Back in the early 1970’s at a CLA gamefair, I had just spent some time at the Famars stand gasping in awe at the frankly heart-achingly beautiful engraving on display there.
I moved on to a well known British gunmakers stand with racks and racks of workmanlike boxlocks on display.
At the front of the stand sat an ageing gentleman.
Before him in a vice mounted on an old upturned log was a gun in the process of being engraved. He wore a ‘strong’ pair of glasses as he wielded his humble set of engraving tools that looked for all the world like old four inch nails stuck into bottle cork handles.
He was deftly attacking the metal and tiny chips were flying everywhere as he flicked them out of the steel action.
He worked at what seemed to be amazing speed, scarcely pausing between each cut, as the pattern developed before my very eyes.
I looked more closely, and observed that the work was covered in small slips and skids.I enquired how he managed to get rid of these blemishes.
‘I don’t bother ‘, he replied, ‘When they have been coloured and varnished, you cannot see them anyway.’
‘What about when the colour wears off after lots of use and you can see the faults .’
‘I don’t care, I shall not be here by then, and neither will he ,’ he replied, glancing meaningfully sideways at the manager/salesman talking to a potential customer.
‘How long does it take you to do a whole gun ?
‘They allow me just three and a half hours per gun !’
What a shame I thought, remembering the Famars stand. If they allowed a little more time for decoration, the product would appear far superior and could command a higher price.
Many of these guns are still providing good and reliable service, as they were basically very good tools, but now 40 years later, the engraving is beginning to show more as the colour wears off………… !
In comparison, it could be argued that an older Westley Richards gun ages gracefully, and that the higher quality of engraving to some eyes even improves with wear.
An example of the old adage…’You only get what you pay for .’