Ingenious Design: Of Deer Teeth Dentures and Rifle Pistols

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Here’s the story: A man shot a deer and then used its teeth to make himself a set of dentures, then ate the deer with the deer’s teeth. He used the teeth for three years before one broke while biting into a piece of bear meat.
The man beneath the teeth was Francis Wharton, a woodsman who lived near Little Fort, BC in the 1950s and 60s. Before long, his set of cervine teeth became quite loose, dark, and dirty but their initial fabrication was certainly praiseworthy. He would have used extracted back molars from his deer because deer do not possess proper front teeth. Wharton then created the base for his dentures by molding plastic wood to the shape of the roof of his mouth. After inserting the teeth, he sanded them down for three hours to create the right shape and then held them in place with household cement. And you know what? They didn’t look that bad!
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Wharton’s inventive spirit didn’t start with deer dentures. He cut his teeth as a steel craftsman and gunmaker. Wharton created his first firearm after surviving a bear attack in the Alberta Rockies by the skin of his teeth (so sorry). He was left shaken by the experience and set out to make a firearm that could better protect him in case he was ever attacked again. He would create a weapon that had the handiness of a pistol and the stopping power of a rifle.
Wharton appealed to Colt Firearms to make a barrel to withstand the load of a .45 inch rifle case necked down to a .38 round and filled with powder instead of the usual few grains. Colt’s reply was that it couldn’t be done. Naturally, a man like Wharton would never be satisfied with such an answer.  Once he sets his teeth on something (last one, promise!), there is no stopping him. He made a barrel out of low carbon steel he hardened by quenching and tempering by hand. Two slabs of steel were welded to either side of the barrel to add extra support. The final result was the .38 Wharton Magnum which he claimed once dropped a bull moose from 300 yards!
Francis Wharton's "deer-killer' he made himself. Image: Guns Magazine
Francis Wharton’s ‘deer-killer’ he made from a modified Colt barrel. Image: Guns Magazine
I could go on, but it begins to sound made-up. That’s because Wharton comes from a post-depression breed of man that doesn’t really exist anymore. He spent most of his life in the deep woods of the interior of B.C. and learned how to make do with what he had. His deer dentures were original and ingenious like so many of his ideas, and as creatives, we can easily find inspiration in his ingenuity no matter how alternative his designs were.

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