Thursday, October 19, 2017

Gun Engraving Demonstration in the USA

In the spring of 2017 I was invited to demonstrate the way I engrave guns at the Southern Side by Side Classic held at Deep River in North Carolina, USA.  Can I say at the beginning that I could not have met a nicer group of people anywhere.

Atkin, Grant & Lang invited me to be on their stand and sponsored me. Thank you to them for that and for giving me a great time.

The method I use to engrave guns is one that seems to be dropping out of favour as the new generation of engravers are using air-powered tools. I have tried them but I think the traditional method of pushing the tool with hand pressure is better as it is easier to give character to the engraving when you are getting the feed back from the tool directly. Also I can pack a basic set of tools (excluding my pad) into a 9 x 5.5 x 2.5 inch cigar box which is much more portable than some engravers’ set ups.

My table at the show was always busy with people (who were very well informed) asking questions about the work or how I started and often quite technical things about tools and technique.

Thank you to all the people at Deep River for making me feel so welcome and at ease.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Engraving with other peoples artwork

Owning a picture from a favourite artist can be a very rewarding thing; you have something nice to hang on the wall as well as (hopefully) a good investment. This doesn’t have to be the end of it though. You could use the artwork as an inspiration for some engraving on your gun, with the permission of the artist of course. Just recently I have finished a commission that started out this way. The customer had four drawings by Simon Gudgeon of grouse and partridge and wanted them to be used as the game scenes on his pair of guns, I signed the engraving with my monogram and a reproduction of the artist’s signature. So now the customer has both the engraving he likes as well as the artist all on his guns. Coincidentally, I am just about to start a gun with fine scroll engraving and a woodcock illustration specially commissioned by another well known artist that this time knew that it was to be engraved on a gun, this has the advantage that it can be designed with the shape and scale of a shotgun in mined, so that screws and other bits of the gun do not intrude on important parts of the scene.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Engraving initials on your gun

The gun maker usually provides a small gold or silver oval shaped plaque inlayed into the stock. This is for the engraving of initials, coats of arms or dedications of some sort. If you talk to the engraver they will be able to show you many different styles of lettering and maybe help you choose between them. They will also be able to design you a monogram using your initials making them into a pleasing pattern. If the plaque is already engraved and you do not want to remove it then ether a new plaque can be inlayed or initials or crests can be cut out and inlayed directly into the stock.

In the illustrated here the initials and crest were cut out of gold and inlayed, crest on top of the stock near the heal.

Friday, March 30, 2007

Gold on Guns

One of the confusing things about gold on guns is that there is more than one way of putting it there - inlaid into the surface or laid on to the surface of the steel. So with that in mind inlaid gold (or other metals) should have a mechanical hold on the gun.

The way this is achieved with on lay - or damascening as it is better known - is to roughen the surface in the same manner that files were made in times past – with a series of parallel cuts at three different angles, which gives hundreds of very small teeth that grip the gold. The problem is that it works best with very thin gold and that has a tendency to wear out and get caught in things.

With true inlay a recess is made for the gold with a dovetail around the outside and when the gold is hammered in it is forced into the dovetail and is locked in place. This means that you can use much thicker gold and even have it above the surface of the gun so it can be carved back to any form you like or left flush and engraved. Some inlay work uses different metals inlaid together or gold in different colours but it should be remembered that a gun is meant to be used as well as looked at and gold will wear in time with heavy use.

The reason that we do not stick it there with glue or solder is that the guns are case hardened by heating up to red heat for a couple of hours in bone charcoal, then dropped into a bath of cold water so that the carbon migrates to the surface of the steel giving the steel (but not the gold) a glass hard finish and this would cause the gold to fall off.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

“Can you add some more engraving to my gun?”

This is a question that most engravers are asked and it is a very difficult one to answer. Engraving of guns usually takes place near the end of its manufacture – the next process is to case harden and then polish before final assembly. So when I am asked to engrave on a gun that has been “finished” I try and explain why it’s not such a good idea. That said, some guns are not hardened all over as part of the manufacturing process (the trigger guard for instance), and some guns not at all. It is possible to anneal or soften a gun that has been hardened but the process is not for the feint hearted as the intense heat can warp the metal as the stresses are relieved; this would need the attention of a very skilled gunsmith to correct. Get good advice.

Most of the time when I am asked to enhance a gun that has already been engraved it’s because the customer has decided to have something personal added to it – maybe initials or armorials engraved on the small gold oval in the stock or gold inlay on the trigger guard. These should not be a problem. Guns without the gold oval can either have one fitted or the initials can be cut out of gold sheet and inlaid into the woodwork. All engravers can carry out this type of work which can make an interesting break between the bigger jobs that often take many weeks.

Friday, July 14, 2006

Thinking about the Pattern

The gunmakers here in the UK all have their own house styles of engraving and their guns can often be recognised from a distance by these patterns. This said, all the gunmakers are willing to put almost any style of engraving on their guns that the customer wants. Here the art of gentle persuasion comes in; you may think that the customer is always right and that is how he should feel, but some things are not such a good idea when engraved on or gold inlayed into guns. Please think what it will look like, not just for a few months after you get your gun back, but in a few years time when you have been looking at it a lot and your friends have all seen it.

This is one of the reasons that the standard patterns came about. They give a good sense of identity with the gunmaker, have a wide appeal and as the guns get older they acquire a nice patina that enhances the look of the engraving and therefore the gun. Game scenes and gold inlay work all have their place in an embellisher's work, but they should be thought about very carefully and if possible discussed with the engraver.

Think about what you have seen and liked on other guns and more important not liked. Do you like the tight fine scroll work with or without roses, or do you prefer the open scrolls with a dark background that forms a contrast, acanthus leaf, strap-work or a bit of a mixture. You may have a favourite corner on your shoot and that could be used as the back ground to a pheasant scene. The choice is yours, but think carefully and be prepared to change your mind after you have spoken to the engraver.