Firefighter belt buckle

Heirloom firefighter buckle.

Heirloom firefighter buckle.

Spent the past few days hand engraving this brass belt buckle. Aaron is finishing his probation year and getting a nice buckle as a gift from a mentor.

Matt did the design and I loved that. He has a great eye for design and style, made it really easy for me.

However, the cast brass was miserable to cut. I was very surprised at how the metal was so very different to cut. Some areas were very soft and then quickly turned into glass hard. Made for a very challenging engraving.

I used a #52 round graver for the top script. Wanted it to be bolder than the rest of the lettering. The belt keeper and the post seem to always be in the way when I needed to turn but I was able to make all the cuts by starting each from the bottom and cutting upward.

The Maltese cross and dates were cut with a #50 round graver for a more delicate look. It was in the cross area that I found the softest areas. Graver wanted to plunge deep for part of a letter then slipped right off the brass for the next letter. A bit maddening at times.

I engraved the quote with a 90 degree square graver, 50 degree face. I wanted the quote to look different than the rest of the lettering and this looks perfect to me. Also the font selected for this lettering really lent itself to the square graver.

The grind marks on the back of this buckle are manufacture marks and not mine. I polished out a few marks to make the engraving area as free from marks as possible. None of the remaining grinding marks were in my way, so I just polished the entire area.

Total engraving time about three hours. I’d wanted to add some scrolls to frame the lettering but must stay within the budget. Maybe Aaron will want to add some more decoration later…

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Silver and Gold Pendant for “Sweet 16”

Keith Lewis Studio pendant to be engraved for "Sweet 16"

Keith Lewis Studio pendant to be engraved for “Sweet 16”

A new lettering project today. This will be a gift from Grandmother to Grand daughter on her “Sweet 16th” birthday. And garnet is her birthstone!

This is a Keith Lewis Studio pendant, purchased here in Durango at the Karyn Gabaldon gallery. Very delicate and the silver is beautiful but thin. So it will be a challenge to engrave the back. I love a challenge!

I plan to hold it in GRS thermolock to give a firm hold and to reinforce the silver while cutting.

When I get the lettering all laid out I’ll add another photo. I will definitely do a practice piece on same gauge silver as the original. I want to get my hands warmed up with the practice piece before I start on the expensive piece.

Tiny script lettering will require a nice sharp graver that I will grind very small. Smaller than what I used on the antique camera plaques (see past posts).

And as Judy suggested, “No coffee in the morning before engraving”.

Maybe just one cup so my eyes are at least open!

Keep following to see how this turns out!


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Ruger rifle engraved.

Ruger American model rifle receiver hand engraved.

A rush job for a customer. Called me yesterday and needed it done today! Good news is I could squeeze it in between other big projects.

Tumbleweed is the nickname and I cut it with a 120 degree C-Max graver for a flashy cut. I love how nice and smooth this Ruger rifle steel cuts. Not at all like the Ruger Vaquero pistols.

Nickname on a Ruger rifle.

Nickname on a Ruger rifle.

Timbleweed on a Ruger American model.

Timbleweed on a Ruger American model.


The receiver steel engraving was like cutting firm butter. Sweet!






Here’s a good view of the placement on the receiver. Nice flat spot to engrave. The scope mounts were in the way but easy enough to work around.

120 degree C-Max graver made short work of this engraving. Just about an hour from start of design to finished engraving.

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U.S. Army Sword engraved by hammer and chisel

I swear this the last sword I will ever engrave! Very hard steel and not a flat surface so it is a very challenging project.

This is my son’s sword. Captain Jesse J. Coyne, USA. Thankfully there was not enough room on the sword for his rank. The name alone was tough enough.

Name, layer out on sword

Name, layer out on sword

Just holding the 35 inch sword was a challenge but eventually I found that the vise pins would do the job.

Finished lettering.

Finished lettering.

Not my best photo but I hope you can see the surface has a curve to it.

In the second photo the lettering is finished and buffed.

I used a Celtic font.

Technically a very tough project. I lost count of how many gravers I broke. I started with the GRS new graver called   C-Max. I figured that would be harder than the sword blade. WRONG.

I could get perhaps a 16th of an inch before the tip was too dull or broken. The straight sections of the letters were the easy parts, except for the wave in the metal. Cutting angle constantly changed as I cut across the wave in the blade. Very difficult.

I used a 90 degree graver with a 50 degree face. I’d guess about five gravers per letter, except for the “o”. That was more like 15 gravers due to the curve of the “o”.

Glad it is finished. Looks great and I’m so proud that I was able to engrave Jesse’s sword.


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Engraved Henry Rifle complete.

Ranch brand engraved on Henry Yellowboy rifle.

It took a few days for the right side of the receiver design to gel in my mind. I spent a day looking at old yellowboys and winchesters for inspiration. I woke up this morning with a design in my head.

Came up to the workshop and roughed it out before I lost it. While reviewing R.L. Wilson’s Winchester book I saw that a lot of saddle rifles had oval designs with script inside. Most of them were scroll or classic borders. That would not work for this rifle as it would exceed the clients budget. So I came up with a design that is similar to the border cut on the left side of the receiver but around an oval.

Lazy J brand on Henry rifle

Lazy J brand on Henry rifle

I placed the brand where I wanted it and encircled it with an oval, added the scalloped edge and finally a three bright cuts to add a bit of flash. I also think it looks a bit like barbed wire, which the client had asked about when we first met.

All cut with a 105 degree graver. I outlined the J’s with a #50 round graver then textured the center for a dark letter on a bright background.


Finished engraving on Henry rifle

Finished engraving on Henry rifle


Here’s a look at the rifle, still mounted on the vise with GRS Thermolock. I’ve used this block of thermolock on three different Henry’s so far.

I cover the receiver with painter’s tape before I press it into the heated thermolock. Makes clean up a snap and protects the wood from overheating and harming the finish.

I like it! Not too much embellishment for a saddle gun but enough that the grandson will know it was engraved for him as a heirloom.

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Henry Rifle custom engraved ~ Update 2

Left side of Henry rifle receiver engraving complete.

Brand and Initials engraved.

Brand and Initials engraved.

I engraved the ranch brand with a #59 round graver. The Lazy J just looked the best cut with the round graver. I wanted it to have a bold look so this is three passes with the #59 graver.

The initials were cut with a 105 degree graver and this spot on the receiver had very sooth cutting brass while everywhere else was chatter cutting.

Hammer and chisel cut custom engraving on Henry rifle.

Hammer and chisel cut custom engraving on Henry rifle.

In the second photo you can see a bit more of the rifle and that helps with the scale of the engraving.

Now on to the other side and another Lazy J engraving.

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Henry Rifle engraving ~ Update

Border engraved on the Henry Rifle.

Initials and ranch brand.

Initials and ranch brand.

I finished the border and boy was this brass difficult to cut. I’ve engraved other Henry’s but they were all brand new, never fired rifles. I wonder if firing this 30/30 cal rifle has hardened the brass?

Anyway I had to really Tap the graver pretty hard to make a nice deep cut and the brass was anything but smooth cutting. Still it came out great.

This is a “Heritage” rifle, designed to note more than one generation.  I have the Grandfather’s initials MAC and the Grandson’s initials CAM laid out with the ranch brand located in the center of the receiver.

The initials will be cut with a 120 degree graver for a nice flashy look. The three J’s in the Brand are hard to figure out. I could use a 90 degree graver and do them as an outline. Or I could use the 105 degree, same as the border and do a flare cut on each letter.

Time to bring out the practice plate and try each style to see what I like best.

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Henry Yellowboy ~ Custom engraving

Starting a new project today. A 30/30 Cal Win. Henry rifle.

Starting with a simple border around this side of the receiver and then the Grandfather’s initials followed by the Grandson’s initials. Finally the engraved ranch brand in the center.

The BigBoy Henry’s have a solid brass receiver and are easy to engrave. The .22 cal Henry rifles are only brass plated and can not be engraved. This 30/30 cal. is a saddle gun and will be used for hunting. The engraving will not be too fancy for this working gun.

Henry 30/30 cal rifle ready for engraving.

Henry 30/30 cal rifle ready for engraving.

Here’s a photo of the rifle mounted on my engraving stand, taped up to protect the area I am not working on. We decided to not disassemble the rifle to save time and $$$.

I’ll be starting with a simple border.

a nice simple border for this hunting rifle.

a nice simple border for this hunting rifle.

I have not drawn in all the small detail cuts. I just free hand cut them as I go. No need to draw them.


I cut a small practice plate of this border design and tried out two different gravers. First I used a 90 degree square graver with a 50 degree face and cut the accent lines with the same graver.

Next I cut the main line with a 120 degree graver, 50 degree face. This gave a nice flare to the cut. I then tried the 120 degree for the accent cuts but did not like it. So I switched to a 105 degree graver and that is a perfect look for the accent cuts. I like the 120 degree graver for the main line and the 105 degree graver for the accent cuts.

Now I just have to wait for the GRS Thermolock that is holding the rifle on the engraving block to cool and harden and I can start cutting.

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Hand Engraved Ruger Vaquero ~ Update

Receiver engraving just about complete.

Since this is not a rush project, I took a few days off to do a job that had a short deadline (camera plaques), and now I’m back working on this Cowboy Action Shooter.

Vaquero receiver engraving.

Vaquero receiver engraving.

I have just a little more background work to do and the receiver will be complete. I still have the trigger guard and that plain spot on the pistol grip that you see in the photo.

Those two parts should go pretty quickly and then it is onto the backstrap.

I know I’m putting “QUEZ” down the center of the grip backstrap but I have not finalized the entire design. I will continue this scroll design onto the backstrap for continuity but the exact layout is only in my head at this point.

Cutting the last main lines of the scroll with Hammer & Chisel.

Cutting the last main lines of the scroll with Hammer & Chisel.

The majority of the firearm has been cut with hammer and chisel. I use the microscope for a very detailed view while I am working. For this firearm I have used GRS C-Max gravers exclusively. A 90 degree square graver for all the mainlines and also for the shading lines.

For all the background stippling I have used a GRS Magnum hand piece. It would take way to long to do all this background texturing with the H&C so I switch to the hand piece.

After those small lettering plaques I am really enjoying the Ruger stainless steel. Just something about making a hit with a hammer and seeing chips fly that is very satisfying!

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Lettering for antique camera

Hand engraved two plaques for antique French camera.

Two guys are making a movie in Durango about the first movie camera. I was asked to reproduce the plaques that are mounted on the original camera built in 1896.

I was sent two photo’s of the camera with the plaques and asked if I could fabricate and engrave the two small plaques. Sounded like fun so I said sure I can do that.

I did not actually count the letters until after I said I could do it but when I did count them there are 89 letters in four different fonts and styles. To make it a bit harder it is all in French.

First task was to try to duplicate the fonts on the original camera. Working from the photo I was able to get an exact match except for the “J”. I had to hand draw the “J”.

Hand engraved plaques in front of actual 1896 movie camera.

Hand engraved plaques in front of actual 1896 movie camera.

There are two original movie cameras. One has a brass plaque the other has a black faced plaque on white metal.

The Durango Jewelry Works was very helpful in providing both plaque blanks, cut to correct size and a few small pieces to practice on.

The brass would be no problem, but the plastic coated black plaque had me concerned about how it would cut.

I estimated it would take about 1.5 hours to do each plaque. It actually took 5 hours to do each plaque. This is very small lettering and in script for most of it. It was very tedious to cut the small letters. Add in the tension of a short deadline and if I made a mistake I’d have to start all over again because there would be no way to buff out a mistake on the black plastic covering.

I used a 90 degree square graver and a #50 round and a #52 round graver for the lettering.

Both plaques cut very smoothly and after engraving a sword and a stainless steel Ruger I’m glad I had some practice metal to warm up on. The brass cut just like I expected it too. The black was so soft that I had to use an extremely light touch for every cut. That really chewed up the timeline.

The plaques are getting picked up today and I’m glad I’m done with all that lettering. Now back to hard steel firearms!

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