Mission

Wooden Cannon?

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From The Memoirs of Pére Labat 1693-1705, translated and edited by John Eaden.

“While they [the merchants in the fleet] were sailing past us, a small vessel from Nantes came alongside. The captain came on board, and gave M. de la Herronier [the captain of the ship Labat was on] a dolphin more than seven feet long. He asked us to give him some water and wood, as all his store was finished. He was given two large casks of water and half a sheep, and was advised to burn four wooden cannons that he had on board, and only keep his two iron pieces which were one-pounders.” (Labat, p. 19)

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Ships, especially merchant ships, sometimes used wooden fake cannons just to make it look like they had more cannons aboard than they really did, to look more formidable.

--Jamaica Rose

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So why would the captain tell him to burn them then?

Edit - ah, never mind. I answered my own question. They don't seem like they'd provide much fuel, though.

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The Mythbusters built a wooden cannon I believe. It worked from what I remember.

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Remind me to have me and mine in the next county when you're going to fire one Mr. Roberts ...the splinter factor would be deadly from the compression when it blows ;)Even iron or bronze cannons would explode if there was a flaw in the casting so the compression in an organic material with which has natural "weaknesses" due to the grain would scare the b'jeezus out of me to be anywhere near one if touched off with powder and ball. ;)

Edited by callenish gunner

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Rofl.... I wouldn't fire one. I was just saying that someone has. ;) (Or at least I think they have.) They reinforced the tree trunk with iron bands.

Hey I found the video on Youtube....

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my luck somebody would "overload" it ....just like most shipboard injuries weren't from the cannonballs but from the devastation of the splintering hull ;)

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Forgive me if I'm wrong, but aren't the miniature cannons being advertized on No Quarter Given's Myspace page made of wood? Or am I completely off with that one?

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they are often referred to as Quaker guns. Quakers, being the peaceful sort, carried them for intimidation. I had Sutler Jim make one for me last year. We use it for displays and as a teaching tool, when we are in schools where live weapons are not permitted or we just don't feel like lugging an extra 100 lbs around.

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How's about the ones made by's Paul Zaras ?

They show powder charges up to 250 grains of black podwer.

Bees they steel lined wood or other substance ?

Edited by Bright

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they are often referred to as Quaker guns. Quakers, being the peaceful sort, carried them for intimidation.

From what I understand, Quaker Guns was a term used during the American Civil War for fake, wooden cannons to deceive the enimy....(as in... Woah... look at how many guns that fort has... we can't charge that....)

But I'm not sure how early the term was used...

OK... so my question is....One.. when did the term come into usage (I'm thinking about the American Civil War... not earlier...), and Two what were they called during the GAoP?

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1780's, under seige at Ft. Boonseboro, Ky., Daniel Boone's brother Squire built a very crude one from a log and fired it twice before it split. Didn't do any good as far as making the Indians and British Rangers leave. I believe they reffered to it as a "Quaker-Gun" in the telling of it later but not sure. They were rasied Quakers though.

Bo

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The Mythbusters built a wooden cannon I believe. It worked from what I remember.

I saw the Mythbusters live once. Someone asked them when they first started thinking about safety. They said it was when pieces of the wooden cannon went sailing over their heads. That was after they proved that a wooden cannon could fire a stone ball and moved on to causing it to fail.

Mark

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OK... so my question is....One.. when did the term come into usage (I'm thinking about the American Civil War... not earlier...), and Two what were they called during the GAoP?

Well, this is the first period reference I've seen in all my readings; I've read at least a dozen different period journals in the past two years. (Not to mention several period and near-period medical books written by former sea surgeons.) This is not to say that there aren't others or that I may have missed the reference in one of them, but since it jumped out at me here, I'd have thought it might have done as much in previous readings. As ever, I am open to correction here.

I should note that this journal was translated from the original French in...was it the 1740s?...and I suspect the English in the edition I'm reading has been updated since the original translation based on comparison to other period journals I've read. (No .pdf of an actual period ms. I've read has been this well-stated and well-spelled, so I doubt this is the original English translation of the text.) Still, the author has preserved many of the original French terms when he thought they were interesting.

At the end of all this, I'd say they were called "wooden cannons" just like in the ms. Labat appears to have taken great joy in unique things, stories and concepts and would have probably loved the term "Quaker-Gun" and the story behind it.

Edit: FYI, Jean Baptiste Labat's journal was published posthumously in French in 1743 and appears to have been first translated into English in 1931 by John Eden from what I can tell.

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There is a reference or two from the 1860 - 70's of the Spanish, Japanese and Vietnamese using wooden cannons which were wrapped in steel bands stem to stern or heavily wrapped in rope and fired wood or ceramic projectiles. Though I would guess the deception factor was the norm.

"Wooden cannons were notoriously weak, and could usually fire only a few shots, sometimes even just one shot, before bursting"

Wouldn't want to be anywhere near that one..

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FWIW

Quaker gun

–noun

a dummy gun, as on a ship or fort: so called in allusion to the Quakers' opposition to war.

Origin:

1800–10, Americanism

Edited by Capt. Sterling

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http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Sendai1868Cannons.JPG

This is the image that went with the article..interesting

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Making a wood cannon with a steel liner is just dangerous in my opinion. It leads one to believe that a charge may be fired, or , God forbid, even a ball.

The problem with cannon is that they frequently out last the maker, and several owners too. The man who makes a wood cannon with a liner may know that its for SMALL black charges and may have even designed the sleeve to be relatively safe doing that. But scroll forward 30 years and who knows who has this tube now?

Better to make Quackers all wood and leave the firing cannon to folks who cast or machine metal ones. And even metal cannon can be hazardous, if not designed correctly.

Cannon require a lot of respect, they are not just oversize flint lock pistols.

In my opinion.

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Agreed for sure. :)

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Forgive me if I'm wrong, but aren't the miniature cannons being advertized on No Quarter Given's Myspace page made of wood? Or am I completely off with that one?

The cannons that Paul Zaras makes are made of wood, PVC, and the barrels are lined with a 3/16" steel sleeve. Paul's cannons are not meant to be replicas of "quaker" cannons (fake wooden cannons that were not meant to fire, just look like a ship had more cannon than it really did). Paul's cannons are ultra-light versions of real firing cannons.

--Jamaica Rose

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Making a wood cannon with a steel liner is just dangerous in my opinion. It leads one to believe that a charge may be fired, or , God forbid, even a ball.

The problem with cannon is that they frequently out last the maker, and several owners too. The man who makes a wood cannon with a liner may know that its for SMALL black charges and may have even designed the sleeve to be relatively safe doing that. But scroll forward 30 years and who knows who has this tube now?

Better to make Quackers all wood and leave the firing cannon to folks who cast or machine metal ones. And even metal cannon can be hazardous, if not designed correctly.

Cannon require a lot of respect, they are not just oversize flint lock pistols.

In my opinion.

As stated above, in Paul's cannons the barrel is lined with a 3/16" steel sleeve. In his flyer it states the breech or powder chamber area is machined from a solid steel block which is attached to and surrounds the breech portion of the sleeve to handle the pressures generated by firing. All cannon have been proof tested with a charge three times the recommended charge (750 grains for the 1 1/4" cannon - while the instructions say to use a charge of 250 grains).

Paul's flyer also states these are salute cannon, designed mainly for blank firing, though they can also handle a wooden shot of the correct size as given in the instructions. The flyer emphatically states that metal projectiles should never be fired out of one of Paul's cannons.

Losing the instructions for a cannon is a poor argument not to use an ultralight cannon. People might loose the instructions for a real metal cannon as well, and overload it with too much powder. It would be hard to confuse one of Paul's cannons with a real cannon. The 1 1/4" bore cannon only weighs 24 lbs!

Face it, black powder cannons can be extremely dangerous in the hands of a stupid person, no matter what the cannon is made out of.

Back about 16 years ago, when I knew relatively little about cannons and black powder, my 14 year old son and I were at a pirate festival (names have been changed to protect the guilty). I was tending sales at my booth, when my son came running up to me breathlessly and very excited. He told me about how Bart (one of the pirate officers I knew) had drafted my son to be the new cannoneer for the afternoon's pirate battle. This sounded rather dangerous to me (in my ignorance, I had NO IDEA how dangerous it was). I had previously seen the cannon in question, so I knew it was one of the smaller kind. The barrel was about 2 feet long (but all iron).

I got someone to watch my booth, so I could investigate further. Finding Bart, he assured me it was true he had recruited my son to fire his cannon, because his crew of pirates were all too drunk to be relied upon. He had already trained my son to fire the cannon. Meaning, he had let my FOURTEEN YEAR OLD son fire his cannon WITHOUT asking my permission. Bart was not drunk, but needed to command the battle, so he couldn't fire the cannon. He assured me firing the cannon was PERFECTLY SAFE if properly done!!!!!! So I let my son show me the procedure, and watched him actually fire the cannon. He had fired black powder pistols a couple of times before, so in my ignorance, I thought it would be okay this once. I cringe now realizing I let my son fire the cannon during the battle.

When we got back from the event, I checked with some people who knew cannons well, and learned to my horror what all could have gone wrong. I learned that a lot of the procedure Bart had taught my son was incorrect.

That was also the same event, when a rather famous pirate captain who shall not be named had carpooled to the event with me, and on the way home, brought a loaded flintlock into my car. I later realized the flintlock had been loaded when, at the next event, this captain had to ask another pirate to clean out the gun because it had mis-fired at the previous event (the one to which he rode with me], and he didn't have a worm or some tool to get the charge out!

It's impossible to protect people from their own stupidity. The trick is to get them to sign waivers first.

--Jamaica Rose

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