Does anyone remember Sid Bell?

John B.

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Another tid-bit of history on Sid Bell for Andrew and some of our other black powder shooting members.
Sid was a great fan of BP and made, owned and shot some beautiful front stuffers.
He took great pride in hunting the NY woods every year for whitetails and turkey in later life and had some outstanding trophys as well as a lot of good eating.
Many of his mounted trophy heads later became the full scale models for for a new rendition of his castings.
He was a great letter writer and story teller and I could count on enjoying a blow by blow account if his hunting forays every season.
Just a great, warm hearted gentleman who loved black powder, the pipes and everything about his fighting Scottish ancestors.

Best, John B.
 

Roger Bleile

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John,

Many thanks for Sid Bell's story and explanation of his technique. I was never aware of the method his figures were created. It would be of historic value to have an archive of stories about personalities in the engraving trade like your brief biography of Sid.

There have been many things written about LDN, the Youngs, Ulrichs, etc. from the 19th century but there are many engravers and allied craftsmen of the 20th century of whom there is little known except by the old hands like you and I and a number of of others here. Thanks to Sam we have the interview archive for living engravers (which I would like to see greatly expanded) but many of us know those 20th century engravers who have passed away and could give a brief biography as you just did with Sid. Unless there is an archive, the post about Sid will eventually go to page 2xxx and more or less be lost. I personally would be happy to contribute to such an archive. You may find it sadly interesting to note that no less than 16 engravers featured in American Engravers have passed away since it was written. There are probably more that I don't know about considering the age of some at the time of publication. Fortunatly their story was captured while they were alive but many Cafe members have not heard of them because American Engravers is hard to find and expensive to buy when found.

To some degree we are writing the present day history of the engraving trade right here. Years from now the names of some of our newcomers will be revered masters and if this site continues to be maintained their story will be found here for any researcher.

Roger Bleile
 

John B.

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Hi Roger,

I agree with you about preserving the little tid bits of information about some of our recently departed engraving friends.
Even though the big chunks of their history may be available in the future it's often the little things that add meat and color to the framework of their lives.
You and I and some of the others still kicking have had the honor of knowing some of these talented people
on a one-on-one and have some little known tales to tell.
Frank Hendricks is a good example and a few of this forum's members including myself could provide some interesting insights.
I hope his wife Virginia and his now grown children decide to share the wealth of his life and talents with us all before they get scattered and lost.
Both you and I have read everything we can find on LDN, the Youngs and Ulrich family, I'm sure.
But can you or any one tell me what/if they had hobbys?
What type of music they liked?
What type of food and drink?
Not of earth shattering importance but I would love to know.
It would help to understand them and put flesh on the bare bones of their life and history.
But as far as I can see this information is lost for all time.

Thank goodness for this forum, it contains a lot of valuable information and insights on many of our current
engraving family here and abroad.

Thanks for your good thoughts and words Roger, best regards.
John B.
 

richard hall

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The only time I ever saw anything in print on SID BELL, was an article in a gun magazine back in the 1970"s about his " lost wax " process used for casting, I think it was titled the "ALASKA SILVERSMITH "...
 

Andrew Biggs

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John Barraclough sent me these photos of Sid Bell in one of his classes at Trinidad Sate College, Colorado.
Engraving Class of 1988. Taken outside the Banta Building.

Back row in cowboy hat, Jim Hamilton of Guthrie, OK and Steve Hansen, fulltime student.

Left to right: Sid Bell (the Alaskan Silversmith famous for his miniature cast animals) Tom Gregorich, Davenport, IA
Dr. Raymond Stofer (The inventor of the Heart lung machine at Stanford University. Doc had his 80th birthday in the class)
James Mosley, (Director of the NRA School program at Trinidad)
John K Barraclough (Instructor)
Robert Hoyt
Greg Bates, CO
Sue bates, CO
Gene Long, Utah.
Don Heathcoat, New Mexico.



Below are some photos of the letter openers that John B has that Sid Bell made for him.

A wonderful peice of history thanks John :)
 

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John B.

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Thanks for posting the pictures for me, Andrew.
Very kind of you, sorry they were not better quality.
I'm still in the dark ages with picture taking.

John B.
 

Weldon47

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John B,

Sure looks like it could be a young Roger Sampson directly behind and to the right of you(over your left shoulder). Is it?

Weldon
 

John B.

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Hi Weldon,
I know what you mean. Sure does look like a young Roger Sampson.
But the class roster for that year says it's Robert Hoyt.
I had not looked at the picture in awhile and thought the same as you until I turned it over to see the class list. Wonder if Roger and Robert are related? I'll have to ask Roger next FEGA show.

Best, John B.
 

huntoctober

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Ed, this is Bob Geary from Vicksburg, MS and I was in your shop probably about 20 years ago and as I remember you engraved a floorplate for me. I recently bought Sid Bell's Randall knife on E-Bay and it has some turquoise enlays and an outstanding sheep head sterling enlay and a nameplate with his initials on the side and Randall etched on the side opposite the Randall trademark Sidney S. Bell and underneath that Geologist. The sheath was carved with the date 1954 and also had acarved Thunderbird and notches down both sides and the knife is a model 3-6" and was made in the early 50s. Just saw your name on here and wanted to say hello, as I have been trying to get some info on Sid Bell, as I got a nice note from his widow after I bought the knife. bgeary3@bellsouth.net
 

bitsya2z

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I remember Sid Bell well. I shared a room with him once or twice for the FEGA show in the early 80s. He was really interesting. He was full of great stories. I too used many of his figures back then.
Hi Fegarex, I collect Sid Bell's pins and I came across these and can not figure out why he did these. They are layered construction with the top being sterling. Why are they numbered? Have you ever seen these before?
Thanks for any information.
 

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bitsya2z

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For Andrew and others who may wonder about Sid Bells’ technique and the history of his marvelous little miniatures.
Thousands of them were sold as cuff-links, tie and lapel and hat pins, broaches and ear rings and for many other uses.
They were generally cast in sterling silver but could be special ordered in gold.

A little bit of the development of background of Sid’s model making technique might be of interest to you.
Brian Marshall is talking about doing a full tutorial on the subject so I’ll just offer you a little bit on the original theory and the history of it. Andrew is a big history fan, I know.

Sid had been a geologist employed by the Federal government in Alaska.
As part of his job he was involved with mapping and surveying.
In drawing topographical maps contour lines are plotted to show the different elevation
of the hills and mountains, as you know.
Sometimes Sid even had to make 3-D models of these maps.
The general technique for making these models was to cut the outline shape of each contour elevation line out of poster board, stack and glue them on top of each other to form a 3-D scale model. This was long before computers and laser and CNC cutters.

Sid had always loved the outdoors and all types of wildlife.
As a Marine he had seen plenty of both, and both types of wildlife. Ha ha.
Alaska exposed him to both the outdoors, animal wildlife and also some very bad weather making it impossible for him to do his surveying work.
While snowbound he thought he would like to use his time to create some small silver images of the animals he loved.
Sid always maintained that he was no artist. But he was a very clever and gifted innovator.
When he could get to town he visited the only jewelry shop to buy some silver.
All the jeweler had on hand that he would sell was some 24 gauge, ( .020, .5mm ) silver sheet, not quite what Sid had in mind.
But Sid had plenty of outdoor magazines with animal pictures and remembering
his 3-D map making he put them to use by drawing lines on the pictures to outline and represent about five areas that were different distances from the camera lens or artist’s eye. Very much like looking down at 3-D model map from directly above.
If the animals head was looking right at you chances are its muzzle and nose are the things closest to you and that would represent the top layer of silver.

When he had his different levels of contour lines figured out he traced them and reduced them using the good old scale grid system, cut the paper out and stuck each one to his silver sheets. He then sawed each one out with a jewelers saw, stacked them accurately and soldered the pile together.

Each layer was then scraped, burnished and punched down to blend and flow into the next level to form a pleasing medium height miniature sculpture.
As I said in a previous post Sid did not know how to engrave in the early days.
He used scribes, punches and scrapers to create the texture and hair on his early models.

He farmed the wax modeling and casting made from these originals by the lost wax method but sadly lost control of the silver model originals and the rights to made miniatures from them in a divorce proceeding.
From that time until his passing he was only allowed by court order to make pewter castings for sale.

Best, John B.

I am a collector. Do you have any information about these small pins? Pigs and Chicks with raised numbers. They are sterling on the top part of the pin.
 

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mitch

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I don't know why he made them, but I'm sure they have something to do with long-range target shooting. It was a popular game back in the 1980s, with steel silhouettes in the shape of chickens, pigs, turkeys, & rams, at increasingly far distances.

Those pins were probably prizes or maybe some sort of 'merit badges'.

 

bitsya2z

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I don't know why he made them, but I'm sure they have something to do with long-range target shooting. It was a popular game back in the 1980s, with steel silhouettes in the shape of chickens, pigs, turkeys, & rams, at increasingly far distances.

Those pins were probably prizes or maybe some sort of 'merit badges'.

Thank you for the response. I collect his work whenever I find it. These were a puzzle. Now, I need to collect the others! The wikipedia link was appreciated as well.
 

DKanger

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I don't know why he made them, but I'm sure they have something to do with long-range target shooting. It was a popular game back in the 1980s, with steel silhouettes in the shape of chickens, pigs, turkeys, & rams, at increasingly far distances.
It is still popular in the National Muzzleloading Rifle Assn. At the semi-annual national matches, there are courses of fire for long range, Alex Henry styled bullet rifles and two classes of round ball rifles; .40 caliber or smaller and .45 caliber or larger. There are also courses of fire for black powder cartridge rifles. An Alex Henry rifle I built was used to set a new national record, which has been broken in subsequent years.
 

WillyMac

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Hi Fegarex, I collect Sid Bell's pins and I came across these and can not figure out why he did these. They are layered construction with the top being sterling. Why are they numbered? Have you ever seen these before?
Thanks for any information.
Yes, I hunted with Sid for about 15 or 20 years. I'll look for the pictures.
 

WillyMac

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Another tid-bit of history on Sid Bell for Andrew and some of our other black powder shooting members.
Sid was a great fan of BP and made, owned and shot some beautiful front stuffers.
He took great pride in hunting the NY woods every year for whitetails and turkey in later life and had some outstanding trophys as well as a lot of good eating.
Many of his mounted trophy heads later became the full scale models for for a new rendition of his castings.
He was a great letter writer and story teller and I could count on enjoying a blow by blow account if his hunting forays every season.
Just a great, warm hearted gentleman who loved black powder, the pipes and everything about his fighting Scottish ancestors.

Best, John B.
I hunted with Sid for 15 or so years. His clan became a sept clan of my clan. I learned this from Sid. I was amazed on how much history he knew of Scotland and my ancestors. The second year I hunted with Sid, he brought bagpipes to camp. When I came in the door, he played Scotland the Brave! When I was new to hunting, Sid would sneak up and scare the heck out of me. Here are some shots of the old camp where Sid and I hunted. Even today sitting quietly in my ground blind, Sid's voice was going through my head. The first time I met Sid, I asked him "what was the most important thing about successful whitetail hunting?" I expected some mind blowing words of deer strategy from this hunting guru. "Patience and persistence" is all he said. That was it. Wow, how simple but how true? Over thirty years later every time I get discouraged or antsy when hunting, I hear Sid’s voice saying, "Patience and persistence." Over and over, "You don't leave the woods if you can still see your sights," He was one of the last true Mountain Men. He was quite a character. Attached are Sid & I, the Bluff Gang of "Whitetales Bluff" hunting camp.
 

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PS_Bond

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Who is going to volunteer, and how long will it take to put that part together?

More than happy to. I'm more of a jeweller than an engraver, so the terminology shouldn't be an issue for me in transcribing. I've done some wax carving over the years, but lean towards CAD more these days.

Of course, you may want to run a spell checker over it once I've mauled things - I'm inclined to use spellings like "colour" :)
 
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WillyMac

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Sid was nicknamed the "Alaskan Silversmith", and has long been deceased. (residing in upstate NY in his later years) He was a miniturist with most of his work in silver. I studied under him many years ago. His technique of making many animals was to layer the silver and solder and build it up, not cut it away. His castings were sold under Sid Bell Originals, but I'm priviliged to have a set of shirt buttons (hand done by him) made from silver , each button with a different animal on it. I was just wondering if any of the member here ever came in contact with him?Thank you for your time, and I love this forum.
 

WillyMac

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Sid was nicknamed the "Alaskan Silversmith", and has long been deceased. (residing in upstate NY in his later years) He was a miniturist with most of his work in silver. I studied under him many years ago. His technique of making many animals was to layer the silver and solder and build it up, not cut it away. His castings were sold under Sid Bell Originals, but I'm priviliged to have a set of shirt buttons (hand done by him) made from silver , each button with a different animal on it. I was just wondering if any of the member here ever came in contact with him?Thank you for your time, and I love this forum.
I hunted with Sid for 15 or so years. His clan became a sept clan of my clan. I learned this from Sid. I was amazed on how much history he knew of Scotland and my ancestors. The second year I hunted with Sid, he brought bagpipes to camp. When I came in the door, he played Scotland the Brave! When I was new to hunting, Sid would sneak up and scare the heck out of me. Here are some shots of the old camp where Sid and I hunted. Even today sitting quietly in my ground blind, Sid's voice was going through my head. The first time I met Sid, I asked him "what was the most important thing about successful whitetail hunting?" I expected some mind blowing words of deer strategy from this hunting guru. "Patience and persistence" is all he said. That was it. Wow, how simple but how true? Over thirty years later every time I get discouraged or antsy when hunting, I hear Sid’s voice saying, "Patience and persistence." Over and over, "You don't leave the woods if you can still see your sights," He was one of the last true Mountain Men. He was quite a character. Attached are Sid & I, the Bluff Gang of "Whitetales Bluff" hunting camp. I have other pics of sid somewhere.
 

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