Cafe Interview with Bill Jameson

sam

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In the field of hobo nickels, everyone knows the name Billzach. He's known for his beautifully smooth fields (the background on a coin), fine detail, and originality. Bill is a prolific carver, and if anyone has carved more coins than Bill, I don't know who it is. Bill's a nice fellow and always willing to lend a hand and give advice to other engravers. The magic he performs on a US buffalo nickel is nothing short of wonderful.

Ladies and gentlemen...Mr. Billzach!


::: Engraving :::

Q. What's your name?
A.Bill Jameson

Q. Where are you from?
A.Mayfield, ky

Q. How long have you been engraving?
A.about ten years

Q. What made you want to become an engraver?
A.Before i retired from goodyear, a fellow worker showed me a hobo nickel
and asked me if i could make one, i make one using a hammer and chisel and
enjoyed it so much i,m still carving coins.

Q. Are you a hobbyist or professional engraver?
A.I think of myself as a hobbyist, but find myself doing commissioned work
almost everyday, sometimes 50 to 60 hours a week...

Q. How did you learn engraving?
A.I taught myself the basics, until i got a computer in 1999 and then
reseached engraving and started communicating with other hobo nickel
carvers and engravers.Then i attended a grs engraving class about 5 years
ago.

Q. What was your biggest obstacle when you first started?
A.Tools, i didn,t know what i needed or where to get them, i didn,t have a
computer to contact other engravers to get information and didn,t know a
engraver in my area.

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 used a hammer and chisel for about a year and then heard about
engravers using concrete nails as gravers, so i make a few gravers out of
concrete nails..Later i found out about push gravers and brought a
few..Now i
use a gravermax and a monarch hand piece.I still use my hand push gravers
on every coin i carve. On some coins i only use my gravermax to cut hair
on subject and my push gravers to carve the rest of the coin.I do
however always use my gravermax to cut borders and to texture metal.

Q. What are your favorite books pertaining to engraving?
A. I,ve a lot of books on engraving, but can,t say that i have a favorite
book, but Ron Smith books are the ones i study most of the time.

Q. Of the old engraving masters, who's work is among your favorite?
A.My answer to this question will be quite different than your other
interviews with engravers.Until lately my main interest in engraving has
been coin carving and there were no masters in coin carving..

Q. What's the worst engraving mistake you ever made, and how did you fix
it?
A.Coin carving is very forgiving, there,s not much that a coin carver
does he can,t correct, but i quess it would be engraving wrong letters or
numbers on a coin, in which case i burished it out and corrected mistake.

Q. What are the majority of your engraving jobs (guns, jewelry, etc)?
A.Coins, but i,ve been playing around with engraving knife bolsters..

Q. What type of magnification do you use (microscope, Optivisor, etc)?
A.I use a nikon microscope

Q. What part of engraving do you find the most challenging or difficult?
A.lettering

Q. What part of an engraving job do you dislike the most, and why?
A.lettering

Q. What's your favorite part of an engraving job, and why?
A.It,s when i do a portait carving on a coin and it comes out looking like
the subject it was supposed to look like..A few years ago i carved a
portrait carving for a elderly man of his late wife, after he recieved the
coin, he showed it to his daughter, her reply was " that,s mama ".

Q. Do you like or dislike lettering, and why?
A.dislike

Q. What kinds of engraving do you refuse to do?
A.Being a coin carver, i only do coins, but plan on doing more knife
bolsters in the future..But i,ve been saying this for many years and keep
taking commissioned coin carvings..

Q. How do you rate the quality of engraving done today as opposed to 50 or
100 years ago?
A.I think todays engraving is far better, but i think it,s because of the
tools.

Q. Do you perceive any part of hand engraving as a dying art?
A.I think that some of the new pantograph and laser machines will take
over a lot of the lettering, but there will always be a demand for hand
engraving and it seems that the demand for hand engraving is growing every
year as people are having more and different things engraved..

Q. What country or countries impress you with their highly skilled
engravers?
A.It would have to be the engravers in u.s., but i see more of their work.

Q. What affect has the internet had on your hand engraving?
A.I don,t think i would be engraving today if not for the internet, 99.9
of my work comes from the internet, i wish it was different, but that,s
the way it is.

Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn engraving?
A.Start with a hammer and chisel, use a head visor, then if you stay with
it, take a engraving class and buy better tools, a good microscope might
be the first tool to invest in after you have decided that you want to
have a future in engraving ..

::: Personal :::

Q. How many children do you have?
A.1

Q. What's the occupation of your wife/husband?
A.housewife

Q. If you have traveled, what was the most exciting country you visited
and what did you enjoy most?
A. I haven,t traveled out of the states.

Q. Do you have an interesting experience while traveling that you'd like
to share?
A.

Q. What's the most interesting experience you had when meeting people?
A.I quess it,s when i meet a person and we,ve the same hobbies or
background.

Q. Besides engraving, what are your hobbies and interests?
A.Taking my grandboys fishing and hiking, also i,m very active in my
church... I,m a car nut and have owned a number of corvettes and muscle
cars.

Q. Where is your favorite place to be?
A.Since we make so many trips to the appalachian mts. i quess the
appalachian mts. would be our favorite place to be.

Q. What's one thing of which you are most proud?
A.It would have to be, being blessed enough to help others out when they
are down and out.

Q. When you were a child, who was your hero?
A.My hero was a cowboy on tv by the name of Sunset Carson.

Q. Tell us something few people know about you.
A.My engraving name billzach, comes from my first name Bill and my oldest
grandson Zach.

Q. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
A.At home.

Q. Do you have any pet peeves?
A.I dislike a bully and people who cuss a lot.

Q. What is your favorite thing to do in your home town?
A.I don,t live far from paducah, ky and people gather by the hundreds on
saturday nights in their street rods and muscle cars, so being a car nut,
it,s a great place to be.

Q. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
A.My wife, second person would be coin carver Steve Adams, so i could pick
his brain on coin carving.

Q. What one person was most influential in your life?
A. my mother.

Q. Who (living or deceased) would you most liked to have met?
A. The apostle paul

Q. Describe what you would think of as a perfect day.
A.Wake up feeling good and help bring a smile to someone before the day is
over.

Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the folks reading this?
A.To the ones that share their knowledge here and on other forums, thank
you, i,ve gained more knowledge by reading your tips and techniques than
all the books i have in my shop..
---------------------
 

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Steve Adams

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#4
Bill,
Dinner with me? Hmm. Now that is something. Having seen your work up close this past year, maybe I should pick your brain for pointers. Steve
 

Peter E

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#7
Great interview. I also thoroughly enjoy seeing your work Bill. I think you had mentioned to get the sort of frosted look your coins have, that is accomplished by sandblasting?

Thanks,
Peter
 

Glenn

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#8
Nice to meet you Bill. Your work in excellent. What book would you recommend reading to first learn about coin engraving? Thanks for sharing your talents.
 

Billzach

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#9
Glenn, i haven,t heard of a book on carving coins..almost all of the modern day hobo nickel carvers are on this forum and one of us should be able to answer about any question you have..
 

Mike Cirelli

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#10
Great interview. It's nice to get to know you a little better Bill. I didn't know that you're a gear head:) At the end of August every year Beaver where my store is. They have a huge car cruise. It starts early in the morning and ends late at night. Thousands of cars.
Mike
 

Jim-Iowa

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#11
Another facinating interview! Having been involved in Metal Detecting for a number of years I have heard of and seen Hobo Nickels. But have already learned a truckload more about them on this forum than anywhere else. I'm going to have to give it a shot.
 

sam

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Thread starter #12
Another facinating interview! Having been involved in Metal Detecting for a number of years I have heard of and seen Hobo Nickels. But have already learned a truckload more about them on this forum than anywhere else. I'm going to have to give it a shot.
Jim: I've found tons of buffalo nickels with a metal detector, but never a hobo. I've enjoyed that hobby too, although I've not been in awhile. My old Garrett Groundhog is about dead from years of use.
 

Jim-Iowa

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#13
Jim: I've found tons of buffalo nickels with a metal detector, but never a hobo. I've enjoyed that hobby too, although I've not been in awhile. My old Garrett Groundhog is about dead from years of use.
Sam, I have yet to dig a Hobo nickel. But have a few friends who have and showed them to me. They live in SE Iowa around Ottumwa which has been a Railroad Hub for almost as long as Iowa has been a state.
 
Joined
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#14
Great interview billzack!
I don't know if you know this but you were the first person to contact me when I put my first coin on EBay. You helped me a great deal with your warm welcome to me as a new carver and your good advise concerning coin carving. I got in to coin carving as a step to learning engraving and understand fully how it captures you. I am still trying to break away but havent yet been able to do that yet.
Thanks again for your continued good advise through this forum and keep that great work coming. It is always a treat to see your latest carvings.
 

Billzach

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#15
Bob, it,s good to see you here, many people have asked me thur the years why i,m always ready to help a new coin carver get started, because it,ll cut into my selling of carved coins.The number one reason is that i like to help people, The second reason is, as other coin carvers improve I,ve got to get better or get out..[ps] a lot of you know Bob, but for those that don,t he,s a super coin carver.
 

ddushane

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#16
Bill, Enjoyed all the Q&A's I like you already and havn't met you. God is Good! You answered a great deal of the questions the same way I would have. I havn't been that interested in hobo nickels but visiting Sam's page over and over for the past several years has got me thinking about it. May try it one day. Hang in there and thanks for sharing your thoughts and nickels. Dwayne
 

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