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The James Geddy Workshop stands just off the Palace Green.

The James Geddy Workshop stands just off the Palace Green.

Geddy Gunsmith and Founder

A Williamsburg family tradition

William and David Geddy advertised in the Virginia Gazette that they were carrying on the gunsmith’s, cutler’s and founder’s trade. These two brothers were following in their father’s footsteps when they served an apprenticeship to their father James Geddy Sr. Their newspaper ad ran on August 8, 1751.

David and William Geddy advertised their trade in Hunter's Virginia Gazette, August 8, 1751.

View plain text advertisement

David and William Geddy Smiths in Williamsburg, near the church, having all manner of utensils requisite, carry on the Gunsmith’s, Cutler’s and Founder’s Trade, at whose Shop may be had the following work, Viz. Gun Work, such as Guns and pistols Stocks, plain or neatly varnished, Locks and Mountings, Barrels blued, bored and rifled; Founder’s Work and Harness Buckles, Coach Knobs, Hinges, Squares, Nails and Bullions, curious Brass Fenders and Fire dogs, House Bells of all sizes, Dials calculated to any Latitude; Cutlers Work, as Razors, Lancets, Shears, and Surgeons Instruments ground, cleaned and glazed, as well as when first made, Sword Blades polished, blued and gilt in the neatest manner, Scabbards for Swords, Needles and Sights for Surveyors Compasses, Rupture Bands of different sorts, particularly a Sort which gives Admirable Ease in all kinds of ruptures: Likewise at the said Shop may be had a Vermifuge, Price 3s. 6d. per bottle, which safely and effectually destroys all kinds of worms in Horses, the most inveterate Pole-evils and Fistulas cured, and all incident to Horses; at their said Shop.

Stocks are made from one piece of wood.

Stocks are made from one piece of wood.

Hand-cast, hand-finished candlesticks sit on a workbench in the James Geddy Foundry.

Founders cast pieces with exquisite detail.

Gunsmiths master many trades

To make all the parts of a firearm requires some knowledge of many trades. Making a gun barrel and a flintlock requires the ability to forge iron and steel into shape. The pieces of a lock are filed and fitted together so they function. The parts are hardened and tempered for wear resistance. The stock is made from one piece of wood — usually maple, walnut or cherry. The same tools any woodworker would use are used to inlay the metal parts into the stock and shape the stock to final size. Firearms are usually decorated with relief carving on the stock and engraving on the metal surfaces.

The Geddy Foundry

The gunsmith also has to have the ability to cast metals such as brass, bronze and silver to form the butt plate, trigger guard and side plate. Casting is accomplished by packing a small amount of dampened sand and clay into a flask. A pattern carved of wood is pressed into the sand. Another sand-packed flask is placed on top. When the halves of the mold are separated, the pattern is lifted and leaves a void in the mold.

Channels are cut into the sand so the metal will flow into the void. The flask is put back together and molten metal is poured into the mold. When the metal cools and turns solid the mold is broken apart and the casting removed for further filing and polishing. These same techniques can be used to make other cast items as well—like furniture hardware, harness fittings, and candlesticks.

With all of these skills a gunsmith and founder could make and repair other objects that people would want to purchase, using the same technology used in making firearms.

Today in The Revolutionary City

Today the gunsmiths and founders carry on their trade at the Geddy site, near the center of The Revolutionary City, using the same technologies as their 18th-century predecessors.

Skilled hands are the result of time and practice.

Journeywoman Founder Suzie Dye works on a sword hilt in the James Geddy Foundry.

Polishing a hilt with care

A gunsmith performs detail work on the stock of an American long rifle.

A gunsmith’s trade demands precision.

An edge is made true.

An edge is made true.

A veritable arsenal decorates a wall.

A veritable arsenal decorates a wall.

Close work requires a steady hand.

Close work requires a steady hand.


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