Progress Report on Spyderco Delica Hand Engraving

Today I’ve made good progress on the engraved knife.

As I was typing the Headline it dawned on me that while most of this is done with hammer and chisel technique I called it “Hand Engraved”. I do not actually hand push the graver through the steel to cut the lines. I gentle tap the chisel with a chasing hammer to cut the lines. However that is still considered ‘hand engraving” because no machines are used to remove the steel. The next step will be to shade the leaves and that is done by hand pushing the graver to cut light lines on the leaves. This western scroll design represents the old style of leather carving done on belts and holsters and was inspired by the style of Master Engraver Mike Dubber.

Spyderco Delica with western scroll and company logo ready for shading.

Here is a current photo on the progress. The main backbone of the western scroll has been cut, the lettering is complete and the logo Devil Dog is finished. The background has been removed and stippled. I use a pneumatic hand piece to do the stippling (texture) of the background. The hand piece is so much faster than doing it by hammer and chisel.

As for timing it took 45 minutes to remove the steel from the background and 60 minutes to do all the stippling. Unfortunately that is about 45 minutes longer than I anticipated. Background removal requires as much care as any other part of the process or you wreck the engraved lines. A slow and hand tiring process.

After a short 15 minute break it is on to the shading lines. Almost finished with this side.

Stay tuned for more…

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Devil Doc Delica – Update

Progress on Spyderco Delica

Devil Doc Delica first day progress.

Today I laid out the design starting with Devil Doc lettering. Over that I laid on the western scroll and finally the Devil Dog. It was a really busy scene when viewed through the microscope. First to cut were the letters. Then the backbone of the  western scroll, The engraving was flying along until I got to the scroll that intertwined with the letters. Around the letters I had to decide which western scrolls to leave and which had to be eliminated so that the letters were clear to read. That created some areas where I had to completely redraw the  western scrolls and all that slowed me down.

The Dog had to be wiped off with acetone and re-transferred onto the steel. Too much had been smudged and just was not clear enough to see. After transfer it was still not perfect so I had to hand scribe the lines for engraving. Scribe was especially needed for the details in the face.

To this point shown in the photo I have spent two hours and fifteen minutes engraving. About 30 minutes in layout and mounting the knife on GRS Thermolock (to hold in the vice). So I am just about on time for my estimate. I should explain my timekeeping system. I have a 15 minute timer on the bench and when I start the air compressor I start the timer. At the end of 15 minutes I must stop the compressor so it will not overheat. I use this next 15 minutes to relax my hands and eyes while the compressor cools. I make a hashmark on the order form and the number of hashmarks gives me the total time for the project. Today I spent a total of five hours on the project but only two hours actually cutting steel. It is a slow and meticulous art form. I put on my “Engraving music” playlist and turn it up loud and work away the time.

Remaining work of background removal, stippling and adding shading to the leaves.

Very happy to be on schedule and with the engraving results. I love the smoothness of Spyderco Delica steel. Except for the occasional pin that hold them together it is sweet steel to cut.

One note that I must make mention of is that this is the first project I have done in awhile and my hands are feeling it tonight. Holding the chisel and tapping with a hammer for just 15 minutes can get tiring.

Stay tuned for more updates…


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Devil Doc themed Spyderco Delica

Starting on a new knife project today – Spyderco Delica hand engraved.

This knife project actually has it’s beginning about 26 years ago! Andy and I were both assigned to FOXTROT Surgical Support Company, 1st Med Bn, 1st MEF during Desert Shield/Storm and through the magic of FaceBook have found each other. Now we are designing a knife with Andy’s company logo and my western scroll.

Devil Doc Distributors logo is a combination of the Marine Corps Devil Dog and a Navy Hospital Corpsman. When I first saw the logo I thought how cool to add the Navy White hat to the USMC mascot Devil Dog. I received the HD version of the logo and was still thinking that this would be easy to cut.

As with every project it started getting harder when I scaled the logo down to fit into the space planned on the Delica. Pretty small looking now. My MEIJI microscope was going to get a workout on this project!

Yesterday I prepared a practice plate of soft steel and transferred the logo onto the steel. When I looked into the scope I was disappointed to see that the logo was just a series of dots and not smooth black lines, even at low power. So I had to scribe the design onto the steel by hand. Since this is a practice session I am timing myself to see how long it takes to cut the entire Devil Doc logo. Seven minutes to scribe all the lines and 70 minutes to cut and shade. About double what I had estimated it to be.

Devil Doc, through the scope.

Here’s a first look at the practice plate. The plate has not been polished to a fine smooth finish so it looks a little rough. What I found in the practice session is that my drawing has to be a little more detailed and complete. I forgot the line to finish off the pick head!

The shading that I did does not show very well in this photo. But when held in your hand it shades the engraving very well. I’ll have to deepen some of the shading for a dark black nose on the dog  and the wrench too.

This will be cut primarily with a 90 degree graver using hammer and chisel. I’ll switch to my GRS GraverMach for the background stippling as it makes quick work on backgrounding.

Follow along it’s going to take a few engraving sessions to complete this project…

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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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