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Gunsmith sets sights to be No. 1

Monday, August 15, 2005

Scott Gallo has made guns that were taken on safari in Africa.
IN THE EAST OHIO GUNWORKS AT 7556 state Route 45 in Lisbon, tools of the gunsmithing trade are scattered across the room. The seriousness of the work is felt throughout the building.
Workbenches line the walls with two large tables in the center. A sander sits at the end of one of the tables; a blaster is off in the corner. There is a lathe, mill and drill press along with various hand tools lying about. A gun being repaired is on one of the tables and several custom-made rifles are leaning against the wall.
Owner Scott Gallo opened up shop a year ago and has dedicated himself to making the best guns possible.
"I get better with every one I build," he said. Looking at a beautiful rifle made of laminated birch with various color veneers, he smiles as he said, "You fall in love with them."
Surefire business
He has made guns that were taken on safari in Africa, prairie dog hunts in Wyoming and organized cowboy shoots. He built a gun for his mother-in-law and gave one of his masterpieces to a friend for his wedding.
"I can build just about any caliber a person wants," Gallo said, holding a .22-caliber rifle made out of cherry wood. "It's an art."
Pointing to a gun on the work table, he said, "That's an 1887 lever-action shotgun."
The wood on the stock of the rifle is rough and scarred with chips and scrapes. The barrel is a worn, dull gray.
"Someone will bring a gun in like that," Gallo said. "All dirty and ugly and rusty."
He pulls out another gun and lays it next to the 100-year-old shotgun. The beauty of the wood is astounding. The grains, enhanced by the light-colored stain, flow through the wood gracefully; its surface is smooth and flawless. The barrel of the gun is a deep, rich blue.
With a childish glint in his eye, Gallo said with delight, "They are the same kind of gun."
Both vintage shotguns from the 1800s, the "new" gun is the result of Gallo's gunsmithing talents.
Close friends
While the work being done at East Ohio Gunworks is a serious and precise art, the atmosphere in the shop is anything but sober.
Joe Siefke and Gene McGaffick are as much a part of the gunsmithing shop as the sander and blaster -- and just as loud.
Both retirees, the men have known the 36-year-old master gunsmith his entire life.
"I was at his mom and dad's wedding," McGaffick said.
"I've hunted with Joe my whole life," Gallo said of his friend and mentor.
Gallo refers to McGaffick as the head coordinator. "He does the books."
Siefke, on the other hand, is the doughnut man. "He brings some in every morning."
Joey Shive, a 17-year-old junior at Lisbon High School, is part of the entourage. His father, Greg, stops by after work almost everyday.
Together, the men banter among each other, discuss current events of the day over a doughnut and, most of all, harass and pester the master gunsmith.
Friendly ambiance
With their presence, the gunsmith shop has the atmosphere of a barbershop and the gunsmith himself, burdened with the pressures of running a new business, is surrounded by the love and support of lifelong friends.
When the workload is heavy, all of the men can be found standing around the work tables completing a task for the gunsmith.
"They don't charge me anything," Gallo said, his voice filled with gratitude.
Siefke interjects, "He pays us to sit here and be his friends -- with a chew and a doughnut."
Greg laughs, shaking his head at the harassment. "Oh, he pays for it," he said of the help Gallo receives.
The men continue to banter as Scott touches the soft wood of one of the guns he created and looks around his shop, "I enjoy getting up in the morning and going to work."