The old-fashioned muzzle-loading pistol Arlie Hubbard made is accurate in every detail except one.
It can't be fired.
There's a good reason why it can't. Guns made of wood explode when they're fired, and Hubbard's replica caplock handgun is made entirely of wood.
That's right. The barrel, which would ordinarily be made from steel, is wood. The trigger is wood. Even the screws and springs are wood.
Hubbard's creation is no static model, though. Thumb the hammer a bit and the gun clicks into half-cock. Pull back a bit more and it snaps into full-cock. Squeeze the trigger and the hammer drops smartly onto the nipple.
"It's an exact working replica of a caplock pistol," said Hubbard, a retired Columbia Gas lobbyist. "I took a real pistol and duplicated it, right down to the inner mechanism, without using a single piece of metal."
To say Hubbard likes doing things with his hands is like saying an ocean liner is a little bigger than a bar of soap.
Most of the basement level of his South Charleston home is devoted to Hubbard's many hobbies. The garage holds several pieces of woodworking equipment, a jig for wrapping the guides onto fishing rods, the hardware for making fly rods from split bamboo, and machines for reloading shotgun shells. The den holds a large radio-controlled airplane and Hubbard's fly-tying bench.
Hanging on the den wall are two ornate, fully functional flintlock rifles. Hubbard built them, too, plus a pair of flintlock pistols and a caplock pistol.
"When I made those real pistols, I started wondering if it would be possible to make one out of wood," he said. "The more I thought about it, the more I became convinced I could do it."
He took a block of walnut and band-sawed it into the basic shape of the pistol's grip and forend.
"That wasn't difficult," he said. "The important thing was keeping both sides of the blank flat and parallel."
Then came the tricky part - duplicating a real caplock pistol's working mechanism, or "lock."
"I took a real lock, disassembled it and copied all the parts," Hubbard explained. "First, I rough-sawed the parts from pieces of oak about 3/32 of an inch thick. Then, keeping the metal lock pieces on hand for comparison, I filed and sanded and drilled the wooden pieces so they exactly matched the metal ones."
The prototype lock consisted of 11 pieces - the side plate, the cock, the bridle, the main spring, the tumbler, the sear spring, the sear and the four screws that held everything together.