Colt Forum banner
1 - 16 of 16 Posts

·
Forum Friend
Joined
·
5,858 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Pre NOTE - I haven't seen this gun in 20+ years. Pix I requested from present owner, my Son-inlaw





I had to learn to engrave to do complete work on my client's 1600s to 1800s guns.


Brownell's James B. Meeks' book on Firearms Engraving in 1973, got me started. It is a great tutorial, well explained & illustrated. I studied it & learned to do all the details. Handicapped by hammer & chisel I bought a Gravermeister from Brownells. A couple of my best purchases ever. The Gravermeister is a tiny air hammer the drives your tool to cut your engraving -- but demands the same skills as any engraver needs in design layout, depth, width, etc., of tool management.


I did very little practice cutting once I had the idea down pat. Enthralled with engraving, my tools, anything clean enough might get some work. But this was/is about gun engraving ----


A Colt 1860 Army was the place to start. A restoration; metal well done, re-rolled cylinder but with its original distressed grips. Gun dealer's opinion 'foolish to f---up a good gun with amateur engraving' - to me a challenge. Nimschke's book of engraving designs, with utmost care I copied Nimschke's patterns on to the gun, small area at a time, cut exactly as possible per Meeks' instruction - then heat blued it the kitchen oven. Not quite a Colt blue but with little distressing it looked believable. Its original beat-up grip was a big downer.


Luck, gun show find a 1860 grip, figured wood, like never been on a gun, for $25. Got home and found time had shrunk it 1/16" to fit the grip frame. A brainstorm told me it had shrunk from lost humidity. Wet paper towel stuffed in the grip frame slots, dried out, it fit.


My Colt got interest at the Long Island Antique Gun Collectors Assn. meeting. Passing around my "re-creation", hearing 'Nimschke' whispered by the NY area Colt experts, apparently I had something worthwhile but didn't realize it. I was known by my work on old guns from the 16-1700s. No criticism or suspicion -- until I 'fessed-up' as it's source. Passed around again the criticisms came out as, not an accurate so&so, a too much or too little that to be Nimschke. Possibly some were valid criticisms - but not one discovered the item I had put in as my 'red herring'. The background of engraving designs was commonly dinged in with hundreds of strokes of a tiny punch that produced a circular mark. Instead, I had roughed up the backgrounds with a tiny dentist's burr that gave adequate contrast. I went home congratulating myself that I had arrived.


Years later I gave the gun to my new Son-in-law as a wedding present - my first and arguably my best gun engraving job of the 15 or so I've done. I've done three jobs on request for clients, traded one for a S&W Triple Lock, with rest remaining in my family.

Close ups ---

 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
1,453 Posts
Nice work. You are obviously very talented. Thank you for sharing.
 

·
Premium Member
Joined
·
4,604 Posts
I would have to agree with Matt on that Bob.

That is absolutely beautiful work. If that's your first one, I would sure love to get my hand on your later work also.

Fantastic job Bob, just fabulous.

Bud

Bob, I think you could perform brain surgery on yourself at your work bench and be good as new the next day.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
332 Posts
I agree with the capability of self done brain surgery, but not with being good as new part. I feel sure some form of improvement and/or embellishment would be added! :) Beautiful work!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
223 Posts
That is outstanding work for a first try. Beautiful.

I think my lines would look like it was done by a coffeehouse rat overdue for his java fix....or morse code. Hee hee.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,156 Posts
My wife and I sold our riding lawn mower and probably some other stuff I am forgetting about so she could afford to buy a Gravermeister a couple of years ago. She studied under Mike Dubber a bit. She recently started working on a $25 HSB & CO shotgun just for fun/practice.

I have to say going through this experience with her, and even trying it once or twice myself has shown me what an amazing art form it is, and when I see things like this I think I appreciate it even more than I ever would have had I not been exposed to the art to the extent I have been. For anyone who thinks it is easy to do what you have pictured has never tried it! In short, nice work, and thank you for sharing.
 

·
Forum Friend
Joined
·
5,858 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
kdave21 -- Bravo, you and your wife. Her practice job will be a valuable experience and memory.

I was driven to learn to engrave. My side line biz of restoration of early pre-1800s guns demanded it. A typical restoration of making/replacing missing part of a hammer of one of a pair of perc pistols --- out-sourcing engraving was a disaster in that it came back poorly done or maybe skillfully but in the engraver's style rather than duplicate the work on the other of the pair.

An instructor might have been better than Meeks' book but I was so over-joyed at getting it, I never thought of anything else. For me it had all the answers. The layout job you do before engraving can be as important as the engraving itself. An engraved poor layout just makes a permanent tacky job.

As I got into engraving I met old-time engravers who said my using a Gravermeister was 'cheating' --- probably from not knowing that it speeds up the job and can also make your mistakes worse. Not to take anything away from the traditional hammer & graver method, by which some of history's famous engraving was done -- and no less effective today.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,522 Posts
Bob, your talent is evident (and enviable) and your story of how you learned is inspiring. Your posts are among those that always bring me back home (to the Colt Forum).
Thanks so much for sharing!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
2,156 Posts
rhmc24- The wife does own a copy of the Meeks book and also some of Ron Smiths Book's on layout and design. She also has some other books with some beautiful photography which have been used to motivate and inspire. I notice her FEGA magazines have stopped coming, I should look into that. I enjoy looking at the high end engraving pics and reading the articles.

I agree 100% with your comments on layout and design. She has a graphic design degree and background which I think has helped her in this arena.
 

·
Forum Friend
Joined
·
5,858 Posts
Discussion Starter · #15 ·
kdave21 - She will probably become a great engraver, seems like everything is going in the right direction. Be sure to post some pix of her shotgun test job.
 

·
Forum Friend
Joined
·
5,858 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Been trying to send this sooner but got sidetracked by my 3rd chemo for Lymphoma last week.

I really appreciate your kudos & comments. Since I started of this thread 'long-winded' --- to continue --- I posted the other two of my early jobs. My best engraving was done in the beginning with these and my SAA & Triple Lock I've shown before. The enthusiasm of learning faded.

For me engraving you gotta keep your hand in - use it or lose it. Infrequent jobs in recent times on my own stuff show that. Age contributes to the toll in muscular control, vision, concentration, patience, etc. Now at 89 my serious engraving is far back down memory lane & was always over shadowed by preoccupation with pre-1800s oldies, with engraving being only an accessory.

The world seems divided into people who know & appreciate quality in engraving and those who don't. To some, it's engraving whether it's high art or the crudest wiggle job. I'm reminded of a friend of mine buying an engraved '51 Colt from a farmer who said "it's in good shape except for all that 'scratching' on it."

My SAA .38-40 & Triple Lock again ---



 
1 - 16 of 16 Posts
Top