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  1. #1
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    Default Cafe Interview with Martin Strolz

    Engraver, teacher, sailplane pilot and more, Martin Strolz's passion for art and life are unmatched. He's a diverse engraver who has created some spectacular masterworks as you shall see. He's an open and sharing individual with an enthusiasm that is highly contageous. The engraving world is a better place with Martin residing in it, and we are fortunate to have him as a Cafe member.

    Please give a big round of applause for Martin Strolz! / ~Sam

    ::: Engraving :::

    Q. What's your name?
    A. Martin Strolz

    Q. Where are you from?
    A. I was born in Tyrol, now I live in Steyr, Austria.

    Q. How long have you been engraving?
    A. I started in 1972.

    Q. What made you want to become an engraver?
    A. At the age of fourteen, I had reached a point in my life where I felt I needed a direction. I did not enjoy math and I did not want to follow in the footsteps of my father, who was an artist and a painter. I did, however, enjoy accompanying my father on the weekends to go hunting. He owned a rifle/shotgun combined hunting weapon which was custom made for him in Ferlach. His gun was engraved, but not very well. I was intrigued by this art. I visited an engravers workshop with my father where I remember liking the look of bright red sealing wax cement and the shiny steel side plate on it.

    Q. Are you a hobbyist or professional engraver?
    A. I earned my living through engraving before I began teaching it. Aside from teaching on a daily basis, I work on a few commissions in my spare time. If you want to call it exercising for fun!

    Q. How did you learn engraving?
    A. I studied the craft of engraving at the HTL-Steyr. This also happens to be the school where I now pass down the traditions of engraving. When I was a student at the HTL-Steyr, the instructors did not have the skills to teach gun engraving, so after four years of basic training I decided it was time to further improve my skills and make my dreams of engraving hunting arms come true.?This is when I moved to Ferlach, in southern Austria, where I studied under the supervision of the head engraving teacher, Johann Singer for almost two years. It was here that I was able to take the basic skills from Steyr. Another two years later I passed the state regulated certification for the Masters degree as an engraver.
    After leaving the school in Ferlach, I was lucky to have been invited to study in Mr. Singers’ very small workshop. This was not only an honor but it was a great opportunity for me! The work came from the Ferlach gun maker Franz Sodia and from Lechner & Jungl, Graz. After four years with Mr. Singer, I gathered all the experience I needed to start my own studio.

    Q. What was your biggest obstacle when you first started?
    A. The biggest obstacle when I first started was that my instructor did not show us how to sharpen the tools properly. So my first year was horrible and I still wear scars of slipping injuries!

    Q. Are you a hammer & chisel and/or push engraver, or do you use pneumatic tools, or a combination of hand and power?
    A. I love classical techniques the most. At the time when I studied engraving nobody used pneumatic tools here in Austria and I did not understand the need for these machines if one could engrave by hand.
    Finally in 2004 I took a GRS-class with Chris de Camillis in Antwerp. I felt it would be important to introduce the GraverMax to my students in school. I still very rarely use pneumatic tools. I do, however, use it for matting ribs or cutting deep, bold outlines, especially on curved surfaces. Since I do not have a Graver Max in my studio, I use the school’s when I do such things.

    Q. What are your favourite books pertaining to engraving?
    A. I find that nowadays there many books that pertain to engraving which are wonderful resources to me and my students. When I was a student I had very few books to learn from.
    I feel sorry for the fact that there is no Austrian writer with a book on fine Austrian hunting arms on the market. A small country we are, but we have had a prospering hunting rifle industry. Fred Goldschmidt, a German engraving student in Ferlach did this for Austria! I studied this book thoroughly. “The Art of Engraving” and the “Nimschke” book were the first influences from abroad. Finally the books of “Marco Nobili” actually opened my eyes. I did some practicing to study the techniques of my Italian colleagues and drew ornamental motifs which had a distinct Italian look.

    Q. Of the old masters, who's work is among your favorite?
    A. I very much like all the relief engravings of European old masters. In addition, I want to mention the ornamental designs of “Heinrich Aldegrever”. Aldegrever’s beautiful drawings and engravings created the prototype of ornamental motifs which are still used present day.

    Q. What's the worst engraving mistake you ever made, and how did you fix it?
    A. After one year in Ferlach and only having engraved practice plates I felt I would be able to accept a relief engraving job on a bolt action rifle with gold inlaid borders and animals. During the summer holidays I worked very hard on the gun but I ran across a problem when I tried to use gold coins for inlaying the animals. The gold was alloyed and hard, so at first I failed, but with pure gold sheet it finally worked. In the end Mr. Singer was quite astonished to see what I engraved without any guidance during the summer months!

    Q. What are the majority of your engraving jobs (guns, jewellery, etc)?
    A. Mostly I do hunting rifles, then shotguns and rarely revolvers. Here in Austria there are not many customers for knifes or engraved jewellery.

    Q. What type of magnification do you use (microscope, Optivisor, etc)?
    A. I use different Optivisors for all of my work. There is an old Olympus microscope in my workshop which I use for Bulino scenes.

    Q. What part of engraving do you find the most challenging or difficult?
    A. The part of engraving which is the most challenging is without doubt getting an idea, or starting the layout of the design. I feel this way because I do not engrave enough due to my occupation in school. This was different before I took up teaching. Back in those days I could not await to receive a beautifully made rifle action and I often started cutting the same day!

    Q. What part of an engraving job do you dislike the most, and why?
    A. Preparing the surface or cut hard stainless steel.

    Q. What's your favorite part of an engraving job, and why?
    A. All steps of engraving are nice to carry out. The best thing is to forget about yourself and see your own hands working.

    Q. Do you like or dislike lettering, and why?
    A. Lettering is always a part of a gun engraving job, so during the years one gets better at this. As most engravers, my students dislike lettering due to the fact that it is not very forgiving. Any minor mistake can easily be detected by an untrained eye. Most of the time I do inscriptions inlaid and quite large in order to give it an ornamental function.

    Q. What kinds of engraving do you refuse to do?
    A. Repeating the same job would make no sense.

    Q. How do you rate the quality of engraving done today as opposed to 50 or 100 years ago?
    A. I always wanted the quality of my work to be as fine as the old engravers. The quality of engraving widely varies; there are splendid engravers as well as rather poor engravers working today.

    Q. Do you perceive any part of hand engraving as a dying art?
    A. At the turn of the century in 1900 there were approximately 120 engravers or engraving companies working in Vienna. Modern design articles require no ornamentation and many other industries have taken away jobs from engravers. I hope that some of the prosperity of hand engraving from the US is sweeping over to us soon.

    Q. What country or countries impress you with their highly skilled engravers?
    A. No doubt about that: Italy. The Italians have style, elegance, great ideas and are outstandingly dedicated craftsmen.

    Q. What effect has the Internet had on your hand engraving?
    A. Compared to books maybe not too much, but sites as iGraver are so useful for beginners! You did an outstanding job Sam, and the engraving world owes you a big THANK YOU, SAM!

    Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn engraving?
    A. If learning engraving is a serious wish and combined with patience and dedication, it is possible. Diligence in my mind is more helpful than talent. Drawing is the most needed skill, the cutting itself is comparatively simple and much quicker to learn. I would recommend education in a school. Workshop lessons combined with freehand drawing, CAD, history of arts, clay modelling, and general education subjects gives students a well rounded education. In addition, it would be highly wishful to get under the wings of a master engraver for a while. Then basics from school can then be used during the first jobs, however guidance of an experienced hand ensures success, and -not to forget- take up photography.

    Visit this links for information about my class at the HTL-Steyr:

    This is the schools new website,
    http://www.htl-steyr.ac.at/

    but it is much better visiting the old website:
    http://chronik.htl-steyr.ac.at/htlde/index_s.htm

    ::: Personal :::

    Q. How many children do you have?
    A. My wife has a son from her first marriage.

    Q. What's the occupation of your wife/husband?
    A. She is a goldsmith and works in an office as well as in a goldsmith’s workshop.

    Q. If you have travelled, what was the most exciting country you visited and what did you enjoy most?
    A. In Austria we usually would answer Italy, which I find very beautiful. They have the world’s best art, a relaxed lifestyle, splendid red wine, beautiful landscape etc. I like the alpine regions in France and the Provence very much. I also enjoyed the Azores, Denmark, Sweden and the USA.

    Q. Do you have an interesting experience while travelling that you'd like to share?
    A. Nothing special.

    Q. What's the most interesting experience you had when meeting people?
    A. I always like finding nice people everywhere.

    Q. Besides engraving, what are your hobbies and interests?
    A. Flying my sailplane cross-country over the Austrian, Swiss and Italian alps is a passion to me. This in my mind is a real adventure and a wonderful sport.

    Q. Where is your favorite place to be?
    A. Somewhere in -or over- the alps.

    Q. What’s one thing of which you are most proud?
    A. I was only 24 years old when my engravings were depicted in one of Mario Abbiaticos books. I still like the engravings that I did when I was young. See the attached picture of the relief engraved Colt Python.

    Q. When you were a child, who was your hero?
    A. That could be Jacques-Yves Cousteau.

    Q. Tell us something few people know about you.
    A. Better not.

    Q. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
    A. I saw the disaster on TV. My family and I were on the Towers two months prior to the attack, watching the sunset, having dinner and writing postcards.

    Q. Do you have any pet peeves?
    A. I am absolutely sure that my students would love to answer this question!

    Q. What is your favorite thing to do in your home town?
    A. Walking or cycling around.

    Q. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
    A. Too hard to decide.

    Q. What one person was most influential in your life?
    A. Mr. Johann Singer.

    Q. Who (living or deceased) would you most liked to have met?
    A. One of the great sculptors, painters, engravers, discoverers or explorers. Same as above, I cannot decide!

    Q. Describe what you would think of as a perfect day.
    A. Getting up very early, driving off at dusk with my Lotus Elise to a scenic alpine site, hiking and climbing for the whole day. For the evening, I would prefer enjoying dinner in a nice garden restaurant with my lovely wife.

    Q. Tell us a good short, clean joke.
    A. If it’s true that we are here to help the others, then what exactly are the others for?

    Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the folks reading this?
    A. If you came down to this line you must have been interested. Thank you for that!
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  2. #2
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    A few more shots of engraving by Martin Strolz.
    Attached Images

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  3. #3
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    Thank you for taking time for the interview and in sharing your beautiful work with us.

  4. #4
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    Gruss Gott Martin and thanks for that.. I was very lucky to meet herr Strolz 2 years ago, not only absolute top World Class in engraving but also as person.. I ve got REALLY MUCH to thank this man as well.. A big hello from me, der Harry und der Toni...

  5. #5
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    Martin, are you using beeswax & tallow for layout? Winston got his first batch from Joe Fugger who brought it from Austria. Apparently many Austrian engravers were using it.

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  6. #6
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    Another great interview and absolutely fantastic pictures. Sounds like Martin Strolz has an enviable lifestyle...besides his exceptional talent, sailplaning over the alps and cruising in a Lotus Elise. I'm jealous!

    During this past summer, I was out running an errand on my motorcycle and saw this VERY exotic looking sports car which beckoned me to stop to get a better look and find out what kind of car it was.....Sure enough, it was a Lotus Elise. I had not seen one previously. From what I read, it is a street legal RACE car.

    Good for you Martin! and thanks for showing your fantastic work.

    Peter

  7. #7
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    A wonderful interview, Mr Strolz.
    Thank you for sharing some insight into your background and showing your great work.
    Your sailplane and sports car sound as if you enjoy a great life as well as engraving.
    Best regards, John B.

  8. #8
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    Default Layout, print and transfer

    Sam, I heard of the beeswax method from Winston a few years ago, but actually do not use it.
    I use modeling clay to produce a thin matte coat on the surface on which I can draw. The clay should not be too soft, nor contain too much fat. Otherwise, if you have to do much corrections it creates thick layers and smears around your pencil.
    If a job has to be repeated, or for documentation purposes, a print or pull of the finished engraving is a good thing, however it will produce a mirrored image. A print is most useful when complex symmetrical ornamental motifs are engraved. The process is to draw the left half first, then engrave and print it, after that transfer it and go on working with the right half of the motif.
    If a certain layout has to be drawn symmetrical on both sides of a fine gun a print is extremely helpful because it is mirrored already!
    Making a print
    o Clean the engraving using kerosene
    o Apply printers ink with your middle finger tip until the plate is black except for the engraving
    o Lay calendar or art print paper onto the plate, both of these are a high gloss paper.
    o Rub with a soft pencil lead
    o Lift the print carefully to prevent smudging
    o Clean your plate again with kerosene
    Printing the surface of an engraving always gives a result with white lines against a dark background.
    Transferring
    To transfer the mirrored layout on other half, that area must be coated with a very thin layer of printers ink. When the print is set into position properly it can be secured with tape at the corners.
    Then trace the lines carefully with the rounded point scriber. Upon removal of the print the lines are visible against the dark background, because the graphite of the pencil on the backside of the print has lifted the printers ink away from the surface of the metal.
    Then scribe on the steel and clean the part.
    There are different ways of transferring a design to another item or spot, but this one is easily done.

    Enclosed a scanned print of a grip cap, 1,87 x 1,44 inch

    Best regards, Martin
    Attached Images

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