Yes, you can learn to hand engrave your inscriptions and you can
learn to do it well, in a pretty reasonable time frame. Things have
changed quite a bit over the past 30 years, with the advent of power
assisted pneumatic engraving tools. When this technology first
became available, hand engravers (myself included) pooh poohed the
"machines". We all said that engraving done with the aid of the
"machines" was not “real hand engraving”. Time has proven that
I personally purchased a GraverMeister (serial #238 28 years ago)
that sat under my bench where no one could see it. These early tools
were pretty crude. The original handpiece that came with the
contraption in those days was awkward measuring 7 or 8 inches long
and an inch in diameter. Youcouldn’t use it for much and it was
uncomfortable to hold onto for long periods of time. I used it once
in a while to stipple backgrounds, and the only real use I ever
found for it - was to chip the putty off windows and grout from
between tiles! I must admit that it did do that well!
Nowadays there are tools designed by an engraver who makes his living
from what he engraves with the tools that he makes and sells. With
these tools you can cut as much as 70% of the time you would have to
invest in learning to control a palm pushed wooden handle burin from
the past. There are new methods available to sharpen the tools
rapidly, precisely, and exactly. All of this has added up to a
Renaissance in hand engraving. There has been an explosion of
incredible talent in the past ten years. There are more truly
excellent" artist" hand engravers (most of whom use the new
pneumatic tools) than ever before in the history of the planet.
You cannot just go out and purchase one of these modern day wonders
and “be” an engraver. You still have to learn the skills and practice
applying the skills. You just learn faster, destroy less material
doing so, and rarely if ever slip enough to get seriously hurt. You
can produce at least triple what you could do with what we had 30
I can still teach you the old methods palm push or hammer & chisel.
There are students who want to engrave at Renaissance Fairs and
Black-Powder Shoots. They need the old time realism to match the
period they are trying to recreate.
Most professional metalsmiths and even hobbyists coming into hand
engraving prefer to learn it faster and be able to engrave quicker
and better than they ever could’ve done just a few years back.
Thirty years ago we were using 8 track stereos. I’ll bet most of you
have passed through the cassette stage and moved on to the modern
day disc players. Same reasoning - hands down, it’s better.
Over the years I have had 3 carpal tunnel surgeries, 2 elbow
releases, and shoulder surgery caused by repetitive motion injuries
I got while engraving. I am completely convinced that had the tools
I’ve described existed early in my career, most if not all of these
injuries would have been prevented.
If anyone engraving out there still doubts what can be done with the
new fangled “machines” go and have a look at lindsayengraving.com.
Can YOU match that? With what? Hammer & chisel or palm pushed burin?
How long does it take you? I’d love to see it.
There is a price to pay for this convenience. The simplest of these
tools is around $500. A week with me will cost you $750. You’ll have
a skillthat will last the rest of your life. A competent engraver
charges $60 or more an hour these days. There is no lack of work.
You CAN learn to do it all by yourself. I did. There were no real
teachers available back then. It took me many years to become
proficient on my own. In my view taking a workshop/class should save
you enough time and money to more than cover the costs of the
workshop. You should leave with a solid understanding and enough
skills to take yourself to the next level on your own. You should
choose a teacher who has engraved for a living. Teaching old
methods/techniques won’t help you much, unless you plan to earn a
living reenacting history.
The 2005 schedule will be out next week. Every hand engraving tool
ever made is available to try here, and you should try them all
before you spend your money. (I do not sell any of them, all I do is
teach) If you are interested, contact me off forum.
Brian P. Marshall
Stockton Jewelry Arts School
Stockton, CA 95209 USA