Barnes Pneumatic - June 5th, 2009
If you have recently found this website, may I offer my warmest welcome. My name is Gary L. Barnes. The work you see here, is mine alone. Some of you will have known me for many years. For the sake of a complete picture, I'll write this page so that it does not require any background information or history. We're still "on hold" as regards accepting new orders. While it's a long read ... if you wish to understand ... please grab a cup of coffee ... and I'll explain the future, as applies to my work, and it's availability.
After college, I opened a custom cabinet shop. I built furniture for a number of years. Around 1975, I began building handmade custom pocket knives.
Eventually, I had to make a choice between cabinets and knives ... and chose handmade knives. I spent the next couple of decades building approx. 1,300 individual ornate folding knives. I was awarded a Master Bladesmith's rating by the American Bladesmith's Society in 1983.
By 1996, I was ready for a change. I had discovered large caliber airguns, and started building a few.
I began offering my work to clients, on a ledger system, in 1996. People paid along, into a no-interest account. The amount of monthly payment was estimated to bring the account to maturity, at about the same time as the project was completed - several years away. As a business model, I under-estimated the time required to build the guns. Complicating the matter, nearly everyone upgraded their orders to far more complex projects while waiting (requiring multiples of the time estimates set aside per build, and creating a ripple effect thru the entire ledger). Life, and elderly parent's needs, complicated schedules. Finally, my health tossed in a chronic pain health maintenance requirement. Between each chapter, I thought I would be able to recover my schedule. However; the next issue was always just around the bend. I was delivering guns ... but not fast enough. And that brought us to 12-22-07 ... when I ceased accepting new orders, to devote total time to clearing the ledger. It had been established that; "As one who could foretell the future ... I made a far better airgunsmith". Smile. ;?)
It's become time to clarify the catalog - and the future direction of my work. I continue to honor all orders placed prior to the 12-22-07 date, and the prices I quoted for those orders. They comprise nearly all of my work time, and will until they are each delivered. Most of these orders are in the 60-75% completion bracket. For efficiency of build, I began grouping similar processes on the widely different models, among the different existing orders. That's helped move the entire ledger along as a group; although it forfeited the strict linear progression of the list. The variety of models, with their individual build techniques, is one of the things that's unique about my work. However; yes ... that's complicated the build of each individual. Grouping processes has proven to be more efficient ... and all individual parts from each order are cataloged (but there's no running spot check available on each part - as it relates to each order's required complete set of parts). Sure ... that technology exists ... but not in this artist/craftsman's small shop. A portion of my time is devoted to any required maintenance issues, to keep the business and machinery healthy. Any remainder is allotted for me to conduct my life .. ;?)
"When will I resume accepting orders on the ledger"? I'm asked this question with great frequency. And, I turn down very nice orders, on a very regular basis. I do this, to honor those contracts on the books. Of course, that sort of shoots the business in the foot. People see things they like, and they want to order them. I just reached the point where I could not commit to additional projects. I reduced accepting orders to a "clear an order - take an order" rate. But ... that still wasn't making enough progress on the ledger. So; for the time being ... we're still on hold. However; there is a natural progression of talent an artist develops over decades of work. I've always fit the traditional definition of an artist. I don't toss paint at canvas. I don't have an agent trying to pawn off absurd junk as art. Instead, I've spent my life developing traditional skills. And they've grown, ,significantly, as the decades of work has progressed. I am self taught. I do not scoff at professionally educated artists ... rather, I did not have that available to me. Instead; I exercised my natural ability to absorb processes and to build things. I observed, read, and studied ... anything and everywhere I thought might provide value. Beside my bed, as a child, I had a card table workshop. Oddly, I seem to have lost that ability to contain all of my tools in nine square feet of area. I have a few more card tables full now. haha. ;?)
My last birthday at Bass Pro Shops ...
My wife Kelly took me for a day out ... she helps me with much of the book work for the business. (And - tames Black Bears for kicks). ;?)
Today, at 54 years old ... I've built my shop ... many of my machines ... and much of my tooling. I design all of my work, and do all the processes myself. My work is my life and my hobby, both fused together.
I mention that side bar ... to explain why there's never been much of a distinction between my life and my work. Hardly any between work time, and down time. Mostly - if I'm conscious - I'm on duty. "Time off", is to be able to work on something new which I wish to develop. Some cross-reference of skills from past and present. An idea which the back of my mind was working on, waiting for me to learn that single new skill required to make the whole plan possible.
The projects which I finish, as a result of this way of life, fall into three categories:
1). The very special projects to which I devote any amount of time required to meet my personal standards of a proper build. As far as my work is concerned; I have a sense ... an actual feeling ... that I've either properly completed a process ... or that I must do it again. If I am not satisfied with something, then I re-make whatever parts are required to bring it to satisfaction. People use the metaphor of a "bar" to reach for. "He's set the bar high." - might be voiced. As regards my work ... this "bar" has been continually raised, thru the decades of my work. This greatly benefits the customers for whom I work. It's actually an expense for me. I build everything to my most current level of satisfaction. That is always above my level (no matter how high it was) when I accepted the order. So; this first category is that of my orders. It's always a celebration here to ship out a newly completed order. We actually go out for dinner, and try to relax.
2). Maintenance. Such is life. I have to do this stuff myself, as I'm mostly maintaining things I designed and built.
3). The "Black Diamond" program. As regards my airguns ... this is my most creative outlet. Built as I wish. To my taste. For my enjoyment (and as a safety valve for my skills and thought processes). The time I can find for this is precious to me. Therefore; I carefully choose among the endless stream of ideas I have ... for the idea I select as worthy of spending this time on. These "Black Diamond" guns, feature one or more unique ideas which I wish to develop. This is how I continue to develop my craft, and expand my capabilities. The gun I make in this manner, becomes my range gun for a period of time. I cannot shoot without a rifle ... and I'm surely not going to go buy one. ;?) Seems the opportunity to shoot with the guys, seldom coincides with having a customer order ready for field testing. It's either "almost there", or "shipped last week". So, I always get caught as the airgunsmith without an airgun to shoot. If I have a Black Diamond gun in the works, I may have the opportunity to hunt with the rifle. I have hunted with my rifles many times in the past. Therefore; "Black Diamond" guns have a personal history with them. The targets. The photos. The artifacts. Complete and packaged with the Black Diamond Custom airgun when I choose to move on to the next idea.
So ... this third category is the rare, among the rare. A "Black Diamond" Barnes rifle has a small ebony diamond shaped inlay, within the field of relief carving on the stock. These very rare guns are placed discretely, among clients who have asked to be kept in mind. There's a list of those who have asked to be remembered. It's an open list - which is growing. I can't take an order for one ... or commit to setting it aside for someone. That would defeat the whole purpose, and just make it one more obligation.
The "Black Diamond" program is now a formal version of something that has been a loose practice over the years. I build a gun to use, over a period of months of off hours. I field test it, to see if it's new features, meet my expectations. If it does, I complete the gun. After use it for testing, and perhaps hunt with it; it becomes known. I try to place it with a waiting customer, if there's a close match to an order.
I've now named the program, and the practice. I've refined it quite a bit, to denote the guns which become special benchmarks, in the progression of techniques I developed. This is one direction I will take, as I spend my work hours and efforts completing the ledger orders. No matter how hard anyone works, they all go home once in awhile. ;?) When I get a chance to relax, and have put in a good show on the ledger ... I work on my current Black Diamond project. I ceased accepting orders 12-22-07. I'm completing all orders placed prior to that time. I regret that it's frustrating for those wishing to place orders. I hope, for the time being, you will enjoy seeing the occasional "Black Diamond" Barnes PCP that surfaces.
Thank you for your interest, and for reading.
Myself - shooting the very first professionally made Barnes PCP. Circa 1996.
Check our Airgun Rendezvous Forum. The section titled "Gary's Galleries", features many different rifles I've completed.