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  1. #1
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    Default what tools did John Bivins use to do engraving

    My interest in engraving ls the type that would have been done on pre 20th century firearms which I figure was done with hammer and chisel. I know that John built a lot of early style guns and wondered if he used the hammer and chisel or used power engravers. I know very little about the man except that he is considered by many to one of the most talented men to ever build and engrave early firearms. I am sorry to say that I never had the opportunity to meet him but that I also admire his work. I want to recreate the feel of the early engraving and was wondering if that limits me to the hammer and chisel or do you think that same feel can be created with power gravers? I am sure it would have a lot to do with who is holding the graver with either means. I ask because age is starting to set in and I feel the joints getting sore after a good day engraving. I have nothing against power but worry about getting a modern look. I noticed on one of the threads about being able to slow the power graver down to get the hammer and chisel effect, I think I will go back and read that thread again.

  2. #2
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    Bama,
    I donít know how Bivins did it, but as he was a stickler for authenticity, I would guess he used a combination of hammer and chisel, and push graver.
    As I say, this is only a guess as to Bivins, but Iíve owned many original guns, and studied many more and itís obvious that both methods of engraving were used back in the day.
    Nicholas Beyer seems to have used a hammer when he engraved deeply, and just pushed when doing lighter lines. Nicholas Hawk on the other hand seemed to have just used a push graver for all his work, as none of his engraving was done deeply, just very fine lines. The Hawk swivel breech I have even has what appears to be a Ďslipí, with no attempt to hide or cover it.
    One thing I think modern black powder engravers do is to try to make the work too perfect. If you study original work youíll see that most of the old boys work just wasnít that perfect, even by the great masters. Scrolls were seldom perfectly symmetrical, straight lines were seldom straight and of consistent width, nor were intersecting lines butted together exactly. I donít think the word back-cutting was even in their vocabulary. On most, over-runs and under-runs were the rule, and not the exception.
    This is not to say that the work wasnít beautiful, because a lot of it was, just not done to what would be considered todayís standards of perfection.
    If you were to copy a Jacob Dickert, perfect engraving would be out of place, however if you do a M. Fordney or John Drepperd much crisper engraving would be appropriate.
    Iíve had good luck using a Gravermeister to believably imitate the engraving of the old boys when replacing missing inlays, etc. If itís something that has hammer marks in the line, I cut them lightly first with the gravermeister, then finish with hammer and chisel. Practice first, and try to imitate the hand of the maker, especially including the imperfections.
    John

  3. #3
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    Thanks JTR

  4. #4
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    Acually Bivins was only a stickler on authenticity as far as the look of the finished piece. He used modern stains, modern finishes, and modern methods of shaping and construction. I would not be surprised if he used a power graver. He was very concerned with time, as building rifles and furniture was his living. If I was going to place a bet on the subject, I would bet that he used a power graver. Maybe not, but I would say the odds would favor power.

  5. #5
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    Hello all,
    I'm gonna hazard a guess and say JB used h & c and push gravers.
    I base this on a book i have with many of his rifles including the bicentenial series. it doesn't have the look of power assisted.
    When he was building ( rifles) in the 70's power assist of any kind was in its infancy.
    JB was a perfectionist and keeper of the old ways and in the company of W.Gussler and many other fine traditional rifle makers.
    And since rifle building was his main interest, I doubt he used power, it doesn't make sense when engraving is a very small part of gunsmithing/ rifle stocking.
    I have just seen pictures of the Connors prairie engraving class strictly for engraving long rifles , they use only hammer & chisel and some push.
    my $.02
    Kent

  6. #6
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    I suspect the right answer could be had from Gary Brumfield (flintriflesmith) as I believe they knew each other well. However, I wanna play too, so here's my take. I don't believe John was I stickler for authenticity in the sence that Eric Kettenburg is. John was a contemporary builder. His work is far more sophisticated than anything built in the 18th or 19th century and, being the perfectionist that his is known to be, just wouldn't be satisfied to reign in his skills to match those of the original "masters". Considering the fact, as Wick pointed out, that John used the best methods and finishes available to him (I believe he also use a stock duplicator), it only seems logical that he would also use the most efficient engraving method available to him. Kent makes a very good point in that the bulk of John's work was done when power assist engraving equipment was in it's infantsy, it seems likely that his earlier work would have been H&C and push but I would be surprised if he did not take advantage of the speed that would have been available to him through the use of a power assisted engraving rig in his later years.


    Cody

  7. #7
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    Monte Mandarino told me Bivens used an onglette exclusively,a die sinkers chisel, just the one tool, with a hammer.
    Even with his encyclopedic knowledge of ornament, having written two books on american furniture, Bivens was very modest about his engraving. He considered himself a bad engraver.
    Dan Goodwin engraved one gun for him,As I remember,a germanic stock wheel lock. Aside from that I believe he did all his own work.

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