To speed up the loading of my flintlock I made a loading block. This loading block, which I made with the intention of using for target shooting, will allow me to pre-place a patch and ball together, so I will not have to play around with individual patches and balls when I am shooting.
Ideas of making my own loading block first came, when I saw a few in some books I was reading. My first step in building one was to draw a design of the loading block on graph paper, since I had no pre-made plans to follow. Because, my gun is .50 caliber or 1/2 inch big, making the holes line up properly on the graph paper was easy for each box on the graph paper was equal to 1/4 inch. After playing around with various designs I decided on a design with 1/4 inch spacing between two side by side rows of five holes. Then on the outside of the rows I left 1/4 inch, which so far has seemed to be strong enough. To allow the block to be tied onto a string I put a 1/2 square centered on the block at one end. Finally after making the basic design marking where the holes would go was easy, because each 1/2 square of graph paper had an intersection point that marked the center of the square.
Wood to make the loading block came from an old skid that was probably made out of popular. After tracing my design from the graph paper onto the wood and marking where the holes should go; I drilled the 1/2 inch holes with a drill press. Next, I cut out the design with a band saw. Then, to smooth it out I used a combination of a hand held sander and a dremel tool fitted with a sanding drum.
At this stage a patched round ball would push into a hole, but they went in rather hard and seemed to be ripping my patch some. So, I wrapped some sand paper around a socket and sanded out the insides of the holes until a patched round ball would push in with moderate pressure and would not tear the patch. Then, I sanded the whole loading block by hand to make it nice and smooth. With the sanding all done, I then applied a couple coats of a linseed oil and black walnut finish.
With my loading block now finished the question is does it work? The answer is yes, it is much easier to load ten shots all at once now, then it is to fumble with patches and individual balls when out target shooting. Sometime, I will probably make another version of my loading block that will hold fewer round balls. This ten shot version works well for target shooting, but it might be a little bothersome to carry on a string around my neck, because of its weigh–besides in muzzle loader hunting you typically only get one shot at a time not ten.