The Maxim machine gun has been No. 1 on my bucket list for years. Invented by Hiram Maxim in the late 1880s, it in essence made one fighting man as effective as 100. So, when my good friend Glenn Harrison brought a kit by, I just couldn’t wait to get into it.
It was the first true self-powered machine gun that really worked. There were a couple little trials that came before, but this SOB worked, and worked fantastically well. It worked so well it was picked up by both sides of World War I.
It also went out in a lot of configurations. They used it in everything from infantry to vehicles to aircraft. It was in tanks. It was onboard planes. And the precision and craftsmanship that went into it were just incredible.
I mean, you needed a magnifying glass to see where the rivets were that held the receiver together – it was that well done. You take all of that together, and I wanted this gun. I’ve been talking about putting one together for years, so when Glenn came across a kit, he thought of me first.
We were able to build up a receiver. It was a Finnish war capture during the Winter War, which to me added a lot of panache to it. We wanted it to look like what it looked like when it came out of that arsenal, so went to a local paint shop and had them laser match the original paint on it and did the bluing and a lot of handwork on it. I spent a lot of time myself filing on that receiver, sanding it, working it down. It’s just a beautiful, beautiful piece of machinery.
Now, for the Red Baron whole propeller set up. Glenn’s a good friend, and he’s really into living history and re-enactments. He wanted to be able to show the maxim in the way it would have worked in the cockpit during World World I, just a static display. We ended up having way too much fun playing with that damn thing. It was just one of those sheer joy projects, and I think that came through on the show.
That’s why the Maxim build was one of the more personal projects for me. The reason I got into the business was so I could make cool stuff. I just had to sell some of it to be able to finance my own projects. I didn’t get into gun making because of my deep love of floral arrangements, you know?
That’s one thing the show’s really done: It’s let me indulge myself a bit more, I suppose. I hadn’t previously been able to because, frankly, we didn’t have the money.
Discovery is always here with the cameras and they got to catch the sheer joy of this project. It was truly something for us to just “Do” and enjoy, and that Maxim sits in the lobby of Red Jacket to this day. It’s a damn busy shop. There’s a hell of a workload, but every now and then, you’ve got to back up and do something just for Zen, and I guess our Zen normally involves and exceedingly high rate of fire.