Colonial gunsmithing required the skills of a blacksmith, whitesmith, founder, and woodworker to do fine finishing work on iron and steel, to carve decorative designs, to hammer and cast brass and silver into complex shapes, and to engrave hard and soft metals. Because imported firearms were cheaper than those made in Williamsburg (typical of many goods in colonial America), the gunsmith mainly repaired arms and other objects. Gunsmiths often repaired axes and other items made by blacksmiths, cast shoe buckles and other items like bells, and sometimes repaired silver objects.
"Most people think that the war would cause a lot of extra work for gunsmiths, but as a matter of fact most gunsmiths ended up fighting in the war as soldiers. Most of the guns that were home guns would be left at home with the family to protect the crops and livestock. We do see some gunsmiths that banded together and formed small armories to produce military goods for the war effort, but that was few and far between, and gunsmiths were not exempt from the military draft of the day, although lots of other trades were. So you do see a shortage of skilled workers in those armories.
Guns of course were very important for war, but most of those that were used for war were imported from English firms beginning in the early part of the 18th century, and once the war started we used those British guns that were in storehouses here. As the war progressed, we began getting other arms, especially from the French, and from Spain and Germany as well."
Clay Smith is a journeyman gunsmith for Colonial Williamsburg.