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Old September 17, 2018, 05:12 PM   #1
Felenari
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Engraving firearms.

I've been interested in engraving for a long time and now that master engraver TV started on YouTube I've been wanting to do it even more. I've done some rough large scale engraving and repousse before but I want to learn how to do the layout for a firearm and get better at making small designs.

Does anyone know of any good resources specifically for firearm engraving or hard steel engraving?
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Old September 17, 2018, 11:54 PM   #2
4V50 Gary
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Suggest you attend Lassen College's NRA Summer School engraving classes. I took a few days at Conner Prairie (Fishers, IN) but really enjoyed the training I had at TSJC under Michael Pierson. It was one week of hand engraving and the second week with the power graver. You have to practice on flat plates before you can be ready to work on curved surfaces.

Layout is key. The engraving must compliment the firearm and must not obscure any of the existing markings (maker's logo, stampings and especially serial number). It must be balanced too.

You might want to learn to draw first. Study the engraving patterns of Louis Nimschke who engraved for Colt in the late 1800s. L. D. Nimschke: Firearms Engraver Hardcover by R. L. Wilson was one of the books that Dr. Pierson recommended. The Golden Mean by Barry Bohnet is well worth reading. You can get the latter from the National Muzzle Loading Rifle Association in Friendship, Indiana. To learn how to look at engraving and how to execute it, I like John Schipper's book, Engraving Historic Firearms, the best. He breaks it down to basics. Mind you, his technique of holding the engraving bit is different and it works well for him. He shows you how make your own sharpening machine. It's expensive (about $120) but you can buy it at the same time from the NMLRA if you get Bohnet's book.

I think Ngraver also offers engraving seminar. Their equipment is nice but pricey. Got used to using them at TSJC. Haven't bought a power graver but I did but a machine to hone my engraving bits. That cost over $700 (with two other grinding wheels and a jig to hold the engraving bit at the right angle).

BTW, Joe Rundell also teaches at TSJC. He's adept at both engraving and relief carving.
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Old September 18, 2018, 01:04 AM   #3
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I read the golden mean when I was in silversmithing school. Long but good read. I'll check out those other books as well.

I've done a lot of design as a jeweler but not the same as designing a layout for an existing piece. I always shaped the piece to the design, not the design to the piece, if that makes any sense.

As for lassen, bit too far for me to go there without my spouse. I'm moving to trinidad Colorado for gunsmithing school in a year and I'm taking engraving there. I wanted to get a head start and get some practice in before getting there. I have some spare time between construction projects here and there and I can only teach myself so much Autocad before I pull my hair out.
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Old September 18, 2018, 09:07 AM   #4
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Hope you get admitted. Take summer school there then. There was a student who graduated after I did who bought airsoft guns to engrave on. He worked in the tool room there and when not distributing equipment or material to students, tapped away. He had an advantage in that he had an art degree and was familiar with roccoco. He'd draw the initial design and then free handed the detail. When finished, he sold the airsoft for a profit and helped pay for school.

I'm still pestering the school to have one of the engraving instructors (Michael Pierson or Joe Rundell) teach roccoco drawing as part of the required "drawing" class for the fine arts certificate. Besides and Associate in Science degree in gunsmithing, TSJC students can earn a gunsmithing certificate for those who don't complete the A. S. degree requirements. A couple of my classmates went this route since they didn't take English, math (you have to contact TSCJ) or other courses the A. S. degree requires. Knock those out cheaper at San Francisco City College while you're there. The other certification they grant are Gunsmithing Technician Certificate, NRA Instructor certification and, Fine Arts Certificate. A lot of veterans go for all five and it's given a boost to the stock carving (relief carving ala long rifle decoration), engraving, advanced engraving, alternative metal finishes classes.

If you're planning to attend TSJC, enroll in the NRA summer school there. Might I suggest Tig Welding for gunsmiths and bluing. This will reduce your workload in the first and second semester. For bluing you should know already how to disassemble and reassemble a firearm. It doesn't need to be anything fancy and don't do AR-15s (aluminium can't be placed into hot salt baths since the salts will dissolve them). See if you can find an old beater single shot 22 cheap.

I'd also take Machine Shop I & II, especially if Keith Gipson (the dean) is teaching. It won't count towards your degree, but you'll have the advantage of already knowing how to operate a lathe and milling machine.

Also check out the school library. Most students don't but there's a treasure trove of information there.
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Old September 18, 2018, 12:51 PM   #5
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That is an absolute treasure trove of information. Thank you so much. I'm trying to knock out some welding classes here also. I'm taking the Accuplacer test in a month or so as well so I'm studying up to get as high a score as possible to avoid as much math and English as I can.

The airsoft idea is brilliant. I have a beat up co² revolver I use for spinning. I just realized I don't know the term for slinging a revolver around all fancy like. English isn't my first language actually. I'm Flemish. It would be good practice for my 686.

I've taken machining before when I was 14 but I'm so behind I'm going to take every class I can get my hands on. I figure it'll take time to get into the program. I talked to one of the teachers and they said they accept 17ish out of the 70+ that apply every year. I'm aiming for nr1 on the test list but I'll take lower and do some other classes also.

What is rococo engraving?
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Old September 18, 2018, 01:33 PM   #6
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https://www.britannica.com/art/Rococo-style-design

Rococo is an art style and is usually as all styles changing .Be familiar with basic terms , spend time at museums and in libraries. If you are working with a specific customer talk to him and find out what he wants .You don't have to stick blindly to a style.
Firearms engraving can be many different styles. The very fine Italian Bulino,
to small scroll, large scroll etc. you may be given a photo of the hunter's favorite hunting dog to engrave . Take a notepad with you always and sketch and sketch !! To engrave an animal you need knowledge of anatomy .Butcher a deer and learn their structure .I've seen to many examples where the 'artist' knew nothing about the animal. Challenge ? Make sketches of a deer walking away from you but turning his head and neck to look behind himself !
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Old September 18, 2018, 09:46 PM   #7
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I was taught bulino, but it was for scrimshandling and not engraving. I know you have to get different engraving bits to do bulino on steel, but I'll have to research it to find out what types.
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Old September 20, 2018, 01:54 PM   #8
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I've been building a steady library of different styles of engraving and inspiration. I'm going to start practicing straight lines and curves first. Might have to make some miniature plate armor in copper to engrave some geometric patterns on. Thank you both for the tips.
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Old September 20, 2018, 06:19 PM   #9
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Realize the airsoft guns are probably zinc-which cuts like butter.
Practice on copper plates, then mild steel plates, then old guns.
You will find that using a powered engraving system will decrease your learning (and engraving) time. The Gravermeister, GRS System 3, Lindsey Airgraver, and Chinese copies work very well. GRS also sells the N Graver, which is flex-shaft powered.
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Old September 20, 2018, 11:12 PM   #10
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The co² revolver I have is definitely zinc. Eventually I'd like to practice engraving on some of my crummier pieces in my sword collection to see what hardened steel carves like. I do blacksmithing on the side so I also have a lot of differentially tempered hammers I can engrave as well.

I'm going to take a look at those powergravers. I imagine they're much nicer for carpel tunnel sufferers. We're trying to get the house renovated so we can rent it out though. Might have to stick to hammer and chisel until I have a bit more money.
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Old September 20, 2018, 11:55 PM   #11
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Gun steel is generally not very hard.
I have 3 N-Gravers and love them. I also have a system 3-it seems more of a jeweler's engraver, but it works well.
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Old September 21, 2018, 02:16 AM   #12
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I enjoy making jewelry in my off time also. More silversmithing than engraving in my knowledge base though. The gravermeister looks awesome but is way out of my budget. I couldn't find anything on the n-gravers though. Can they hook up to a dremel? I have a 4000 series that I use with carbide burrs to carve with every once and a while. I'm lightening a slide by hand right now with my dremel.
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Old September 21, 2018, 05:04 PM   #13
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Our teacher told us that a student from a few semesters back bought a Chinese made one that looked just like the graver machine. It was about $500. It worked fine.
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Old September 22, 2018, 11:43 AM   #14
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I'm going to have to look into that. Do you perchance remember the name of the tool or where he got it?
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Old September 22, 2018, 03:17 PM   #15
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http://www.ngraver.com/
You need a flexible shaft machine. The Dremel won't work.
The Chinese air engravers are often available on Ebay.
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Old September 22, 2018, 03:31 PM   #16
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Thanks, I'll check both. Is there a big difference between the air powered and flex powered gravers? One more sensitive than the other or something? Better controls perhaps?
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Old September 22, 2018, 08:48 PM   #17
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Search under "engraving machines and equipment."
The air powered machines seem to be more subtle in their operation.
The N GraveR hits pretty hard. I learned on one of these, so I prefer it-but that's just what I'm used to.
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Old September 22, 2018, 09:27 PM   #18
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I’m not endorsing it but it was one like this and it looks just like the one we were trained on.

http://https://www.ebay.com/p/Pneumatic-Engraving-Machine-2-Ends-Jewelry-Engraver-Speed-Adjustable-US/1487125118?iid=111735529382&_trkparms=aid%3D555018%26algo%3DPL.SIM%26ao%3D1%26asc%3D20131003132420%26meid%3Db200cc2ff3e24f49a5633d25e1aa7cf1%26pid%3D100005%26rk%3D4%26rkt%3D12%26mehot%3Dag%26sd%3D183235200836%26itm%3D111735529382&_trksid=p2047675.c100005.m1851
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Old September 23, 2018, 02:52 AM   #19
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Remember- you have to have an air compressor with those machines!
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Old September 24, 2018, 11:43 AM   #20
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Thank you both for all the info. I'm going to save my pennies for a bit and try the airgraver from ebay for now. Hammer and chisel till then.
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Old September 24, 2018, 11:59 AM   #21
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Many fine bulino engravings done by hand in Italy from the likes of Creative Arts, Fracassi and others. The artwork is amazing, tedious, and very precise. I read about one engraving, IIRC it was an elephant on a double rifle, where the process comprised of over 1,000,000 "dots" of the bulino tools and took the better part of 6months+ in time

Good luck in your quest!

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Old September 24, 2018, 12:01 PM   #22
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This type of skill just blows me away; I couldn't even hold their tools, let alone come close.
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Old September 24, 2018, 05:03 PM   #23
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This level of making is what I'd like to get to someday. Photorealism isn't really my bag but those hunting dogs are stupendous. I'd believe the million dots article. One of my ex girlfriends did stippling with pens to make similar art. She'd spend a day or so drawing the line design in pencil and would then spend weeks stippling.
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