Artifaking" Beaver Traps
by Allen Hall

For those of you interested in beaver trapping the one necessary tool is obviously a trap.  There are a number of them out there, some cheap and not very historically accurate, and others that are excellent copies of original traps.  The problem is that very accurate traps are also very expensive.  And when you are getting "up to beaver", you are likely to lose a trap or two.  Not something that you want to do with a $250 trap.  Having trap of correct size and weight is also great for "show and tells" that we all do to educate the public and kids.

I've come up with a couple of ways to make Bridger #5 long spring traps look more period.  The Bridger #5 is a good trap all by itself, and the cost is certainly affordable.  It is of correct size and weight (trap alone weighs 4 pounds and with chain, just over 5 pounds), and is very effective at catching beaver.  They run about $20 from Montgomery Fur in Ogden, Utah.

The most obvious problem with the trap is the round pan.  Nearly all period traps had square pans.  There are several ways to fix this problem.   I've found that a 3 ½" square pan is about right, proportion wise, for the trap.  You can attach this directly onto the existing pan by riveting it on right over the old round pan.  This is fast and easy to do, and from all views of the trap except the bottom, looks good.  I've seen them spot welded as well.

Brad Freeze, our Brigade Booshway gave me the idea for what is probably the best method of converting the pan.  You grind off the old round pan, exposing the 2 rivets that held the pan onto the sear arm.  When you do this, only grind off enough to remove the pan.  Save the pan to use as a template for drilling the holes in your new square pan.  I found that a 3/16" hole works well for the new pan.   You then take a file and file down the sear arm to "raise" the rivets, making them long enough to rivet the new square pan on with.   This will require about 1/16" sticking above the surface of the new pan when it is in place.  This method of changing the pan takes longer, but is a cleaner and more thorough conversion.  14 Gauge metal is about the right weight for this part of the project.

The next issue of concern is the chain attachment method.  As they come, the chain attaches to the spring.  According to illustrations in Russell's book Firearms, Traps, & Tools of the Mountain Men, this was a period practice (page 116, 119, 121, 139).  But moving the chain attachment onto the center of the trap is also widely shown, and may possibly be more common.  It does also have the advantage of giving the beaver less room to move.

I found 2 ways to do this.  The first method was removing the old chain attachment slide by cutting it off with a hacksaw.  Next I cut the piece down further to just the chain swivel and a "L" bend.  I then riveted this onto the base of the frame opposite the dog.   The second method was similar, except that I removed the swivel completely off, cut a piece of 1/8" strap metal about 3 ¼ to 3 1/2" long by 1" wide, put a "L" bend in it, then riveted it on the dog side of the trap.  This method of attaching swivel is equally as common in Russell's book as the first method of attaching to the spring, and is shown on pages 102, 121, 125, 148.  I think the reason is was used more is that when you are setting the trap, the chain will hang away from you on the dog side, and be less in your way.

The whole operation is really easy to do, and the end result is a much more period looking trap, that is also more effective at catching beaver!  Trapping a pack of beaver will get you the money to buy some of the totally period traps! Trapping season will be upon us soon, so pick up a couple of traps and get out there!

Montgomery Fur Co.
1539 West 3375 South
Ogden, UT  84401
(801) 731-7259
(801) 731-6123  Fax