I'm happy to announce that I've completed the fowling piece I have been working on. I apologize for not posting my progress sooner. Along with some other projects, I've been working for some time engraving this project. This gun is by far the most extensively engraved piece I've made to date. Engraving certainly isn't an easy process and this project has been a learning experience. So, I'd like to talk a bit about engraving. This, of course, is not meant for the professional engraver, but rather those like myself who do a lot of different work and are continually trying to improve. The following is a brief outline of the steps I use.
First a design must be established. It's always been problematic for me to design directly on the workpiece. For simple forms this has worked out okay, but as things become more complicated, it's become much more difficult. A very good solution is to design on paper and then transfer this to the workpiece. The design can be drawn much larger than what is desired to be engraved and then resized using a computer and printer prior to transfer. This allows details to be established more easily. When designing on paper, the primary focus is to establish appealing forms and design outlines. I typically do not include shading at this stage.
In order to perform a transfer, the design is printed using a laser printer, placed face down on the work piece and then acetone is used to soften the ink and then allow it to attach to the metal. There are many methods to perform this process, but this method has worked adequately for me.
After the design is transferred, the outline is engraved and established. On hard metals such as iron, steel and even brass, engraving methods are generally limited to hammer and chisel or power assist engraving units. I learned hammer and chisel engraving many years ago, so I find it pretty comfortable. I own a Lindsay, palm control, air graver, but am less confident with it. In fact, I rarely use it and may end up selling it. If your interested, let me know.
A key aspect to successful engraving is proper and consistent graver sharpening. I would suggest using any of the good fixtures available from Steve Lindsay or GRS. During engraving, care is taken to create smooth, flowing curves which accurately represent the design previously worked out. Engraving can vary in weight to accentuate the forms being created.
In practice, multiple lines, often varying in thickness are cut to darken particular areas. As lines are placed closer together the result is an increasing degree of darkness. With skill, very beautiful and appealing designs can result.
A final and optional step in engraving is darken the cuts. I generally use a chemical which will oxidize the metal. By oxidizing the entire piece and then polishing it from the surface, increased contrast will result.
As I mentioned, engraving isn't easy, but with hard work and determination good things can happen.
I will share finished photos of this gun relatively soon. It is of course available and those who have expressed interest will be hearing from me soon. I'm pleased with the results, and think it's some of my best work.
I will be showing this fowling piece at the upcoming Lake Cumberland Show on Feburary 6th thru 8th. In addition I'll be bringing some examples of the jewelry Katherine and I are making. Hope to see you there!
Next, the design must be shaded to create depth and interest. I find this to be the most difficult aspect of engraving. Drawing shade cuts on an enlarged and printed version of the design can be helpful in understanding how to shade and create the desired effect.
Jim Kibler--maker of flintlock rifles.