Beginning Engraving

Getting started on getting good results with engraving is easier than you may think! Here’s how to begin.

by Ray Ordorica

Some time back I wrote a piece on engraving for this journal. It’s been long enough that I’ll briefly cover a few of the basics again, such as where to get help, how to make a graver, and how to get started. Then I’ll show you the steps I take to carve into a real project so you can see from start to finish at least one section of the project.

Before we begin, I believe that to be a successful engraver you must have at least some small sense of artistic feeling. You don’t have to be Van Gogh or Vermeer, or (God forbid) Picasso, but I believe you have to be able to tell when something is balanced. While it’s well and good to say that your engraving is how you want it to look, even though it might be regarded by critics as being not that good, remember it’ll survive long after you’re gone. Try to make your engraving look like what you want future generations to think of you. If in fact you want a Picasso-like figure with one ear and two noses, that’s ultimately up to you. And it might even be well received. Your author, however, is mighty conservative.

What you’re going to do as a firearm engraver is cover various areas of the gun with patterns cut into the metal that look right and fit in, and either disguise or augment the lines and sections of the gun. The work has to be uniform all over the various parts of the gun. It would not do to have full coverage of, say, a 1911’s slide and only patches of engraving on the frame. Nor would it be appropriate to have large scrolls on one side and tiny scrolls on the other, or scrolls on the frame and oak leaves on the slide. However, bear in mind appropriately mixing different engraving styles can produce a wonderful effect. Check out Purdey’s rose-and-scroll patterns, or Rigby’s leaves and scrollwork on his double rifles.

There are ways to “cheat” without it’s being noticeable.

Read more in the January 2017 issue.

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