Graver profiles of old

farmer57

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Hello all,
Wanted to spark a conversation about gravers throughout history - their known (perhaps documented) profiles and how far back do these go.
I would imagine that some sort of steep angle-end graver was at the heart of it all - or was it?
Studying old armour and military arms and insignia shows (what I think) usage of 90º or similar gravers along with rounder profile cuts and even wriggle cuts - likely flat profile.

So my first (specific) question here - does anybody have an idea about the timeline and origins of the first 'wriggle' cuts in history?



Kris
 

Sam

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Every old book of engraving techniques I have, which date in the 1800s, shows square gravers being used to incise V cuts. So the square was the graver of choice for many or most engravers back in the day. With hand sharpening it would obviously change from a perfect 90° but it was still square for the most part. I have dozens of antique gravers which also support this.

Flats were also used to incise a V cut by cutting on their corner. Oftentimes when cutting script lettering.

The first wriggling? Good question. I assume it's the oldest and most rudimentary of all decorative cuts made in metal.
 

Saxonfan

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This is a close up view of some engraving done on a Saxon brooch known as the 'Aedan Brooch' (9th century A.D.) It is kept in the British Museum. The pattern made by the engraver is unusual and I wonder what shaped graver was used as I am unable to replicate it with any of my gravers. I wonder if they punched a series of dots first and then joined them up with a graver that cut a V shape.
 

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Roger Bleile

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I agree with Sam Alfano that the square graver profile goes way back. Below, I have posted an illustration of graver sharpening from the old Winters school of engraving. Though it is not hundreds of years old, these old hand engravers tended to do things as methods were handed down over the centuries.

With that said, Winters was instructing those engraving mostly lettering on precious metal soft steel, and copper plates. For weapons and armor, I look to the Germanic engravers. Their schools and masters tend to use onglettes for most of their work. German engravers are trained in very traditional methods that have been handed down from master to apprentice for hundreds of years.
 

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DanM

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This is a close up view of some engraving done on a Saxon brooch known as the 'Aedan Brooch' (9th century A.D.) It is kept in the British Museum. The pattern made by the engraver is unusual and I wonder what shaped graver was used as I am unable to replicate it with any of my gravers. I wonder if they punched a series of dots first and then joined them up with a graver that cut a V shape.
It wasn't engraved,it was chased.
 

Saxonfan

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It wasn't engraved,it was chased.
Thanks, DanM That's interesting. I thought it was a combination of the two methods but I did have doubts that the Saxon craftsman would be looking to make extra work for themselves.
 

farmer57

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Fascinating stuff!
Seems it is difficult to tell at times if things were engraved, chased or even done in the 'repousse' techniques - often combining some or all. Photos can be deceiving.

A good example being some of the work done by artist known as Nicholas of Verdun, active around 1180 -1205. In one of my old reference books it is said that he used many techniques yet most of his flat or low relief works started as engravings on copper.
NV.JPG

It is clear he did both in this early stage of the panel - engravings with some sort of sharp angled graver, - either square or as Sam mentioned flat (corner cut) and some of the lines show fairly regular pattern and may have been 'front hammered' (chased) as well or otherwise textured.
According to the text in my book, most of his enamelled works were first engraved - as for the champlevé or basse-taille enameling styles. If we examine some of his works, it is clear he used sharp angled gravers - especially all the lettering and most of these negative spaces were enameled over, yet there are many small aspects which were also decoratively engraved in addition to chasing and relief (repousse) work.

Here is one of his well known panels, finished. I have been always impressed by the quality, this was over 800 years ago.

_NIK4329.JPG

Enjoy.
 

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