These are an assortment of hammer driven engraving chisels I made. David Weaver was inquiring about how I chiseled out letter stamps' interior spaces.
I developed a way of (incorrectly on purpose) hardening HSS steel,which I had bought a few annealed bars 1/4" square from Latrobe steel Co. years ago.
I had somehow reasoned out that I could make them tougher by heating and forging them at only a blood red heat. Can't recall my reasoning,but it worked. At white heat,like European blacksmiths had done always,the carbides liquify. The steel is soft,and easily hammered. But,when the steel cools down,the carbides cool off and make large crystals. These make the metal pretty brittle,though hard.
By forging at low heat,I crushed the non melted carbides into tiny crystals,resulting in much tougher HSS. No need to temper it,it wasn't heated to its full hardness. These chisels are still as hard as fully hardened and drawn HSS,because they weren't drawn.
At the gunsmith shop I gave them a few. One of the guys was cutting up the tang of a file while I watched. He approached the fully hardened area,and started to stop. I told him to go ahead. He got over 1/8" into the hardened area before the point broke off the chisel!!!
They were duly impressed.
I got into making chiseled,low relief carving on 17th. C. style flintlock pistols years ago. These type arms were only for the most wealthy patrons. The finest of these type gunmakers were housed in the Louvre in Paris by the King. The zenith of this kind of work was about 1680.
Specialists who did nothing else in the gun houses did this chisel work. Actually,about 20 specialists made one gun,the labor was so divided into specialties. Quality was maintained at a very high level because if you do only one thing,you get better and more efficient at it.
Carving metal can seem impossible when you start,because each chisel cut makes a tiny,polished reflecting mirror. You are very soon dazzled by all these little mirrors. I found the way to do it was to keep smearing gun blue on the figures as I went. Otherwise you cannot tell what you are doing.
I'll probably never finish this horse pistol barrel. A horse pistol was a long barreled pistol carried in pairs in fancy,frequently velvet holsters at the front of the saddle. With their 16" barrels,about 65 caliber,they packed a deadly punch,and could be used as clubs in a pinch,I suppose.
I wanted to finish this barrel up and fire gild it. They dissolved pure gold in mercury. Next,they cleaned the part with nitric acid,then spread the liquid amalgam onto the surface of the part. the dangerous part was that they heated the part up in a fire until the mercury evaporated,leaving an incredibly rich,much thicker than electro plated surface. The rich,deep color of the gold was incomparable with any modern way of doing it,plus considerably thicker.
I was going to get an interested chemistry professor at William and Mary College to assist this process,using a well suctioned chemical hood. I knew perfectly well that this was a VERY dangerous process,causing early deaths,nerve damage,and other problems to the artisans who did it. They did it because they got more money than usual for doing it,and life was very hard. they didn't mind dieing young. Several trades were like that.
The professor was enthusiastic at first,but began to worry where the mercury would be exhausted to,and backed out. I decided it was to dangerous to try without the right equipment,and dropped the project.
The Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland was mad because they used mercury in processing felt for hats. Most old fairy tales are rooted around contemporary facts.
This barrel was made from an incredibly tough piece of propeller shafting. I mean,it was tougher to cut than stainless steel. At that time I was using chisels made from old triangular files,and had to sharpen them after just a few cuts.
I made a "D" bit,and bored the barrel in the lathe. The hole came out only .002" off center at the far end. Then,I took it to the gunsmith shop,and reamed it with their wooden reaming machine with hand made square reamers packed with paper shims for each pass. I must say,the bore was VERY nice,like a mirror.
It was a smooth bore type gun,and left that way. Military guns were usually smooth bores because they could be loaded more quickly in battle,and the range was short.
After shaping the barrel to the proper tapered shape,I began the carving. Each figure took about a month to cut.
Work like this all the time is why my neck had to be fused later on. I can look down,but a lot of looking down is very hard on your spine. I was always doing something small,looking down. Still am,but I'm always in pain,every single day.
THE FIGURES HAVE TO MEAN SOMETHING. This was one of the hardest parts of making a proper reproduction. I would spend 6 months researching whatever I was wanting to do,to make sure the styles and ornamentations were proper. You just cannot pile on a bunch of meaningless glop. That would make the piece contrived,inauthentic to the mindset of the time and GAUDY. There is a member here who does not seem to be able to grasp that thought. I haven't seen him here for weeks because he is laying low after his last outburst. Classical themes were most common in the 17th.C.. The center figure is a brutal Roman guard. He looks at a defiant man in chains(you can see the links). This man represents the Roman conquest of Europe. Always defiant,ready to find a way to strike back. Especially the Germans.(They are quite a hard headed bunch,aren't they?) Do you know that the Huns really means the Hungarians?
The figure on his right represents the Roman conquest of (part of) Africa. The man accepts his fate. I hope this is not offensive to anyone. It is historical fact,and the work had to be accurate to the mindset of the times,not to our modern times.
The guard himself represents Rome. Above him,I would have carved trophies of clusters of captured arms behind a shield. In the grooves on either side would have been tracery of delicate vines,acanthus leaves,and flowers.
What you must realize is that without being able to carry the job to its proper conclusion,the fire gilding,the work would not have been authentic. And if it's not authentic,it's bovine excrement. Therefore,I probably won't finish this without the gilding.
You will see that Africa is unfinished. Also,near him,you can make out the tracery I drew in the groove,which would have been engraved in,but not raised.
The small rifflers I made later were to assist in smoothing out these types of chiseling work. At the time I had some commercial ones,but not what I really needed. Later,when I got the rifflers done,my mind and other obligations had moved on. I have another genuine wrought iron barrel in the works,too. It isn't done enough to show,though.
The Roman guard is a little over an inch tall.
I had a picture of a drawer full of the die sinker's chisels,but somehow I can't get it into my folder to post it from. The representative few tell the story,though.The chisel on the far right has a diamond shaped point,and is the most common. Just a small square chisel with the end ground across diagonals to make a playing card type diamond.