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The Art of Engraving

In order to create quality detailed engravings, the engraver is required to accurately execute many cuts or lines in the metal that vary in length, width, and depth. In principle, the results achieved are similar to those produced by an artist when sketching with pen or pencil on paper. Spectacular ornamental engravings are possible when the graver is controlled by someone who is well versed in the art of engraving.

Use of advanced methods, such as 'Bulino' and 'Bank note' techniques, allow the highly skilled artist, the potential to produce exquisite, lifelike renderings in metal.

hoel10 copyb1x1.jpg (50999 bytes)'Bulino' (pronounced - 'bo-lee-no') - refers to a Pointillism or Dot Technique. It is derived from the Italian term meaning "a small hand held graver". Today the term is used loosely to represent the method of creating thousands of small dots or lines in the metal. This enables the control of light and dark contrasts.

'Bank note style' is a highly organized and systematic method of creating thousands of individual lines, varying in length, in order to form beautifully detailed renderings or ornamental designs. It is generally seen on pages of older texts such as, family Bibles and similar period works of literature printed from engraved plates. The closest and most common representation of this technique in the present may be seen on paper currency.

An artist's ability to visualize where and how each cut should be placed determines the final outcome of the project. When an engraving artist possesses a talent for visualization, as well as theoretical and technical knowledge, he or she will be able to invest the engraving with richness, character, and even emotion.

Tool geometry and the manner in which the graver is shaped, particularly the face and heel angles, will also determine the quality of an engraving. The ability to perfectly grind and shape the graver must be mastered, otherwise clean, accurate, burr-free cutting will not occur, and the results will be unsatisfactory. Badly raised burrs tend to produce visually jagged or distorted lines, resulting in a rough, unrefined final product, rather than the smooth, clean results professionals can produce. If the engraver applies too much downward force while cutting, or the graver heel is too long or too short, burrs will be raised - especially when executing curved lines. A long heel will create drag, and a short heel will dig too deeply into the metal. Either way, the metal will be forced upwards, generating a burr along the length of the cut.

It can take years to fully master the technical portion of hand engraving, and to become proficient in design and in the historical study of engraving motifs. Only then can one begin to develop a unique and personal artistic style. However, some students of this art may possess a natural talent, which allows them to master the process more rapidly.

Mastering the Art of Engraving requires expertise in several areas. These can be divided into two categories: art and craft. Engravers engaging only in craft need not possess drawing and design skills to produce excellent engravings, providing that designs are supplied beforehand by either an artist or by replication of available ornamental patterns. Many copyright-free (public domain) ornamental designs are available to help the craftsman in this area. The first and foremost ability a craftsman need possess, then, is the ability to precisely control the graver, with an understanding of the technical skills required in order to achieve the desired results.

However, in the case of engraver as an artist, he or she must have an intense desire to create beautiful original designs, which depends upon a background in other arts, together with artistic drawing talents. The art of engraving itself can be a fulfilling medium for an artist to express his art, and can become a life-long study.

------Continue to "The Engraving Process"--->


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