Cafe Interview with Andy Shinosky
Andy Shinosky's knife engraving is some of the best I've ever seen. I love his designs and creative use of gold inlay. He's obviously got a good hand on shading, and no doubt his customers are some of the happiest people out there.
Andy, thank you for your interview and photos of your beautiful engraving. Your work is truly inspirational.
::: Engraving :::
Q. What's your name?
A. Andy Shinosky
Q. Where are you from?
A. Born in Warren, Ohio
Q. How long have you been engraving?
A. Approximately 10 years
Q. What made you want to become an engraver?
A. I was already a knifemaker and felt if I could learn to engrave I could offer more of my knives with engraving than I would be able to otherwise. That and I think it is really cool.
Q. Are you a hobbyist or professional engraver?
A. Part Time Professional
Q. How did you learn engraving?
A. I initially spent a day with Jere Davidson who was gracious enough to show me some of the basics using traditional hammer and chisel techniques. I quickly surmised this was going to take too long so I invested $400 in a Foredom PowerGraver. While not up to the level of today’s pneumatic tools, it sure beat the hammer and chisel for ease of learning. Too much of what I learned came the hard way. In hindsight a class would have paid for itself.
Q. What was your biggest obstacle when you first started?
A. Definitely has to be learning on my own. It was hard to justify taking a class at the time due to my financial situation. A class would have definitely accelerated the learning curve.
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 currently use a Lindsay AirGraver with PalmControl.
Q. What are your favorite books pertaining to engraving?
A. I never seemed to get a thing out of Meeks book except inspiration from the photos of the engravings. I definitely like the books put out by Ron Smith. His latest book is by far the best help for a fledgling engraver. The book that is never far away though for me is “Florid Victorian Ornament” put out by Dover press. Karl Klimsch is a genius of a designer.
Q. Of the old engraving masters, whose work is among your favorite?
A. Unfortunately I have seen very little of the “Old Masters”. So, it’s not a good question for me. I have been far more influenced by today’s “Masters” such as Ron Smith, Winston Churchill, but even more by some of the younger masters such as Sam Alfano, and Steve Lindsay J. I believe their work is closer to what I would like to attain to. Today’s equipment has propelled a newer generation of engravers to achieve technically cleaner engravings than what was easily possible in years gone by using more traditional methods.
Q. What's the worst engraving mistake you ever made, and how did you fix it?
A. Gee…that’s hard to narrow down. I was already a proficient knifemaker when I started to engrave. I believe I devalued quite a number of otherwise good knives in the process of learning to engrave. Unfortunately, there is no way to undo that.
Q. What are the majority of your engraving jobs (guns, jewelry, etc)?
A. Currently I spend the majority of my time doing contract engraving work for a flute making company. Secondly are my knives.
Q. What type of magnification do you use (microscope, Optivisor, etc)?
A. I am on my second stereo microscope. The first was a Nikon and now I am using one of the scopes sold by the Microscope Store. It is quite up to the task by the way.
Q. What part of engraving do you find the most challenging or difficult?
A. Some of the bright cut work I do on the flutes can be much more difficult than I initially expected. The logo I cut has some very wide cuts that arc and go around the barrel. It can be fairly difficult to master. With bright cuts like this you don’t usually get a second chance.
Q. What part of an engraving job do you dislike the most, and why?
A. It used to be background work. But with the advent of the rotary tool I can quickly take out the background now. I think I dislike gold inlay somewhat more due to the fact that it usually doubles the time it takes to finish a particular job. And……I’m impatient….
Q. What's your favorite part of an engraving job, and why?
A. Shading. The engraving really starts to come alive during the shading stage. And, it means I’m almost done. J
Q. Do you like or dislike lettering, and why?
A. Being able to use a computer to layout text makes it kind of fun for me.
Q. What kinds of engraving do you refuse to do?
A. I recently engraved some stainless steel baby spoons for my soon to be granddaughters. I think I would rather stick a sharp stick in my eye than do that again. I spent most of my time sharpening rather than engraving.
Q. How do you rate the quality of engraving done today as opposed to 50 or 100 years ago?
A. Microscopes and pneumatic equipment sure make life easier. I think I prefer today’s output. I think the customer has come to expect more of today’s engravers as well.
Q. Do you perceive any part of hand engraving as a dying art?
A. Absolutely not. With the blossoming of the internet and information exchange it’s the best time in history to become an engraver. I think we witness that here on forums such as these.
Q. What country or countries impress you with their highly skilled engravers?
A. I’m impressed by the bulino work being done in Italy but I think that there are American engravers who are picking up speed on that front. It seems to me that there is an explosion of interest in America compared to other countries. With so many new engravers getting into the fray here I expect some to be truly exceptional. But, of course, that is just my opinion.
Q. What affect has the internet had on your hand engraving?
A. The internet is an incredible source of inspiration for me. I’ve learned so much from studying the work of others posted here.
Q. What advice would you give to someone who wants to learn engraving?
A. Take a class. You will shave years off the learning curve and possibly stave off failure. I nearly gave up in frustration many times. Stay tuned into the forums for they are a wealth of information. There is always someone on hand to answer questions. I wish I had this resource myself when I started.
::: Personal :::
Q. How many children do you have?
A. 6, mine, hers, and ours.
Q. What's the occupation of your wife/husband?
A. Full Time Domestic Engineer/ Part Time Sales
Q. If you have traveled, what was the most exciting country you visited and what did you enjoy most?
A. I have traveled outside the states…… I like home best.
Q. Do you have an interesting experience while traveling that you'd like to share?
A. My wife won a trip to France 9 years ago while she was still in the employment of a company. I really don’t care for the French cuisine. I almost starved to death.
Q. What's the most interesting experience you had when meeting people?
A. No one event comes to mind but I will say that the people I have met while in this knifemaking/Engraving business are some finest I have had the pleasure of knowing.
Q. Besides engraving, what are your hobbies and interests?
A. Knifemaking, All things Computer related, Photography, Reading, Family, Church
Q. Where is your favorite place to be?
A. In the arms of my loving wife (I hope she’s reading this)
Q. What’s one thing of which you are most proud?
A. Raising respectable children.
Q. When you were a child, who was your hero?
A. Why, Superman, of course…Duh!
Q. Tell us something few people know about you.
A. Man..I’m a pretty boring guy. I can’t think of anything…..dang!
Q. Where were you on September 11, 2001?
A. At work at the Delphi Corp. Someone had a TV and we watched the whole thing unfold live.
Q. Do you have any pet peeves?
A. Don’t get me started…. Other drivers…all of them…..
Q. What is your favorite thing to do in your home town?
A. Go out to dinner with my wife………but not the kids.
Q. If you could have dinner with anyone in the world, who would it be?
A. My wife. She is the one I am most at ease with.
Q. What one person was most influential in your life?
A. My Father in Heaven.
Q. Who (living or deceased) would you most liked to have met?
A. Wow… I have already met a lot of my knifemaking and engraving heroes. There are still a few on the list though.
Q. Describe what you would think of as a perfect day.
A. Rising to a beautiful morning. Going into the shop and tinkering all day without a thought for deadlines and unfinished projects.
Q. Tell us a good short, clean joke.
A. A woman walked into the kitchen to find her husband stalking around with a fly swatter.
"What are you doing?" she asked.
"Hunting Flies," he responded.
"Oh!, Killed any?" she asked.
"Yep, 3 males, 2 Females," he replied.
Intrigued, she asked. "How can you tell?"
He responded, "3 were on a beer can, 2 were on the phone."
Q. Is there anything else you'd like to say to the folks reading this?
A. For any engraver wannabe. Draw, draw, and then draw some more. Study the engravings of those whose work you like. Keep a log of the designs you like and refer to them often. Drawing is more important than cutting. Practice and patience. Without pure natural talent you will still arrive but it will take patience and lots of practice.
One more photo of Andy Shinosky's work.
Great interview. Your work as usual, is simply awe inspiring.
Enjoyed the Interview guys, I'd like to meet both of you in person & spend some time chewing the fat. Both of you inspire me in the engraving arena, Dwayne
Nice interview. Andy your engraving is exceptional. Younger Masters what a nice thing to say
Your engraving has a nice flow and cleanness to it Andy
Andy, Enjoyed the interview very much. Hope to see you in Atlanta.
I had the pleasure of meeting Andy and his wife at a knife show. Outstanding people! Beautiful work.
Thanks Andy (and Sam)- a good read with superb illustrations!
Hi Andy: Tony Bose and I were talking about you just the other day, Tony said you were one of the fastest learners that he had ever met, I did not know that you were engraving, you know it has been about 15 yrs since I last talked to you, great work, hope to talk to you at the Blade show in Atlanta this year. Jack Davenport