and Joe hit on a particularly painful one. Theft. I build parts and pieces for a living. I make parts for guns that can't be found in normal channels. Stuff thats either old and obscure or odd in other ways....I make drawings of most of these parts so that I can program the CNC and make curves that would be otherwise difficult to do. In one case I allowed one of my drawings to be used by another machinest with the understanding that he was making only parts for himself. Next thing I knew the parts were out on the open market and priced below what it cost me to make them for. This was in direct opposition to the agreement we had. My "friend" claimed it was a drawing he got from someone else and not mine so it wasn't subject to our agreement....the flaws in the parts however were something that I put in to account for the particular gun I was working on and his parts had this flaw. Must have been coincidence I guess. I spend a large amount of time doing the drawings and programs for my parts, why should I supply you with all of my research, hard work and effort for a pittance. A couple hundred bucks for a good useable set of drawings for a gatling, gardner, agar, nordenfelt etc is cheap and nearly free. If you really are interested in making one of these for your own use and enjoyment than go the route the rest of us have who really do have an interest. Do your own research, make your own drawings, make your own prototypes and finished products. Don't depend on anyone elses drawings and then complain that they are flawed or too expensive. Either use the cheap crappy stuff on the market or do your own. I don't want to hear that old excuse that you can't afford proper machinery or the time to do the research etc. I've seen 12 cylinder working piston gas engines built on a drill press and with hand files. Be determined, dedicated and dig into your own hobby. Find ways to make things happen and quit complaining that no one will help you by giving you something for nothing. None of us owe you anything including cheap accurate drawings . . .

I hope this doesn't insult you as it is definately not intended that way. I just think you should do your own research or pay reasonably for someone else to do it. I wouldn't sell you 2 years of my work for $500 even if you promised to make just one gardner for yourself and destroy the prints afterwards. The money is not the only thing involved either...

Good luck in your search
Frank
 

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Discussion Starter · #9 · (Edited)
amafrank,

While I find what you said only moderately insulting, what you suggested turns a customer into a competitor. If I was to spend years of my life, tens of thousands of dollars of my money, to create plans and build one of the classic hand-cranks... I'm not going to stop at one. In fact, I'm going to figure out a way to undercut everybody else on price and put them out of business to recoup my investment. Or I could flood the market with cheap plans and let scores of shoddy competitors spring up hocking low quality knock-offs of high quality replica guns. Not a nice thing to do, capitalism isn't always friendly.

Or I can be a customer, I'm willing to pay a good price for plans, 300 was an arbitrary price I threw out there. I'll help somebody else recoup their investment, build my one gun and go away.

If you are referring to the .22 Gatlings as the "cheap junk available", search the auction sites, they outnumber the big replicas 10-1, if not more. Thats just the guns that get built, I'm sure the plans sold to guns built ratio is at least 20:1. The full size replicas may be works of art, but how many actually get sold? Not many. Who is your target market when you sell a gun that cost more than a car? Rich guys. The same wallets that have plenty of money to rip off your idea and start a competing business.

You and Joe have have made a point about theft... no matter how hard you try, sooner or later somebody is going to rip you off. With every part or every gun you build, you increase the chance that somebody sleazy is going to get their hands on it.

If you had read my original post, you'd see that I can't afford a 20K gun. Which also means I can't afford to spend 20K to research the gun, to drop the price of constructing the gun down to 5k.

What I can afford to due is pay a reasonable price for plans, and spend the 5-6 years, a few thousand, my machine tools and files building my own.

I would love do my own research, but I don't know where to start. I can't find anything, no books, a few crude drawings, a handful of pics. Its not like people are offering to let me come over and take their Nordenfelt apart to figure out how it works. I haven't found any for sale, not that I could afford anything but an incomplete, demolished wreck of a gun anyway. There is a reason that this kind of information is held by only one or two people, its that damn hard to locate. If this stuff was easy to find, why would anybody buy anything you sell?
 

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YSN,
I'll point out a few little details here and once again I am not trying to slam you or your idea. I'm just pointing out a few reasons that you don't see the very thing you are looking for.

As for turning a potential customer into a competitor I don't agree at all. If the average joe decides to build one of these with or without someone elses plans they normally find that buying a finished product costs much less than building from scratch, especially when time is considered. Going into production even on something as simple as a set of good working plans is not just a trip to kinkos with a load of cash for the copier. Building a prototype is more complicated and expensive on a per unit basis than doing production. As Joe pointed out the plans must be proved etc.

I get a lot of business by trying to help guys fix their own guns. I explain what goes into the repair they need and after they see what is really involved they end up sending it to me for repair. Nothing is as easy as it seems and everything takes longer than you think....it usually costs more too.

The one thing that I find odd is that everyone assumes the guys selling these guns for "big bucks" is making a lot of money on them but the truth is far from that. A reasonable profit is necessary to make a business successful and most of the guys doing these things are not spending the summer on their yacht from the profits. So you can't afford a Ferrari? Great, you are one among many there. I can't either. That doesn't mean I should hand you over a set of plans for one so you can build it and "save money". Life isn't fair and will never be. I think what you will find is that the money you save by scrounging material, not paying for a machineshop and giving no one a profit will end up coming out of your time. If you are doing the project for fun and learning thats great. You can chalk the expense up to recreation and spread it over the next 15 years so that what you do have to spend won't be a huge burden. A lot of us do that on hobby projects like building airplanes, kit cars, cannons etc. A major point I will add here is that while you think the high priced guns are out of your range and that the builders have lost you as a customer the truth is you have to choose what you do, not them. The guns are priced based on their cost in time and material as well as shop expenses and employees. Brass is expensive, machines cost money both in initial expense and in maintainance, the light bill has to be paid and so do the guys in the shop. I have customers who work as janitors in schools that buy $40,000 machineguns because that is what they want to do. I know other guys who spend $30K on bass boats or RV's or Harley davidsons. What do you want to spend your money on? You decide.

If you can get a business going that undercuts all of us doing your own research and making your own plans I'll take my hat off to you and maybe even crack open a bottle. (coke for me please). I would have absolutely no problem with you doing that as you would make the inaccessible available to the masses. Exactly what you are wanting someone else to do for you so no problems there. Have at it and do the Henry Ford on us.

I was indeed referring to the cheap gatling plans that RG&G puts out for one. I have a set of the plans and know of others who have started construction only to find that parts don't fit and mods have to be made. To the credit of the guys making the plans they do update. I think you may be a little on the high side with the 20:1 wanabee to builder ratio. I think its more like 100:1. All of us dream and so few make the dream reality.

I think you are dreaming when you think you can build a $20,000 gun for $5K. I do wish you luck though. I spent a good bit of time repairing a $12K hotchkiss revolving cannon in .45-70. The owner didn't realize the guns were not as strong as the full size and he broke the internals. This was early in my career and I was shocked at how much that gun cost. Once I got into it though I realized it was not so bad as I was thinking. The castings for the body were brass and pretty complex. It cost a pretty penny to make up the forms for casting. The barrels were complex and even just buying rifled blanks to make them from would be a good amount of cash. The gearing is not cheap, the carriage was costly....there was easily $5K in material and parts in that gun. In a production situation the gun could have probably been built for another $4K in labor. We are looking at $9K for a manufacturers cost here. That doesn't include his shop expenses and marketing. You won't have some of that since you are not selling the things for profit but there is a pretty good amount in costs. So you save a bit here and there and build a $12K gun for 5 or 6 K over the next 10 years. You could have done some overtime or worked a weekend or two here and there over those 10 years and paid for a good tested production model. Either way you win in my opinion.

The theft problem is a problem and copyrights don't work, don't really help and even if you do have recourse against a thief it costs you more to pursue them than to ignore them. They know that too.

The research that I'm suggesting you do is not supposed to be an easy overnight thing. If you want quick and dirty buy a gun. Ask Joe how he learned about the guns. Ask any collector of anything how they learned about the subject they hold near and dear. It takes time and effort. We all start by finding the guys who are interested in what we are and going from there. You've done part of that here by asking us hardheaded blowhards. Thats a start. Now go on to the next step. Check in the library of congress for information on the guns. Email Joe and tell him you want to find more info. Its a series of steps and it takes all of them to get to the end you are looking for.

I'm not trying to discourage you at all here. I'm only answering the question it appeared to me that you were asking: why can't I find cheap (inexpensive) plans for the guns I can't afford to buy? My last suggestion is to email, write or call the guys at RG&G and see if they are making a bundle off their plans. I'd hazard a guess that they are not. Its a hobby thing with them too. The real answer to your question is in general terms: I make a living making parts and fixing guns. There is not a reasonable profit in making plans for others therefore I won't make plans available. Its too much trouble for no real return. I have to eat and keep my wifes house up so she won't throw me out. You may or may not be in the same boat.....
As a note of encouragement I'd suggest you read all you can and find out more about the stuff you are interested in. Its taken me many years to get where I am through hard work and research. Its paid off big too in terms of enjoyment. I have guys bringing me rare and very expensive guns to work on. I also have a number of friends and customers who don't hesitate to say "go for it" when I ask them if I can take their FG42 or minigun apart for example. They want to learn how its done too. I don't own either of those but I'm quite familiar with the insides. Go out and find someone who owns a nordenfelt or a gardner and pester them. If you stick to it long enough they will eventually take it apart for you just to show you they can.

I hope that explains better what I was trying to say and I apologize for my sometimes abrasive and curt nature.

Frank
 

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Hmm... very interesting conversation!!!

After reading it all, I wonder... what would the original designer/manufactures think of you guys reverse engineering their work? Would they be upset or honored? Obviously these dead men made their money already and no long produce parts or guns. So maybe they would see it as an honor that you liked their design so much you copied it and reveresed engineered it. Or maybe they would be pissed you were making money off their hard work, please lets be honest, you are stealing their design too... not that I really feel you are doing anything wrong.

I think I see a big difference here between a hobby vs a business. People doing this kind of stuff for the love of the gun might be willing to do something like share plans so others can enjoy the fruits of their work and for the hobby. I do not think you can expect that of someone doing it for a business. I have to say I tend to agree more with amafrank. These guns are really above a "hobby" except for the rich. I certainly understand that copy rights are about worthless for either those that can not afford to sue or if those who would be sued do not have enough money to win in a lawsuit.

Now since you like inexpensive hand crank guns... how about one of these!!! I have less then 1K in mine and I got the plans (for the gun) for free! Then the crank was only a few hundred more! :) For those wondering is a 1919a4 with a crankfire systems crank (This is also not really a pic of my gun...).

 
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