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  • Engraving a shotgun

    In my quest to create the finest fly rods, I have come, over the years, to spend a large portion of my time at the engraving vice. Engraving reel seats, and ferrules is a daily occurrence for me. However, since the day I first began to study the engraving arts, there has always been a canvas that I've sought to decorate... the double barrel shotgun. Recently I've set about making this dream into a reality and thought I'd share my experience...

    I've learned through the years that nothing beats the guidance of an expert instructor, so despite my years of engraving experience, I loaded up my bike (Jed Clampit style) and headed to my regular engraving school in central Kansas to see what there was to learn about the mysterious world of gun engraving.


    1,000 miles and 24 hours later I rolled up to my classroom still buzzing inside my head. The first two days of the weeklong course were basically reviews of engraving styles, border cutting options, tool sharpening etc. Out came the practice plates and we set about making cuts.

    First, we practiced the various repetitive patterns used to frame out areas - "border cuts".


    We also practiced various styles of scroll work to provide the majority of the coverage. I chose English scroll because it isn't a style I get to practice very often on my fly rods. While almost too fine for the small parts of a fly rod, it is extremely popular, and gives a rich look to guns. You can see that this style doesn't require background removal, but instead is made up of tiny scroll loops and leaves which are so tightly compacted that no real background space remains visible. These scrolls are arranged into various patterns to cover or highlight the shape of the gun.
    www.oysterbamboo.com

  • #2
    I know I'm going to enjoy this thread! Can't wait to see the final piece!

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    • #3
      Great stuff Bill! As you know, I am a sucker for engraved double barrels! BTW, I stll have that old AYA Model 100 boxlock that I will gladly donate for you to practice on.
      Message sent from your mom's bedroom during pillow talk

      Buck Henry
      Simple Goat Herder
      Former NGTO President
      Hall of Fame Member

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      • #4
        Looking forward to following this!

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        • #5
          I can hardly wait!

          Want to Help Ease DNR's Budget Woes? Buy a TU license Plate!

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          • #6
            Thanks for the rod tip. Wish you would have showed me your gun today. Hat's a comming

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            • #7
              Originally posted by Buck Henry View Post
              Great stuff Bill! As you know, I am a sucker for engraved double barrels! BTW, I stll have that old AYA Model 100 boxlock that I will gladly donate for you to practice on.
              That's an awfully tempting canvas. Those big blank spaces are just begging to tell a story.

              Originally posted by Pappy View Post
              Thanks for the rod tip. Wish you would have showed me your gun today. Hat's a comming
              No problem. I always like to get people back on the water. This gun is still under development. Everyone on this board is going to get to see it come together as it happens!
              www.oysterbamboo.com

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              • #8
                To the gun

                So, as day two is drawing to a close and I'm itching to put away the practice plates, we finally pull out the guns. For this class, we were all required to bring the same gun. The idea was to find an engraveable gun which everyone could afford, AND potentially afford to screw up, since it was a first for everyone in the class. It wasn't typically the sort of piece that would warrant $5,000 worth of engraving, but it would help break the ice and give us some "real world" experience. The model the instructor chose for us was the Stoeger Uplander. I brought a 28 gauge, double trigger version.
                (image stolen from Google since I forgot to take a "before" pic)


                The first thing that had to be done was to disassemble (completely) the guns. A former classmate of mine was the instructing gunsmith, and the whirlwind demonstration to follow was enough to confuse everyone... but hey, getting things apart has always been a strongpoint of mine. Putting them back together again, well...


                Once the guns were dismantled we used a chemical stripper to remove the bluing from the areas that were to be engraved. Then we jumped into the hours of metal prep which began with files to remove any laser writing, followed by thousands of passes with a sanding block from 220 grit, to 400. We even used punches and burnishing tools to re-bed steel where it was raised around screw holes and to fill in scratches. It's amazing the amount of flaws you can find when "perfection" is the goal. Now was the time to fix them, or forever hold your peace. Eventually, after a lot of sweating, cursing, and a few band-aids a matt grey canvas was revealed.
                www.oysterbamboo.com

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                • #9
                  And here we go! Excellent calibre choice I do say.

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                  • #10
                    Hot diggity!

                    Originally posted by huntfish View Post
                    Excellent calibre choice I do say.

                    Want to Help Ease DNR's Budget Woes? Buy a TU license Plate!

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                    • #11
                      Day three

                      At this point I should probably clarify a bit for you what the engraving process actually looks like. Here's my shop studio. You can see the stereoscope mounted over a ball vice which sits on a turntable. This vice holds the work and allows me to angle or rotate as needed while I work.


                      The "graver" is basically a hard steel chisel point with various facets that can be pushed, hammered, or most often these days, driven through the metal with a pneumatic handpiece. This is is the one I use most often.


                      Here's my view through through the scope as the work is being done. The point removes a single curl of metal as it's guided along its path.


                      Here's a short video I made a while back of the process as it relates to our fly rods:
                      [ame="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=johoH5FJ4bw"]Bill Oyster hand engraving bamboo fly rod ferrules.m4v - YouTube[/ame]



                      On the morning of the third day we were finally ready to begin engraving our guns. Our instructor provided design ideas for us, but allowed us the freedom to modify or create our own designs. I had spent the previous evening sketching out designs to create a more personal look. The instructor reviewed and approved my layout and it was time to get started. We weren't looking for over-the-top, full coverage, but a balanced design that would dress things up in a reasonable amount of time.

                      Knowing that it's always best to begin with a warmup, I chose my trigger guard, sketched out my design directly onto the gun with a felt tip pen, and started cutting. The idea was a banner type scroll which would serve as a name plate for the future owner. I chose to outline the banner with a touch of inlayed gold. The inlay is done by cutting extra deep grooves with vertical sidewalls, then undercutting the edges to serve as anchor points. 24K gold wire is then hammered into the groove, locking itself into place.

                      Here's a look at the gold inlay process underway. I'm using a burnishing tool to make sure that every small void is totally filled before filing away the excess.



                      After the gold is sanded to its final smoothness, I can go back and finish the details of the scroll work. A light sanding afterwards and the trigger guard is ready to go.



                      Next up, the receiver...
                      www.oysterbamboo.com

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                      • #12
                        the receiver begins

                        The simplest place to begin the receiver was by using a pattern the instructor had created for the side of the gun. We used acetone to drop the ink from a copy of his drawing onto the gun to use as a pattern. This was the only part of his design that I retained. I intentionally chose to design the rest of the patterns myself, just to make sure that I was profficient, while I had someone there to help me if I went astray. Our instructor actually specialized in English scroll above all other styles.


                        We used the "negative space", or blank areas, to create geometric patterns that give a pleasing effect. Here's the first areas I designed myself.


                        The instructor liked my design, even asked to copy it for future classes. This left me feeling pretty confident as I moved on to the top of the gun. I decided to use a running leaf border to accent the front of the action, and just a small design to cover the curves.


                        Interesting thing about guns, they have two sides! In order to avoid having to constantly flip the gun back and forth trying to duplicate the first side, we took a "smoke pull". To do this, we held the engraved side over a kerosene lantern until it was covered in black soot. We then used packaging tape to remove the soot and create an image we could use as a reference while working on the other side.


                        That's all for now.
                        www.oysterbamboo.com

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                        • #13
                          This is such a great thread Bill, thanks so much for sharing this with us.

                          Quick question: comparatively, the surface of a shotgun is a significantly larger canvas than you are use to engraving on. Does this larger canvas present any challenges to you given that you are so use to engraving everything on fly rod butt caps and ferrules?
                          Message sent from your mom's bedroom during pillow talk

                          Buck Henry
                          Simple Goat Herder
                          Former NGTO President
                          Hall of Fame Member

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Buck Henry View Post
                            This is such a great thread Bill, thanks so much for sharing this with us.

                            Quick question: comparatively, the surface of a shotgun is a significantly larger canvas than you are use to engraving on. Does this larger canvas present any challenges to you given that you are so use to engraving everything on fly rod butt caps and ferrules?
                            It's actually a much nicer surface to engrave on. It's relatively flat, the metal is plenty thick, and the steel is harder so holds fine lines well. The hardest part is remembering to stay within a time budget. I just want to cut and cut. I can do just about anything on a fly rod in a week or two, but an engraver could easily spend months on a single gun (if the customer can stomach the cost).
                            www.oysterbamboo.com

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                            • #15
                              Very cool stuff. Thanks, Bill.
                              These brook trout will strike any fly you present, provided you don't get close enough to present it.
                              -- Dick Blalock

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