Bob Rodgers "Roll Your Own" 1911 Class

Discussion in '1911 Gunsmithing' started by BigJon, Oct 28, 2011.

  1. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
    Hi, folks. Thought y'all might enjoy a writeup I did on Bob Rodgers' 1911 class, which I attended in the Fall of 2009.

    To describe the class in a word? "Extremely challenging". (Yea, I know it’s two words. Sorry, it wasn’t accurate without the adverb.)

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    The Excalibur Award
    (more on that later)

    Getting Set Up: Most of us students arrived Sunday and headed out to Bob’s that afternoon to set up. There are six students in the current class, and we range in experience from folks who had never disassembled a 1911 before a week ago to folks who have already been through the course before and who I'd consider as at or near pro level (I’m in neither category). Even though there are only six students and some that need little supervision, Bob had still lined up not one but two assistant instructors, pistolsmith Dwayne Greufe of Double D Customs and "the Spook", as he had in previous classes to help him keep a close watch on the students' activities and help them as needed. When I arrived, it was clear that Bob had set his shop up for the business of teaching us as much as he could in a week. Each student had an assigned work area on a horseshoe-shaped workbench. Each student station was set up and thoroughly ready to go with its own electrical outlets, a strong light capable of infinite position adjustment and a sturdy vice whose jaws Bob had already precision ground, making it suitable for the precision work he expects of his students.

    Day 1 - Arrival: Bob promised that class would start at 8:00 sharp Monday morning, and he didn’t disappoint. When we got to the shop that morning, we found Bob, Dwayne and the Spook fully encaffeinated and ready to go. Each of us found two new items on his workdesk. The first was a sealed box containing all the parts for his gun. The second was a bound volume, titled "Rogers Pistolsmithing, LLC - "Roll Your Own 1911' Class - Mountain Home, AR" - the class workbook.

    The Class Workbook: As expected, my copy of Bob's class workbook was an absolute goldmine of information even before I started adding my notes of the many additional things Bob told us as we worked on our pistols. As issued, the workbook contains not only basic-level information but also intermediate- and advanced-level information, including what I'd personally consider "insider" information on tool selection, parts selection, and many other matters that are not generally publicized. Even so, I was amazed at how many times durng the week I stopped work and grabbed my pencil to add my own notes about juicy bits of lecture information to my workbook (as Bob had strongly encouraged us to do). So embellished, my copy of the workbook is definitely the centerpiece of my library and a reference source I know I will continually refer back to as long as I build and work on 1911s.

    Work Begins! When “the bell rang,” Bob started by going over some basic safety rules, dos and don’ts that would apply to our activities in and around the shop for the duration of class week. With those preliminaries out of the way, class began in earnest. We started by taking basic measurements at key points along the receiver and slide to determine whether material needed to be removed to render a correct fit, and if so, exactly where and exactly how. (Just getting the slide to run on the frame is not the goal here! These are to be precision pistols!)

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    As I mentioned, Bob continually poured out additional information on us – absolutely invaluable information to anyone who would learn to build high level pistols. One such subject he covered in detail by lecture on the first day of class is a topic of repeated debate here on the forum: how deep, and at what angle, the frame ramp should be for optimum feeding, why that's the case, and how to determine the optimum frame-ramp setup for a particular pistol, which varies from gun to gun. All of the Caspian receivers had arrived with their frame ramps too short, but Bob had managed to get them in proper order before class started. Even so, Bob made sure that we understood how to determine what, if anything, needed to be done to a particular receiver so that we could handle such issues in the future on our own.

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    With precise measurements in hand, each of us fitted our slides to our receivers and lapped them in.

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    All work, no fun? Not by a long shot! Oops. One step in prepping the slide is to slightly break the front edge of the disconnector rail. When breaking mine, I must have hit it a bit hard with the file because I made a very slight gouge in the edge. That’s when I learned about Exalibur. As you can see from the first photo of this thread, Excalibur is a safe file - not a "safe-edge" file but an ENTIRELY SAFE FILE - all the cutting teeth have been removed, even those on the file's faces! It is awarded to someone who screws up with a file. First Awardee? Yep, yours truly. Bob said the award is passed from student to student, and I had hoped to pass mine along quickly. Unfortunately, it looks like it will have to wait until at least tomorrow, since as far as I'm aware, no one else has risen to the level of "achievement" required to earn it yet. After receiving the award, I stuck it upright in my bench block sort of like a hood ornament for my work station, and it then occurred to me how much it resembled Exalibur in the Arthurian legend, so that's what I named it. Apparently the moniker stuck, because everyone then started referring to it as the "Excalibur Award." While I'm pleased that I have added to Bob's class lore, I'm not so pleased that this is what I added.

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    Next we turned to our thumb safeties, inspecting them for cracks, cleaning up casting marks and making sure they’d install in the frames. This is where I hit a snag – my receiver had a chunk of something – casting slag I guess – on the inside of the frame right where the slot in the thumb safety's lobe should pass over the receiver as the TS is pressed down to deactivate it. That got my receiver pulled off the line so that Bob and Dwayne could figure out how to rectify the problem. I got pulled off the line too, which was good and bad. It was good in that I got to be a fly on the wall while Bob and Dwayne figured out how to remedy the problem. Options discussed were alternatives - either try to tackle it with a Dremel with carbide bit or fire up the big mill. The former option was chosen, and in a few minutes Bob had my receiver and me back on line. It was bad in that it had left the Spook with his hands full trying to asssit all the other students while Bob and Dwayne concentrated on my issue, and also in that it put me about 15 minutes behind the other students - 15 minutes that I would later regret as in my haste to try to catch up I took two or three extra file strokes on my barrel hood, which amounted to those proverbial extra brush strokes on the Mona Lisa.

    With the back sides of all students' TSs prepped, we next laid our plunger tubes in our frames (un-staked), checked to ensure that the TS would clear the plunger tube and, when necessary, adjusted the TS paddle so that it would. The same process was then repeated with the slide stop. That's when I got hit with another, although thankfully comparatively minor, slowdown when my slide stop would not turn freely in the frame hole. Bob quickly diagnosed the problem and reamed the slide-stop hole in my frame to allow the stop to fit perfectly.

    Once slides had been fit to frames, each of us checked to ensure proper clearance between the slide and dust cover and, where necessary to achieve that clearance, did so by draw filing.

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    Best,
    Jon
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2011
  2. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
    Slept like a rock last night. Popped outa bed early this morning, went downstairs to graze the hotel's free breakfast bar, and headed back to the room to finish yesterday's report before Day 2 (Tuesday) starts.

    Day 1 - Afternoon: After a quick lunch on Bob's deck after Monday morning, we were back in the shop, and if anyone worried the day might slow down a bit during the afternoon, their fears were definitely put to rest in a hurry. The afternoon’s task: Fitting our match bushings to our slides and Kart barrels, and then fitting the Karts into the slides. By lunch, I had caught up from my detours to adjust my Caspian receiver, and I managed to get my bushing fit to my barrel and slide pretty darned efficiently. I even managed to get my hood almost fitted to my slide in a way that had actually drawn a pat on the back from Dwayne – “Man, that’s straight!” And then, yep … I snatched defeat from the jaws of victory and overcut the hood. Not much – left just a couple of thousandths gap between the back of the hood and breech face, which won’t hurt much, but it isn’t perfect, and perfect is what I’d hoped to turn out. And as a result, of course, Excalibur remained mine (and deservedly so).

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    Time to wrap this up and head to Bob's to have a ball learning from the best, and while I don't wish ill toward any of my classmates, I hope like hell I can pass on this damned Excalibur file to one of 'em! :biglaugh:

    More to follow this evenin' if I have any gas left.

    Best,
    Jon
     

  3. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
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    At 8:00am Tuesday, we were up and runnin'. Leeanne's and my barrels were already pegged into our slides and ready for cutting of the lower lugs. I was first up with the lug cutter, under Bob and Dwayne's close supervision of course to make sure I didn’t crank it counter-clockwise seein' as how I'm a ... what did you call me Bob? A "mauler" was it? I guess with a certain "big fish" not swimming upstream to Arkansas for the October class someone had to step in and take the licks.

    Bob explained how to perform the operation correctly and what measurements to use as absolute minimums. As I mentioned yesterday, Bob is pouring out the information on us, and the first extra item of Tuesday came at 8:05 while we were cutting our lower lugs – how to perform an extremely important check regarding disco timing that went right into the already thick notes I’ve taken during the class.

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    Once our lower lugs had been cut with the rotary tool, we started a long process of relieving the approach to the lower-lug flats and the final contouring of our lower lugs. The process Bob taught us allows our pistols to line everything up as a precursor to lockup, and then lockup like a single piece of steel. As with everything Bob has taught us so far, this stage of barrel fitting is an absolute step-by-step process, with the quality of each successive step depending heavily on how well the step before was accomplished.

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    After reaming our Kart barrels, we turned to establishing the proper gap between the top of the feed ramp and bottom of the barrel ramp at linkdown, the latter being an area of especially tedious work those of us who'd had to to push the lower chamber edge forward a hair to achieve the required throat angle. Bob has a neat little home-made tool that allows him to PRECISELY measure the angle of the barrel ramp. I knew I didn’t need a photo of it – it’s already been posted:

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  4. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
    After lunch, we turned our attention to fitting our grip safeties. Bob wisely cautioned us (especially us … what was it again Bob? “Maulers”?) that a little goes a long way when removing metal, and at no time is this more aesthetically important to remember than when fitting a grip safety. So admonished, we started in.

    I spent all afternoon whittling down my grip safety, so I didn’t take many photos of that specific progress. So, I’ll fill in with a few class photos before closing my Day 2 (Tuesday) report.

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    As you may have noticed, Bob has only posted once on this thread so far. In that post, he noted the three types of filers who'd identified themselves at the outset of the class: polishers, enthusiastic filers, and maulers.

    Bob didn't specifically name the students in each category, but he sorta narrowed it down in my case by raising the inference that he who bears Excaliber is in the third category. Being a sensitive sort, and since the prior class's prankster, Irv, wasn't present to keep the ball rolling, I felt the time was right to "return fire" as we started working in our grip safeties.

    Bob was in a super cheerful mood, even remarking with a smile that the sounds of gunsmith hammers clicking grip safeties back and forth in frames reminded him of woodpeckers. The day was winding down, though, and Bob appeared tired. Perfect timing. While he was busy helping another student, I eased back to my tool box, retrieved an old stainless Kimber receiver that had been cut and contoured for a Brown GS, quickly painted its tangs with blue ink, chucked it tangs-up in my vice, and set the class GS (an S&A) in it.

    As Bob's rounds of the students' work stations brought him to my station, I muttered a few cuss words under my breath and dropped my file in apparent exasperation. As I'd hoped, that promped Bob to cheerfully ask, "What's wrong, Jon?" I told him that I had filed and filed, but the damn GS just would not go into the tangs far enough! At his request, I un-viced the whole set up, handed it to him, and he moved under the adjacent student’s light and began to study it. Within a few seconds, a puzzled look came to his face, and after about 10 seconds, he turned to me and, in a very loud voice informed me, "YOU HAVE RUINED THIS [email protected](*)$* RECEIVER!" Now, Dwayne was onto the ruse, and he's a pretty big guy, but he was too far away to help if Bob blew a gasket and came over the work table. And, since it appeared to me that such action might be imminent, I decided to cut the ruse short and spill the beans.

    They say a picture is worth a thousand words.

    Best,
    “The Mauler”

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  5. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
    The photo below shows the payback Dwayne mentioned. Personally, I thought this was a very unkind thing for professors to do their student – any student, even the class mauler. But as we all know, paybacks are hell.

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    On Wednesday, we had every bit as much fun, both with the work at hand as with each other. However, the day’s work really hammered home some serious matters with me, and I want to take a moment to touch on that. This is a course that will appeal only to certain folks. It will not appeal to folks who just want to learn how to put together a 1911 that works. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with just wanting to put together a pistol that works! I enjoy that too. Rather, this course is folks who also want to go much farther, and push their knowledge and abilities to the highest plane their abilities will allow. Some of my fellow students hadn’t even taken a 1911 apart until a week before the class. Others are repeat students, and at least one I know of, Mr. Fred Chen, is a highly competent ‘smith in-the-works who has built some very impressive pistols and rifles already. Even so, I am 100% positive that each of us, whether rookie, highly skilled amateur or something in betweeen, is learning massive amounts of information and new skills and sharpening existing skills every minute of the class.

    In my own case, this has been extremely – extremely – eye-opening. Before this class, I had put my own knowledge and skill levels at the top of the bell curve, meaning that I had most of the basics down and was just starting to put them together. And I think that’s true in the sense of generally building 1911s of better-than-factory quality. When it comes to building truly top-quality pistols, though, I realize I am still on the upward approach to the apex, meaning that I'm still learning the basics. As objective evidence, consider that some of my fellow students have now attended two Rodgers classes - and they’re still learning. I guess you’d have to be here to truly understand the weight of what I’m about to say, but there is simply no way that one can be brought to an understanding of all the information and technique it takes to build a truly top-flight custom pistol in a week. But Bob gets each of us as far as he can go, and we leave the class with a lot of homework still to do (and, of course, the knowledge to do it properly).

    Toward the end of Day 3, we installed our plunger tubes and ejectors. By far, though, the bulk of Day 3 was spent installing grip safeties, contouring them and our thumb safeties, and cutting flairs for those who wanted them. This did not include adjusting our grip safeties for internal function with our fire-control systems – but just getting them into the frame and contouring them and our TSs.

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    While fitting my tangs to the GS, I ran into a snag that brought another point home to me in spades. I had determined from the outset to fit a perfectly seamless GS to my pistol. I had everything done – darn near perfectly. And then … DAMN! ... I noticed a hole – a casting pore right smack on top of my left frame tang. Bob examined it closely and could see a bottom, and he said that I could try to take the top of the tang down far enough to remove the pore. So, I dove in. I did get rid of it, but not before I had taken the left tang down so far that the back of the TS stood slightly proud of it. By not taking into account the effect of reducing the top of the left tang to remove the hole, some judicious work was required on my TS to remove the visual effect of my error. The point that brought home was something I already knew and had always tried to keep in the forefront of my mind as I worked on pistols, but that I had neglected in my zeal to fit the tangs perfectly to the GS in a limited amount of time:

    The 1911 is a collection of INTERACTIVE parts and subsystems - each must must be properly prepared and fit not only in and of itself but also with the gun's other parts and subsystems so that the gun will both function and appear as desired.


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    One more point bears mention I think. Toward the end of the day, we started readying our receivers to accept our plunger tubes by relieving the inner edges of the PT holes in frame to accept flow-out metal from staking. That exercise brought about another interesting observation, specifically which job brought the highest “pucker factor” to each student. For example, some of us had done grip safeties before, and others had not. Those who had indicated that barrel installation made them "grab a lot more cotton" than GS fitting, while those who had never fit a GS found that task and barrel fitting equally worrisome. Without exception, though, everyone could easily have "turned a chunk of coal into a diamond” when we slipped carbide cutters into our frames to relieve the PT holes.

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    With flairs cut, and plunger tubes and ejectors installed, we called it a day. About to head over to Bob’s for Day 4, and I plan to keep the rule I just mentioned in the forefront of my mind as I continue. In case you missed it the first time, here it is again:

    The 1911 is a collection of INTERACTIVE parts and subsystems - each must must be properly prepared and fit not only in and of itself but also with the gun's other parts and subsystems so that the gun will both function and appear as desired.

    Best,
    Jon

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  6. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
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    Day 4 – Thursday – A very busy day. Time is short; I had to spend additional time culling and editing photos, so I’ll give you a brief recap of yesterday’s work and then just put all the photos at the end.

    On Day 4, we prepped, installed and tensioned our extractors. Bob took lots of time explaining why it’s so critical to be extremely precise not only in measuring critical extractor dimensions but also when prepping the claw area. Performing the prep he indicated has been the most difficult part of all this for me so far because I am ham-handed, and this excruciatingly detailed work.

    We also deburred our sights, finished cutting the dovetails in our slides and installed our rear and front sights the “Bob Rodgers way,” which (take it from me – please!) is superior to using a push-type tool!

    A seemingly easy step was prepping and installing our mag catches. On mine, the catch lock’s tab was too tall and too wide. A little judicious filing brought it into line and allowed installation. Bob showed us some tests I had not known before, specifically how to hold the pistol and insert the mag fully at a certain orientation, and then hold the button in hard to see if the mag would still drop free. Mine didn’t, and others’ didn’t as well, so Bob showed us how to (and how not too!) remedy that problem.

    We also prepped and installed our triggers and firing pin stops, as well as prepping our hammers, sears and disconnectors in preparation for the upcoming Day 5 morning work, which I cannot wait to get into: that black hole commonly called…

    The “Trigger Job”

    And if we get that right, the Arkansas air may be filled with the sounds of gunfire from brand new pistols.

    Gotta go … Day 5 beckons.

    Best,
    Jon

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  7. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
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    Day 5 – Friday

    There were two parts of the class I had looked forward to more than any others: barrel fitting, and trigger job. Neither disappointed. The trigger-job information in Bob’s literature and lecture finally – FINALLY – turned the piles of information I’d read and studied about TJs into practical reality.

    As I’d suspected, so much of a good trigger job is how well and properly the parts are prepared. But how they are prepared is absolutely critical – one could spend a week preparing parts for a TJ, but if the parts aren’t prepared the right way, the TJ will be no good. I got totally immersed in doing a perfect job on my pistol, and I guess the uncharacteristic silence got folks concerned; several people asked me, “Hey, you okay over there Jon? You’re awful quiet, and that worries me.” The end result, though, was a trigger that broke cleanly at 3.5 pounds. Much of that, I’m sure, was dumb luck. However it happened, though, I’ll take it. It is without question the best trigger I’ve ever done myself.

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    Next, we installed and adjusted thumb safeties.

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    Once we had adjusted and installed our grip safeties, we checked everything and made sure that the pistols were in working order.

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    Next, we headed to the range for 50 rounds of rapid, break-in fire into the berm, followed by 5 rounds by which to establish a group to calculate our sight adjustments.

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    A few pistols bobbled. Two that I know of hiccupped because one builder had not established the proper edge at the bottom of the chamber mouth, and a second had not prepped the lower lip of the chamber entry correctly. My pistol fed and fired every round, but the slide would not lock back on an empty mag. That gave me a great chance to put into practice what Bob had taught us about trying different combinations of parts in the gun to narrow down the problem. In my case, I had not relieved the back wall of the slide-stop slot sufficiently.

    After firing, we started blending the rear of our slides while Dwayne prepped our sights for park and paint.

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    Off to Bob’s.

    Later,
    Jon
     
  8. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
    Made it home and still have to unpack, but wanted to get these up right away. Photos only of the last day for now.

    Thanks to Bob, Dwayne and Drayton - gentlemen of the highest caliber, greatest skill and infinite patience.

    Best,
    Jon


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  9. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
    As promised, I finally got around to going through all my notes and am ready for my final substantive post about the Rodgers class. There is too much information for me to possibly post it all, so I decided to just go with my own personal top-ten list of things I learned, re-learned or sharpened up.

    Before I get started, please realize two things up front. First, this is my own top-ten list; it's a totally subjective thing, and I'm sure other students would have a different list. Second, please realize that what I’m about to write is from the perspective of one who wants to build the absolutely finest pistol, in all respects and details, that he is capable of producing. I am not saying that’s what everyone should aspire to – beaters are fun to build too – it’s just a matter of perspective.

    1. Biggest Personal Skill Improvement: In my own case, I believe the skill of broadest application that I improved under Bob’s, Dwayne’s and Drayton’s tutelage was my use of metal removers such as Dremels, Foredoms, files, paper-wrapped wooden dowels, and sandpaper. I have a long way to go before I perfect the techniques they showed me, but finally – finally – I understand the basics of how to use these tools properly, and I hope that the instructors would say that by the latter half of the class I had started to move from “mauler” to by-gosh filer. Here are just some of the key understandings they finally hammered into my head and hands and that I actually started to get the hang of toward the end of class:

    • It makes no sense to use a power tool with a round bit such as a sanding drum on a flat, straight surface. First, it is a misconception to think that a Dremel or Foredom is a faster way to remove metal than a sharp, clean file. Second, using a round attachment on a flat, straight surface makes it virtually impossible to maintain any sort of edge or line. Third, such attachements tend to impart a waivy appearance to the steel, which must then be removed by filing or with a paper-wrapped file, defeating the whole misconceived reason for having used the power tool with the rounded attachment in the first place. Instead, the proper tool to use on such areas is a file - a file that is both sharp and clean - that is the proper size, cut and shape for the area being addressed and the finished look you're going for, and employed with proper techinique.
    • Files should be considered "erasers" - one doesn't approach their use considering that they are for "removing metal," but for erasing excess material from the vision of the finished product you must already have in mind before you start filing,
    • When using a sandpaper-wrapped wooden dowel to eliminate an inadvertent file gouge, the instrument should be placed across (straddling) the gouge and applied against the surrounding higher spots to reduce the high spots, and not directly on the gouge,
    • Files should be sharp and kept clean - a sharp, clean file can produce very clean work with very few tool marks,
    • To remove whatever tool marks do remain after filing, the area can be worked with thumb and sandpaper if it is done correctly.
    There were more other critical lessons about metal removal and shaping they imparted to me, but you get the drift. I have those basics down well enough now that I can go forward, build on them, and improve those skills the right way. It will be a long time before I’m really good at it, but I’m now on the right track. The only problem is that now I don’t know what I’m going to do with all these polishing stones I own.

    2. The 1911 is a collection of subsystems that must work together. Each part must be prepared and fit properly not only in and of itself, but also with regard to the other parts with which it must operate for the gun to function and appear as desired. (Actually, this is one I already knew but forgot just long enough to cause a problem as I mentioned with my TS.)

    3. Measure, measure, measure. That’s important even when you’re building with take-off parts, but when you’re trying to build a best-effort gun with high-quality parts, none – again, none – of them is “drop in.” An example that threw a monkey wrench into one day that Bob had to spend an hour or so remedying was that the Wilson hammers would not accept the Brown hammer pins. Both were within specs, but cut toward the generous side, and as a result, Bob had to ream .001” out of 5 of the 6 hammers just to get the pins to go through. You also have no fewer than 20-25 basic measurements you have to take of the receiver, at least 15 of which are required before you even you even start fitting the slide to the frame. You also must measure to be sure the holes in the frame are in the right spots, the dimensions of the fame ramp, barrel bed, extractor ... and once you get that done and start in on the internal parts the list goes on to infinity. These must be measured and then compared - not only against the blueprint to make sure they’re “in-spec” but also against EACH OTHER to make sure they will work together (See Rule 2, above), the latter case including taking steps to reduce the chance of a particular instance of tolerance stack before the parts go in.

    4. Choose parts in an informed manner, and then inspect them thoroughly before using them. Inspect every part thoroughly. Even the best-made parts can occasionally have cracks, or places where cracks might develop, and Bob showed us those. There are a lot more of ‘em than you might think, and the chance of a crack developing may even be greater for one model of a part than another model from the same manufacturer!

    5. Trigger Jobs. I guess a pro can do a good job within a few hours, but for me, it will be at least a day-long thing, and frankly several days is probably more accurate. During the class, I think I spent, oh, probably 6 hours on the trigger job and it needs more work, but I just ran out of time. While it’s the best one I’ve ever done thanks to Bob’s instruction, it’s not perfect, and I'll spend more time on it (and on other guns I've already built) getting things perfect.

    6. Except for the ones you’d use in the trigger job, dump the stones. A beautiful finish can be achieved by using just sharp files (again, sharp files) and sandpaper, and saving stones for just trigger jobs.

    7. Magnification. Until this class, I had used heavy reading glasses, and supplemented them with a magnifying visor. That won’t get it for me any more. During the class, I borrowed loupes and microscopes from other students – I had to because there is simply no other way to really see what you’re accomplishing when working on micro adjustments, such as hammer hooks and sears.

    8. Diagnosing Problems. Often, a problem can be diagnosed by narrowing it down through removing parts from the gun and working the problem area with different combinations of parts. Bob also provided a superb troubleshooting section in his manual for us.

    9. Function and Form. Quality of work should be evident not only in the function of the gun but also its aesthetics. Sometimes, though, even the best of us amateurs can fail to give one as much attention as the other. After this course, I’m pretty sure that I’ll be spending just as much time on aesthetics as function. And both must be pursued with great concentration, because as Bob taught us, “It is never too late to ruin a gun!”

    10. Based on my newly heightened awareness of the rule immediately above, I know that there is no way – no way – that I can build a best-effort 1911 from scratch with hand tools in less than about 150 hours, and that’s even probably underestimating it. Bob told us up front that he would work us to death, and he delivered. He also told us that when we left, we would have a functioning 1911 pistol that would have had some detail work done, but in no case would we have anywhere near enough time during the class to get it all done and that the remaining work would be homework. He delivered on that too. In fact, on the last day of class, I rushed as fast as I could to get as far as I could, and when 5:00 came (we were supposed to close up shop at 4:30), I was literally throwing tools into my tool boxes just to get them out the door, while the Spook took over cleaning the blast media out of my pistol and reassembling it for me. It came down literally to the wire, and yep, I’m the winder licker who left the tool box at Bob’s.

    Thanks again to Bob, Dwayne and Drayton. The course was worth its weight in gold.

    Best,
    Jon
     
  10. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
    Class Pistols (Photos courtesy of Bob Rodgers)

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  11. Trent

    Trent Site Founder Staff Member Admin

    Aug 15, 2011
    Very nice write up. That looks like it would of been one hell of a time...
     
  12. Rinspeed

    Rinspeed Member

    146
    Aug 22, 2011
    Great read Jon, thanks for taking the time to post it.
     
  13. Carolinaboy

    Carolinaboy Aim Small Miss Small Supporting Addict

    671
    Sep 17, 2011
    Wow excellent read! I am dying to take another gunsmithing class myself.

    I have taken a class with Jerry Keefer back in 08' I'm in desperate need of attending another one.


    Thanks for the great & detailed review!:thumb:
     
  14. knedrgr

    knedrgr Low capacity, low tech...

    Aug 15, 2011
    Thanks for posting the excellent write up! Those pistols are just awesome!
     
  15. BigJon

    BigJon New Member

    20
    Sep 22, 2011
    Hey, thanks guys! While all the classes are structurally similar, each class's "scribe" digested and reported his own experience in a unique way. Since you enjoyed that one, maybe I can get the scribes in subsequent classes to post their write-ups too.

    So far, I've taken two "build classes, Rodgers in 2009, and the On-line Patriot C.O.P. course in 2007. The pistol I built in the on-line class is mechanically better than any factory pistol I own. It was built on a Caspian frame, and a year or so ago I had the frame ramp adjusted for optimum feeding. The on-line course was most educational to me as a start-up rookie, took about a decade off my learning curve, and IMO it would be a superb option for folks who can't travel.

    If you can travel and spend a week in Mountain Home, AR, though (and if you can get far enough up on the waiting list to actually get into a class), the Rodgers course is most definitely the way to go. Bob delves into MUCH finer detail and covers a broader range of subjects (seriously, the folks who wring the most out of the Rodgers class kill themselves trying to simultaneously do the class work and take copious notes of the wealth of lecture information Bob pours out during each day), and except for a couple of pistols that are full builds by pros among the industry's very best, the pistol I built in Bob's class is more precisely fit than any other pistol I own. The Rodgers class was the single most enjoyable and informative educational experience I've ever had.

    Bob used Caspian receivers as well, but he had adjusted the frame ramps for optimal feeding before we even got there. That's true generally, and when compared to my on-line pistol most specifically in the final finish of the firing-mechanism and the barrel installation. IMO that's probably because the instructor (Pistolsmith Dave Sample) felt that some things could not be effectively and/or safely taught except with the instructor physically looking over the student's shoulder; my class, and to my knowledge each other class, has Bob as chief instructor and 2-3 assistant instructors, and only 6 students.

    In Bob's class, we fit true, gunsmith-fit Kart barrels, and we also performed true trigger jobs. In the on-line class we fit Kart EZ Fit barrels, and we didn't do true, full trigger jobs. Instead, IIRC, Dave had the hammer hooks precision milled before he even sent our parts to us. Then during the class, we completely prepped and fit the parts, except that we did not adjust the sear nose beyond cutting the secondary. Instead, we boosted the trigger for final "feel". At the end of the class, we went through a very careful, step-by-step check of our pistols' safety and performance, and I know that Dave inspected, and where necessary adjusted, our pistols' internals before finishing them and sending them back to us. As the above photos show, though, we spent hours (and some folks spent days) in the Rodgers class hunched over the bench with tired eyes and sooty fingers bringing the sear into as perfect union with the hammer hooks as we could.

    Although I only have that one other course to compare the Rodgers class to, HERE is a post by another fellow I know who has a LOT more first-hand comparative information:

    "Compare the blasters from Bob's class to others

    "All

    "I have been involved in a couple of 1911 classes from various instructor/gunsmiths and I have come to realize that the quality of work that Bob's students turn out are far better from what I have seen from other classes. I would go so far to say that his students turn out better work than many 'smiths.

    "I know the above statement won't be popular but check out the pictures from the last day (realize that the pistol is only about 85% finished, they need to finish them at home following up on very minor details) and compare them to other class built pistol. Those pictures should be up tomorrow or shortly after that. You be the judge (and I haven't seen the finished product yet).

    "be safe irv
    _____________________________________
    "http://www.southernexposuretraining.com/"
     
    Last edited: Oct 28, 2011
  16. Earlsbud

    Earlsbud Supporting Addict Supporting Addict

    460
    Aug 28, 2011
    You are a great scribe, BigJon. Please do ask the others to post their class experiences here. Thanks.
     
  17. Sir Guy

    Sir Guy Sharpening Ockham's Razor Supporting Addict

    Aug 20, 2011
    Wonderful write-up. Details and photos are excellent. I'm still absorbing it and will give it another read soon to properly appreciate it.

    Thanks for posting it up! :thumb:

    Andy
     
  18. 230gr

    230gr Active Member

    450
    Aug 23, 2011
    Mr Rodgers always has the look of being a real handful!
     
  19. Hokie

    Hokie Active Member

    Aug 17, 2011
    I can only imagine when Rodgers and Rogers are together. :faint:

    Great writeup and photos. Thanks for sharing. :thumb:
     
  20. joerockhead

    joerockhead "BOURBON" It's not just for Breakfast anymore ! Supporting Addict

    Oct 12, 2011
    That was a great read...
    Thanks for taking the time to put that together and share it with us....
     

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