The Portrait in Progress

Progressions through an engraving project can be a very helpful way for beginners (and masters!) to learn a new technique. Sometimes, the method or the procedure is not obvious from the end result, so we love being able to share works-in-progress like this one.

Anneliese Narcisi, who is a student of the engraving arts program at Emporia State University, is working on bulino portraiture. This project, which features a handsome cameo of a young man, is still in the very early stages. The difficulty in bulino engraving projects like this can be narrowed down to creating the right texture and the right value (darkness or lightness) for the subject matter.

Too many of these small cuts and what should be a lighter section takes a turn for the worse. Not enough of the dark lines and the subject loses form. By correctly varying the length, angle, and spacing of each cut, an engraver (with practice and direction) can create the most beautiful rendition of a form. Check back in the coming weeks to see more of how Anneliese cuts this plate.

What bulino projects have you worked on this year? We would love to see what you have done! Send your photos and story to featured@grstools.com and your work could be featured on the GRS website.

Hauntingly Beautiful

Instead of another scary, ghoulish engraving for the end of October (like the fabulous hobo nickel engraving from last week), this Friday features the lighter side of engraving.

Although the term cameo traditionally refers to a method of relief carving where a head is depicted in an oval frame, often including the neck and shoulders. Now, the word has a much broader meaning. In modern art, a cameo may include flat, non-carved imagery instead. For engravers who love traditional cameos but are not adept at relief engraving, a cameo can be engraved using simple lines.

This pendant, hand-cut into an oval shape from 16 gauge fine silver sheet, is a modern interpretation of the traditional cameo carving. At the request of a customer, artist A.L. Henson created an original drawing to evoke the feeling and aesthetic of a cameo. To engrave the fine lines on the pendant, Henson used a 120° C-Max graver with polished, parallel heels and narrow, relieved sides for a smaller point. The finished pendant is approximately one inch tall.

While this artwork is much simpler in design than cameo carvings, the customer loved the design — and that is always a great result for custom hand engraving.

Have you engraved a modern cameo? We would love to see what you have done! Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com and your work could be featured on the GRS website.

More Than Just Tools

Our people here at GRS make some mighty fine tools, and those tools help thousands upon thousands of artists and designers work better and faster every day. But did you know we don’t stop at tools?

Training is vital to success, no matter the arena, and GRS simply has the best facility when it comes to learning hand engraving. The GRS Training Center has been around for more than twenty years, and we’ve brought in over 40 professionals over the years to share their experience and knowledge. In addition to hand engraving, our classes have spanned subjects and techniques such as repoussé, scrimshaw, wood carving, printmaking, drawing, design, and more.

With the new schedule announcement just weeks away on December 1, we’re getting excited about the 2015 class year. Although the classes are top secret until the release date, we’d love to hear from you and start a conversation about your plans for 2015. Call 800-835-3519 anytime Monday–Friday, 8 AM – 5 PM CST, or visit the GRSTC website to watch video interviews with our instructors and students.

Have you taken a course at the GRS Training Center? We would love to see what you have done! Send your photos and story to featured@grstools.com and your work could be featured on the GRS website.

Who Are You?

Many people, even those who do not claim to be artists, may have at one time needed to draw the dreaded self portrait. Maybe the challenge was directed by an art teacher or perhaps it was a task you took on at your own choosing.

Drawing or painting another? No problem — artists may look at portraiture with no stress, knowing they can capture the essence of the subject. But even the most experienced artist can have difficulty when it comes to a self portrait. The hand and the brain might have a bit of a disagreement on the size of the nose, the shape of the eyes…or even the hair and fullness thereof. Some artists skew negative, conveying certain parts larger or smaller in an undesirable way, while other artists may unintentionally make themselves appear young, older, wiser, or more innocent than what a photograph would capture.

That being said, engraving a self portrait could only be that much more difficult than paint or pen. The self portrait here is of Anneliese Narcisi, who is a student at Emporia State University in the Engraving Arts program. We show two separate images here as in-progress shots of her work. Not always do we get to see the progression when working on an engraving, so we love getting to snap a few shots of our interns’ work. With the Artisan Alley program, Narcisi gains even more experience with cutting and art while working around several other students in this part of Glendo’s Research and Development department. With the challenge of such a project, we think she did a fine job! Thanks for sharing, Anneliese.

Have you engraved a self portrait? We would love to see what you have done! Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com and your work could be featured on the GRS website.

In a While, Crocodile

We all know not to play with knives, but does that mean a knife cannot be playful? This crocodile knife, created by master knifemaker Steve Dunn, is a perfect study in bringing a bit of whimsy to a serious canvas.

The shape of the knife’s handle needed just a few small changes to become the crocodile’s form. Extra arcs form the open jaws and ridges along the back. The addition of feet completed the transformation from a typical handle to crocodile silhouette. The crocodile is playfully stylized — it would easily be at home in a children’s book. The crocodile’s welcoming but toothy grin is inlaid with 24K gold. A rose-gold bird adds a little color variation as it nonchalantly picks through the predator’s teeth. The swirls of damascus steel in the blade evoke the crocodile’s aquatic home and mimic those serpentine underwater movements. The curvy, kris-style blade emerges from the the animal’s mouth, adding emphasis to the undulating designs.

Engraving may be serious work, but that doesn’t mean you can’t let loose and have a little fun. Try taking a cue from Steve’s design and see what happens.

Want to share some of your fun engraving projects? Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.

Nightmares of the Fall

As the leaves begin to change color, and the days become shorter and cooler, many people around the world start to think about Halloween. It’s a time for frights, thrills, fun — and fantastic, imaginative engraving.

Nightmares of the Fall took Saburov by surprise, but not in the way some pranking youngster might on Halloween night. “The truth is, this idea started off with a doodle,” mentioned Saburov, a native Russian who currently lives in New Jersey, USA. “I was sketching an eyeball with scary veins and a Halloween feel to it — an embossed, detailed shape without much thought or concept.”

Holding a pen during a phone conversation allowed his hand to wander about, and the resulting sketch appealed to Saburov. “I felt that this semi-accidental doodle had an intriguing potential!”

He refined the the drawing, changing what were originally maple leaves into a cracked pumpkin to better suit the composition and theme. Now translated from paper to metal, Saburov’s design is absolutely crawling with sinewy details and sinister texture. Fine silver, 24K gold, and copper inlays emphasize the colors of the season. “I enjoy highly saturated, detailed images that can take hours to examine,” Saburov noted. If ever an engraving were needed to capture the creepy allure of Halloween, this one might just win the whole night’s candy stash. Thanks for sharing, Aleksey!

To see more of Aleksey Saburov’s hand engraving work, visit his website, www.saburovart.com.

Have you ever felt inspired to turn a doodle into a finished engraving? Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com and your work could be featured here.

From Hammer and Chisel to Plate and Print

A chasm exists in the world of hand engraving. On one side, you have engravers for printing — those ink-loving artists who cut on copper and steel plates without end — and on the other side, you have the engravers who embellish everything from functional knives to works of art to motorcycles.

However, a few brave engravers are working to bridge the gap. While printmaking may be a mystery to many who engrave mostly for ornamentation, young artists like Weldon Lister are eager to be rid of the divide. Lister believes printmaking can open an engraving artist up to a larger client base, and he’s been considering making a limited edition print of an original plate for a while now. A studio in San Antonio helped Lister realize his goal.

“To begin with, I hand engraved a 6 x 12 inch steel plate with the image of a single action (about 70% of real size),” noted Lister. “For the pattern, I used period style scroll just like I would on a real commission.” The print, as shown here, is limited to 50 hand-signed editions on Arches 100% cotton rag paper with the addition of Chine-collé (a special technique in printmaking) and are made using the intaglio process.

“The image size is 6 x 12 inches; the overall size is about 18×22 — and, yes, The print is suitable for framing.” Only a few of these limited edition are still available at $295.00 plus shipping. Mention you saw this article on the GRS website, and you will receive a $45 discount on your purchase (total of $250.00 plus shipping for your limited edition print). Don’t wait to contact Weldon, though, or you might miss out on this very special print: Contact Weldon today.

This is not a paid advertisement and we received nothing more than the joy of sharing this beautiful print with you!

A Gentleman’s Money Clip Should Always Be Hand Engraved

It’s true — not as many people carry a money clip around as was once popular (the same holds true for the classic, ever-beautiful, and stylish pocket watch), but for those who do make use of a money clip: always have it hand engraved.

Not only does a hand engraved money clip look nice, but there is just something about having your own name or initials on a piece of metal. Decade after decade, century after century, people in most cultures like to have either their name or similar family mark on their possessions. Personalization is one of the biggest draws for clients and collectors of hand engraved items.

This money clip, hand engraved by artist Andy Gonzales, features a bold yet simple design with three-dimensional cuts and 24K gold inlay. The artist, who is from North Canton, Ohio, is quite talented, despite dealing with chronic illness that often prevents him from working. “I made [it] as a gift for a good friend,” notes Gonzales. “Round gravers aren’t used as often, but I used one on the acanthus leaf design to give it a nice sculpted look.” Well, we are certain Andy’s friend loved the gift — and we’re glad he chose to share the photos with us! Thanks, Andy.

Making a Splash

We receive a lot of photos of firearms here at GRS. People usually engrave these weapons with scenes of woodland hunting, or multiple scrolls from grip to muzzle. In an interesting break from the ordinary, Molly Day chose to adorn her shotgun receiver with catfish and graceful swirls of water.

Molly Day, an Emporia State University engraving major, worked on the shotgun receiver during her hours at Glendo’s Artisan Alley. The receiver is anodized, which created nice light gray lines when she cut through the metal. Scroll-inspired waves cradle each catfish. Different line weights stylize the water, giving each curve form and flow. The catfish themselves have been given graphically bold outlines, mimicking those used in the water. Soft stippling is used to indicate difference of value on the fish’s skin. The dots of light on the dark metal make the fish come to life — the skin seems to glisten.

Molly has seen a lot of interest generated from the work-in-progress pictures she posted to her Facebook page, and expects to be able to engrave more firearms in the future.

Have you ever chosen to create a contrast between your subject matter and your surface? We would love to hear about it! Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.

A Fine Finish

One of the best parts of a new generation of engraving artists coming up in the world is the new art that flourishes. We see this regularly here with our Artisan Alley interns (they come up with some fantastic designs!) and through work from GRSTC students.

Jewelry designer and engraver Adam Garret is a prime example of an artist who is coloring outside the lines, so to speak, when it comes to engraving. More often than not, hand engraved work consists of game scenes, traditional scroll styles, and lettering. However, as more artistic souls are taken over by the passion that comes with hand engraving, different styles emerge into the market and create more customer demand.

One design theme that has been consistently popular in the last few years is geometric shapes and patterns — whether in jewelry, fine art, or even our computer operating systems (flat design anyone?). This very graphic interpretation, as seen in Garret’s amazing work here, lends itself so well to hand engraving because of the high contrast and endless possibilities.

While the geometric designs pervasive in our culture today may be just a passing trend, the art and skill behind this piece will continue to grow no matter what’s in demand. Thanks for sharing, Adam!

See more of Adam’s work on his website or on his Facebook page:
Adam Garret on Facebook
Adam Garret Website

Creating Your Signature Style in Engraving

When looking at scrolls and leaves used in hand engraving, certain aspects of these elements are found back hundreds or even thousands of years through art history. This is understandable, as the basis for many of these designs comes directly from nature.

It takes experience, practice, experimentation, and time to develop your own take on a centuries-old motif like scroll and leaf. Rick Eaton, who is a master knifemaker and hand engraving artist, has adapted the solemn, single leaf design into one that easily signifies his authorship. His open layout, with leaves dancing through the negative space, also contributes to his spectacular designs.

This flame-like rendition of a leaf is instrumental in the fantasy-driven aesthetic of most of his work. From the detailed interior shading to the leaf’s end, which seems to twist and flick in two dimensions, this style makes Eaton’s knives all the more alive — and recognizable as work by Rick Eaton.

Engraving for the Greater Good

Last year, Jake Newell received an unexpected engraving commission. “William Henry knew my work situation and contacted me about doing this,” Newell says. The commission required him to engrave two knives that would later be sold at a fundraising auction benefiting Habitat for Humanity. Jake travels for much of the year, working at various Habitat sites around the country, so the project was a perfect fit for him.

Like an architect designing a house, Jake carefully planned the knife design, doing a detailed preliminary drawing before he began to engrave. Each major element is present in both the drawing and the finished engraving. The knife features fine bulino shading as well as gold and copper wire inlay. The copper wire came directly from a Habitat work site. Blue and green enamels bring a splash of color to the Habitat for Humanity logo.

The design is tied closely to Jake’s own experiences working with Habitat for Humanity. One side features an assortment of tools, including a hammer, speed square, paint brush, tape measure, and circular saw blade. William Henry also requested that the knife feature the most powerful part of the home-building process. “Raising the walls is considered to be the coolest part of Habitat,” Jake explained. It is common for the people that will live in the home to help raise the main walls. To illustrate this important part of the process, he engraved gloved hands working together to raise the walls of the home. The other side of the knife shows a house in various stages of completion. The left side shows bare studs and adds layers, progressing right until it shows a completed home. The building depicted is actually based on a Habitat house that Jake helped build in Texas.

It’s easy to see that William Henry commissioned the right man for this job — Jake Newell had the engraving experience and the personal experience to make this knife something truly special.

Have you ever engraved a piece that you had a personal connection to? Send photos and story to featured@grstools.com.

A Little Engraving on the Side

When engraving, how often do you contemplate engraving all sides of a project? Considering no budget constraints, would you engrave the top or front alone?

If given the opportunity / time / budget, engraving more than just the face of a piece can present the chance to really let your skills shine. The pieces here are the sides of simple brass rings used for demo purposes. Diane Scalese, a renowned engraving artist with expert skills in Western Bright Cut, engraved these rings to show off the potential.

Of course, not everything can be covered with embellishment. Many rings simply are not thick enough for this type of engraving on the side. But what about the backs of belt buckles? The inside of bracelets? The pins for firearms? These items may deserve a second thought on your next project — and your customer might just be willing to bump up the budget for the special treatment.

Guess the Engraving, Part 2: It’s a GRS Handpiece!

So did you correctly guess the object featured last Friday? GRS handpieces are not just well-made tools — they are also canvases for beautiful works of art!

For the design on this handpiece, Ben Bentvelzen of the Netherlands found inspiration in another Dutch artist: M.C. Escher, who is well known for his tessellations and impossible constructions. Bentvelzen used copper for the inlay and cubic zirconias for the stone setting. The GRS handpiece is made of stainless steel and is the perfect surface for engraving and stone setting. Bentvelzen carbide gravers with his GraverMax G8 and 901 Handpiece to complete this project, which he worked on over nearly two weeks.

Bentvelzen has just recently started engraving, with 1.5 years of stone setting experience paired with 4 years of jewelry making. He noted that he learned quite a bit from the project: working in metal, inlay, and setting in steel. We can’t wait to see the next project from this up-and-coming artisan. Thanks for sharing, Ben.

Beyond the Call of Metal: Part 2

Recently, we put the spotlight on a cool Chromebook hand engraved by ESU student Anneliese Narcisi. Get a closer look at her engraving results and learn a bit more about the technique.

Some plastics, like on the body of this Chromebook, can make for a nice and even surface for cutting. When engraving without the force of the hand-powered chasing hammer or the air-driven pneumatic handpiece, an engraver might find control more difficult to maintain with longer cuts.

Print makers often engrave using only a burin and handle like the set Narcisi employed. After having worked with engraving copper plates for so long, the arm and hand muscles increase to maintain the necessary control. Experience also brings out the balance between a controlled, forward cut and the power required for adequate cutting depth, which in turn may take a longer time to learn the skill. Whether cutting in plastic or metal, though, engraving using hand-push methods as Narcisi did can sometimes provide just the right amount of power and control for a detailed project.

How often do you hand push when engraving? Let us know by sharing your project and stories at featured@grstools.com — your work could be featured here!

Guess the Engraving: From the Netherlands

Having several students in the Artisan Alley means we get to see a younger take on everything from engraving designs to cutting techniques and applications. We love to see the work of a new generation of artisans.

On the other side of the world (or close enough), other young artisans have also been hard at work. While twenty-something Ben Bentvelzen of the Netherlands has been working on jewelry for four years, his stone setting experience is limited to less than two years of that time. Yet, over the past year and a half, Bentvelzen has been making progress in leaps and bounds. This mystery item, which we will reveal in full next week, has some clean work to it. Bentvelzen has employed stone setting techniques, metal inlay skills, and a touch of hand engraved lettering.

For a newbie in the field of stone setting and hand engraving, Bentvelzen has already gained impressive skills. This young man will definitely be on our radar as he adds to his stone setting and hand engraving repertoire. Check back next week to see what this item is!