No engraver’s library would be complete without the following
“The Art of Engraving” by James B. Meek (1973) An over-view of the
art, tools and techniques, written for the engraver and collector. A
very comprehensive, beautiful book, but not a whole lot of basic
how-to info (just enough). This is the very first book you should
“The Jewelry Engraver’s Manual” by R. Allen Hardy and John J. Bowman
(original edition 1954, revised 1976)
“Engraving on Precious Metals” by A. Brittain and P. Morton (1958).
Both of these books were originally intended to be textbooks in
British engraving schools, so they primarily concern themselves with
lettering and reflect 1950’s tools, techniques and sensibilities.
Although much of the content is very useful, things have changed.
There is no longer a need to learn how to properly temper a graver,
there was no such thing as a copier for enlarging, reducing and
transferring artwork in the Fifties (it’s SO much easier now) and it
seems that there were no female engravers then, for a couple of
examples. There is also precious little concerning
design beyond basic lettering in either of these books. There may
have been some later revisions to these books, I got my copies of all
three in 1976. At least one of these two books should be on your
"need to have" list.
“Advanced Drawing of Scrolls” by Ron Smith. (2005)
Arguably, the hardest tool to master in engraving is the pencil.
Regardless of your skill with a graver, if you can’t draw it, you
can’t cut it. With that thought in mind, this book is by far the best
I have ever seen. Ron Smith not only discusses the work and design
theories of historical masters and demonstrates the various engraving
styles by breaking them down into components for study and emulation,
he talks about the art of engraving, the past, present and future of
engraving and what it takes and means to be an engraver. There is
also a gallery of his work, some of which is truly mind blowing. A
genuine work of art, artistically, philosophically and technically.
The only (as far as I know) real textbook on the do’s and don’ts of
engraving design theory.
You won’t find much in the way of how-to concerning graver
preparation or cutting in this book however. This is a study of the
very essence of engraving - lines. Wide, hairline, flanged and
shading and how they can be used effectively to interact with light,
draw and direct the eye and trigger emotion. I would recommend that
this book be your first or second purchase after “The Art of
Engraving”. It’s that good. If you ever hope to move beyond copying
other people’s work or cutting letters or other simple two
dimensional designs, a study of the intricacies of engraving design
will almost certainly be required and learning it concurrently with
learning the basics will put you that much farther ahead. It used to
be that you had to put in many hours with a pencil and paper before
you were allowed to touch a graver. In fact, touching graver to metal
was about the last thing you did when learning to engrave the
old-school way. The old school engravers considered a fundamental
understanding of design concepts to be that important.
It’s a lot more fun and satisfying to engrave your own, well
balanced and planned designs than the designs and drawings of someone
else. It’s easier because you know how it was designed to be cut and
it comes out better because you are already one with the design and
have no need to figure anything out as you go (or re-design on the
fly 'cause you cut over something you shouldn’t have. There are a lot
of crossing and intersecting lines in engraving and it’s easy to get
confused as to which line goes over or under which if you didn’t draw
it. And gravers don’t come with erasers if you incorrectly decide to
gamble and drive on with a prominent loop rather than risk putting a
"stop-start" mark half-way through it - just before the intersection.
Talk about drawing the eye and triggering an emotion).
Two books for lettering styles and design inspiration that I use
quite frequently aRe:
“Art Alphabet & Lettering” (1914) and “Art Monograms & Lettering”
(1908), both by J.M. Bergling. If you are interested in heraldry, the
foundation of the modern engraving trade, “Heraldic Designs and
Engravings” (1913, revised and enlarged 1994) by J.M. Bergling and A.
Tuston Hay is very interesting. Several of those coats of arms will
each give you cutting practice for a week.
All of these titles are available at GRS.
Two forums I might recommend are iGraver
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/ma Both are operated by Sam Alfano, a
very talented engraver in his own right. Much of the content is
oriented towards power-assist, but you will find them useful
nonetheless. When watching videos containing air-powered tools, just
turn down the volume and pretend you’re watching hand-powered
engraving. With the possible exception of thumb placement, there is
virtually no difference in the way both are accomplished, you just
have to work a little harder with hand-power.
http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/mc is the site run by Steve Lindsay.
It is oriented towards the use of the Lindsay AirGraver systems, but
again, there is an awful lot of good info there for you as well.
FEGA, the Firearm Engraver’s Guild of America
( http://www.ganoksin.com/gnkurl/md ) also has a lot of really good
resources available. Their “How-To Handbook” is priceless with
hundreds of tips and lots of instruction from members on every topic
related to engraving. Well worth the price of membership all by
Teaching yourself engraving can be quite a challenge, there’s a heck
of a lot to it, but it can be done. Up until about fifteen or twenty
years ago, if you didn’t have a family member that did it, that was
about your only choice. Good luck Jamie!