Engraving Information. Choosing Wisely
In Victorian times engraved articles were in abundance. Beautiful Timepieces to cigarette cases, elaborately engraved silver and gold flask's, ladies hair brushes and even hand held vanity mirrors.
Also, copper plate and wood engravings for the purpose of reproducing art prints were very popular.
However in later years, popularity had diminished, largely due to modern machinery and commercial marketing.
Roll stamping soon overtook hand engraving on less prominent items and commercial casting coined the term 'engraving' as standard patterns that a million others could own. Hardly something anyone could call personal.
Overall, hand engraving never really vanished. It basically survived in Firearm and Knife circles as
well as in the rare gift categories. Although it survived radically changing times, it also had become largely unavailable even to those that could afford it.
Information on the subject was not readily available and few people knew where to locate an engraver. Of course I am speaking of
people in general. There have always been and always will be collectors and admirers of fine art who will go to great
lengths acquire exclusivity.
Despite the lack of popularity, engravers were very much hard at work and clients did commission firms or independent artist
to decorate their valued items.
Is it any wonder that prestigious firearm and knife collectors seek the finest engraver's today to embellish their favored possessions.
Present day Master Engravers have transformed the craft into a true respected Art form.
Never before in our history have engravers reached such high standards in producing fine engravings.
Gold inlays so richly detailed, fine shading and gradual tonal changes creating more depth than ever before.
Near photographic realism is now being achieved by some engravers.
All in all, there is a resurgence of this art and it's currently being appreciated and sought after like never before.
A side lock Double rifle, or Shotgun engraving in near full coverage executed accurately and finely detailed may be had at 150 hours of labor, 300 to 400 hours will produce beautiful detailed engravings. 600 to 1,000 hours will produce exquisite work including high definition scenes and above 1,000 hours we see the absolute finest engraved work on firearms costing as much as $120,000 and up. This becomes engraved art at it's finest.
Selecting an Engraver
Art engraving can be expensive and a time consuming. It should not be entered into lightly. When budget is limited, choose less quantity and better quality from a well established engraver. After all you will have to live with it. Because engraving is a permanent change to the items surface and cannot be undone, it is of utmost importance that the client feel confident with the engraver's abilities. An engraver should understand the personal attachment that a client may have to the item and furthermore compose themselves in a manner which will allow them to share their clients emotions and concerns. In this way engravings will be executed with feeling.
What to look for in quality engraving - Overall balance and Elegance in design, Clean accurate cutting, Continuity in the cutting, even depths, fluent cuts, Straight and accurate borders, Smooth transitional depths from shallow to deep, Accurate representations of animals or scenes, Fine detailed shading, properly executed 24k gold inlays, Lettering in all traditional styles with precision and character, Ability to engrave traditional styles and motifs faithfully, Clean and accurate art design skills, Originality, An engraver who is confident and will stand behind their work.
The client should always feel free to ask questions regarding a proposed engraving and even the techniques used.
In short the more a client understands engraving the better the service becomes.
More often than not, well shared discussions produce the best results in regards to addressing overall direction for any proposed engraving.
Always voice any concerns you may have and ask for opinions or thoughts from the engraver.
Ask for direction when you are not 100% sure of your available choices.
If the engraver appears uninterested or unwilling to give you the time, then I suggest seeking another source. There's a good chance that such an engraver will care less about the job and more about the payment.
Frequently asked Questions
*How much will it cost?
*What will it look like?
*How long will it take?
*What condition should it be in before engraving?
*How much engraving should be applied and which style?
What will it cost
Regardless of one's financial situation, spending wisely and making appropriate choices should remain as a prime consideration. At first we must address the objects value. Try not exceed it's value with to much engraving. However there are always times when a client truly treasures the object and decides to spend far more on engraving than the item is worth. I would advise against this unless, (A) the item is a status collectible. (B) The engraver's name bears more significance then the item itself. (C) You have an emotional attachment to either personalized engraving or the item itself.
(D) Re-sale is not something you are likely to consider.
In many instances, Engravings will far exceed an items value. As mentioned above, at times an engravers name may carry value to the extreme and the object itself may take a back seat. First address who the engraver is and how difficult it is to commission art from that artist. Usually status engraver's are very busy and in demand. In such cases if you are indeed fortunate to attain
work from the artist and the name is significant in status, then it will be acceptable to double or even triple the items value with decorations.
When an object carries extreme value due to the Artists workmanship and or name status the above boundaries tend to be stretched. Furthermore an expensive engraving exceeding the objects
value may actually embellish the overall investment. Once again name status plays a significant role.
Cost factor is greatly based on which style of engraving is chosen. e.g. relief engraving can take two, three or even four times the labor than non relief engraving depending on design complexity. Background textures are also a factor. Punched backgrounds in relief are reasonably quick to achieve and look great. Very fine stippling takes longer to produce and fine lined backgrounds still longer. Bulino dotted backgrounds far exceed the aforementioned methods both in time and cost and should only be applied to the finest of items.
Style of engraving may greatly increase labour time. Gold can be expensive and inlay labor may add considerably to the cost depending on complexity. e.g. inlaying a stag head with antler's takes far longer than it would take to inlay a simple shape such as a leopard head. After the initial inlay the amount of detail within the image will determine time and cost as well.
Fine Bulino high resolution dotting techniques become very expensive but do produce beautiful realistic results. In general this technique should be reserved for high quality items. In addition there are many other factors that define cost. Hardness of the material / contours of the item may make it difficult to engrave / coverage in engraved % and overall design time...
What will it look like
Drafts will be supplied only upon client request via e-mail / fax / or reg. mail.
During these stages all concerns will be addressed and any requested revisions will be re-submitted for client approval. In addition if the job is of a lengthy nature the client will be kept informed regarding the status of the engraving. In regards to how it will look once
the engraving has been completed... My standards are Exhibition grade Quality, therefore the end result will always be Top grade.
How long will it take
Style and quantity of engraving will ultimately determine how long it will take
once the project has begun. Backlog will determine start times therefore booking a time slot is a major factor.
It is not uncommon to have 1 or more years of backlog when the engraver is in high demand. This does not mean that all incomming
orders require this time frame. If an order is not a very large one, often times it may be placed in-between larger standing
orders prior to beginning the next scheduled major project. The only reason this is even possible is due to many clients who
often allow latitude in delivery dates.
This does not hold true for all engravers, it is generally based on name status. With name status clients are more understanding of how intense the work may be when top level results are the norm.
Therefore they generally begin with the understanding that time is secondary to patience and care on each art piece.
It is this mentality that allows top artists to give the work their best efforts and never compromise quality due to a tight delivery schedules.
Condition before engraving
It is recommended that the object be in a annealed state (softened) and any blueing should be removed and in the case of firearms that they be stripped down. There are times when engraver's work around certain situations so it's best to ask. Any surface defects should be removed such as pitting or deep scratches.... If in doubt ask.
Engraving quantity and style
Amount of coverage should be carefully weighed and based on personal taste and dramatically varies from client to client. Engraving styles should always respect the lines of the object and be executed with good taste in order to enhance the overall appearance.
Quality standards / prepairing your firearm
Engraving an expensive firearm is a serious endeavor and should never be entered into lightly by a client and certainly not by any engraver. It is not a trivial matter.
Good planning, foresight and the assistance of qualified professionals is crucial. There are several issues to be concerned about when dealing with firearm preparation for engraving. First of all most receivers on firearms are in a hardened state.
Therefore any engraving on hardened steel will only result in poor results and wasted time and effort. EngravingArts will refuse any firearm in it's hardened state. Quality levels must be maintained and compromise is not tolerated.
There are engravers who have no issue in reducing the quality of their work. They may gladly accept commissions informing you that quality will not suffer due to hardened steels. Regardless of carbide engraving tool usage, the physics of hardened steel apply. Quality will diminish and the engraver will require much more time to complete the task at hand. Often the engraving will require multiple passes to address the quality factor due to material hardness. You, as the client must determine exactly what level of quality you desire and choose an engraver accordingly. It is best to select an engraver which satisfies your budget and overall needs rather than requesting lower grade work from a quality oriented engraver. This generally becomes and effort in futility. In most cases it will be a waste of your time as well as that of the engravers. Status engravers are very concerned
about quality and in many cases you will be turned away as a perspective client. Rarely will you find one willing to compromise their own name by signing anything less than a fine quality engraving.
Annealing (softening) hardened metal parts should be carried out prior to engraving. Contact a gunsmith regarding costs for annealing and hardening.
The proper sequence of events should: (1) Disassembly of the firearm. (2) Strip all coloring and anneal all hardened parts to be engraved. (3) Remove scratches and imperfections where ever possible and restore the surface to its original state. (3) Discuss your engraving needs thoroughly with a qualified engraver. 4) After completion of the engraving, parts must be re-hardened as per their original state. It's best to have the originating service that annealed the parts now handle the hardening process since they are presently familiar with your item. 5) Have all desired finishes to your metal parts taken care of and final assembly of he item.
Signed engravings / Multiple engravers on one job
A signed engraving is very important,
without a signature an engraving will be assumed to be part of a production line process.
More often than not these pieces will not be unique originals but rather set patterns
which will likely be repeated many times over appearing on a vast number of firearms.
As a consumer you will instinctively know if this matters to you or not.
The decision to purchase stock engraving or Commission an original engraving is based on
importance level for you. Remember, production engraving without a
signature will always have far less value both in the present and future.
Multiple engravers on one job - This is not uncommon to see. Many times
when cost is a factor more than one engraver may be used. An example of this is when
dealing with high end scenes or individual animals where one engraver engraves the decorative
patterns such as scroll work throughout the item and a second engraver handles all pictorial
images. This is generally done when a client desires a status engraver to execute a
specific portion of the engraving. It will not lower the value of the engraving but can
actually enhance its value if one of the engravers carries a status name. Often this is
easy to spot as any scene or animal will carry its own individual signature of that specific
artist and the balance of the engraving will be signed elsewhere, usually on the floor plate of a
rifle or shotgun or on the trigger plate assembly.
Bulino engraved scenes
When dealing with miniature scenes, especially with anatomical representations often times what is seen are poor renditions of proposed subjects and under close scrutiny reveal a multitude of flaws / errors in detailing, lighting, shadowing. Graduations from light to dark generally falling within 2 to 3 levels of tonal density, achieving a rather flat 2 dimensional final result. Perhaps appealing but nevertheless lacking in stark realism. Five to seven tones are required to achieve visual realism.
Engravings are not required to have ink fills to achieve
dark to light contrasts but rather executed in such a way to either
reflect light or inhibit light as desired in order to generate the various densities.
This is not to say that ink fills cannot or should not be used as they have their benefits. Often times ink fills are needed in order to address an issue such as a small part being bulino engraved that happens to have a curve to it. Due to the scale of the part and its curvature over a short distance, light reflections will change within a small area of the bulino work. This will cause the density of the bulino dotting to change and it becomes almost impossible to see all areas at the proper density without the need to move the object into proper visual lighting angles. In other words, without the ink / lacquer paint fills visual representation will not be correct.
On a larger surfaces the above is not an issue at all and there is no need for fills. Only if the dotting is properly created will the engraver get away without these fills. This means the engraver must master the metal medium completely. A strong understanding of light reflection properties versus dot shapes, depths and angles will be required in order to not only accomplish but to control and give life to the scene. The above statements simply mean that when executed correctly Bulino on its own will attain its natural level of contrast between light and dark. In many cases ink fills punch up the densities so that under poor lighting conditions engravings still retain strong contrasts.
Metals / Standards / Assistance
Any firearm generally built to the traditional English standards will likely be of a drop forged
method and will lend itself easily to anealing and case hardening. Costs for anealing
are generally low, case hardening is also fairly inexpensivel. Case
coloring will be somewhat more expensive but is well worth the added expenditure on fine guns.
Many modern firearm manufacturers are using an investment cast method versus the drop
forged. With investment casting usually the heat treat method is 'through hardened'
meaning the hardness is throughout the thickness of the alloyed steel as opposed to drop
forging which is case hardened and usually has a hardness layer of .05 to .015 thousandths of
an inch in depth, after which the metal is soft as per it's original state. However this is
not always the case as some investment castings will still be case hardened as opposed to
Anealing, hardening, color finishing of firearms should be taken care of by a qualified gunsmithing service.
EngravingArts company policy is to handle it's own level of expertise which is engraving and will guarantee
satisfaction in this area and chooses to leave firearm related re-finishing issues... to the
qualified professionals and their own expertise.
The reason behind EngravingArts refusal to deal with anything outside the scope of engraving is the loss of control when
employing third party services who may further out source one more level. In such
circumstances it becomes difficult to make guarantees regarding deliveries and final quality
after the engraving has been completed and as such EngravingArts cannot be held
accountable in controlling these outside sources.
Please understand that a knowledgeable
client is a wise client and every effort is being made to insure that all decisions be made with
intelligence and understanding of the perspective issues.
In closing I hope that this
information has been beneficial in offering a base of understanding in order to begin the engraving process.
Guidance will be made available to ensure that all decisions are made to meet within
your tastes and budget.