Mid/Late Victorian English shotgun engraving

HammerGun

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Hello,

I have followed this forum for years on and off with the desire to eventually get into hand engraving. I should say that firearms, specifically English shotguns and rifles, are my main source of interest and what I enjoy collecting, researching, and reading about. Additionally, shotguns and rifles from around the 1860s thru the 1880s is what I really love and cherish. Purdey island locks, Boss and H&H backlocks and sidelock hammer guns, etc.

With those firearms being my gateway to engraving, I have been trying to find more information specific to the methods used in that time period by the engravers of these fine firearms. I have read a good number of people note that push engraving was the primary means of engraving and that this was possible because of the softer “steel” that was used at that time. I am interested to know if hammer and chisels were ever used or if it was primarily a push/burin type operation. I have also saved lots of photos of engraving in firearms of this time period and noted that true English “fine” scroll had not really come about yet, at least in the 1860s and early to mid 1870s. So it seems like most if it was just shy of true “fine” scroll.

So, I guess my question to all of you is, are there any good books or reference material that look at the design characteristics from this time period and the methods used in this time period? I have lists of good books such as Meeks, but just seeing if anyone knows about anything more specific.

Please correct me on anything I’ve written and educate me. I have attached a new photos of firearms from this era just for a visual of what I am looking at.


EC2C1309-AB7D-4888-BA40-D980F0AF9493.jpeg B1FD3A52-DC74-4E04-BDBA-B7EDD4241AAC.jpeg CAA1A645-BB72-49C4-8C13-877FD7ACDDDA.jpeg 053A01C0-4FB8-4EE5-92AC-D852EE2166F4.jpeg 10CFBE6C-AFC4-4975-98BA-D2E0796FA66C.jpeg 284ADE9A-C630-4D76-A547-65A836CF0D4A.jpeg E61D6952-D75E-4C96-87DE-D9725B3A3DA2.jpeg 6DD21761-B977-4C23-BBBB-154452D62BE6.jpeg 20520CCD-EB01-460F-9929-7E12210E8E0C.jpeg 3E2F92F5-EC4C-4F85-B727-4FCA7AA1110B.jpeg

Kind regards,
Bryan
 

monk

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welcome to the forum. i'm sure you'll get a few responses to your questions. most guns then were soft, relatively speaking. also know that the gravers used back then weren't as good as the gravers available today. today we have really excellent graver steel to match most of the tough guns that exist. so, as far as hand work is concerned, we are in the same boat as the engravers of old. we are fortunate as technology has given us a leg up on many of the tasks that most of us do with little struggle. one such is graver sharpening. another is the use of transfer techniques. anyone wanting to spend less time to achieve a good result will usually gravitate to the computer to generate transfers. good luck in your pursuit.
 
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welcome to the forum. i'm sure you'll get a few responses to your questions. most guns then were soft, relatively speaking. also know that the gravers used back then weren't as good as the gravers available today. today we have really excellent graver steel to match most of the tough guns that exist. so, as far as hand work is concerned, we are in the same boat as the engravers of old. we are fortunate as technology has given us a leg up on many of the tasks that most of us do with little struggle. one such is graver sharpening. another is the use of transfer techniques. anyone wanting to spend less time to achieve a good result will usually gravitate to the computer to generate transfers. good luck in your pursuit.
Monk, thank you for the response. So, I would assume it to be somewhat fair to say that, with today’s harder and sharper gravers, push engraving in today’s more difficult firearm alloys would be a similar practice as what it was in the 1870s? I believe I had read an interview with Marcus Hunt, in which he says that he still only uses push engraving for English fine scroll. I have looked the world over for a copy of his English fine scroll book, but no luck. I don’t recall the date on the interview, but I found this interesting, since I enjoy “hand only” tools. Most all of my wood working is done with handsaws, chisels, and handplanes.

JJ, thank you for the suggestion in books. I will see about getting my hands on those.

Bryan
 

monk

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that would be difficult for me to say. i mean was it as difficult then, as push work is now ? considering modern lighting, near instant graver sharpening with exact repeatability in geometries, quality loupes, and so on, i'd have to think it's somewhat less challenging overall.
 

Crossbolt

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Bryan,
My interests,are similar and l don't know of any engraving centric references beyond those already provided. Its word of mouth and email. As you've indicated the best education on details comes from places like Holts and photos you've shown which allow detailed study of cuts, but not necessarily the way the cut was made.. For eample some of your photos clearly show that shading was applied BEFORE lead /tendril cuts, the opposite of today's instruction. What i've picked up is that a mixture of push and H&C was used. Probably predominantly push the earlier one goes. Personally, with VERY limited experience, l find such patterns easier to create by push than H&C so I'm biased in thinking that was the lijely technique which seems to be what I come across. But l stand to be corrected.
Some lovely forms and details to be found but by examination rather than reading...sort of like Japanese techniques
Jeremy
 
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Thread starter #8
Jeremy,
Thank you for the reply, information, and insight. I will shift my research to include push engraving and see what I can find. I believe ‘Engraving Historic Firearms’ by John Schippers has been recommended for a good instruction of push engraving and “earlier” methods. Has anyone used this book and care to comment on its value with regards to push engraving? I am also very interested in what tendency’s Engraver’s used in graver geometry. Seems as though the thin “flexible” graver is desired for the English fine scroll.

Another good resource for high quality photographs of antique double barrels is www.VintageDoubles.com. You can zoom in on all of their photos, and they’re all high definition.

Bryan
 

Crossbolt

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#9
There's some minor information in Austyn's "Gun Engraving".
Schipper is H&C focussed on slightly older flintlock styles but very interesting.
My impression, setting aside the dominance of modern pneumatics, is that US instruction tends to be H&C and UK instruction tends to be push, which I'm convinced reflects historical dominance in the trades of each area. The few early photographs of UK engravers are all (?) push. Unquestionably both techniques were used though. I expect possibly on the same piece as I find different cuts can be better achieved with different techniques. Just my view.
If you're not aware of it keep your eye out for Marcus Hunt's tutorial on English Fine Scroll. There is nothing better, but its tough to obtain.
Jeremy
 
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Thread starter #10
Jeremy,
Thank you for the additional information. The distinction between the US and UK dominance is interesting, and makes a lot of sense when one looks at the prevailing traditional styles. Thanks for that tidbit.

I have been searching for a copy of Marcus Hunts book/dvd exhaustively for some time, with no luck, maybe I will stumble on one sometime soon.

Bryan
 

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