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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

MACHINE ENGRAVER – One who performs the set-up of an engraving machine after which the machine cuts, mills, or scratches the object either by electric or manual power.
MACHINE ENGRAVING – Cutting or scratching done into the surface of an object by an electrically or manually powered machine (usually a pantograph) which is either manually set-up or set-up and controlled by a computer. Engraving machines create their lettering, decoration, or embossing by contacting the surface of the object with a diamond stylus, rotary milling cutter, laser, or cutting bit.
MAGNABLOCK™ – A large and heavy block manufactured by GRS weighing 30 lbs. (13.7kg). Many engravers use the term magnablock as a generic term for any large and heavy block.

MAGNAGRAVER® – The Magnagraver® is a freehand engraving tool that is powered by an electric motor and flex-shaft cable. There are five components required to engrave with a Magnagraver®, the Magnagraver® hand piece, a graver, foot pedal, electric motor and flex-shaft. Compared to the various air powered freehand engraving tools, the Magnagraver operates at the slowest speeds (60-1800 impacts per minute) which combined with its mechanics causes its cuts to look more like those of hammer and chisel engraving. Tool designer and engraver Ray Phillips of Bozrah, Connecticut, invented the Magnagraver that is manufactured and sold by the NgraveR® Company. Many engravers also refer to the Magnagraver® as the “n-grave-r.”

The Magnagraver® is not an “engraving machine” in the sense that it is completely controlled free hand by the engraver. Its main advantage over hammer & chisel is that the hammer within the hand piece takes the place of a chasing hammer thus freeing one of the engraver’s hands to turn the engraving block as well as greater control of the graver than can be supplied by manual power alone.

MARTELLO – Italian for hammer. As used by Italian engravers, a martello is a chasing hammer.
MASCHERONE – Italian for mask. As used by engravers, macherone refers to a grotesque or grotesque mask.
MASTER ENGRAVER – In the United States, the Firearms Engravers Guild of America has in place a process to certify highly skilled gun engravers and bestow the title of FEGA Master Engraver. To achieve this certification, a member engraver must submit an application, meet certain requirements (such as having a federal firearms license), and submit sample work to a jury of previously certified masters. At present there are approximately 41 FEGA Certified Masters in the United States. FEGA Certified Masters are authorized to use an official seal to designate their status.

It should be noted that all FEGA members are not certified masters however there are members who engrave at the highest levels of the art who, for personal reasons, have not chosen to go through the process of becoming certified.

Also in the US, the Colt Firearms Co. certifies certain gun engravers as “Colt Master Engraver.” The fact that an engraver works in the Colt factory does not automatically qualify the engraver as a Colt Master. This designation is bestowed by the head of the Colt Custom Shop on those deemed qualified. A very few freelance engravers are designated as Colt Master Engravers by virtue of their selection to engrave the annual Colt Collectors Assn. show gun which is inevitably a very ornate museum quality show piece.

A small number of other engravers working in the United States carry an official designation of Master Engraver by virtue of having received that designation from a sanctioning agency in another country such as Austria, Belgium, France, or Germany. All other gun engravers in North America who use the title “Master Engraver” are using a self-bestowed title.

In the jewelry and die making trades there are no guilds to certify master engravers however some jewelry or die engravers may have received such a designation from their employer.

Outside the United States, particularly in Europe, there are formal schools, trade guilds, or official governmental bodies who are authorized to bestow the title of Master Engraver on those who have met strict guidelines and passed written and skill tests as well as sufficient longevity in the trade.

Pictured is the FEGA Master seal which is only authorized for use by FEGA certified master gun engravers.
MATT/MATTING – The process of imparting a texture to metal. A matt background is usually done with a matting punch that has a texture embossed on the tip. Matting can also be done with a liner. Matting and stippling are very similar in appearance.

Pictured is a rose floral engraving whose background has been textured with a matting punch.
McGRAW SCROLL – The late gun engraver, Bill McGraw was a long time employee of the Ithaca Gun Co. who developed a distinctive style of ornamental scrollwork that is immediately identifiable on any of the hundreds of guns he engraved. McGraw scroll incorporates few spirals with large, puffy leaves, all shaded with a liner. Unlike other gun scroll styles named after a particular engraver such as Nimschke or McKenzie, McGraw’s style has not been widely copied.

Shown here are four examples of the unique McGraw scroll engraved into a variety of Ithaca shotguns.
McKENZIE SCROLL – A distinctive style of scrollwork popularized by the late Lynton S. M. McKenzie who was an internationally renowned gun engraver born in Australia. McKenzie immigrated to the USA after working in England. During the 1980’s numerous gun engravers copied McKenzie’s style of scroll because of its clean and simple look.

Pictured is an example of McKenzie scroll and McKenzie engraving with hammer & chisel.
MEISEL – German: Chisel
MICROSCOPE – Many present day hand engravers utilize a microscope while engraving. Some use the “scope” for all engraving and others only use it for fine detail work. The microscope is not a necessity for hand engraving but a helpful aid for those who were initially trained on it or adapted to its use. Even today, many of the world’s top engravers rely on the loupe or Optivisor for close work.

As used by hand engravers, the preferred microscope is of the binocular type with relatively low power magnification so that the focal distance allows clearance for the engravers hand and graver.

MILGRAIN – A decorative technique in which a beaded design is impressed into metal using a wheel or stylus with hemispherical depressions.

Pictured is a milgrain tool with additional points for different size beads and a milgrain wheel showing the depressions.
MODERN ART ENGRAVING - The term modern art is usually associated with art in which the traditions of the past have been thrown aside in a spirit of experimentation. A tendency toward abstraction is characteristic of much modern art. Engraving in this style is usually found on craft jewelry rather than fine jewelry. Among gun engravers and their patrons, modern art has found little acceptance or interest other than in France where it has been experimented with on a limited basis. Modern art engraving is also rarely found on custom made knives.
MONOGRAM – A motif made by overlapping or combining two or more letters or other graphemes to form one symbol. Monograms are often made by combining the initials of an individual or a company, used as recognizable symbols or logos. A series of uncombined initials is properly referred to as a cipher and is not a monogram, although ciphers are frequently referred to as monograms.

MORSA da BANCO – Italian for a bench mounted engraver’s vise.
MORSA da TAVOLO – Italian: Literally, vise of the table. An engraver’s block.
MOTIF – A decorative design, such as an eagle and shield, police badge, griffin, grotesque, Masonic emblem, or a crown.

Pictured are examples of engraved motifs, an eagle, crown, and shell.

MOTORCYCLE ENGRAVING – Some hand engravers specialize in the engraving of custom motorcycle parts and accessories. Nearly any metal component of a motorcycle can be engraved. Those engravers specializing in the motorcycle field have developed special work holding fixtures and procedures to accommodate the large and unusual configuration of engine and running gear parts. Accordingly, motorcycle engravers have also had to adapt their ornamental designs to their specialty.

Motorcycle and custom car engraving are two of the newest branches of the engraver’s trade. Initially, most of the decorative designs were adapted from the field of gun engraving but on a larger scale. While this is still the case, some engravers have incorporated other decorative themes such as those found prevalent in “biker” tattoos and “fantasy” art.

Pictured is an "old school" engraved rocker cover for a 1968 "Iron Head" Harley Davidson engraved in relief scroll with a bead punched background by Chris Malouf of West Virginia.  Also shown is an engine and timing cover engraved by Malouf.

MUSICAL INSTRUMENT ENGRAVING – The metal parts of various musical instruments have been the subject of the engraver’s trade for many years. Engraving is most prevalent on brass instruments such as saxophones, trombones, and trumpets. The metal parts of stringed instruments, such as tailpieces and pick guards of guitars and mandolins is becoming more common however, the banjo has for many years been the subject of decorative engraving.

Today, there are very few engravers who specialize in only engraving musical instruments. At one time every manufacturer of brass instruments had a small staff of hand engravers for higher grades of their products. Arms or jewelry engravers do most musical instrument engraving done today.

Pictured are examples of flutes and a violin bow engraved by Steve Lindsay.

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