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  1. #1
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    Default Cafe Interview with Weldon Lister!

    I absolutely love Weldon's work! When I see a photo of his engraving I know exactly who did it, and that's where we all hope to be one day...to have a unique style that's unmistakably ours. Weldon has certainly done that and much more. His engraving has depth and character and is always beautifully designed. Backgrounds are nicely textured and the work always has a rich, 3D quality. I've often said that I'm his biggest fan, and it's with great pleasure that I present Weldon Lister's Cafe interview for your enjoyment! / ~Sam
    p.s. He's a heck of a nice guy, too.

    ::: Engraving :::

    Q. What's your name?
    A.Weldon E. Lister, Jr


    Q. Where are you from?
    A. I was born in San Antonio & now live near the dot on the map known as Welfare, Texas (Inbetween San Antonio & Kerrville)


    Q. How long have you been engraving?
    A. This is my 30th year: I began engraving in August of 1979 (actually, I had done some scroll practice when I was 11 or 12 but I didn't stick with it and continue on at that time - wish I had!)


    Q. What made you want to become an engraver?
    A. My dad was an engraver. Dad was introduced to engraving by his uncle, Austin Lee Lister in the '40's & later, in the 60's, dad went to work for Frank Hendricks. As a kid I used to go with dad to the Hendricks shop. I guess it got in my blood & seemed like the natural thing to do so when I was 17 I seriously asked dad to show me how to engrave.....he did & I will always appreciate him taking the time to show me what he knew. By the way, my Dad would be engraving now if he was physically able to.


    Q. Are you a hobbyist or professional engraver?
    A. Actually, I am a hybrid. I have a full time job with the SAFD where I am a Lieutenant assigned to an engine company where I am the OIC. Our shift schedule (24 on-48 off which incidentally, is one of the reasons I chose that profession) allows me to maintain a full time engraving schedule as well. At times I put in over 40 hours a week at the bench. I have been with the SAFD for almost 25 years & am now in my last 5 years there so, I am looking forward to retirement....then I can truly call myself a full-time, professional engraver!


    Q. How did you learn engraving?
    A. Well, I think I covered that a little already but here goes. In the evenings after work dad & I would go out to the shop where I would hack at practice plates. As mentioned earlier, I began in August of '79. By the time October rolled aound dad thought I was ready & I cut my first gun, a Colt Commander. That really got me going at it in earnest & not long afterward I quit the piddly job I had & began freelance engraving & never really looked back. There has been a lot of water under the bridge since then but I can truly say I am still learning to engrave & hope to continue that pursuit until the day the good Lord takes me home! I was fortunate enough to have been invited to attend two of the Grand Master's Classes held at GRS in Kansas. I studied with Phillippe Griffnee and Winston Churchill. Those weeks marked paradigm shifts in my work.
    Also, I would like to comment on something: Comparisons have been made regarding my work and that of the Late Frank Hendricks which is a very, very humbling comparison. Unfortunately, I did not have the opportunity to study directly with Frank however, I was (obviously) influenced a great deal by my dad who worked with Hendricks for just over 5 years. I guess some must have rubbed off on me!!


    Q. What was your biggest obstacle when you first started?
    A. The impatience of youth! Tool sharpening was also a biggie. Dad learned to sharpen the old fashioned way & that is how he taught me to do it. For those who may not know: you grind the face angle on a hard wheel bench grinder (without overheating the tip) and put the clearance and lift facets on by dragging on a ruby stone....no fixtures or templates just the trusty old eyeball. That takes a lot of time to master & in the beginning dad would sharpen my tools for me, then coach me through & finally let me go at it alone. The diamond hones and sharpening fixtures of today don't necessarily save a lot of time but what you do get is a very repeatable and precise angle whichs means consistency (which is very important). Sharpening is one of the biggest bugaboos to overcome. I still do it the old way most of the time but I now have all the modern toys so, if I want to, I can put a chisel in the fixture and get a precise angle every time.


    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 am primarily a H&C guy but I do have the two main types of pneumatic equipment in the shop. I also use the burin on occassion. Pneumatics are not used everyday but I am finding more & more use for them and will continue to learn their application. H&C is my comfort zone & that's where I usually stay however, like I said, I am learning to incorporate power assist tooling into what I do. Personally, I don't think it really matters a whole lot, the method used: I use what I am comfortable with & would suggest that others do the same & let the results speak for themselves! I believe design and execution are without a doubt much more important than the type of tool used anyway!


    Q. What are your favorite books pertaining to engraving?
    A. There's a long list here. I probably looked at the first edition Nimschke book by Wilson more than any other when I was first starting out & still refer to it even now. The Colt book of engraving is another as is Roger Bleile's "American Engraver's". Actually when I think about it, any engraving book I can get my hands on is my favorite: in my opinion you can never have enough. For newbies, Ron Smith's books should be on the must-have list as well as the Meek book. Books on art and drawing are good resources too.


    Q. Of the old engraving masters, whose work is among your favorite?
    A. L.D. Nimschke, Gustaf Young, Cuno Helfricht, & Rudolph J. Kornbrath are at the top of that list. I have several favs amoung the current crop as well!


    Q. What's the worst engraving mistake you ever made, and how did you fix it?
    A. Over the past years I have done quite a few guns for the iconic law enforcement group known as the Texas Rangers. It was not uncommont to have several there at once, each for a different Ranger. They always liked to have a star on the triggerguard and their name put on the grip. I dolled one up and had it ready to go & as was the custom, showed it to dad before I let the client know it was ready to be picked up (a good thing!). Dad looked at it & said I thought this was so & so's gun? I looked and sure enough, I had put the wrong name on it. Luckily, it was a .45 auto & I had a spare mainspring housing which I engraved & swapped out (the Ranger never knew about it). That was a pretty easy fix but would have been a whole different story on another make of pistol!
    Then there was the time I did this buckle & dad looked at it & said "Is he left handed"? I said no & why? Well, it turns out that I had put the belt hanger on the wrong end of the buckle. When getting ready to solder it on I had somehow turned the buckle around and had put it on the wrong end....back to the drawing board! The best way to hurry up is to take your time!!


    Q. What are the majority of your engraving jobs (guns, jewelry, etc)?
    A. Over the years it has been predominantly firearms (several commemorative series in addition to the routine clients) followed by knives, musical instrument parts (banjo, mandolin, guitar), jewelry & even some surgical instruments for a friend of mine who was a professor at the UT med school in San Antonio.


    Q. What type of magnification do you use (microscope, Optivisor, etc)?
    A. When I was younger I used only my eyeballs! Now that I have aged a little those days are long gone & I use the optivisor with reading glasses for the majority of my work. Several years ago I picked up a nice (used) Zeiss OpMi scope & it's reserved for special occassions.


    Q. What part of engraving do you find the most challenging or difficult?
    A. Lettering: everyone knows what the abc's look like & if you mess them up everyone can tell. Practice, practice, practice!!!


    Q. What part of an engraving job do you dislike the most, and why?
    A. See the answer to the question above!


    Q. What's your favorite part of an engraving job, and why?
    A. When I am in the middle of it the creative juices are flowing and things are rolling!


    Q. Do you like or dislike lettering, and why?
    A. See the answer to two questions above!!


    Q. What kinds of engraving do you refuse to do?
    A. Nudes or anything I consider in my opinion to be in poor taste. That policy has actually cost me a couple of clients but those are my principles & I will stick to 'em.


    Q. How do you rate the quality of engraving done today as opposed to
    50 or 100 years ago?
    A. That is really an apple/orange comparison. I believe the work being produced today is outstanding in every way & we are truly in an engraving reniasance so, enjoy it! 50 to 100 years ago great works were being done, especially considering that most of the engravers were tradesmen and working with what would now be considered (in comparison to most modern equipped shops) archaic tools, bad lighting, low pay and no air conditioning and no computer transfer method! For example, the sheer quantity and quality of work produced by Nimschke alone is mind boggling!


    Q. Do you perceive any part of hand engraving as a dying art?
    A. If there is a "dying" part it would be the hammer & chisel, everything else is alive and kicking!! I can see the hammer fading away, probably not altogether but receeding a bit more in popularity than now due to the ease of learning with power assist tools and the availability of training with them as opposed to H&C.


    Q. What country or countries impress you with their highly skilled engravers?
    A. Most developed countries have engravers that I would rank as very impressive & it goes without saying Italy, Britain & Germany/Austria/Belgium/ Europe are at the top of the list.
    I am also very proud to say that we have more fantastic artisans here in the good old USA than ever who are raising the bar higher and higher!!
    I think if we really look, we will be inspired by the work of engravers regardless of where on the globe they are located! In spite of the cultural differences between those seperated by countries or continents, we engravers share a passion and therefore a common bond exists; we should encourage that & build relationships when we can! Speaking of ships: even though you may be seperated by miles, sometimes thousands of miles, common interests can foster relationships & if cultivated those relationships can result in life-long friendships...and that ain't necessarily a bad thing!



    Q. What affect has the internet had on your hand engraving?
    A. Well it has made it a lot easier to communicate and share ideas like never before. It also enables you to get your work out in front of potential clients on a world-wide basis with zero time delay. (it can also get your @#$& chewed out for wasting time on the computer when you should be working! hee hee)


    Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn engraving?
    A. Stop before it's too late!! Seriously, soak it up!! Read, study, watch videos & take classes if you can; there is nothing like sitting with a master!! Above all else, if you really want to do this, PRACTICE (cutting and drawing) as often as you can & go at it with the right attitude. If you want to do this so bad you think you'll die if you don't; you probably have what it takes to make it. Learn the techniques, learn the art (there is a difference) and learn the tools. Keep at it until you have a good working knowledge of your tools, you have begun to understand what makes good scroll and you are able to layout your own patterns. Take what is out there (existing engraving) let it influence and inspire you but let me encourage you, don't stop there: move on beyond that point, find your own voice and sing!!
    Above all else: Don't do it for the money, fame or fortune (as if there is any), do it because you absolutely love it & your passion will be evident in the work you do!!!
    Remember: You are the only thing holding you back from being the world's greatest!!


    ::: Personal :::

    Q. How many children do you have?
    A. Mrs Boss & I have 4 (grown) children & one itty bitty grandson.


    Q. What's the occupation of your wife/husband?
    A. Domestic Godess & my very best friend for 30 years!


    Q. If you have traveled, what was the most exciting country you
    visited and what did you enjoy most?
    A. California; I liked the SoCal flora, beaches & weather (remember, I'm from Texas & Texas is a whole other country!)


    Q. Do you have an interesting experience while traveling that you'd
    like to share?
    A. Randomly seeing several friends from Boerne while vacationing in Acapulco in '79!


    Q. What's the most interesting experience you had when meeting people?
    A. People always think that because I am an engraver, I should be a great deal older than I actually am. I think they expect a hunched over, grizzled old fart; I say "give me time, give me time..."


    Q. Besides engraving, what are your hobbies and interests?
    A. Guitar pickin & hangin out with the fam. Our grandson is taking up a lot of our spare time at the moment which we are really enjoying!!


    Q. Where is your favorite place to be?
    A. Sitting on the swing in the big oak in our backyard, with Miss Toni, watching the sun set!


    Q. What’s one thing of which you are most proud?
    A. Our family; one example is our son & his musical ability!


    Q. When you were a child, who was your hero?
    A. My dad: My dad is 6' 7 1/2", plays guitar & sings, was on the Grand Ole Opry (in the '50's), traveled with Hank Williams Sr, & could do anything & I mean anything!: of course he was my hero!!


    Q. Tell us something few people know about you.
    A. I am a multi-millionare....oops, wait, I was thinking of someone else.... I write childrens stories and songs...there, few people know that!


    Q. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
    A. When I heard about it I was getting ready to drive to San Antonio & go on duty at the firehouse for my 24 hour gig. Watching the towers fall, I knew we (firefighters) were inside, I just didn't know how many would go down that day (343). At that point in time it was unclear what the situation was or how bad it would get so, I went to work that day packing heat ; this Texas firefighter wasn't going down without a fight, I can promise you!


    Q. Do you have any pet peeves?
    A. People who think they know everything really iritate those of us who do!


    Q. What is your favorite thing to do in your home town?
    A. Drag main like we did in highschool!


    Q. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
    A. My grandmothers: they both died before I was born & I really would have liked to have known them.


    Q. What one person was most influential in your life?
    A. My mom & dad (I know you said one but oh, well I don't want to leave out my mom).


    Q. Who (living or deceased) would you most liked to have met?
    A. Probably the Apostle Peter or King David. Both are great examples of real men.


    Q. Describe what you would think of as a perfect day.
    A. An uninterrupted day in the shop is great: An uninterrupted day with my wife is even better!


    Q. Tell us a good short, clean joke.
    A. It is so dry here in Texas, yesterday I saw a jackrabbit out in the back pasture with a canteen!
    For the real joke: see the question above about pet peeves (ha ha)!


    Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the folks reading this?
    A. If you read this far you really need to get a job or go back to work or something!!
    thanks for taking the time to read this far &I sincerely hope you enjoyed it!!
    Keep on chipping!!!
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  2. #2
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    A few more photos of Weldon Lister's engraving.
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  3. #3
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    The last two.
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  4. #4
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    Nice to get to know you a little better Weldon. Hope you can make Reno this winter. Much enjoyed the interview and your work. TOS
    TOS
    (The Other Sam)

    FEGA LIFE
    ACGG LIFE
    Guns, Guitars and Old Cars
    A.I.E.

    Cravingravin=a chronic malady that afflicts some of the world's nicest people...TOS

  5. #5
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    Nice interview Sam and Weldon!

  6. #6
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    Great interview! Its always nice to know a little more about the person behind the work.

  7. #7
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    Great interview Weldon. I am a very big fan of your work. Nice to learn more about you.

    Stewart

  8. #8
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    Great interview - I second your advice about doing this for love and not just money etc. I really enjoy looking (studying) your work and am looking forward to seeing more. Love that bowie. Fred

  9. #9
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    Weldon thanks for the interview, It's nice to know more about the engravers we are inspired by their work...
    You had mention on another post about you father and had some CD's from the days before when he played with Hank Sr.
    I'm from Andalusia AL, not far from Georgiana AL...
    My Dads 94 and doing fine, if you have another copy I love to buy one for Hank, thats his name also...
    Allot of the locals were on the Alabama Jubilee and the Grand Old Opry, I'm sure of some of our kin will remember your dad...
    All night singings...
    I hope to meet you someday
    Keep inspiring us with your great work...
    Thanks so much...
    Jerry

  10. #10
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    Weldon,

    Thanks for a little about your life, I am always interested in the man behind the work, and like you said, we (engravers) have sort of a bond of understanding relative to time in space and such. I hear a lot of wisdom in your words, and I love that too.

    Beautiful work, my friend................We appreciate your participation and contribution to the art.

    Rock on, buddy!!

    Ron S

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