Double Barrel Cannon (Athens Gun)
A division of and sold by
Design, Instructions and Prototype
Kit No, MS4015
History is littered with the inventing of new weapons and the lion’s share of oddities to say the least. The Double-barreled Cannon certainly falls into the category of oddities. Originally invented in 1642, Antonio Petrini is credited with creation of the double-barreled cannon. In a disquisition from Antonio entitled Arte Fabrile, which still resides in the Tower of London, he described supplying a drawing to Charles I of a doubled barreled cannon whereas the barrels were joined with the barrels pointing out at forty-five degree angles from each other. The drawing shows the use of a chain connecting the two ball shot. There was no documented proof that the cannon was ever fired other than Antonio states in his manuscript to his gun creating ‘Grandissima Ruina’.
Enter the 1860’s and the Civil War and John Gilleland. John was a local man from Athens, Georgia and was reportable he was a builder, dentist, mechanic; a member of Mitchell’s Thunderbolts of the Confederates and was employed at the newly relocated Cook Armory. In 1862, John designed the now famed Double Barrel Cannon which till this day resides on the steps of the Athens City Hall…pointing North if I might add.
The cannon would be cast by the Athens Steam Company with funds raise from interested citizens. The two barrels would be conjoined side by side with each barrel having their own touch-holes and one central for the purposes of being able to fire both barrels simultaneously. Weighing in around thirteen hundred pounds and its barrels are four feet eight and one half inches long. The thought was have two cannon balls connected by one chain and fired simultaneously and using a quote most likely from John himself as to “mow down the enemy like scythe cuts wheat”.
The newly crafted cannon was wheeled out onto Newton Bridge Road in Athens for testing, this is where everything went downhill for the eccentric design. Amidst the growing crowd, the cannon was now aimed at two posts down range, the powder was ignited resulting in one ball leaving the muzzle before the other thus skewing the trajectory. The chain broke while passing through a nearby field coming to rest only after dispatching a local cow and foundering a nearby chimney of a log cabin concurrently. Certainly not the success that was intended. The cannon would soon be retired to use as a signal cannon to worn town folk to the arrival of the Yankee Scourge. After many years supposedly buried in a shallow ditch outside Athens and then changing several hands before finally coming to rest again back where it started on the steps of the Athens City Hall.
Model Shipways has been producing many fine museum quality models for many years now and the Athens Double Barrel Easy to Build Wood & Metal Kit is one of those. This cannon kit is part of Model Shipways, Guns of History Series.
The kit comes in a very sturdy cardboard with a detailed write up of the kit, contents and a brief history of the kit and cannon. There is a total of 99 parts to this kit comprising of the following:
46 – Britannia Castings
1 – 10” length of chain
1 – 10” length of rope – large
1 – 10” length of rope – small
3 – 6” long 1/8” dowels
1 – 4” length of copper wire
4 – Tack nails
1 – 6” length of Basswood 1/16” x 1/32”
2 – Turned aluminum wheel hubs
1 – 1/8” Plywood sheet with laser cut parts: 2 wheel rims and assembly template
1 – 3/32” Basswood sheet of laser cut parts: 30 spokes
1 – 1/32” thick gasket material: wheel rime strips 1/8” wide
1 – 1/64” x 2” x 2” plywood for spacers
1 – 2-page parts list
1 – 3-page instruction manual
1 – 2-page wheel assembly drawing and template
All of the parts are nicely packed in the box. The majority of the Britannia Cast parts are neatly packed in separate Ziploc baggies. The larger pieces, including the cheeks, trailers, axle housing and the barrels are not in bags but are all were placed within a small clear plastic packing box. The larger wooden parts are loose in the box.
At first glance the box seems a bit over-sized for the kit itself, however, Model Shipways does sell this and many other kits two different ways; the model alone and as a combo set including tools and paint.
This kit boasts on the front of the box that this is “Easy to build – assembly and painting time – 5-10 hours”. After looking through the instructions and all of the parts I would think that this is possible as there is not a lot of surfaces to paint and there are typically two colors for the majority of the model. .
The instructions are fairly straightforward. There is an exploded view of the cannon and respective parts at the top of the first page and eleven steps that follow over the next two pages. It is best to familiarize yourself with the exploded drawing prior to starting the build as the eleven steps refer back to the drawing for the placement of the parts.
There is 11 Steps to the construction of this kit. I will start things off here by running through Steps 1 through 4. There is some cleanup involved with respects to the white metal cast parts but this should go quickly as the metal is soft and the cast marks are not to prominent with the exception of Trails, which are the long wooden support structure the cannon sits on and the Axel Housing. There is a decent fit to the two Trail pieces; however, a quick sanding to bring the joint tighter I will advise.
This kit closely represents the present cannon as it sits on the steps of the Athens City Hall. The original support frame had a more ‘homemade’ look to it due to functionality and not looks. After restoration a suitable fame was create undoubtedly for esthetic reasons. In regards to the two Trail pieces on the model and how the joint comes together you could either leave the joint prominent as there are two pieces that come together to form the Trail or you can fill the joint and sand to a more smooth appearance as seen in the City Hall Relic in Athens.
Some careful picking around some of the detail features, like the nut and bolt heads, will be required as there is some cast off and a seam line or two left from the casting process. This is easily obtained by means of a needle file or sandpaper. I respects to any simulated wood surfaces the grain of the wood, if lost from the sanding process, can be brought back by use of a course file, scratch awl or any various hobby knife blades. Simple drag the medium of choice across the white metal surface lightly and imprint the new grain.
The wheel construction is a neat little process. The two wheels are laser cut from 1/8” plywood sheet stock. These have only two tabs on the inside and out holding the piece to the sheet. A sharp blade and they pop out easy; quick sand and you are on your way to construction. Supplied with the kit is a small wooden template stand, also laser cut on the same sheet of plywood. There is a paper temple that gets cut out and glued to the wooden stand. There are two aluminum hubs in the kit which individually fit into the center hole of the template. The wooden rims get tacked with nails to the template and after a tiny shim is placed on the outer edge, the spokes of the wheel assembly are shaped and then glued into place. Once the wheels and spokes are together, the wheel rim strips are applied and the wheels are ready for painting!
Moving forward, Step 5 in the instructions describes the installation of many of the smaller parts such as the Pitons, Spike Rings, Hook Plate, Trail Grabs, Spike Swivel Socket and Linstock as well as some chain. Again, all of these parts are outlined in the exploded plan view and as it has been said before, “a picture is worth a thousand words”. I you are not steady on the hand painting end of the hobby there is a couple of options before this point. One being is to paint the pieces individually prior to installation. The second is the use of a blackening agent such as Uschi van der Rosten’s Burnishing Agent. This will blacken the parts as seen with metal armor tracks. This would give a nice base before any finishing or weathering.
Steps 6 &7 in the instructions cover the installation of the double barrel guns. Along with the barrel, the installation of the Cap Chains to the Cap Squares is described. There is enough chain supplied with the kit to stick into the barrel openings to give the appearance the ball and chain shot was loaded ready to go.
Step 8 lets us know it is time to install the wheels, Caps and Fids.
Step 9 covers the constructions of the Water and Grease Buckets as well as the barrel cleaning tools
Step 10 shows the placement of the Water and Grease Buckets and the securing of the cleaning rods and Securing Chains on the various hooks previously installed.
The final step to the construction is Step 11 which shows the installation of the Prolonge, this is the thick rope used for towing this artillery piece. The rope needs to be seized and then wrapped around the corresponding Prolonge Hooks.
This is the first time having the chance to take a look at a Model Shipways’ Guns of History Series of models. The kit is amply supplied with quality cast Britannia parts and other fittings needed to complete a beautifully detailed static display. There is some clean-up involved on many of the cast pieces, but being a soft malleable metal short work is made of this easily with a sharp blade and some fine sandpaper. The instructions, along with the exploded plan view look to easily guide the model builder through a speedy construction leaving only detail painting and finding a spot in the display cabinet for this piece.
I have not made my way to the construction yet but from what I see so far, I highly recommend this kit to anyone interested in old-world artillery or American Civil War genre builds. This kit is sold as seen here, the complete Double Barrel Canon, or as a combo set where all of the tools needed to complete this cannon start to finish, including paint; all available at Model Expo.
I would like to thank Model Expo for supplying this review sample.
Please visit Model Expo for the Double-Barrel Cannon (Athens Gun) or any of their fine selection of quality models by Model Shipways and more.