Spyderco Delica – Hand engraved

Hand engraved Spyderco

I just completed this engraving as a gift for my son.  The western scroll design is modified from a Les Schowe design and took a little over 40 hours to complete. The backbone and leaves were done with hammer and chisel engraving technique. The shading lines and background were done with hand gravers. I love how smoothly the Spyderco steel cuts.

Jesse backcoyote

Backside of Spyderco Delica.

The backside is completely covered with engraving. So the clip could be moved to the other side and engraving would be revealed. Actually another shamrock hidden under the clip base and screws.

I sign my art with a small shamrock above the clip.


Front view of Delica

Front view of Delica



Detail of lettering.











Detailed close up of the Celtic font used in the lettering.





I date all my knives. Usually I put the date on the backside, under the clip. This time it is on the backstrap so it would not interfere with the scrolls on the side.





Hope you like my work. This one was a real labor of love.

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Relocated to South Carolina

We packed up everything we own and left the mountains around Durango Colorado and moved to lower and warmer South Carolina. Near family and the beach.

Took a few months to get the house we wanted, move in and unpack. Of course my engraving studio was the first thing I unpacked. This studio has great light from two large windows and plenty of room for me to work.

New Studio  (Under construction)

New Studio
(Under construction)

After a three month layoff I’m going to warm up  with a simple project and get all the rust off my skill set before I tackle a firearm. I’m going to start work on a silver cuff bracelet.

The bracelet will be 3/4 inch wide silver and I’m looking forward to the nice soft cutting of silver.

A blank slate of silver.

A blank slate of silver.

It is hard to explain how much I have missed engraving. At first I thought it would be like a vacation. However, after a month that vacation feeling was replaced by boredom. I needed something to do. After 3.5 months away from the bench I was going crazy. Even with all the details required to get into a new home I was still missing the art work.

Feels so good to have a project to work on today. Can’t wait to put pencil to paper and start designing this bracelet.

Stay turned…

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Montana Artisan’s Corkscrews

Starting the lettering on these excellent corkscrew/knives.

These three knives will be Christmas presents. Only Mother’s think this far ahead for Christmas presents. I usually get stuff like this on Christmas Eve and they need it for Christmas. I love it when people plan ahead. Now I can do this lettering in-between other projects.

This is some nice carbon steel and smooth to cut. I’m using a 105 degree graver with a 50 degree face. My usual hammer is working fine, not too heavy. Just the right “tap” per stroke.

Hammer & chisel time.

Hammer & chisel time.

I really love when I have nice “soft” steel to engrave. It allows me to use the hammer and chisel technique for very cool finish to the engraving.

A well trained eye can distinguish the hammer strokes in the steel. Very “old school” but with an old fashioned corkscrew it just seems like the proper was to cut the steel.

The air assist hand piece would be a bit faster but I still decided to go H&C.


Overview of cutting the steel.

Overview of cutting the steel.


Here’s what it looks like while I engrave. The graver is held in my left hand and the hammer is in the right. I watch the cutting through a Meiji microscope. With the scope I can see very fine detailed lines and make accurate cuts.

The knife is held in a 50 pound vise that rotates. I hold the graver steady and rotate the knife into the cut using my feet to turn the vise, while making light taps with the hammer.

Sounds like a coordination nightmare but after a few years I have gotten it perfected.

Top knife engraved, bottom knife ready to engrave.

Top knife engraved, bottom knife ready to engrave.

The bottom knife is mounted in the vise and design is on, all ready to engrave. The top knife is all finished. Just need to put a polish on it and package it for delivery.

I’ll try to get a photo of all three knives side-by-side when I’m done so you can see how they turned out.

Very nice burl wood make these real beauties.


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On the Bench…

Finally back to work!

I’ve been off for a few months due to a neck injury (T5 & T6) but after months of physical therapy I’m just about pain free and trying to get back to work.

I have been turning work down and sending customers to other engravers while working on the neck issue. I hated doing that because some were very nice projects but I was not certain when I would be able to do the work. I worked on a Spyderco knife yesterday and worked pain free all day. However I woke up this morning with a very stiff and painful neck. I guess in my enthusiasm I over did it yesterday.

Spyderco Delica scrolls in progress.

Spyderco Delica scrolls in progress.

I decided to warm up the engraving muscles on a Spyderco Delica. You can see the scroll pattern and my progress. I’m changing the design as I go and added a shamrock and will add a few more to the other end.

Delica  scrolls and background removal.

Delica scrolls and background removal.


In the second photo you can see that I have started removing the background steel. This gives the knife a wonderful grip in your hand but best of all it gives a nice 3D look to the engraving. I will comeback and texture all these background cuts for a very black finish. That makes the engraving really stand out.

One of the projects that I have been working on is a 1911 slide with full coverage.

1911 slide progress

1911 slide progress

I was making great progress on this slide when I hurt my neck so I am very much looking forward to getting back to this project.

1911 slide engraving progress.

1911 slide engraving progress.



As you can see there is not too much left to complete. Just the top of the slide and then some final detail shading.

Looking fantastic.


Colt SAA design

Colt SAA design


While I have been away from engraving, I have been busy with design work. Here is a SAA with design transferred to the steel. Just waiting his turn on the bench.

This is very nice steel and should go quickly. Due date is Christmas so I’m not panicking yet.


Corkscrew knives with burl wood handles.

Corkscrew knives with burl wood handles.


Montana Artisan’s creations also waiting personalization. This is a simple lettering project on some wonderful wine opener knives. The craftsmanship of these knives is wonderful and they will make great Christmas gifts. This is very nice steel and will bright cut and look terrific. Also not due till Christmas but I’ll be getting to them in between the firearms.


Challenge coin for USCG

Challenge coin for USCG

Here’s what I’m going to work on today. A challenge coin for a new pilot. Blake is a USCG Officer who gets his Wings in November and this will be a gift from his mother.

This is just the design and after this part is engraved I will add the La Plata mountains into the background. This coin is pure silver and hand push engraving will be a delight after cutting gun steel.

I figured the soft silver is the best project to start with and get my hands back into shape. It is amazing how much hand strength you lose after two months of doing nothing. Today my hands are stiff from engraving yesterday so I need a nice soft silver project to warm up on.

Now if my neck will just hold up I plan on being very busy for the next few weeks.

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1911 Slide custom engraving

Getting close to the finish on this custom 1911 slide.

After a long break on the engraving due to my customer being deployed, this 100 percent coverage engraving is back in the engraving vise. I am working on the top of the slide with just about two inches yet to cut. I’m doing all the main lines first and then will go back and add the shading lines.

1911 slide, top view.

1911 slide, top view.

To orient you to this view in first photo: looking down from the top, ejection port at top right of photo, muzzle to the left.

I’m cutting the backbone lines now. If you have been following this project you’ll remember that I have discussed the toughness of this steel many time before. What I have changed to make this work a bit easier is I have fabricated some new very high carbon gravers. These are ground from carbide steel drill bit blanks and ground to a 90 degree angle with a 55 degree face. Cutting very nicely now.

1911 slide with side view of completed engraving and the yet unfinished top.

1911 slide with side view of completed engraving and the yet unfinished top.

In this second photo I wanted to show what the final shading will look like and give a status of the top of slide engraving.

Not too much more to do but the rounded top of the slide makes cutting more difficult and slower. The new gravers are cutting well and I should have all the backbone scrolls finished this weekend.

I have made 5 of the carbide gravers so when one dulls I can simply switch to a sharp one. Then when all 5 are ready for sharpening I sharpen them all together. Sharpening these carbide gravers is much slower than the high speed steel gravers. It figures that harder steel would take longer to sharpen and it does. About 15 minutes per graver if the tip has chipped badly.

Time to start resharpening gravers. Stay tuned for more on this 1911 slide project…

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FRANCHI shotgun engraving complete.

Hand engraving on Franchi shotgun came out perfect!

I have found my favorite shotgun to engrave. I love this alloy metal. Smooth to cut with absolutely not variation in the metal (no hard spots or real soft spots).

Hand engraved lettering is complete.

Hand engraved lettering is complete.

The combination of soft alloy and sharp carbide graver made this fun to engrave. Nervous but fun too.

It is all cleaned up and reassembled. Ready for pick up!

I think “Hunter” is going to love it. Way to go Mom & Dad. A great gift and personalized for a lifetime.


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FRANCHI shotgun engraving

I have a beautiful Franchi Instinct SL shotgun to engrave today.

This is a wonderful shotgun, very sleek, light and well made. I’d love to own it. This will be a graduation gift from Dad & Mom to son and graduation is this Friday. Yes, this is another emergency engraving project. Made room in the que to get this engraved. Thankfully my other projects have some flexibility in their due dates.

Shotgun receiver hand engraving coming along...

Shotgun receiver hand engraving coming along…

I am doing some lettering in the photo. This is a wonderful alloy metal. Very smooth cutting and very little push required.

I’m cutting with a square carbide graver with a 45 degree face. A nice diamond polish is giving me bright cuts in the metal.

Thirty minutes in and needed a quick break. Engraving on expensive firearms is much different than engraving a bracelet. Each cut I make must be perfect because there is no eraser to put metal back on.

Looking very good so far. Only issue is the trigger guard is in the way so I am making all the cuts from the top down. Not a problem just a little slower as I have to plan out each segment of each letter.

My timer just went off, so back to work…

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Silver Bear Dance Badges – Hand Engraved

Silver Bear Dance Badge lettering.

Silver Bear Dance Badge lettering.

Received a phone call from a local silversmith – emergency engraving!

This happens all the time, short deadlines from customers. In this case a fellow artist, Melody, from Blackhawk Trading Company, needed the silver badges engraved today so she has time to finish them before the Bear Dance this weekend.

So with the Sweet 16 pendant on the bench and ready to engrave but plenty of time to do it, I put the pendant to the side and started right in on the badges.

The lettering layout went very smoothly as Melody let me select a font that I can engrave very quickly. I’m cutting with a #52 round graver and pleased with the consistency of the cast badges. My last experience was with cast brass and it was variable in hardness and that made it hard to engrave. This silver casting is just right and no air bubbles so far.

Two of three badges.

Two of three badges.

Two down and just one to go.








Detail photo of Bear Dance Badge. Mountain Ute version.

Detail photo of Bear Dance Badge. Mountain Ute version.

This is the Mountain Ute Tribe version of the badge.

There will be badges for all three Ute Tribes: Southern Ute, Northern Ute and the Ute Mountain Ute.

Just the Southern Ute badge to go so I better get to it. They are due in the morning!

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Sweet 16 – Update #2

Progress report on the Sweet 16 Silver Pendant.

Today I have mounted the silver pendant in GRS Thermolock (using some painters tape to protect the finish) and have laid out the final design.

Sweet 16 silver pendant, mounted and ready to engrave.

Sweet 16 silver pendant, mounted and ready to engrave.

After a few phone calls with Judy, we have worked out all the lay out options. I love it when my customers know exactly what they want and I do not have to do multiple layouts to find the one they like.

Judy knows exactly what she wants for her Grand daughter.

The year placement was one of our discussion topics. Where to place it? After studying the piece for a few minutes the placement as shown in the photo was the obvious choice. We both wanted the numbers to be smaller but there is a limit to how small I can engrave and this is it.

One thing I forgot to take into consideration with the practice engraving is the gold pin sticking through the silver pendant. This will obviously be in the way as I engrave the word Sweet. So I will have to start cutting all the letters from the bottom of the letter and cut upwards. Not a big problem but it does take a bit more planning for each letter.

Really looking forward to actually cutting this piece in the morning. Stay tuned for more updates…

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Sweet 16 – UPDATE

Sweet 16 design on practice silver.

Sweet 16 design on practice silver.

Hand engraving Sweet 16 Pendant

For this project I am hand engraving a silver pendant and the silver is only 26 gauge thick. In layman’s terms – very thin.

So I have set up a piece of scrap silver, 26 gauge and laid out the script to practice and get the feel for cutting such a delicate piece.

In the photo you can see my fat fingertips holding a graver. I manufactured a new graver just for this work. A 45 degree face angle on a 90 degree square graver. Put a nice diamond polish on it so it will cut smoothly and leave a nice bright cut.

The practice is to assure me that I can use enough pressure to engrave the silver without damaging the front side of the pendant.

Practice plate showing fine hand engraving.

Practice plate showing fine hand engraving.

In the second photo I have cut a few of the words and the capital G.

The graver is the perfect size. I do have to loosen up the vise so it will turn easier and smoother. This is held in a 50 pound vise and I turn it by hand. When holding a large firearm to engrave I like the vise to be stiff and turn slowly while I cut.

This delicate piece needs a much faster spin. I didn’t think of it until I started to cut the curly S in Sweet. After I lightened the tension on the vise the rest of the lettering cut much smoother.

The other lesson learned was that I can easily cut the silver without damaging the design on the other side of the thin silver.

Now I just need Judy to email me that she likes the layout and script design and I’ll be ready to start the actual pendant. Also on the pendant along the top of the silver will be engraved 2015 to help generations to come remember when Lindsay turned Sweet 16.


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