The Miniature Gunsmithing Section

of the Internet Craftsmanship Museum

Because of the demands of strength and accuracy in making guns and other weapons, excellent craftsmanship is required. To make miniature models true to the original in every respect requires a special level of understanding of the process and an even higher level of accuracy. This 1/3 scale Thompson machine gun by David Kucer is an excellent example of the miniature gun maker's art. While there are many excellent gunsmiths working today making full-size guns, the Joe Martin Foundation's emphasis is on craftsmanship at the small end of the size scale; therefore, we focus this section on the skills of the miniature gun maker.

Craftsmen represented in this section are:

 (Click for larger image)

Craftsman (Click name to visit page on this craftsman)

Typical Project (Click for larger image)

George Britnell

Strongsville, Ohio

Guns, Gas and steam engines and more

Damien Connolly

Mittagong, NSW, Australia

Gunsmith (full-size and miniature) and engraver

David Kucer

Joe Martin Foundation Metalworking Craftsman of the Year, 2006

Montreal, Canada

Some of the world's finest miniature guns as a family business

Michel Lefaivre

Joe Martin Foundation Metalworking Craftsman of the Year, 2010

Paris, France

Miniature guns built to uncompromising standards

Miniature Arms Society—Various Craftsmen

A large display by group of miniature arms collectors features 90 different examples by some of the world's top masters of miniature guns and knives

Antonio Rincón

Bogota, Columbia

A wide selection of ornate vintage miniature weapons

Roger Ronnie

Joe Martin Foundation Metalworking Craftsman of the Year, 2004

Rapid City, South Dakota

Engraver and gunsmith in miniature

Robert A. Talbot

Encounter Bay, South Australia

Full size working revolvers carved from wood

Xu Yan

Tianjin, People's Republic of China

Weapons modeled in high detail and very small scale

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A brief history of miniature firearms

Defining the "master piece"

The finest contemporary miniature firearms find their roots in the apprentice systems of the Old World Europe. The earliest of these miniatures (a wheel lock musket) dates from Elizabethan England, a half-century before the Mayflower landed at Plymouth Rock. It was probably the creation of a highly skilled gunsmith working for his own advancement and for the pleasure of royal patrons.

Throughout the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, European craftsmen and some artists (da Vinci and Vermeer among them) were organized into professional guilds that regulated their trades and ranked the skill levels of their members as they progressed from apprentice to journeyman to master. A journeyman would be permitted to make rough parts that were finished and completed by his master. He would be skilled in his field and capable of making the tools he needed to practice it. If his master permitted it, a journeyman might attempt to qualify for the highest rank of his profession by passing the last of numerous tests required of him during his training. Only upon completing his “master piece” would he be granted the status of master craftsman.

Armorers and gunsmiths were often required to produce a fully accurate miniature firearm as their master piece. The guild system trained craftsmen capable of breathtaking achievements in the art and craft of miniature firearm, but it also restricted ownership of these rare jewels to an exclusive few at the highest levels of European society.

American gunsmiths, working in a younger and less regulated market did not develop their skills in a system that required them to produce fine miniatures. In addition, the firearms marketplace of early America was oriented more toward utility and function than toward art and design. As a result, there are few historic American miniature firearms available to the collector.

Miniatures do figure in American history, though. In 1862, during the second year of the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln had a Union Army uniform made for his son Tad. This gift was followed by another—a fully functioning miniature cannon. Legend has it that Tad interrupted a presidential meeting by firing miniature cannon balls at the Cabinet Room door. However, while Lincoln, a doting father, undoubtedly wanted to please his son, the president had asked for a cannon “that (Tad) can not hurt himself with.”

Miniature cannons, unlike miniature handguns and rifles, were inherently simple and easy to manufacture. The creation of miniature small arms, on the other hand, required manual skills backed by decades of training and practice, and craftsmen who were utterly dedicated to excellence and quality. To the artist/craftsman of any era, mass production is unthinkable because it rejects the standards of the master and embraces the second rate, or worse. Now, more than ever, modern technology and manufacturing are squeezing out traditional craftsmanship of all types, and even threatening its future!

The existence of quality miniature firearms has always depended on three factors: a design to work from; master craftsmen who possess a sense of beauty as well as technical brilliance; and a community of patrons and collectors who understand the artisan’s work. In our time, we have the entire history of firearm designs to draw from. The guild system has disappeared, but a few master craftsmen labor to keep the very idea of mastery alive. The royal patrons of the Old World have disappeared as well, but a new group of connoisseurs has replaced them. These are men and women who collect miniature firearms for their intrinsic beauty, for their astonishing workmanship and for their value.

The exquisitely crafted miniatures of masters such David Kucer are, in their distinct way, monumental, but easy to own and display. And, to echo Lincoln’s words, they can’t hurt a soul.

(The above history of miniature firearms is reproduced from a promotional booklet provided by David Kucer.)

New Submissions Welcomed

If you have additional information on a project or builder shown on this site that your would like to contribute, please e-mail craig@CraftsmanshipMuseum.com. We also welcome new contributions. Please see our page at www.CraftsmanshipMuseum.com/newsubmit.htm for a submission form and guidelines for submitting descriptive copy and photos for a new project.

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This section is sponsored by SHERLINE PRODUCTS INC., Vista, CA,
manufacturers of tabletop machine tools and accessories.

To learn how your company or organization can sponsor a section in the Craftsmanship Museum, please contact craig@CraftsmanshipMuseum.com.

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