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American Handgunner March/April 2012 Digital Edition - Page 74
An Engraver’s Notes bold, consistent scrolls, excellent shading and a flow to the work obvious to the eye means this is high-quality engraving. trust your instincts, you’ll know what looks good — and what doesn’t. Danger will robinson! erratic control of the tool, out-of-round scrolls, inconsistent background shading (among other problems) means this is amateurish work at best! stay away! CavEat EMPtOR BRIan POWLEY ow, more than ever, we are being treated to an ever-increasing supply of engraved guns at the local gun shows. The art of engraving is in a new renaissance period. There are dozens of new engraving artists on the scene, and some are quite good. To the new and untrained, the wow factor is in high gear. All that “eye candy” is an incredible stimulant to our visual senses, and almost everyone wants to own a one-of-a-kind firearm. Engraving creates that, and it makes owning a particular gun a personal, individual and unique experience. On modern firearms an engraved gun doesn’t necessarily make it a prize worth paying for. How so? There are many reasons, but I’ll just take on three for now. If the engraving is poorly completed, it can actually harm the value of a good quality firearm. Look at the two examples in the pictures. I engraved both in order to illustrate my point. At first glance, photo number one might look all right, but artistically, it shows scrolls in a haphazard fashion. They are just all over the place with no sense of flow or meaning. Notice how some scrolls are out-of-round and there’s not much in the way of detail. The widths of the engraved lines are inconsistent. Some are thick and some are thin. This is lack of control the engraver has over his chisel. Look at the background treatment. The coloration is inconsistent, incomplete and looks mottled. It’s an apparent attempt 74 N to decorate with something looking like foliage. On a fairly modern firearm, this could depict the work of an amateur engraver. If this work were done recently on a Winchester Model 12, the value of the gun would surely be diminished. Now take a look at photo two. Notice how the scrolls are round and flow in a purposeful direction. The details of the leaves and tendrils make it look somewhat lifelike. The background color is very consistent and creates a remarkable contrast making the engraving literally jump out at you. Scrollwork really is just a stylized version of a living plant, and the artwork accentuates the natural lines of the gun. Pay attention to what’s engraved on the gun. Cape buffalo and elephants on a Winchester Model 94 just don’t seem to fit. I would expect bison, white-tailed deer and mulies. Rabbits and prairie dogs on a .375 H&H Magnum rifle don’t really work either. The engraving may be well done, but it’s akin to a mismatched wardrobe. Once upon a time, a young, enthusiastic engraver showed me his work and was anxious for my comments. Engraved on his lever-action .22 was a beautiful white-tailed, 10-point buck running away from but looking back at an African lion in pursuit of his dinner. The quality of his work was good, but the accuracy of the details in this game scene was just wrong. A deer looking backwards while running away from a predator doesn’t happen. An African lion chasing a whitetail? That probably doesn’t happen, either. And all of these well-executed cuts were done on a gun that would never be used on either animal. Engraving is decoration, period. Depending on who engraved it or what it’s on, it may reduce the value of it. I think a beautifully engraved Taurus 709 would be something to behold, but I also know that it is what it is: A personal defensive firearm priced new between $400 and $500 — engraved or not. The value of an original first generation Colt 1873, a pre-64 Winchester Model 94 or a “new-in-the box” Colt 1911 National Match can be ruined by an amateur engraver. Likewise those same guns, in the hands of a master engraver, can be transformed into works of art worth thousands of dollars. In the words of a good friend, “I don’t have to know how to make an apple pie to tell if I’m eating a good one.” This analogy works in the engraving world also. If it looks good to you, and doesn’t overtly violate any of these ideas we’ve talked about, it might be a good thing. There are plenty of Internet sites to drool over and get educated, before you spend more than something is worth — or just maybe, get the deal of a lifetime. Good Value? Themes * For more info: www.americanhandgunner. com/powley-engraving WWW.AMERICANHANDGUNNER.COM • MARCH/APRIL2012