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Custom-Built Cannons
"They're authentic to the last detail and fire just like the real thing," says Norman Rohlfing about the cannons he builds on his farm near Fayette, Mo.
  Rohlfing has been making cannons for 10 years. He's a captain in the Missouri Civil War Reenactors Association so he gets to put his cannons to use in reenactments of battles. He and his cannons also appeared in the movie "Glory".
  He recently sent FARM SHOW photos of his latest cannon, an 1839 model mounted on 47-in. high wood wheels. It's a model that was used in both the Spanish American and Civil wars. The 3 1/2-in. dia., 5-ft. long steel barrel shoots a 6-lb. ball up to 1,500 yards. A "sighting gauge" is fastened to the barrel. A chart on the gauge indicates the elevation required for the ball depending on the distance it has to travel.
  Rohlfing used 1/2-in. thick seamless stainless steel pipe for the barrel. After lathing the barrel out he wrapped it with barbed wire to add thickness and stability to the cannon barrel. He covered the wire with about 200 lbs. of rock-hard putty and used a lathe to shape it, then added several layers of fiberglass and lathed it smooth. He then applied a special resin coatings and sanded and painted the barrel.
  "One difference between my cannons and Civil War models is that mine are made from stainless steel. The Civil War cannons were almost all cast iron, which is fairly fragile stuff. Some of them cracked and some of them blew up," says Rohlfing. He used 1 5/8-in. cold rolled steel to make the cannon's axle and bolted together two pieces of wood to form the tongue.
  A ramrod and "swab" are stored under the cannon's axle. "After a bag of powder and the cannon ball are rammed into the barrel, a 4-in. long fuse is stuck into a Štouch hole' on top of the barrel and lit. The swab (a sheepskin mounted on the end of a wooden rod) is then dipped in water and used to clean out the barrel, making it ready for the next shot. The swab cleans out any smoldering paper left over from the bag of powder and keeps the next bag from catching on fire too soon," says Rohlfing.
  Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Norman Rohlfing, 1593 Hwy. 240, Fayette, Mo. 65248 (ph 660 248-3483; shop 3737).


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1999 - Volume #23, Issue #5