11Aug/11

Visiting Italian Masters, Day 4 and 5

Here’s the last installment on my Italian Engravers tour posts.

Day 4 – Visiting Venice

On Thursday we visited Venice, but as this isn’t engraving related, then I won’t spend too much about on it. The city was nice, glass factory and shops in Murano were just fabulous. I’ve never seen glass art at this level and there I really started to like it. But of course I couldn’t afford 60000 EUR mirror.

Day 5

Final day of my trip and few rather fun things were waiting…

  • Frederique Lepinois
Visiting Frederique was a blast. I hadn’t heard anything about her before, so I was in for a surprise. After seeing few of her works, she became my favorite engraver of the whole trip. She studied engraving in Belgium and its influence was clearly seen on the design.  For my taste this worked very well – kind of symmetrical with very-very nice scenes. Check out the gallery at her own website – Frederique Lepinois.

  • S.I.A.C.E. factory

A family owned gun factory. When Zoli had a nice and big CNC park, S.I.A.C.E was basically all handmade. Some parts were outsourced, but most of the things were made there by few workers. Very cool place. And I got two gun stocks for practicing checkering. What more could I want?

  • Ugo the stocker

Last visit of the trip was stockmaker and his son. They were making some real nice high-end gun stocks and the ones that I saw there were really-really nice.

Gun stock makers table

Gun stock makers table

For the conclusion all I can say, is that this was a really awesome trip. I saw a lot, learned quite a few things and met very passionate, artistic and skilled people. Absolutely worth the while.

After that week in Gardone ValTrompia I spend two more days in Rome and then 2 in Florence. Again, very nice and interesting experience.

 

 

06Aug/11

Visiting Italian Masters, Day 3

Third day of the trip was promising to be fun, because I’ve seen the works of 2 studios we were going to visit and like usually with Italians, they were top notch. Pedretti and Torcoli.

  • GS Pedretti

Pedretti is actually also a family business. Gianfranco and Stefano Pedretti – father and son, plus quite a few more engravers at their studio. About a year ago I bought a book about them, so I kind of knew what to expect and was familiar with their style. They are probably most famous for their hunting scenes with very realistic dogs. My guess is, that in their book more than 50% was dedicated to dog engravings. As is the case with majority of Italian engravers, most of the work is done on hunting guns and both Pedrettis are avid hunters, so their hunting scenes are very realistic. They’ve been there and done that, know what hunt is like. So this gives a good opportunity for nice scenes.

Here are 2 works that were in the studio at the time:
Pedretti engraving

Pedretti engraving

One work in progress:

Perdretti work in progress engraving

 

  • Zoli factory

Next visit was to a proper gun factory – Zoli. So far I’ve never been to a fun factory before and it was really exciting. I’ve wondered many times how do they do some parts, like barrels. How do they tune, make them precise etc. Find out these things I did.

In Zoli factory a lot of work is done by CNC machines. For example gun frames are first hot-forged to rough size and dimensions and after that CNC takes over. I think there were around 20-30 big CNC mills doing all kinds of different parts. All of the parts are made from one solid piece of steel and nothing is cast, so this gives better reliability and strength to the gun.

Here’s an example of before and after, how one detail is made:

At Zoli factory

Here are the guns ready to be sent out:

Guns at Zoli factory

President Paolo Zoli explaining how barrels are made and soldered together.

Paolo Zoli explaining

Zoli double rifle

Zoli double rifle

And on to visit out next host

  • Manrico Torcoli

Torcoli is famous because of his fantasy engravings. A style where usually women, animals and plants are kind of fused together, creating beautiful fantasy scenes. Fortunately a lot of his work is done on knives and when the knives are made for US customers, they are more likely to appear on internet. So I knew some of his work.

His workplace was typical for Italians – huge window with a vise in front of it and a bulino tool. That was all, again. His small studio was filled with art and reference books from floor to ceiling. We were fortunate enough to see his knife engraving project in progress:

Torcoli engraving in progress

Torcoli engraving in progress

Here’s a close up shot through his Zeiss loupe.

Torcoli engraving close up

Torcoli engraving close up

I did try to take photos of the engravings as close as possible for study material. This one was most successful.

  • Fratelli Dassa studio

Our last visit for the day was Dassa studio. Again family business, but this time they were brothers. They are most known for their enamel work, or color engraving. The results are quite striking and very detailed, unfortunately they didn’t have any works to show in real life, only photos.

After all this fun, we went to have dinner by the lake, where I got to eat the best seafood risotto ever:

Lake panorama

Lake panorama

05Aug/11

Visiting Italian Master engravers, day 2

Second day of out trip was the one I knew to expect the most. Both Gianfranco Pedersoli and Firmo and Francesca Fracassi were known to my by their books I had. Of all the engravings I’ve seen theirs was really the best. Pedersoli was my favorite, because of his style and design. Fracassis were my favorites, because of unbelievably fine bulino scenes. Their working styles are very different, but the class and result is really the best. You can enlarge Fracassis work he’s done on 1×1 cm to 20×20 cm and it still looks amazing with all the detail.

Here we go:

  • Gianfranco Pedersoli
Pedersolis studio was also just a small room filled with books from floor to ceiling and his workplace was near large window. Just like almost all other engravers have.
Gianfranco Pedersoli engraving

Gianfranco Pedersoli engraving

He is a very lively, friendly and passionate fellow, this shows also in his work. In his own words his engraving technique is very dynamic and he doesn’t have too much rules. Result and speed are important and he’s doing what needs to be done to achieve these. Most of the guns he engraves, take about 300-500 hours, which is indeed fast, considering the quality and detail of the work.
Pedersoli engraving

Pedersoli engraving

Pedersoli engraved knife

Pedersoli engraved knife

I made 2 small videos during that visit too. I think these show very well his character, style and passion:
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  • Firmo and Francesca Fracassi
Firmo and Francesca are father and daughter and since I got a book about them, I’ve wanted to see their work in real life, to really see how it looks and is the detail indeed that amazing as on the photos. That day was the day for these dreams to come true. Yes, their work is totally amazing in real life. Just incredible finesse. Their workplace is also very simple a large window facing north and 2 vises side by side. As they do only the finest bulino work, their only tool seemed to be small push graver. And stone for sharpening it. But I’ll let their work speak for themselves.
Fracassi engraving

Fracassi engraving

Fracassi engraving close up

Fracassi engraving close up

Fracassi engraving close up

Fracassi engraving close up

Thei said that they work on almost all pieces together, one does one part, the other something else etc.
All in all, that was a very-very interesting visit.

  • Mario Terzi
Final visit of the day was to Mario Terzi. To tell the truth, I didn’t know much about him. I think I’ve maybe seen some of his works somewhere. But as is the case with almost all Italian engravers, it’s very hard to find info and photos of their work from internet.
Of all the engravers we visited during that tour, his workshop was the most unusual. As all the others had large windows and used a lot of natural light, his shop was in a quite dark cellar and used only artificial light. He was a real art fan too, drawing and painting a lot, designing his own yard fences and of course his engravings were quite unique and very interesting. Unfortunately there weren’t any in-progress or finished works there at that day, so I didn’t take any photos. But hopefully soon a book about him will be released, so it would be possible to see his works from there.
26Jul/11

Bushcraft knife

A while ago one bushcraft knife was ordered from me, a woodlore clone. So I was told. This was the first time I heard about these knives and of course I accepted the challenge. This type of knives use flat grind blades and I’ve never made one before, except when doing the katanas. But it was still a first time on a knife.

I used CPM S30V steel for the blade and desert ironwood handles. Sheath was from natural leather with place for firesteel. I did have to make 2 of these knives, as on the first one the grind didn’t work out as well as needed – that will stay for personal use.

Overall the knife came out OK. But like always, there’s a lot of room for improvement.

Bushcraft knife

Bushcraft knife

Bushcraft knife with sheath

Bushcraft knife with sheath

08Jul/11

Visiting Italian Master engravers, day 1

In the beginning of June I took part in an organized tour to visit Italian Master engravers in Gardone Val Trompia valley. The whole thing was put together with Elena Michel Lamboy and Chris DeCamillis. Elena was born there in the valley and knows all the valley engravers and gunmakers, she was also our translator for the whole trip.

The trip was very-very nice and I liked it a lot. It is quite an experience to talk with best of the best engravers in the world and see their engravings in real life. Both finished and works in progress. Most of the engravers had very simple workshop, for some it was just large window facing north, a vise and a push graver, what they call bulino. Nothing else. Although, usually they had hammer and chisel with different gravers too. Of all the places we visited, I saw only one engraver using microscope, others had Zeiss 10x jewelers loupe and only one studio, which had air assisted graver. It was Creative Art and they used it probably for background work etc, not for the main engraving. With these simple and basic tools they create just jaw dropping engravings.

I arrived at the hotel in Valtrompia valley on Sunday evening and what a view:

View from the hotel

A little overview of whole trip:

Day 1

  • Creative Art

First day, first visit and what a treat. Creative Art is an engraving studio with quite a few engravers and they do all styles of engraving – sculpting and fine bulino work. Luckily for us, there was one just recently finished gun frame in sculpting and one done with bulino.

Creative Art sculpting

Creative Art engraving

Creative Art bulino scene

Creative Art engraving

Creative Art engraving

Creative Art engraving

Creative Art engraving

Creative Art engraving

Creative Art engraving

 

  • Beretta Museum
Next in line was visit to Beretta Museum, which is actually not publicly open and we got to visit it, because Elena knew people there. It was located in Beretta building, where they have also factory and headquarters, so that’s probably why it’s not opened publicly. On display they had guns from the very beginning, made in 1500s and of everything in between up to modern hand- and hunting guns.

Beretta Museum panorama

Gun at Beretta Museum


  • Bottega Incisioni di Cesare Giovanelli
Next stop was engraving school and studio of Cesare Giovanelli. This is a very interesting place, because there it is possible to study engraving for free. You have to have your own place to stay etc., but school is free. I don’t know why they do this, but I’d really like to go there and study for some time. Besides school they also do all kinds of engraving starting with roll stamping, laser engraving, photo and other mechanized versions and ending with really high end hand engraving. It all depends on what customer wants and what is the budget. Their building was located in a very beautiful place on a side of a mountain with million dollar view. When I was there, they had about 10 people working at that time.

Bottega Giovanelli

Engraver working at Giovanelli’s

They had also quite a lot of engravings on display, a photo possibility not to be wasted.

Engraving at Giovanelli’s

Engraving at Giovanelli’s

  • Lionello Sabatti
Lionello Sabatti was the last engraver we visited that day. He had a very nice and cool studio at one old building. Like the other works seen that day, he was making top notch engravings, but he didn’t have anything at the time to take photos of. He also had two young apprentices learning engraving at hist studio.
All in all it was a extremely fun day with world class engraving, food and views.
Next 4 days will be covered in future posts. Watch this space.

18May/11

Engraved rifle bolt

My weakness is plain and shiny metal, which just asks to be engraved. As it happens, I bought a CZ452 Varmint rifle some time ago and it had a bolt. It needed to be engraved.

So far I’ve engraved the part, which is seen when the bolt is in open position. Someday I’ll do the closed position area too. It was quite an interesting experience to engrave it, because it was round and of rather hard metal.

CZ 452 with engraved bolt

CZ 452 bolt engraving close-up

CZ 452 bolt close-up

Bolt engraving close-up

06Mar/11

Oak leaf Zippo

Mr. K ordered a Zippo from me with oak leaves. I’ve never done any oak leaf designs and engravings before, so yet again this was something new for me. I didn’t want to do literal oak leaves as they appear in real life, but something more stylized. It took quite a while to come up with this design, considering how simple these leaves actually appear. It’ll be much faster next time. Total time spent including design was 16.5 hours.

Zippo with oak leaf engraving

Oak leaf Zippo – backside

27Feb/11

Ring engraving

This had to happen sooner or later – engrave some jewelry. It’s a first try with a new technique, so I started out cheaply – sterling silver ring done in lumenesque style. Basically a modified bright cut for jewelry. Very bright and shiny indeed.

Engraving was quite a challenge, as there are two radii to follow with a graver (ring itself and the curved surface) and I have no muscle memory for this yet. Cuts are made with highly polished graver to make the cut surfaces mirror-like. Surprisingly, it came out quite all right.

Here’s the final result.

Engraved ring

Ring engraving close-up

Ring on a finger

Few more practices, then I can make one to rule them all.

This one is currently on sale, contact me for a price.

13Feb/11

Engraved STI Trojan

About two months ago I started my first gun engraving project – STI Trojan. Today finally this saga has come to a successful finish. Here’s the final result:

Engraved STI Trojan

STI Trojan – right side

The main reason it took so long to finish this project was the problem with hot bluing. At first I used my home-brew bluing salt, which worked out rather well the first time. I got really nice deep blue-black finish and was quite happy about it. But as I was lightening up the engraving with phosphoric acid, we call the process ‘French grey’, some of the acid accidentally spilled to other parts of the slide and messed it up. So I had to remove all the bluing and redo everything again. Long story short – I got the bluing right on the fourth try, after buying a commercial salt from Germany and learning severals lessons from my silly mistakes.

Here’s a little walk-through of the whole project.

First of all the original blue has to be removed and parts refinished, so they are worthy of receiving a good engraving. Here’s the slide ready to go, after 4 hours with sandpaper and sticks:

Trojan slide in white

The design is transferred to the slide and ready to be engraved:

Design transfer

Shading in process:

Shading the engraving

Engraving is finished, but still in the white. Time spent so far – about 20 hours:

Engraving finished

Now comes the bluing process. First and foremost, the metal to be blued has to be really-really clean. Every drop of oil and fingerprint will leave ugly spot on the metal and we don’t want that. Hot bluing is done in a salt at temperature 150-180C. The solution is alkali, so if it gets on your skin at that temperature, you’ll have an interesting experience. In a bad way.

Hot bluing

Next up – French gray. The area to be grayed has to be masked off, the cheapest fingernail polish works well. Applying mild phosphoric acid to the area will remove the blue and makes it gray. Black background and gray engraving looks rather good and the contrast helps a lot for the visibility.

Mask for french gray

Finished.

Engraving close-up

Trojan side view