Question: Inscribed Model 1886 Winchester

Roger Bleile

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Here is a question for my most experienced engraving colleagues. Rock Island Auctions is currently offering a Model 1886 Winchester rifle (made in 1894) with a color case hardened frame that is inscribed "Arapahoe County" on the left side of the frame. The inscription is clearly cut through the CCH. As we all know, cutting through real bone charcoal CCH is very difficult, even with pneumatic assist and a carbide graver. I have blown up the image as much as possible and can't see any evidence of progression marks indicating H&C work. How in blazes could even the best engraver at Winchester hand push this inscription?

By the way, the gun is fully documented in Winchester records as being engraved with the inscription "Araphoe County" in 1894. John Ulrich would most likely have been the engraver though the records do not indicate the specific engraver of the gun. Altogether, the Winchester records indicate that 50 rifles were so inscribed in a single shipment.
 

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Roger Bleile

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All color hardening jobs are not equally hard. I have found some that are pretty soft. Very soft as a matter of fact. The colors look great but are deceptive. The engraving proves this
I have cut through the cyanide color hardening found on Italian replicas by Uberti and Pietta. I just have to start each cut at a slightly higher angle to get under the surface but never on real bone/charcoal CCH. Even on the cyanide colors, I'm using air power with carbide or M42 gravers. I can't imagine hand pushing a tool steel graver through CCH but somehow Ulrich did it. The frame steel of the old Winchesters is pretty soft but I'm thinking the CCH surface would cause the graver to skate off before you got to the soft part of the steel.
 

Crazy Horse

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"the Winchester records indicate that 50 rifles were so inscribed in a single shipment."

If it was John Ulrich who did the engraving on 50 such rifles, he must have been bored to death after cutting the first half dozen. ;~)
 

John B.

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Hello Roger, and thank you for the excellent photograph.

I'm willing to make a fool of myself by hazarding a guess.

1. It appears that the scribed layout lines, the narrow cross bar on the letters A, the narrow top and bottom of the C and the narrow cross bar the T all have remaining CCH in them.
But that may just be just my perception from the photograph.

If that is so I would hazard a guess that the the inscription was first cut in the white using push engraving, before Color Case Hardening.
I would speculate that the inscription was then lightly recut with push engraving and careful stoning after the color case in order to have it more pronounced and remove the color.
It might also have been deemed that the narrow areas of the letters A, C and T and the scribed lines were difficult to recut and unimportant to the presentation.

There you go! That would be my method if I were conned into taking on that thankless challenge, with or without the use of air power.
 
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allan621

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The thing that jumps out at me is the lettering. Its too well spaced, with a firm bottom and top line for the lower case letters. To me it looks like machine engraving. Even the C in county looks like an uppercase O with the right side not scribed all the way round to give it a c shape.

If there are no tool marks in the cut, and you don't know how its done, then its not done the way you assume its done. I would look for a certified gun to compare it to.

Allan
 

John B.

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Of course, anything is possible, but I have strong doubts that it was machine cut.
Why in the world would scribe lines be needed for machine cutting?
Scribe layout lines are clearly visible above and below the lettering in the photograph.
And the second vertical line in the capital A and the top of C in county have a variation in width where it transitions into the narrower cut curve top. The A has a wobble in that area.
This would not normally be the case with machine cut letters but would be reasonable to occur if the lettering was push recut and/or stoned after CCH. Whether done in the factory or not.
All of this assumes that this is a righteous, original factory cut and finished Winchester rifle and that the other rifles of this batch have the "in the white" legend.
If the others have factory CCH lettering it could have been recut "after market."
I don't know but I'm pretty sure that Roger can answer that question.
 

Crazy Horse

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I have to wonder why the engraver used scribe lines. A good friend of mine was a master letter engraver on Philly's jeweler's row. I've watched him engrave lettering on many types of metal objects and he always used Chinese white and a pencil to do the layout rather than scribe. He was 85 when he passed several years ago and his methods were "old school" but very effective.

Why would a master engraver scribe a line that he knew he would not be able to erase, burnish or cover up in some manner???
 

allan621

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John, I'd hate to disagree but what jumps out at me is the spacing of the letters, its too good. Plus the wobble in the letters is more an indication of the old New Hermes pantograph machine, where the type when it was worn would wobble when the stylus was in it. Plus look at the two lower case letter a's Arapahoe. Same exact slant and same exact curve top and bottom. Who can do that?

Also the letters are cut with two lines like New Hermes script letter type. And those scribed lines over the r and p are not scribed lines, they are from the type, but have not been cut over like the other letters. They match perfectly with the other small horizontal cuts. So to me this is a machine type layout, then cut over with a tool to give the appearance of a completely hand engraved piece.

Crazy Horse
I had a hand engraving shop on Jewelers' Row in Philadelphia for 20 years before moving a little farther south. Who did you know there?

Allan
 

Crazy Horse

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John, I'd hate to disagree but what jumps out at me is the spacing of the letters, its too good. Plus the wobble in the letters is more an indication of the old New Hermes pantograph machine, where the type when it was worn would wobble when the stylus was in it. Plus look at the two lower case letter a's Arapahoe. Same exact slant and same exact curve top and bottom. Who can do that?

Also the letters are cut with two lines like New Hermes script letter type. And those scribed lines over the r and p are not scribed lines, they are from the type, but have not been cut over like the other letters. They match perfectly with the other small horizontal cuts. So to me this is a machine type layout, then cut over with a tool to give the appearance of a completely hand engraved piece.

Crazy Horse
I had a hand engraving shop on Jewelers' Row in Philadelphia for 20 years before moving a little farther south. Who did you know there?

Allan
Allan, I was very friendley with Jack Devitt. He showed me a lot of little tricks. One hell of an engraver. I sure miss him. His son Pat now works on Jewlers row doing lettering, taught by his dad. Where are you presently located? ( jtowarn4727@gmail.com )
 

Crazy Horse

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I also noticed upon further observation that the bottom of the letters H, P and R are radiused rather than square as they would be with a liner. That would indicate a pantograph tool.
 

Roger Bleile

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At first look in the auction catalog, I thought it was cut with a pantograph. That idea was blown out of the water when I saw the Winchester factory letter indicating the gun was made and engraved in 1894 along with 49 other guns for Arapahoe County. When I was able to blow up the image I could see that the inscription was hand cut.

By the way the pantograph engraving machine was invented in 1938 by Norbert Schimmel.
 

John B.

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Thank you Roger.
The slight curvature in the main stroke of the letter T and the pronounced wobble in the downstroke of the letter Y are also indications of handcutting.
None of this is meant to criticize the engraving job. We are sleuthing and It's fine work.
I would be happy if I could do as well !!
 
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allan621

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Roger

Letter type and die making pantographs have been around for a long long time. But they were hard to make right and they were expensive.

What Schimmel did was invent a less convoluted machine engraving pantograph than was was actually available before that time. The New Hermes machine was special because it could be easily manufactured and could be used by anyone with an hour's training. The hardest part of using the New Hermes was in not knocking over the tray of letters onto the floor. That was a pain in the a to get it put back right.

And to be clear, what I am trying to say ( and with my usual clarity, as my wife would like to point out at every opportunity ) the engraving was laid out by machine, and then hand cut. I believe that it was probably done by a specialized person at the factory who did just that and nothing else. That was the way quantity engraving was done before the modern age of engraving. One engraver would know how to do one aspect of the project but do it very well. Why would you pay a highly regarded scroll engraver to engrave something someone less well paid could do as well?

Crazy Horse,

I shared a shop with Jack for about ten years. First in the Society Hill building, then over to the Washington Square building and finally over Gansky's diamond store. Great engraver, did firearms, any kind of lettering, trophies, ring carving and crest rings.

Allan
 

mitch

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On my screen I can't see it big and/or clearly enough to tell one way or the other, BUT if somebody had to do 50 of 'em you can bet they weren't drawing the lettering by hand every time. If not a pantograph, probably a stencil or some sort of mechanical means of doing the layout quickly and consistently. I don't think a 'wobble' in some strokes is indicative of anything- it's easy to do that with a manual pantograph. The few I'm familiar with required smooth, steady hands on both the tracing stylus and the cutting/marking head.

On a personal note, my sister works for Arapahoe County in Colorado. Anything else you can tell us about these guns, Roger?
 

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