David Deshler’s Rifle (cont’d).           



    As was previously mentioned, this rifle is particularly large through the breech, wrist and buttstock.  The comb is well-shaped and stands relatively high.  It does not carry carving in quantity to match either 'Rifle Gun no. 42' or the two aforementioned lion-carved rifles [generally believed to have been the work of Christian Oerter at Christian's Spring], however the carving which is present is quite dramatic.  (Photo 9)
  The carving to the rear of the cheek is explosive, a stand-alone array of volutes and scrolls which essentially circles around on itself before ramping off towards the cheek with a split scroll which forms the "A" form so common to early rifles of the old Northampton County region.  The same split "A" form is repeated at the front of the cheek opening towards the wrist and comb, however there is no carving to carry around the comb to the box side of the butt.  The rifle, being stocked in cherry, has been worn to an appreciable degree however the carving retains the feel of multiple levels which must have been much, much stronger when new.  The background within both carvings fore and aft of the cheek is completely covered with an array of small circles:  these circles were very definitely stamped with some form of small circular tool which measured 3/32" in diameter.
    When viewing the cheek carving, there are a few noteworthy points of comparison with 42:  first, both carvings make use of strings of four to five gouge cuts [or in this case, even more] as a background effect within some of the scrolling.
  These cuts are found in the carving to the rear of the cheek upon the Deshler rifle, and they are likewise found in that location, immediately adjacent to the front of the cheek as well as within the sinuous carving forward of the box upon 42 (photos 23, 24).  This is not a common decorative trait, as most stockers utilized single or multiple strings of much smaller cuts in groups of three.  The stocker of the Deshler piece was utilizing a larger-than-usual gouge for this purpose, the small crescents measuring approximately .20 inch across on average.  This compares very closely with the same cuts upon 42.  Second, both rifle 42 and Deshler's piece evidence a number of raised scrolls which are cut in a very unique manner:  the broad, sweeping head of the scroll suddenly and tightly winds inward upon itself.  This type of scroll carving does not manifest upon the Marshall rifle, often associated with 42, nor upon the two lion-carved  rifles. 
    There are a number of tiny gouge cuts upon the Deshler rifle which are used in strings of three or four, as well as being used within the carving itself as applicable to some of the scrolls or other relief forms, which measure a very small .058 inch to .059 inch.  This is not something which normally would draw much attention, save that it is of a particularly small size and coincidentally matches the size of the same small tool for which evidence has been highlighted by Wallace Gusler in his article, "An 18th Century North Carolina Moravian Rifle Gun" (Muzzle Blasts magazine, July 2005, 4-11).
  There, he states "These two wrist carvings...also share tool kit evidence.  The use of a very small gouge (.058 in. width)...is used on both rifles in several places..." (Gusler 6)  These comparisons do not indicate that Deshler's rifle was carved by the same indivdual that carved rifle 42, for there are enough differences in both carving and stocking to strongly indicate that this is not the case; it does indicate, though, a similarity in 'tool kits' and similarity in thought process in relation to the use of those tools that should not be overlooked.

One feature of the carving which merits close attention is the profuse use of punched circles which cover the background.  This is a feature which bears no relation at all to rifle 42 but which does relate quite strongly to both aforementioned lion-carved rifles (photos 22, 25) as well as a signed and dated 1774 rifle by Christian Oerter at Christian's Spring which was owned by Samuel Coykendall.  (Photo 28)  The circles are all of such similar size as to indicate that a very similar tool was used to execute the stippling on all four rifles.  As a result of the most recent surfacing of a hitherto-unknown Oerter rifle, there is now extremely strong evidence extant which indicates that it was very likely Christian Oerter who stocked - at the least - the 'Lion and Lamb' rifle.

    The molding cut along the lower buttstock relates very strongly to rifle 42, consisting of a single relieved line which terminates at the forward portion of the stepped-toe with a flaring, decorative shape.
  'Rifle Gun no. 42' possesses something of an abbreviated fleur de lis as termination of this molding while the Deshler rifle evidences a spade form.  This termination does carry around under the guard and completes a closed design, and one might speculate that 42 would illustrate the same closed form had not the set trigger bed precluded this.  These two rifles differ from the Marshall piece and the lion-carved rifles in that the molding is a single line, not the double bead found upon the aforementioned others as well as most later pieces of the Northampton County area.
    One final note concerning the cheek carving as evident upon David Deshler's rifle requires close examination:  the overall movement of the carving itself essentially comprises a closed circular form.  This relates - in form - very strongly to two carved rifles currently attributed to Isaac Berlin of Easton (Northampton County, PA), one of which is signed via letter stamping (photo 26) and one of which is a relatively certain attribution to the same maker based upon the signed rifle.  These two rifles were thoroughly covered in detail by George Shumway in an article entitled "Isaac Berlin of Easton, Pennsylvania" published in Muzzle Blasts of March, 1996 (8-11).  The circular form also compares in a very interesting manner to the cheek carving found upon a magnificent signed rifle by Andrew Verner (photo 27) pictured in Shumway's RCA Vol. 1, pages 264-269.  The Verner rifle is obviously a later rifle a generation or two removed, however what is especially noteworthy about the Deshler-Verner comparison is that both rifles display a circular or closed body of carving which is linked to the cheekpiece via a separate volute or scroll form with a decorative extension extending upwards towards the comb line.
  Looking harder at the Verner piece, a second important link between it, 42 and the Deshler piece can be found:  despite the lack of a step-toe, Verner's rifle carries a residual remnant of this form in that the lower toe flat terminates at the rear guard extension and the wrist is rounded-under beneath the grip rail (photo 29).  As per 42 and the Deshler rifle, Verner (as did most other upper Bucks County gunsmiths of the period) then terminated his lower toe molding with a decorative form which completely closes the molding under the guard.  Why was this rounded-under wrist and circuitous molding retained in this small region? 
The lock and tang carving upon Deshler's rifle contains many details which are reminiscent of the series of carved rifles within the "Christian's Spring" segment as illustrated by Shumway in RCA Vol. 1 [rifles numbered 41 through 43 as well as rifle 46 signed by Albrecht].  The lobes to the rear of the lock panels are shaped almost identically to those present upon the Marshall rifle, no. 41, as well as unsigned rifles 42, 43 and Albrecht's rifle no. 46.  This may seem at first to be an insignificant detail, however these lobes are quite large and are not found carved in such an identical manner upon any other comparable examples [save two or three related rifles, to be discussed later].  The 'necked' portion of the lobes, quite broad, actually surrounds the tail of the panels  whereas practically all other examples found throughout Pennsylvania display smaller lobes with pinched necks which flow off the tail of the lock panels.  Rifle 42, while displaying the same type of broad neck and forward (i.e. closer to the lock itself) orientation, carries a smaller pair of lobes which may indicate an earlier place in the sequence;  they are followed closely by the Marshall rifle and Deshler's piece, the lobes of which are slightly larger; the lobes upon rifle 43 are noticeably larger and more flamboyant than any of the predecessors, and it can be noted that they actually compare favorably in size to the lobes executed in brass ribbon by Oerter ca. 1774-1776 [Shumway's rifles 44 and 45 as well as the 'Coykendall' rifle].
  The two lion-carved rifles fit within this stage of development also, the "lion and lamb" rifle possessing the added tit to the rear of the lobe which represents, via carving, the trailing points to the rear of Oerter's wire lobes.  Albrecht's signed rifle 46 would seem to represent the final point of this timeline, as it too makes use of very large lobes which display a slight reduction in the size of the neck and thus bringing them more closely (although not yet completely) into line with the norm.

The carving along the lower side of the lock panels also offers an interesting comparative study.  Both the Marshall rifle and Albrecht's rifle (46) display a flaring skirt ramping off the lower side of the lobe neck before receding to run along the lower edge off the lock panel.  Oerter's rifles mimic this same method in wire, although he made use of a wavy line along the lower edge which also matches the carved form of the "lion and lamb" rifle.  The other wood-box lion-carved rifle, or "Two-Tailed Dog" as it is sometimes known, is aligned with the Marshall and Albrecht pieces.  Rifles 42 and 43, however, evidence no such continuous line but rather the flaring skirt recedes towards the lock panel only to reverse itself again and terminate just shy of the guard.  It is this same manner of broken skirt line which is found upon Deshler's rifle, although it being a slightly plainer piece does not make use of the forward components to the lock skirting.

    Viewing the tang carving upon the Deshler rifle (photos 10, 17), an immediate comparison can be made with the aforementioned series of assumed-Moravian rifles particularly in the portion surrounding the barrel tang itself.
  The design layout in this portion of the carving is almost identical to that upon the Marshall rifle (photo 33) and also the remaining portion of the tang carving present upon Albrecht's signed rifle (photo 36).  Additionally, RCA 43 (photo 35) carries a parallel form - albeit slightly smaller - and Oerter's rifles display a simple variation upon this same theme, probably changed slightly in order to make the application of the brass ribbon easier in this region of compound curvature.  Rifle 42 also carries the same form in this region (photo 34) however it is just barely narrower [width across the wide, flaring portion surrounding the back of the tang] and omits the tiny leaf-like fronds at the forward portion which rebound off the volutes upon the Marshall piece.  The same carving upon the Deshler rifle is closer in proportion to the Marshall piece however it too omits the tiny leaves - as does 42 -  and simply relies on a single volute per side to terminate [or initiate, depending upon perspective] the surround.
    Within the carving to the immediate rear of the tang, Deshler's design quickly necks-down to a much greater degree than do any of the aforementioned examples and it does not evidence the triangular cross-hatching which is present upon 41 through 43.
  Furthermore, while all of the above examples are very similar in the manner of carving surrounding the tang itself, each displays a different carved form to the rear of the tang itself.  Rifle 43 and Albrecht's rifle are perhaps the most similar in design although they too evidence differences.  The splayed carving upon the Deshler rifle is completely different from either rifles 41 and 42, instead offering a third variation which is less sophisticated yet again displays long strings of large-sized gouge cuts as fill or shading.  It has been suggested that this particular splayed tang carving form, and likewise the repetitive gouge cut-work, seems extremely reminiscent of signed work by Peter Neihart.  For the present time, it would appear that while David Deshler's rifle is in some manner tied into the Whitehall/Allentown and Bethlehem/Christian's Spring regional block, and while some fairly strong evidence points to Peter Neihart - or at the least, the use of details with which Neihart later was familiar - it is unfortunately not possible to render a more definite attribution.