Tips and Tricks for making your own Cartridges
Making the paper cartridge trapezoid
Each soldier will assist in the making & filling of cartridges before, in between, and/or after battles.
Any questions, please ask the Ordnance Sergeant or any officer so we can help you.
Tools that will make your life easier: Ruler, Pencil, Paper cutter, and ½” wood dowel any length.
The best place to start if you want to make your own is at Lowes or your local hardware store. Go to the painting department and find the brown rolls of paper masking. Example= Suretape brand General Purpose Masking Paper. 9 inch wide by 180 feet long found at Lowes. This is the best material I have been able to find as it is thin enough to tear easily in the field but strong enough not to come apart when rolling. Also the brown color looks more authentic than bright white office paper.
Take your roll and cut off 4-1/2" strips off the end. Keep cutting until you feel you have enough to fill your need. Than take the 4-1/2" strips and cut off the ends so that you end up with a rectangle that is 4-1/2” wide by 7-1/2” long.
Now you need to measure up from one corner, 3” up the long side and make a mark. Next go to the opposite corner and measure back 3” and make a mark. Now draw a line diagonally across from mark to mark. It should look something like this.
Cut along the line. What I did was the first time, I lined up to cut and then marked on my paper cutter around the edge so that I did not have to draw that on the paper every time I could just slide in the strip, line it up and cut. Depending on your paper cutter you can cut several at a time and it goes much faster.
Rolling the cartridge tubes
Once you have the number of blanks you want, its time to roll them. You will need your 1/2” dowel now. I have mine cut at about 8” long so that it fits comfortably in my hand while allowing room to work. You will want to make a mark on yours down about 4” from one end, this will be your work space; the rest is for your hand.
Take your blank and place the edge opposite the diagonal cut, against your dowel with the bottom lining up with the mark you placed. Now roll the paper around the dowel.
The diagonal edge should create a spiral around the tube. Now take your finger and press in on the edge of the top where the paper comes to a point, folding it over onto the top of the dowel.
Fold a second and third time until the end of the tube is sealed closed by the folded ends.
Most people stop here and say were done, and you can to if you would like, but I have found that this is not enough to keep the powder from pushing open the end and emptying into my cartridge box. So I take it a step further and withdrawal my dowel about an 1/8th of an inch and press the edges in a second time to add a second layer to hold the powder securely in place. Press the end firmly against the dowel to make sure it is compressed, remove from the dowel and you are done.
Filling and folding your tubes to get a final, usable cartridge
Ok, to start you will need some of the following items. There are many ways to fill and roll your cartridges so I have included a few different items that can be used, but for the majority, I will show you the way I make mine and you can take that information and do what works best for you.
The first thing you need, that is quite obvious, is lots and lots of rolled tubes. I have a box or paper bag that I fill to the brim before I go on to the next step. There is nothing more annoying than stopping half way through filling to roll more tubes.
You will also need FFFg Black Powder, NO Substitutes, and NO Pyrodex! There are only a few places that sell real black powder, so call around and don’t expect that your local gun shop will have it. Contact me if you are having trouble finding it, I can help you find some.
One of the last things I added to my items probably should have been the first as it has made life much easier, so I am going to add that item next. You should find a block of wood, I found a scrap 2x4, and drill ½” to 9/16” holes in it. These holes should be deep enough to hold a tube upright for filling. I drilled mine about ¾ the way through the board. I didn’t pay attention to the number of holes I was drilling at the time, but mine happened to end up with 27 holes, and it works out great as I can calculated how many cartridges I have rolled by how many boards full I have filled.
Now that you had the tubes, powder and a stand for the tubes, you will need to get your self a way to measure the Powder. There are three ways that I have used in the past. I have a Powder gauge that I fill with a funnel, and then funnel again into the tube. This takes a lot of time so I looked for a better way. (I found the funnel at Cabela's for $14)
The next I found a small powder horn that has a 70 grain tip on it. This made the distribution quicker but I found the can was so small that I have to refill often.
The last, and the quickest for me: I take a small bowl and fill it with powder. Than I take and old ½ tsp kitchen measure. I take a heaping spoonful and funnel it into the tubes. The ½ tsp produces a less accurate measure and end up being more like 65 grains instead of the 70 we are allowed, but honestly I have yet to see a difference in the bang I get and I can get an extra five or ten cartridges per can of powder. This has been quicker as you can just scoop and go down the line, refilling the bowl only every board-full or so. I would still suggest you get a powder measure to check occasionally, it’s a good tool to have around.
From here its just labor.
Once you have filled each tube on your board, pick one up and pinch the tube just above the level of the powder. If you can, try and flatten it just above the seam as seen in the image below, you will see why in a moment.
Pinch and fold over one third of the top tab lengthwise, and then fold the other side over to create a tab, now folded over twice and a third its original width.
Pinch again just above the powder and right where the two folds start, above your fingers, fold the new tab over. You will want to leave a little tag of paper above the powder so your teeth have smoothing to grip and tear when loading you rifle.
Now here is where lining that seam up comes in handy. If you flattened it in the right spot in step one, you should be able to fold down the tab and tuck it under the edge or the paper. It will take some practice to get the alignment right, and even now I still miss from time to time, but these cartridges look good and pack well when you can get it nice and snug and tucked in right.
If you want to go further, you can gather your cartridges in groups of ten and wrap them in the same brown paper and tie it with twine. This is how they would have been distributed to the troops. But I have yet to find an easy way to do it and make it look good, so I forgo that part.
And if you want to know how many to make? A good starting point is 40 a battle, just to start. Some events, like Duncan’s Mills will require more, but the 40 a battle is a good rule of thumb till you get used to the system and can figure it out on your own.
Now you’re done, just 299 left to go… Happy loading!
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