Cafe interview with Arnaud Van Tilburgh


Chief Administrator & Benevolent Dictator
Staff member
Nov 6, 2006
Covington, Louisiana
As a Cafe regular who actively participates and posts photos of his beautiful work, Arnaud almost needs no introduction. We've all watched him grow from a beginner to a talented engraver who is producing stunning work in his goldsmith shop in Antwerp, Belgium. I would say that he has more experience engraving titanium than anyone, and his designs and beautiful textures have become a signature style that is refreshing and original. Best of all, he shares many clever ideas and techniques which many of us find helpful.

Enjoy the interview from the one and only ARNAUD! :clapping::happyvise:

::: Engraving :::

Q. What's your name?
A. My full name is Arnaud Henri Van Tilburgh. My first name Arnaud however should have been Arno as my dad would have named me like the Italian river, but 61 years ago only holy first names were aloud. So at the age of 12 I got disillusioned when looking at my first passport.

Q. Where are you from?
A. I’m from Belgium and was born in Antwerp.

Q. How long have you been engraving?
A. I started hand push engraving 30 years ago as part of my goldsmith career but without great success. You only could learn hand engraving at school, and the Internet didn’t exist by that time. In 2008 I jumped in this Café and found all the answers I was looking for. So let’s say I have been engraving for 5 years now.

Q. What made you want to become an engraver?
A. My goldsmith career started as a hobby out of a hobby book. Engraving was part of that as I had to repair nice hand engraved jewelry. As a present when I was born, I had a silver spoon fork and knife and so did my brother. Later we used them daily and saw our names nicely hand engraved to find out who’s who.

Q. Are you a hobbyist or professional engraver?
A. Sure I’m both a hobbyist and professional engraver, as my profession still is my hobby.

Q. How did you learn engraving?
A. As I’m a real autodidact on all my skills, I jumped in this Café end 2008 and it became my school class. Wanted to learn both design and engraving. Andrew Biggs guided me on my first steps on making a design for my pocketknife and that was my real start.
I cannot make the list from who here I did learn something, but sure I have to mention Chris DeCamillis. When he gave a class in Antwerp, on Sunday I invited him at my home. He became my friend and teacher and it is he who showed me for the first and only time some hand engraved knives live.
Sam Alfano, Lee Griffith, Marcus Hunt and Chris made the right books and DVD’s that complimented my time in the Café.

Q. What was your biggest obstacle when you first started?
A. At that time I was absolutely convinced it was sharpening a graver so I bought me a Power Hone. Now that I think about it, I could have learned it by hand too.

Q. Are you a hammer & chisel and/or push engraver, or do you use pneumatic tools, or a combination of hand and power?
A. I’m able to do hammer & chisel but most of the time I use a pneumatic tool, except when I use a graver without a heel like for Bulino and inside ring lettering.

Q. Do you believe the Renaissance masters would have used pneumatic tools, airbrushes, or other time saving equivalents if they had been available to them?
A. Yes I think so, sure not all of them but so don’t we now a days.

Q. What are your favorite books pertaining to engraving?
A. My computer with the Internet. My PDF books with great images. Lee Griffith’s Art & Design fundamentals and Marcus English Fine Scroll. Problems with paper books it finding what you are looking for. A well-organized hard disk will show any image in seconds.

Q. Of the old engraving masters, whose work is among your favorite?
A. I don’t know much about old master engravers

Q. What's the worst engraving mistake you ever made, and how did you fix it?
A. Misspelling lettering on a ship bell. I had to inlay brass wire in brass, but I never tried inlay before. But it worked out fine, but it took me a long time to have it perfect. If you cannot fix it when you ruin it, don’t start doing it!

Q. What are the majority of your engraving jobs (guns, jewelry, etc)?
A. Being a jeweler most of my professional engraving is jewelry, “the smaller, the better it paysâ€.
I have a first client who want me to engrave his Browning 1910 in Renaissance Style. I owna similar pistol that I will engrave first as sort of practice.

Q. What type of magnification do you use (microscope, Optivisor, etc)?
A. I use both Optivizer and scope but not at the same time. For most of the engravings I use the microscope. The Optivizer I need to find my gravers and when making designs at real size.

Q. What part of engraving do you find the most challenging or difficult?
A. Definitely that is Bulino scenes. It is very time consuming and therefore it takes a lot of time to practice.

Q. What part of an engraving job do you dislike the most, and why?
A. Removing background sure isn’t the most pleasant part, But I avoid doing things I dislike by doing it another way I do like it.

Q. What's your favorite part of an engraving job, and why?
A. Using my brain to do all steps needed on one of my creative ideas. Most of them will stop at that stage as I have more creative ideas than there is time. Some I start a sketch and a design. The cutting itself is very restful and gives me the freedom to have another creative idea while I’m concentrated on the job.

Q. Do you like or dislike lettering, and why?
A. I like lettering a lot now. Before 2008 when a customer asked me to engrave his name in an engagement ring, I asked him if his girlfriend had problems remembering his name simply because I couldn’t do the job.

Q. What kinds of engraving do you refuse to do?
A. I refuse to engrave racist an fascist slogan and logo

Q. How do you rate the quality of engraving done today as opposed to 50 or 100 years ago?
A. I don’t think there is much a difference in quality, in the old days craftsman had more time to complete a job, now a days everything is in a hurry. Perhaps now a days the quality is less as anyone now can start engraving.

Q. Do you perceive any part of hand engraving as a dying art?
A. No, perhaps it was for some time when machines took over, but in my experience now a days more and more customers like the handmade quality as it has more character.

Q. What country or countries impress you with their highly skilled engravers?
A. I wasn’t aware of the Belgium engraving Art until recently, sure we have some great ones. However to me it doesn’t’ matter much what country origin one has, I have seen beautiful engravings from all over the world.

Q. What engravers were most influential to you?
A. Most influential for me are the masters engravers Café members and in particular Chris DeCamillis. I own him credits for his support and encouragements that gave me more self-confidence.

Q. What affect has the internet had on your hand engraving?
A. As I already said, 90% of what I learned myself comes from the Internet. It just makes the world a bit smaller and more reachable.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn engraving?
A. Buy a computer, have an Internet connection and join a forum like the Café but also Chris engraving studio has all the free tutorials. You also should learn how to make macro photos of your work so you can show what you are doing and have feedback from others.

::: Personal :::

Q. How many children do you have?
A. My wife and I we have 5 children.

Q. What's the occupation of your wife/husband?
A. My wife’s first occupation is taking care of me, our children, grandchildren and my dad who lives with us for over 6 years now after my mom died. In a way she is our secretary and she spends the money I make.

Q. If you have traveled, what was the most exciting country you visited and what did you enjoy most?
A. We visited most of the West European countries that have hot summers. The South of France more than any other country because of the French way of live and its diversity of nature. We love London too as it is one big museum and our youngest son lives over there.

Q. Do you have an interesting experience while traveling that you'd like to share?
A. Traveling light with a not too big mobile home. You can stop on any interesting location and travel wherever the wind blows.

Q. What's the most interesting experience you had when meeting people?
A. If you try a bit making contact, most people are hospitable and willing to help, no matter their political ideas or religion.

Q. Besides engraving, what are your hobbies and interests?
A. I’m always interested in technique and want to find out how things work. As for hobbies my work is my main hobby and besides that, I do play the contra bass in a band, photography, cooking and walking the dogs.

Q. Where is your favorite place to be?
A. Sometimes it is home, sometimes it is my working place but in a way that is home too.

Q. What’s one thing of which you are most proud?
A. No doubt I’m most proud of my family and having raised and educated 5 children who found their way of live.

Q. When you were a child, who was your hero?
A. My dad was my first and only hero until I realized he didn’t have all the answers to my questions and so I had no longer a hero.

Q. Tell us something few people know about you.
A. I’m an alcoholic and about 25 years ago I was able to stay sober for over 15 years thanks to AA. Now I’m without alcohol and AA for about 2 years.

Q. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
A. Watching television after I heard the news on the radio while at work.

Q. Do you have any pet peeves?

Q. What is your favorite thing to do in your home town?
A. There isn’t much happening in my home town that I like. Staying home pleases me most.

Q. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
A. For sure that is my wife, always a pleasure having dinner with here.

Q. Who (living or deceased) would you most liked to have met?
A. Michelangelo for sure would not have been boring.

Q. Describe what you would think of as a perfect day.
A. On a perfect day, nothing really is happening, some may call it a boring day. Those days give me more freedom to be creative with my brain.

Q. Tell us a good short, clean joke.
A. The Scottish Whiskey game. Two people go into a room with a bottle of whiskey. They drink the bottle empty then one of them goes out of the room and knocks on the door and the other has to guess who it is.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the folks reading this?
A. Thanks for reading this.
























bulino on ti.jpg




~ Elite 1000 Member ~
Dec 9, 2006
Welfare, Texas
Great interview, Thanks Arnaud!!
Here's a profound comment easily overlooked:"If you cannot fix it when you ruin it don't start doing it"

Thanks to Sam for doing the interview!!


Sent from my iPhone
Last edited:


Elite Cafe Member
Mar 8, 2008
Hopewell, VA
Weldon at a seminar with Sam Maloff he ask what is the difference between a professional and an amateur. After some discussion, he told us his version – A professional can fix his mistakes without costing him more money.


Elite Cafe Member
Dec 6, 2006
Yes great interview. You have to respect a man that puts his family above all else. Well done Sam.


~ Elite 1000 Member ~
Nov 11, 2006
outside Albany in SW GA
It is a pleasure to get to know you better..Fred

Sam, Glad to see interviews making a comeback. Their is a host of interesting people and I like to know them better. Fred


Elite Cafe Member
Dec 29, 2010
united kingdom
Congratulations Arno this made me smile as I read your interview.
For those who wonder why I and Arno often skype and I can hear him as I read.
Again Congratulations


Staff member
::::Pledge Member::::
Feb 11, 2007
washington, pa
i must say, arnaud-- your interview is as interesting as your work is inspirational !


Jul 6, 2010
Arnaud, thank you for sharing.
It's nice to get to know the person behind the stunning titanium jewelry.


Mar 21, 2013
Columbus Ohio
Great interview I really apriciate all of Arnaund's post and it was great getting to see a some more of his work and to hear a little more about him.
I am just getting into engraving and I am so greatful for the wealth of knowledge that is freely given and exchanged on the cafe.
So thank you to Arnaud and everyone else out there that is making the engraving learning curve so much more pleasurable with sharing their skill and knowledge with those of us that still have a lot to learn!
Thanks again,
Trevor Fruchey


Elite Cafe Member
Dec 27, 2006
Nice interview, Congrats to Arnaud for endevouring to persue engraving as you did. You do very nive work. Also thank You Sam for these interviews. Very nice reads....

Southern Custom

~ Elite 1000 Member ~
Mar 8, 2013
Baton Rouge
Wonderful interview Arnaud. Thanks for taking the time to do this. As a jeweler, I rarely get to play with my own designs. Your work always inspires me to put aside the day to day work and try and be creative again. And congratulations on 2 dry years! I'd love to pay a visit on my next trip over the pond.


Elite Cafe Member
Sep 24, 2012
Santa Barbara, CA
Congratulations Arnaud on your interview, your family, your super nice work and for winning the battles that life throws at all of us!

Willem Parel

~ Elite 1000 Member ~
Sep 2, 2009
The Netherlands
Nice interview, thank you Sam and Arnaud for taking time for this.
And Arnaud deserves a portrait like this, always coming up with new and original idea's, thank you for sharing those Arnaud.
Btw. nice camper you have, looks a bit like mine VW California, and the name of my first boat was ..... Nugget....:biggrin: