29 November 2014

Finally, the Peerless Faeton™

For some time now I have made reference to a new project which, when completed, I would share with you loyal readers. Well, the time has arrived for the unveiling of my new creation which has taken well over a year to complete when you include the services of the barrel maker, engraver and the casehardening service.

So, without further ado, may I present for your consideration my Peerless Faeton™.  

Through the years of building Zephyrs and now, the Faeton, I’ve wanted to make an English pattern underhammer that emulates the architecture and sensibilities of the fine English sporting rifles of the late percussion period. Many feel that those English sporting guns represent the epitome of gun design and are truly functional art. The Peerless Faeton is the result of my effort to honor those designs of old in an underhammer format.

 Clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them. Clicking the White X in the upper right corner will return you to the text.

The Peerless Faeton  is a takedown design which means it also has multi-barrel capability and is available as a high-velocity round ball rifle in .577 calibre with Genuine Forsyth Rifling™, and in .450 calibre with Genuine Alex Henry Rifling™. You may recall that Alexander Henry presented his patented rifling around 1870 and his target rifles beat the pants off the previous champion, the Whitworth rifle, with its hexagonal bore and 6-sided bullet. 

I have chosen to resurrect the true Henry rifling, that is, with 7 lands and grooves, for those wishing to hunt with cylindrical bullets. Genuine Alex Henry Rifling™ will also shoot patched round balls with reduced charges for plinking or hunting of small game.

Only high-grade English walnut will be used for crafting the Peerless and the forearm is tastefully tipped with ebony. The receiver, triggerguard, patchbox, and buttplate are embellished with restrained engraving and are casehardened. Also available is a fine English-fitted oak case which is available in single barrel or two-barrel configuration. 

The photos will provide answers to most other questions, however, if you have interest and more questions regarding options, pricing and lead time, please feel free to contact me at: underhammers@safe-mail.net 


23 April 2014

The Ultimate Underhammer? It just might be!

Quite a while back I challenged you readers to pursue your ideas of new and different underhammer designs and to actually build them. Since then there have been a few new entries offered by our readers which I’ve shared with you and I thank all of you who rose to the challenge.

 Clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them for better viewing in detail.
Clicking on the White X in the upper right corner of the graphic will return you to the text.

While at a recent gunshow I had the privilege of handling and reviewing another new underhammer hunting rifle, this one being offered by Joe Williams of The Gun Works of Springfield, Oregon, www.thegunworks.com. Some of you will recognize that name as a source of muzzleloading guns and supplies for builders as well as shooters. The Gun Works (henceforth referenced as TGW) has become somewhat of an institution of muzzleloading – at least west of the Mississippi – and provides all manner of goods as a visit to their website will confirm.

When I asked the folks at TGW if their new underhammer had been given a model name they thought for a while and declared it to be, The Ultimate Underhammer. That’s a pretty tall pair of boots to fill, so, we’ll take a look at the Ultimate's features and see what you think.

From the very first days of percussion underhammer rifle design, underhammers have usually sported one-piece stocks. That is, a buttstock and a naked barrel wearing no forearm. Later, some enlightened gunmakers added a forearm which, truly, is needed. Because of the lack of a full length stock, certain modern, uninformed, muzzleloading snobs declared that (despite an American history reaching back at least to 1826) underhammers just aren’t “traditional,” which, as we all know, is a big crock of Bean Soup.

Be that as it may, TGW has designed, and now offers, a “traditional” style underhammer rifle with a one-piece stock. In fact, the rifles I examined sported high-grade walnut with a grain-filled oil–type finish which exhibited expert application. 

The heart of TGW’s underhammer is a robust coil-spring action that is coupled with a hooked breech for easy takedown and cleaning of the barrel. One of the features that I admire and consider a must on any modern design underhammer is a half-cock or safety notch. To design an action in the manner of early underhammers without a safety notch is a fool’s dance which tempts Murphy (of Murphy’s Law fame) to remove you, or an innocent bystander, from the gene pool.

  A coil spring action by Pete Allan is the heart of The Ultimate Underhammer
and provides quick lock time with a very nice trigger pull.

According to Joe, this action was designed specifically for The Gun Works by veteran muzzleloading rifle designer and champion shooter, Pete Allan. You may recall that I reviewed the Allan underhammer action a few years back and gave it high marks all around. For the TGW rifle, Pete has removed the “outer shell” of the action and redesigned the base to work perfectly in the one-piece stock design. It’s pretty slick.

Unlike Pete’s original action, TGW’s action features an English scroll trigger guard (although some would call it a Hawken guard) which is a separate piece and screws into the receiver and is secured at the tail end of the grip rail by a wood screw.

 The hammer "well" provides the best protection to the shooter from percussion 
cap shrapnel as well as protecting the cap from the elements.

The action is inletted into the bottom of the stock and secured by two bolts from the top tang as seen in the photo below. All in all, it's a very secure system which provides familiar construction for the typical muzzleloader builder. And why would that be of interest? Because TGW also sells their actions. But, more on that later.

The action of The Ultimate Underhammer is secured by two tang bolts.

One of the outstanding features of better designed underhammer rifles is the protection they provide to the shooter’s forward arm and face - and bystanders - from cap shrapnel. Anyone who has fired an ordinary or poorly designed underhammer can attest to the nasty spitting of some of those rifles. In fact, there have been a number of muzzleloader shooters with whom I’ve spoken that were so put off by cap spitting that they assumed it a feature of all underhammers. I had a job to convince them otherwise and for them to reconsider and buy a high quality underhammer.

TGW’s Ultimate Underhammer is, perhaps, the very best design of all when it comes to protection from cap shrapnel. The nipple’s position in the barrel is actually up inside the stock within a hammer “well” just forward of the hammer as can clearly be seen in the photo above. So situated, the nipple is also provided the maximum protection from foul weather.

However, that protected location does offer a bit of a challenge in capping the nipple when you’re in a hurry. I would suggest using a leather cap strip for the job. The cap strip is nothing more than a strip of leather about three eighths to one-half–inch wide and about two inches long with a hole of sufficient size at the ends into which you poke a percussion cap. The cap should be a press fit into the hole. This gives you a bit of a “handle” on the cap which is real handy when you’re hunting and your fingers are cold and rather stiff.

 Sights of The Ultimate Underhammer are for hunting
and consist of a narrow steel blade at the muzzle and a
clean and simple notched rear sight as seen below.

I asked Joe what standard features he will be offering with his new rifle and he said he will build to the customer’s order of caliber, sights, barrel length, weight and configuration, length of pull, as well as stock wood and its design.  While the two rifles I examined were of half-stock configuration, a full-stock rifle is also available. 

 Beautiful wood is complimented by superb craftsmanship in 
the building of The Ultimate underhammer.

While one rifle’s stock lacked the cheekpiece and wore a curved buttplate, reflecting American influence, the other sported a checkered shotgun buttplate and a cheekpiece giving it more of an English flavor. Other than for the cheekpiece, the other side of each rifle is the mirror image of what you see. Which, of course, means they are ambidextrous. 

 A gently curved buttplate is available for those
 who may desire an American pattern rifle.

Because each rifle is custom built, one can choose either the American
curved buttplate or the English shotgun butt seen here wearing a cheekpiece.

All in all, I was impressed with The Ultimate Underhammer and believe that the starting price of $1,750.00 is more than fair for a custom-made rifle with such a unique exclusivity. Frankly, I don’t know how they can sell them for that price. Joe told me that he will have some completed rifles on the shelf ready to ship in the near future. So, it may be that your special rifle will soon be built and just waiting for you to make the call.

And for those who would like to build their own custom underhammer, TGW will also sell the action as shown here. The action kit also includes a hooked breech plug and tang not shown separately here, but visible in the photo above. The cost of the action is only $175.00 plus shipping.

That about wraps it up. But before we sign off, I would like to thank my friend, Jeff John, for the fine photos in this feature. All photo Copyrights are claimed by The Gun Works.

For more information, and to place your order for The Ultimate Underhammer hunting rifle or the action kit, call The Gun Works at 541-741-4118. I'm sure you'll be glad you did.


28 March 2014

Anatomy of a Schuetzen Underhammer

Dear readers, I do apologize for the lapse in features of late; I have been busy with several issues. One of my highest priorities has been a redesign of my beloved Faeton rifle. For many years I have been working to refine the design and finishes of the Faeton and I am near completion of the project. It won’t be long before I will unveil for you my new Peerless Faeton™. Believe me when I say that it will be worth the wait.

For those of you new readers who are unfamiliar with the Faeton, scroll to the bottom of this page for a close up of the Faeton.

On another note, several years ago (can’t believe it’s been that long) I published a photo of an experimental schuetzen underhammer based upon my earlier Zephyr pattern. Since then I have received quite a number of inquiries about that Zephyr Schuetzen expressing a desire for close up photos showing the design features – especially, the rear sight. Since I have long ago sold that rifle, I will share what I have and trust that your imaginations will fill in any blanks. You can always email me if you have specific questions that the pix don't address.

 Zephyr Schuetzen

Schuetzen rifles are a unique breed and express design concepts that seem exaggerated to the untrained eyes. But when you understand the game, you will see that the schuetzen design makes perfect sense – as an offhand rifle. Understanding of the concept leads to an appreciation of the beauty of the form as some schuetzen rifles are truly functional art. I like to think that the Zephyr Schuetzen was one in that class.

 Vintage view of Harry Pope demonstrating
the proper schuetzen offhand shooting stance.

Clicking on any of the images will enlarge them for easier study of details. Clicking the White X in the upper right corner will return you to the text.

The exaggerated features of the schuetzen rifle are designed to provide the perfect ergonomic fit of rifle to shooter for 200-yard offhand shooting. The idea being that the shooter simply stands in a comfortable, un-strained offhand pose and the rifle fits the pose perfectly.

 The extreme sculpted cheekpiece provides a very comfortable face-fitting support while the light Swiss buttplate helps hold the rifle firmly on the shoulder. This buttplate is actually quite large and flat and distributes recoil very well making the 20-shot string less fatiguing and more comfortable to shoot.


Coupled with the unusual forward-arcing finger rest, the well-proportioned thumb rest on the right side of the buttstock allows full control of the rifle by the right hand while still isolating trigger finger motion from adverse influence on the rifle while squeezing off the shot.

 In my version the forearm provides a palm rest that keeps the left hand away from the upward swinging hammer. Or if the shooter is one who rests the forearm on his finger tips, there is a thumb hollow on the bottom of the forearm which makes for a secure support when using that hold.

Good sights are essential for 200-yard offhand shooting.Turning the sight disk (yes, it is wood) loosens it and allows course adjustment to get your shots on target quickly, while the calibrated thumbwheel allows for finer tuning to zero the shot. The round "window" on the tang of the sight allows viewing the number settings stamped on the thumbwheel for exact repeatability in sight adjustment. Each revolution of the thumbwheel raises or lowers the sight in .050-inch increments. A windage adjustment screw is also provided at the rear of the tang on the right side of the sight.

Perched at the muzzle is a fine bead sight protected by an ample globe. Together with the rear aperture sight, they create the clear and precise sight picture necessary to win at this game.

Because this rifle is strictly a range rifle, loading is accomplished with a range rod, hence no ramrod, which simplified construction.

Combining the ultra fast underhammer mechanism with a good solid offhand shooting platform such as the schuetzen seen here, resulted in a very accurate rifle. And while strange looking to the novice, these rifles handle like a dream and will out-shoot the capabilities of most shooters. To those in the know, it is truly a thing of beauty.

Well, I certainly hope that the Zephyr Schuetzen will provide some ideas and inspiration to you builders to be brave and go explore the possibilities that exist out here on the edge.

If you care to see some of my more recent work, come on by for a visit: www.rjrenner.blogspot.com


04 August 2013

Worthington Pocket Rifle

Well, we're back!

Sorry dear readers, that it's taken so long to get back to The Underhammer Society, but I've been really busy with new designs and projects that I will share with you loyal readers in the near future. But for now, I have a very interesting underhammer to share with you from our friend Bob Worthington. You may remember Bob's underhammers from earlier features which I've published here. You may access them by scrolling down toward the bottom of the page there on the right-hand side where you will see a link to Older Posts. Just click on the link and you can revisit some of our earlier features, including Bob's unique underhammers.

For the most part, Bob prefers to build his rifles on the Billinghurst style of action which was noted in the day for its amazing accuracy. Even today, slug gun builders utilize the Billinghurst action for its strength, accuracy, and simplicity of design.

Bob is a builder like me in the sense that he prefers to create functional art of his own design and not copycat those designs of old. As a musician once told me, you'll never get very far if you play other people's music. You have to find your own groove and ride it out. In my mind, Bob is the Salvador Dali of underhammer builders and I mean that with the highest regard to his art. He's willing to color out of the lines and I admire that spirit.

Bob's latest work is his Grey Haven Pocket Rifle which I believe you will find most interesting. But lest I steal his thunder, I'll let him share his story with you amidst the photos of his Pocket Rifle. Clicking on any of the photos will enlarge them for a closer view. Clicking the White X in the upper right corner will return you to the text.

"I'm not sure which came first; my fascination with underhammers, or pistols with removable buttstocks. I think they were nearly simultaneous, however, and originated from my perusal of a book that contained the Smithsonian Museum collection of firearms when I was about ten years old. My first view of an underhammer was a Billinghurst, the stock-mounted pistol was an early 1800's period dragoon. I guess it's no wonder that I would wind up making a
Billinghurst style pocket rifle. I'm just surprised it took me this long to get around to it, some 50 years later!

I've been making underhammer pistols for a few years now, along with two underhammer schuetzen rifles and a hunting rifle, as well as sidelock guns, but always in the back of my mind was that idea of marrying the short and long arms into one. I examined everything from the dragoon flintlock, the Civil War era revolver with shoulder stock, the Smith & Wesson model 320, but mostly the numerous versions that were produced as underhammers. Finally, this summer, I dove headlong into the project.

I began with the standard parts for the Billinghurst action that I get from Muzzle Loader Builder's Supply, (www.muzzleloaderbuilderssupply.com)which I have modified to use as pistol parts, eschewing the heavy tang-collar in favor of my own brass collar and standard breech plug-tang. Ryan at MBS also turned the Hoyt .36 cal. barrel for me, a slender 16" octagon-to-round with a double wedding band that is soooo pretty! (And shoots like a champ!)

The maple stock was cut out in one piece, to ensure matching grain and appearance, then separated for final shaping. The hardest part was the stock fitting and creating the join of stock and grip. The fitting is cut from aircraft grade aluminum, and is fastened to the buttstock with a thru-bolt and a wood screw, as can be seen in the pictures.

. A 1/4" bolt secures the buttstock to the grip, threading into the lower end of the trigger bar, forming a nice, strong and stable fastening, form-fit to the grip and lined with felt to prevent marring the grip, which also has a brass plate where the bolt passes through the grip

I have always finished my pistol grips bright with no stain, but for this critter, I decided to break pattern and go with a cherry stain under a satin finish, all Laurel Mountain products. The stock got my usual treatment of hunter's star and oval, with a brass oval and wire work on the right side. On my pistols, my logo of "star and four directions" goes on the buttcap, and on long guns, is engraved on the toeplate, so this gun got 'em both.

The spring, trigger, and hammer all were hardened and tempered, and the barrel fire-blued. The unique flip-up front and adjustable rear sight work well together, and add to the appearance of the gun.

The safety mechanism is a recent feature on my underhammers. I used to provide a half-cock notch, which worked fine, but sometimes made it difficult to use a capper, especially on the smaller calibers. I developed the pivoting safety, which positively blocks the trigger when cocked, and is easily unlocked with the trigger finger. It can be made for right or left-handed shooters. The brass safety pivots on a brass bushing and the screw that holds the trigger guard/mainspring in place. When the safety is engaged, a wedge blocks the underside of the trigger, and when it is disengaged, the wedge is moved aside and a slot allows the gun to be fired. Check the photos below for details.

Bob's unique trigger blocking safety lever.

I spent an afternoon at the range playing with loadings, and after several powder charges and patch sizes, 18 grains of 3f under a 000 buckshot (.350 ball) with a .016" pillow ticking patch led to a 1-9/16" group at 50 yards, the first shot of the group was an X! I'm happy, and now I can't wait to shoot our monthly black powder match, both pistol and rifle, with one gun!

 Beach's Combination Front Sight

Worthington Design Adjustable Rear Sight

I am offering this style, with choice of caliber, barrel length, sights and finishes, for $3200.00, and a carbine or buggy rifle style with fixed buttstock for $3000.00. To see my other underhammers and other stuff, please visit my website, www.greyhavenarms.com."


Our friend, Bob (Salvador Dali) Worthington
Grey Haven Arms

All photos copyright by Bob Worthington

Thanks, Bob, for sharing your beautifully unique underhammer Pocket Rifle with us.

Hopefully, you other makers will muster up the courage to share your work with us, too. This is an open forum for all you makers as well as non-builder aficionados, so come and claim your spot in the sun with the rest of us builders!


02 December 2012

Scrap Bin Underhammer

Through the years of writing this blog I have always tried to encourage you readers to design and build your own underhammer arms. While many of you may feel that you just don’t have the skill or machinery or ideas to build, some of you have risen to the challenge and have made some rather interesting underhammers which you have been so kind to share with me. Some of them were rather crude and not well thought out before starting the work, while others were better examples of careful planning before starting the building process.

I would like to share with you some work from one of our readers, Robert Bradley. Unlike some builders who start with a ready made underhammer action, Robert decided to build an action of his own design. He’s a machinist who enjoys tinkering with guns and states that it was pictures of underhammer guns in books at the library that inspired him to try his hand at building one of his own.

The Bradley Boot Pistol

 Although he is a machinist, Robert does not have access to much machine shop equipment. So, his design had to be simple enough for him to build without the advantage of the precision machinery that many people believe is necessary in order to fabricate an underhammer. He did most of the work with hand tools.

Top and side plates have been removed to reveal the heart of the action.
Robert claims that the design just sort of evolved as he started putting pieces of scrap material together. In fact, the ¼-inch flat bar that forms the one side of the "receiver" and the hammer, along with the sheet metal side panels, he retrieved from the scrap bin at work. 

Close-up of the hammer and nipple.

While Robert did contour his barrel, one would not have to do so if you didn’t have the machinery available. For that matter, you could take your seamless tube to a machine shop and have it turned to your favored contour if you really wanted a tapered barrel.

While studying the photos of Roberts boot pistol, you will appreciate his design more in understanding that his trigger is not of the typical form which pivots on a pin. Robert’s trigger actually slides fore and aft on a track. The front edge of the trigger body, or the “sear” as we might call it, slips into a slot in the hammer to captivate it in the cocked position. It’s a very simple and effective design which requires less precise angles than a typical hammer/trigger arrangement.

Bottom view reveals the trigger and its pusher spring to the rear of it.

The top-strap also serves as the rear sight.
Now that he’s proven the design with this prototype, I’m sure he will now refine it – like replacing the round-head screws with countersunk flat-head screws which will provide cleaner lines and sleeker appearance.He mentioned, too, that he wants to fit a stronger hammer spring. One thing I would strongly recommend is the addition of a flash guard over the nipple as this design is likely to spit cap fragments everywhere - especially into the trigger finger and his pals.

What’s up next on Robert’s design board? He mentions, “I work at a shop that stamps brass and other metals. I also got some 5/8" round stock today and think I'm going to make a pair of .36 caliber derringers out of it. I want something really compact, so, I'm probably going to go with a ring trigger and spring underhammer to keep them small.”
So, take a look at Robert’s boot pistol and see if it doesn’t spark an idea for you, too.

Thanks, again, Robert, for sharing your scrap bin boot pistol with us and good luck with the derringers. We'd like the see them when you're finished.


All photos copyright by Robert C. Bradley

06 November 2012

New GOEX Blackpowder!

This just in off the wireless...

Media Release

GOEX® sets a new standard of precision with match grade black powder
Olde Eynsford 
Minden, Louisiana – November 2012- 

Goex® Powder Inc., for over 200 years the manufacturer of the only American made authentic black powder, sets a new standard of precision with the introduction of Olde Eynsford
This new gunpowder is painstakingly crafted with only select grade materials and precision refined processes. Its uniformly tight grain size ensures consistent shot to shot performance. In response to competitive demand, higher velocities are attained with Olde Eynsford
Olde Eynsford is ideal for cartridge and round ball competitors who demand precise shot placement at long distances” said Tim Vaitekunas, Chief Operating Officer of GOEX Powder, Inc. “We believe this is the finest powder we’ve ever made in consistency and increased velocity.” 
Look for Olde Eynsford in the plastic 1lb cans at GOEX® dealers everywhere in early 2013. For a complete listing of distributors visit www.goexpowder.com, call 913-362-9455, or write to GOEX ®Powder Inc, 6430 Vista Drive, Shawnee, Kansas 66218.

GOEX®, the Tradition Continues 

As one who prefers REAL blackpowder, I am eager to try this new offering from GOEX.


01 November 2012

What did you say? Under whats?

I can't believe we are already past Halloween and many hunting seasons are nearly over. Where has this Summer and over a month of Fall gone? Amazing how quickly the time is flying. Although, on the brighter side, soon 2012 will be over and we can all stop worrying about the end of the world and get on with important things, like building rifles, hunting, fishing, camping, shooting - you know, the important stuff.

Recently I received an e-mail message from one of our readers who has a mission of reminding us hunters and shooter of the importance of protecting our hearing. It does amaze me how many shooters do not wear some type of hearing protection. Of course, when we're at the range it's required, but I see quite a few shooters out at the local plinking spot who don't wear any hearing protection at all.

John O'Connor has been so kind to share this bit of a reminder with us and for those of you who still have good hearing but don't wear hearing protection, take heed to John's "Public Service" advice.

Hi my name is John O'Connor, I am a father, outdoorsman and passionate about living a healthy lifestyle.  Over the past few years I have become more and more interested in hearing loss.  My father and grandfathers, who are and were all hunters, are affected by hearing loss.  I feel that there is a general lack of understanding around the issue and it is our job to spread awareness where we can.  Check out my new blog at bloggingwjohno.blogspot.com!

Protective Hearing Solutions for Hunters

If hunting is a pastime you enjoy, you probably also enjoy browsing through gun shops to view the latest firearms and ammunition options.  If you are gearing up for the next big hunt, be sure to purchase all the necessary protective gear to keep you and your fellow hunters as safe and healthy as possible while you are enjoying the great outdoors during an adventurous hunt.  Smart items to buy to protect yourself while you are hunting include bright orange hunter’s vests, emergency communication devices and protective gear for ears.  Purchasing protective hearing devices will allow you to hunt safely and know you are not damaging your hearing whenever a gun is fired.  If you already have damage to your hearing, investing in hearing protection is even more important to further protect your hearing levels.

Understand the Dangers of Firearm Noises

Even one single gunshot can have an adverse affect on your ability to hear.  Children and adults alike are prone to hearing damage if they go hunting without using protecting hearing devices.  My father often would go hunting or shoot his guns without the proper hearing protection.  Now in his late 70’s he is affected severely by hearing loss.  Although not the only cause, hunting has played a major roll in damaging his hearing levels.  My father still likes to get out and go hunting but now he wears hearing aids in order to amplify sounds and help increase his hearing. While at the range he always remembers to bring the proper hearing protection with him along with an extra pair in case someone has forgotten theirs.   
Devices to protect your hearing can be purchased when you go to a hunting store to purchase supplies and ammunition for your next hunt.  By grabbing a package of ear plugs or a pair of protective earmuffs, you will be taking excellent precautions to safeguard your hearing health while you hunt.  

If you want more sophisticated options for protective hearing gear, you may consider purchasing a pair of electronic earmuffs.  Electronic ear muffs automatically adjust sensitivity to noises to allow you to hear voices, footsteps and animal sounds while still providing maximum protection to your ears each time a gun is fired.

Getting Educated on Hearing Health Equips You to Hunt Safely

The American Speech-Language-Hearing Association released a helpful online article to educate people about the potential dangers that hunting without hearing protection can have on a person’s ability to hear. In the article, Michael Stewart, PhD, Professor of Audiology at Central Michigan University discusses how people who use firearms have a larger chance of suffering from hearing loss than people who do not use firearms.  

Hearing is a precious sense that many people take for granted.  If you hunt a lot or are a regular at the shooting range it is a must that you wear the proper hearing protection.  Protecting your hearing now can help save your hearing for the future!

Thanks, John, for this timely and valuable information.


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About Me

Roger Renner

Hi. I've been a student, admirer, and designer/builder of underhammer guns for over 30 years. In that span I've built over 200 semi-custom underhammers exploring the possibilities from the ordinary to the exotic. In 1996 I founded Pacific Rifle Company to explore the market's interest in a high-quality underhammer rifle. Thankfully, that interest was, and still is, there. I sold PRC in 2006 but continue to craft high-end underhammers as I am truly afflicted with underhammeritis - which can be contagious!