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Hand Engraving Glossary - by Roger Bleile -  Sponsored by Steve Lindsay  -  Leave Feedback

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American Engravers
The 21st Century

C. Roger Bleile

DAMASCENE GOLD WORK or DAMASQUINADO – A process of arms and jewelry decoration most commonly associated with Spain. To create damascene ornamentation the engraver or damasquinador engraves or punches tiny raised teeth on the surface of the metal in the shape of the desired design. 24-karat gold or fine silver is then punched down onto the teeth. The design is then trimmed or cleaned up with a burin. Spanish damascene work commonly uses designs of Moorish or Arabic design as contrasted with other forms of gold or silver overlay using European motifs. French: La damasquinure.

Pictured are a Spanish pocket knife and Llama pistol, an English shotgun and a Colt revolver all adorned with damascene gold work.
DAMASCUS STEEL - Damascus steel is a hot-forged steel used in Middle Eastern swordmaking from about 1100 to 1700 AD. Damascus swords were of legendary sharpness and strength. The general term "Damascus" refers to metal with a visible grain pattern, sometimes with a texture. Modern Damascus is a lamination of folded steels selected with cosmetic qualities, with grinding and polishing specifically to expose the layers. True Damascus patterns are formed when carbon trace elements form visible swirls in the steel mix. These elements change properties when the steel is work hardened (forged), creating the patterns.

Today, custom knifemakers and bladesmiths pride themselves on the beauty and cutting ability of their Damascus blades. Many of the custom Damascus bladed knives find themselves the subject of the engraver’s art since the combination of engraved bolsters or scales and a Damascus blade are considered by many knife collectors to be the pinicle of the “art knife” craft.

In the realm of firearms, Damascus steel steel barrels were the province of shotguns and rifles prior to the 20th century. A discussion of Damascus gun barrels could fill an encyclopedia but their relation to engraving is that they are found on many engraved guns of their period.

Pictured are a Busfield knife and a Hoel knife with Damascus steel blades and engraving by Steve Lindsay. Also shown is a Parker shotgun with Damascus steel barrels and Lindsay PalmControls™ with Damascus handles.
DIE - A die is a specialized tool used in manufacturing industries to cut, shape and form a wide variety of products and components. Like molds and templates, dies are generally custom engraved and uniquely matched to the product they are used to create. Products made with dies range from coins and medals to complex pieces used in advanced technology.

Pictured is an assortment of dies and hubs.
DIE EMBOSSING or IMPRESSING – A process of creating a raised or impressed design or lettering in a metal surface by striking or rolling with a die. Mass produced guns often are found with die impressed decoration that is sometimes incorrectly referred to as “engraving.”
Pictured are three examples of die impressed decoration on guns.
DIE ENGRAVING – A process of engraving, either by hand, machine, or a combination of both, to create a die or hob. Dies are used to strike coins, medals, medallions and a variety of other manufactured objects. Hobs or hubs are the male counterpart of a die and are used to strike a die and are often used as a master.

DIE SINKER’S CHISEL – An engraving chisel used by steel die engravers. Much longer than the usual arms or jewelry engraver’s chisel, it usually measures about 6 to 7 ½ inches. Some arms engravers in past times preferred to use diesinker’s chisels for large scrollwork. Diesinker’s chisels are sold in size and shape from # 1 to # 12. Italian: Cesello

DISTELORNAMENT – German for thistle ornamentation. Engraved thistles are common on Austrian sporting guns and occasionally found on Scottish arms.
DONUT SCROLL – Collectors of Colt percussion revolvers have coined this term to describe a particular style of scroll engraving found on factory engraved revolvers of the 1851–1852 period. The “donut scroll” (not doughnut) style features spirals with thick inner and outer leaves. Donut scroll is only to be found on a rare few second model Colt dragoons, with the majority being third model dragoons, 1849 pocket models, and 1851 Navy’s.

Pictured is an example of "donut scroll" on an antique Colt revolver.
DOWN-CUT – Any cut engraved downward in the direction of the base or horizontal line in lettering.
DRAGON HEAD HAMMER – The hammer of a firearm (usually a revolver) engraved to look from the side like the head of a dragon. Variations include an eagle or wolf head. At one time percussion revolvers engraved with the wolf motif on the hammer were thought to be the work of jewelry engraver, Joseph Wolf, but were later found to be the work of Louis D. Nimschke of New York, who was active from 1850 to 1900.

DRAW PLATE - A draw plate, or "drawing die", is a type of die consisting of a metal plate with one or more holes through which wire is drawn to make it thinner. Plates are available in many different sizes and shapes for drawing different shapes of wire, including round, square, oval, half-round and hexagonal. The plate has rows of holes drilled through it which are slightly wider at the back. Engravers use a draw plate to draw precious metal wire to the size needed for inlay, overlay and damascene gold work. While drawing, the wire must be annealed with heat after each pass through each successive hole.

DUMMY SIDE PLATE – Blank side plates fitted to a box lock shotgun or double rifle to give the appearance of the more desirable side lock action or to provide more space for engraving.

Pictured are three O/U shotguns with dummy sideplates, a Beretta 687 EELL whose sideplates are hand engraved with die impressed scrollwork elsewhere, a high grade Belgian Browning Superposed (all hand engraved), and a very high grade Superposed engraved and gold inlayed by J. M. Debrus (signature below rocks in vignette). Note: Arrows point to dummy sideplates.

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