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Using the "Golden Mean" In Your Gunbuilding Design

This treatise will provide a glimmer of understanding of the importance of the Golden Mean to the early gunmakers. Iíve always believed the earlier master gun builders used this in some way in the construction of their rifles, but I had a difficult time trying to unravel the secrets. (Clicking on the drawings and photos below will enlarge them in a separate window for viewing.)

How the Mystery was Unraveled for Me:

It was the afternoon of February 22, 2003 while attending a rifle exhibition sponsored by Jerry Noble in Illinois, did I happen upon Pat and Sue Hallam at their exhibit table. Pat was a gunbuilder who also made hand forged knives, tomahawks and etc. When I approached the table, Pat was performing some demonstrations on how he used a homemade divider for determining the 3 to 5 ratio on rifles, regarding the Golden Mean. This intrigued me so I stood back and listened.

Iíve read several articles on the subject, but while standing there listening to Pat, he made it seem simplified and logical. I waited until Pat finished talking to the gentleman and approached him with several questions of my own. He answered the questions and informed me he had documented his 18 years worth of research into a book, Seeing Through the Eyes of Yesterday, which he was selling at the time.

His intent and objective for the book was to look at the Golden Mean only as a design tool used in the layout work for the architecture of the longrifle. By doing so, he could follow in the footsteps of the old master and be able to design his own longrifles in the tradition of the craft.

The following information and drawings are excerpts Iíve taken from Mr. Hallamís book.

What is the Golden Mean and how did it originate?

The Golden Mean is the formula used to capture the balance, flow, and harmony of the designs and patterns found in nature. Architects and artists going back more than 4,000 years to the Egyptians discovered the Golden Mean and applied it to their work.

It was not until 2,500 years later did the Greeks begin to mathematically analyze the dynamic balance of nature. They questioned the force behind the beauty of the natural world and how everything related to one another.

By the time of the Middle Ages a Guild System of manufacturing was developed, (Apprentice, Journeyman and Master), the knowledge of the Golden Mean was used to teach young apprentices how to capture the balance, flow and harmony of the natural world in their own creations.

How the Golden Means Applies to Gunbuilding:

The master carefully and jealously guarded the arts and mysteries of the trade taught to the apprentice under this Guild System. The arts and mysteries were revealed to the apprentice only after he proved his worth in the shop and gained the masterís trust.

The early gun builders knew if they used 3 to 5 ratios in the designing of their work, their product would visually flow as gracefully as the flow of nature. Some gun builders in an effort to be different would use a 5 to 7 ratio. Then there were gun builders who did not use the ratios, but would simply build a rifle they felt was pleasing to the eye, not realizing they were, in fact building the rifles to these ratios in some respect. Others had a deeper understanding of it and would employ it into an interwoven lattice way, forcing our eyes up and own, forward and backward as they gazed upon the architecture of the rifle. Or the architecture held hidden meaning. John Beck was a good example of this.


The Starting Point for the Golden Means:

Each maker would select a point on the rifle as a starting point (Anchor Point) to use the 3 to 5 ratios. From this starting point, the builder would build the rifle around and maintain the ratio throughout the building process of the rifle.

Pat Hallam spent 18 years researching the architecture of earlier master gun builders and was able to discover their starting points and formulations used in the development of their rifles by trial and error. This is illustrated very well in his book. An example is in Figure 1.

Note the inletted lock plate area is a 5; flipping the dividers over, you can identify the location of the first 3, then you walk the dividers using the same divider width to locate the AP (Anchor Point) in the area of the wrist.



Figure 1

In Figure 2 is another example of this.





Figure 2

How Do You Make the 3 to 5 Divider Tool?

In Hoot Alís shop, we use a wooden divider that is approximately 21 inches long. See Figure 3






Figure 3

Then the two strips of wood are pinned together with an 8 X 32 bolt, a couple of flat washers, two lock washers and a nut. To approximately identify the correct place to drill a bolthole thru the dividers, cross the sticks into an "X" shape. One end of the dividers should span 10" and the shorter side should span 6". Mark your sticks and then drill a hole for the bolt to join the two pieces of wood. See Figure 4



Figure 4

Once joined, set the long legs of the divider at 10 inches. Then flip the dividers and you should measure 6 inches. If you do not, simply file the end of the short side until it spans 6 inches. When you have 6 inches, set the long legs to 5 inches and when you flip it, it should measure 3 inches.

Application of the Dividers:

With the dividers, you can now determine the basic structure of your rifle; the wrist anchor point, patchbox location, cheekpiece layout, comb length and locating the forearm and fore-end step-down for the rear thimble location. Mr. Hallam goes into this in more detail in his book.

Note Figure 5 is a drawing of a Frederick Sell rifle from Patís book. I used this formula to make the Lancaster rifle shown in the Project Section on my website.






Figure 5

As Iíve stated earlier, Mr. Hallam simplified the mystical art of our master gunsmiths, yet at the same time raised even more questions regarding the complexity involved that some of our earlier gunmakers used the Golden Mean in the development of their creations.

Sadly, Pat Hallam died in January 2004, Patís wife, Sue, would be pleased to send a copy of his book, Seeing Through the Eyes of Yesterday.

To get a copy of the book, please write her at the following address and enclose a check or money order in the amount of $46.50, to cover the cost of the book and Priority One mailing. (Book is $40.00 + $6.50 Priority One Mail) The books are shipped in a box versus an envelope for protection and will be shipped with in 2-3 business days upon receipt of the order.

Her address is:

Mrs. Pat Hallam

1540 Kastor Road

Shiloh, OH 44878

Please note, this is a well-written book, spiral bound and chock full of illustrations showing the layout of rifles from numerous well-known Master Gunsmiths. This treatise will provide a glimmer of understanding of how important the Golden Mean was to the early gunmakers.

Alan "Hoot AL" Neubauer



Hallam, Patrick E. Seeing Through the Eyes of Yesterday. Shiloh, OH: Bookmasters, Inc. 2003