Honest Question

JMiller

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#21
Call me optimistic but I think there will always be a demand and a market for those highly skilled in the craft of firearms engraving, as in any trade. History is full of examples not only in weaponry but painting, architecture, carpentry, jewelry, etc.... granted, there are periods of highs and lows in the markets and maybe not worth a lot until there in a museum or private collection. Still, if it's exceptional work and or a rare piece those that can excel can still can do well and sometimes very well. People that are smart see the value in high quality skilled work no matter what it is. The masses may run to spend their money on trinkets that are made in volumes but there is and always will be people that understand the value of things that have meaning and worth, it is human nature. It's the same reason why people want to drive a Bugatti, Aston Martin, Lamborghini, or Ferrari as compared to a Mustang.
 
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#23
Just in the short time I've been engraving there seems to have been an artistic shift in the generations. Where boomers and older generations enjoyed scrollwork and more traditional styles, younger people seem to want more varied designs that break out of the traditional mold. I also believe price is a large factor; full scroll coverage versus doing a more simplistic design or symbols/logos can show a huge cost gap.

We are also living in a time where soon laser engravers will be more precise, smoother, and cost less money. I saw a knife scale today that had a near exact reproduction of a Renaissance painting lasered onto it.


Edit: I don't believe our art is dying, art doesn't die. Artists simply must adapt to changing times.
 
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mitch

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#24
"Maybe in 30 years the demand of such firearms will be back to the level that it was in the 1990's."

anything's possible, but I doubt it. there might be a minor renaissance as something of a novelty/fad and it will pass quickly. the roots of the fine gun market lie in hunting and, very sadly, that's a fading tradition, both here in America and pretty much everywhere else. even if a collector might never actually take his deluxe arms afield, there's a mental & emotional connection to the possibility.

on a related note, a few months ago a friend told me her husband is teaching their two sons to shoot, hunt, & fish. it made my day! i called up my dad and thanked him for getting me and my brother into all that, even though we were city kids. many of the best days of my life have been spent in places i never would've known if there hadn't been a rod or gun in my hands...
 

allan621

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#25
"Maybe in 30 years the demand of such firearms will be back to the level that it was in the 1990's." "anything's possible, but I doubt it."

I doubt it as well. There are things that lose a lot of value because no one wants it anymore. Doesn't matter what craft, they all go through phases of customers desperately wanting something and then the next generation turns its back on it and the prices plunge. Just the way it is. The shock happens when its something that has been done for many generations and then goes away.

For me it was sterling silver flatware. When I started engraving I used to do a set of flatware a week. The last 15 years a lot of that flatware got sold for scrap silver prices. The same with tea sets. The store I worked for displayed a used sterling tea set they bought for scrap. It took a little work to get it back to working condition but it was magnificent. They set a price and asked me what it would cost to engrave today. I just laughed at the idea. I told them my charge just for laying out the intricate design on the six pieces would cost more than the retail price they set. The actual engraving would be a lot more. And it didn't sell. Who wants tea sets? Nobody.

Some jewelry items are always popular but take different forms. When I started it was gold and silver dog tags, then it became name necklaces, which gave way to key pendants, and after that disc pendants with geographical markings, and now its bar pendants. They're all pendants but the form changes. I just engrave whatever comes along.

And that's how I make enough to only have to engrave without having any other job. I engrave whatever comes along.I never say no. Need it today, send it over. Need a dozen sketches before one is approved, not a problem. Want me to come in and talk with a customer about letter styles, I'll be there.

I know I'm not an artist, let alone a fine artist and I never wanted to be one. I just wanted to have enough money to pay my bills and put a little aside. I'm a meatball engraver, but I want to be the finest meatball engraver around. So far so good.

One last thing. I am in the process of engraving a dozen Buck colleague knives I bought on ebay. New condition but old stock; they had a dozen to sell and I bought them all. But all I'm engraving is an oval in the center with some scroll work around the borders. Simple. And all the same, one drawing with many transfers. And I will sell them to people who need a gift to give a guy for a reasonable price and with initials engraved in the oval. They'll be happy buying something different, the guy will be happy not getting another set of cufflinks or a tie and the Electric company will be happy that I can pay my bill this month. Its like that.

Allan
 

mitch

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#26
Allan, your mention of sterling tea sets reminds me a recent trip to the local H4H thrift store, where they had several gorgeous, complete sets of fairly ornate, old china for only $150-$250. I told the guy I was with that it's tempting to buy some to use for everyday dishes. I could enjoy the fancy schmancy china with my cereal & sandwiches and after a few pieces got chipped or broken, I'd 're-donate' the rest* and buy another whole set.

*Or maybe give it to some target shooter friends...
 

jerrywh

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#27
I have only been engraving for about 20 years but in all that time I have only engraved two or three guns on commission and I was sorry I did. I confess that I have two alternate income sources , However I have found that I make about three times the money when I engrave my own guns and sell them. I mostly engrave 18th century guns and sell them at shows or on the internet. I love what I do and nobody tells me to do some kind of so called art that looks like crap. My average gun goes for what I use to make in 2 years working on cars and it's a lot more fun. I have done a lot of cheap stuff for others just for pocket change. I make them promise never to tell anybody I engraved them. Most of the guns I sell go into some rich guys vault never to be seen again. That bothers me some.
So it all depends on what you want to do. Average stuff never sells very well. Must be top notch.
 

zzcutter

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#29
Well I think there will always be a need for what most of us do here, but I think that laser engraving will and has filled the lower spectrum of the needs for engraving.

With that being said I know that I am very busy. I have been engraving things almost 40 years as a hobby. I recently retired and started to engrave as a full time profession now going on 2 years. By the end of the first year I had a years worth of work. Now I am running even further out. I mainly do guns and I probably turn down 5 jobs for everyone I consider taking. I work 7 days a week for the most part, and try get at least 5 to 6 hours a day invested into engraving.

So after saying all this I would say there is a lot of fish in that stream out there you just need to know how to hook them.

First learn your craft so you can turn out quality work then promote yourself through different channels and that is very easy to do today with the internet, and all this can be done for very little or no cost to you.

Second get out and mingle with your potential clients don't just wait for the phone to ring. I have been very active over the years in competitive shooting but drifted away from it as my life got busy, But when I went Pro as an engraver I revisited the comp shooting not to be competitive but to be social with my potential clients.

I have been lucky I guess , and I have been rewarded for my efforts to promote myself and my craft and I see no lack of interest in High Quality engraved firearms at this time nor in the future.

So yes times have changed, but there will always be a need for highly skilled labor to do the things we do on fine firearms. You just need to know how to position yourself to get the best spot in the stream so you can fill the cooler with your catch. :cool:
 

John B.

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#30
Quote:
I have been lucky I guess , and I have been rewarded for my efforts to promote myself and my craft and I see no lack of interest in High Quality engraved firearms at this time nor in the future.

Hello Jon,
It's not luck, you have received the just deserts you have EARNED by working the territory.
And may it continue.
 
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#31
There was a similar scenario in the custom knife arena when it came to machine cut embellishment on the frames of folders. To get quality engraving some artists won't apply their talents to run of the mill pieces. The possible $ outlay can be deterring in that regard.

I came across this CNC gun channel. Beauty in the eye of the beholder yet this seems to be a common acceptance among some of the shooting crowd. These peices do not have the intricacies of a finely handcut cut artist's touch yet the symmetry is visually easy to accept.

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UC7BdO8koXBLWmzjYLT2aSoA/videos
 

Christopher Malouf

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#32
With the cultural changes in the united states
This is a very deep subject. Much deeper as we've seen the disappearing Greatest Generation and Baby boomers give way to the first generation to ever demand their rights be taken away.

"Tacticool", being utilitarian in nature, has proliferated to just about everything as well - even flat black Cadillac Escalades and other luxury items. I always believed it was a style fad but something else is being lost and that is the expertise needed to take things to a higher level of completion. Assembling an AR15 is called gun building today but 20 years ago it was taking a blank of wood and fitting it to something well finished.

This video sums it up well ... as engravers we're hoplessly old fashioned being drawn to Classical, NeoClassical and Romantic period art and ornament. People will always have a thirst for that flavor of beauty even as it's drowned out by the popularly accepted. As for "custom" engraving vs. factory documented and what is truly considered "investment grade" by serious collectors ... that's an entirely separate topic that I think has already been previously touched upon in this thread but with manufacturers jumping on the tacticool fad there's less and less worthy of hand engraving being produced.

 
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Thread starter #33
Thank you sir, and ill give the video a full viewing for sure. I do like how you hit on the generational changes and part of that goes without saying that the times they are a changing. Its hard to see what styles will be prolific, but it is a safe assumption that it will not be classic. My curiosity comes with what items will keep their value the most in an age where its buy it and recycle it for next years model.
 
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#35
One thing to keep in mind, too, is that there are multiple layers to engraving. Would I love to engrave nothing but higher end firearms? Heck yes! Will it pay the bills for me now? Heck no. Artists (don't deny you are one) must embrace their minor media to stay relevant. What is minor media? It's easy (no, seriously, it's the easy stuff): minor media is the art or craft that you do that you personally take for granted. It can be simple things that you choose to do as an exercise or a favor or things that take almost no time (such as monograms). For engravers minor media could be monograms, lettering, maybe an embellishment from a few scrolls.

I'm all about doing what you love and what makes you happy, but I'm a realist and I understand doing what you love might not pay the bills. However if I find a middle ground and balance what makes me happy with what makes me money, that's success.
 

Christopher Malouf

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#36
Roger Scruton has written some great books and has a Utube channel. He's one of my favorites.


Hi Roger, I've been missing your comments about plastic rails! This Model 1894 Marlin is from some sort of parallel universe. It's an anachronism reminding me that there are fewer craftsmen doing the kind of custom stockwork and metal finishing that hand engraving deserves than there were a generation ago.
 

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Thread starter #37
Oddly enough ive started to read a book during this post and it fit the bill quite nicely. (Funny how that works). 'The war of art, break through the blocks and win your inner creative battles' -steven pressfield
Ill let you conclude what to make of it.
 
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#38
I was having a discussion with the banker/representative at our local bank while doing some account maintenance. He knows that I'm a photographer and his background is in music. His family spans multiple generations as classical guitar players and that was his intended field. They did band gigs, private parties solo, instruction, etc. Just to note that playing music and teaching didn't pay the bills so he got into the banking side to be able to live.

We'd been talking about the Arts and what he's seen from his side of the music business. A good deal of parallel about having an income stream that spans a broad area of one's speciality. The verification that what we produce is liked and bought is hard to predict. One sale may not translate onward as each is an individual work with specific appeal. With trends/fads among the industry the ability to adapt is constant.

Some of the old timers that have been in more than 25 years we discuss the up and down of the business. The mid ground is hard because this is where there is the broadest choices so there is a great deal of competition.

The tactical trend was in the beginnings back when I began pursuing the knife show circuit as a maker. Makers that were doing classic knives transitioned into these because it meant higher odds of a sale. Most my peers have a wider line of tactical class knives on their roster. Fine hand engraving on these has not been a match. Makers knives that have fine engraving as lessened.

I have a buddy that loves visiting art museums on his travels worldwide. I sent him this picture as a joke and he says that is what he observes as well.

art-museum.jpg
 

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