Thread: thoughts
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Old 03-15-2008, 02:50 PM
Tom McArdle's Avatar
Tom McArdle Tom McArdle is offline
Join Date: Apr 2006
Location: Western NY USA
Posts: 1,037
Default Re: thoughts

Well, I'm gonna go contrarian here...

First of all, keep in mind those plates are illustrations, not photographs. Those engravings were done on flat plates, and then prints were taken from them. The fine banknote engraving is very impressive, but the photos of actual guns I have seen are not quite as exquisite. Now, I have not seen the guns in person, so I could be wrong.

Monte Mandarino has done some high relief work. other than the background not being fully bright in the examples I have seen, it is every bit as good quality wise, if not in the quantity of decoration, as was done in the periods you have mentioned.

The relief work I have seen photos of by Alain Lovenberg are stunning. other than the background not being polished bright, which i believe, at that point, is a matter of time and patience, (and hence, the customers wallet!) , not skill. If you add the fact that his scenery(bulino) exceeds what i have seen from earlier centuries in quality, and that his gold work is impeccable, I would rate his work as good as or even as superior to ages past, so far as I have seen it. There are others too.

Looking again at Monte Mandarino's work again, you could contend that the artistic quality of his design is superior to many of the older days, and that his execution does not fall short.

In fact, looking at "decorated Firearms", very few of the examples there are perfectly beautiful to my eyes. many have design flaws, but tastes may change too. I am a brutal critic of design, especially of my own!

Check out the sculpting of the Brown brothers too. There is an example in "Steel Canvass".

In my opinion, the top engravers of our day would be welcome in the circles of the best engravers that history has ever recorded works for us to examine.

I also wonder how much of the background polishing was done by specialists? Those ornate guns often had very many hands involved in their creation. If you took the best stone setters, gold smiths, engravers, carvers, polishers, stockmakers, and gunsmiths of today, and gave them the patronage that such conglomerations of artists had in the past, i think you would get superior results today.

perhaps the biggest factor is that decorated firearms, although in demand today, are perhaps not the choice of as much of the royalty as they once were. Also, maybe the revival of this particular style awaits someone to actually do it to the ultimate degree?

A great discussion, but again, many of the best engravers we have ever known about, in my opinion, are living today. To address your other point, does the airgraver help in quality, and or speed? I would say yes to both, in the right hands.

I have had the opportunity where I work to see some superb engraving as the guns come in for coloring or bluing, and I sometimes take them back to my scope. Anything that can be done with the airgraver can be done with traditional tools, but the airgraver does allow some advantages in control, and efficiency. However, there are times when the hammer can hog things out faster, but that may be just my own comfort level. That is part of the problem in evaluating this question. It is impossible for the same person to start from the beginning on both systems!

Hopefully, this will stir the pot some more. Sometimes, i think we over romanticize the past. We should respect it, and learn from it, bot not act as if their achievements are beyond us.

When i first started teaching high school drummers, after my own graduation, there were many prejudices about what was appropriate music for a high school drumline. i refused to accept those limits, and did not try to impress or intimidate my students with all the talk of what they would not be able to do. Instead, i found their own strengths, scored the music accordingly, and just taught it to them. After they learned it, I then told them how hard it was, and how well they achieved things that many others were afraid to try.

Many years later, the standards are much higher, and the accepted norms have risen in that activity, and by no means do i claim to be responsible for that growth. I merely want to illustrate how important it is to not believe all the propaganda. I was pretty well convinced that back in those days, we were overly criticized and more strictly judged than others, because we were trying harder stuff, poking our heads up above the trench line, so to speak. I came to believe that, at some subconscious level, perhaps, the judges (many of them band directors themselves)y did not want to reward that effort, or else they would be eventually forced to match it!

pay due homage to the great ones of yesterday, and today, but don't believe that what they do is impossible for you. The only limits we have are normally the ones we put on ourselves, or accept from others.

I promise to stop accepting them! How about you?

take care,

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