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Old 03-10-2008, 11:06 AM
jdumars jdumars is offline
Join Date: Mar 2008
Posts: 7
Default Horror stories :)

I'm not sure if this sort of thread has been started before or not, but I figured it'd be fun to have a "dirty laundry" discussion of sorts... worst mistakes, newbie lessons, etc. So, don't hold back!

To kick things off right, I'll share a few.

When I was first starting to engrave for other people, a very wealthy and well-known saxophone collector in Holland decided he wanted me to engrave a bunch of his rare, original Selmer Mark VI (basically the Stradivarius of saxophones) instruments. He also wanted to learn to engrave himself. In lieu of sending himself and his horns over here, he decided to fly me and my wife to Holland for a few weeks. How could I resist? Unfortunately, I was still a little, well, a lot green. I am sure you can see the iceberg ahead...

So, we get to Holland, and my patron is VERY excited about me being there, and also VERY insistent and pushy about everything. We go upstairs, exhausted, put our stuff down and he immediately decides now would be a great time to start engraving. I kid you not! I was jet lagged, exhausted and in a terrible mood. But, after pestering me almost ceaselessly, I agreed to do some work.

We go down to his basement shop which is lined up with dozens of the most gorgeous specimens imaginable. He reaches into a glass case and hands me a silver plated, mint condition horn, and says "alright! go!" Well, being the enthusiast he is, he is leering over me. There's no work bench. My gravers are not properly sharpened. He's staring at me. I look up at him pitifully. He smiles at me. "Go!"

I sink the #40 flat graver tip into the horn and start to wiggle it forward. Suddenly the tip gives and it skids gloriously across the horn like a drunken ice skater. In slow motion, I hear him gasp behind me and my blood turns to ice water. I curse. His eyes get as big as saucers and he sputters "WHAT HAVE YOU DONE???" This moment was crucial. Would I be kicked out and living on the mean streets of Amsterdam? I grabbed my composure and took a chance. "Look, this sort of thing happens. I haven't had enough sleep. I'm jetlagged. I need to take time to sharpen my gravers. I can fix it!" He was silent for a moment and then stepped back from me. After what seemed like an eternity of silence, he said "Ok. Do what you have to do and we'll get going later."

After a long nap (it was the middle of the day), I went down to the basement again to examine my mistake. It was bad. Really bad. My patron came down and silently watched. I think he had learned his lesson about being pushy. I spent a good while sharpening my graver and testing it on some copper. Finally, it was rock solid. I grabbed the sax and started building a design around the scratch. In no time, it was looking pretty good. He smiled approvingly, and I explained what I was doing each step of the way. When it was done, he felt good. Well... too good.

The next evening, after watching me engrave all day, and me showing him the most basic steps, he decided he wanted to give it a try himself. I was upstairs asleep unaware of what was happening down in the dungeon, er, basement. He had chosen to test engrave a junker horn that had been work hardened, instead of something easier to cut. Well, about 10 minutes into the learning process, he slipped and ran the graver through a vein on his left hand. He was gushing blood all over everything, but managed to get the wound under control. The next morning, I noticed the bandage and asked what happened. He sheepishly told me of his foray into self-guided learning, which I happily rebuked him for. By now, he was getting pretty smart about all of this, and I had a good student on my hands.

In the end, I engraved about 7 horns in a week which was a record for me. Looking back, I am pretty embarrassed by the work I did. It was definitely newbie territory. And, sadly my patron decided to try his hand on some really nice original saxes and essentially ruined them. I sure did learn a lot from that, but I'm not sure it was worth the blood, sweat and tears.

So... bring on the stories! Help me feel less like an idiot!
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Old 03-10-2008, 03:51 PM
jimzim75's Avatar
jimzim75 jimzim75 is offline
Join Date: Aug 2007
Location: Zurich, Ontario, Canada
Posts: 186
Default Re: Horror stories :)

This all sounds to familiar. Jeweler mind you, not engraving was where I
got my experience from. I no longer ever allow customers to hang over me
like vultures. It may seem innocent, but don't be fooled. They can turn into
ax murders very quickly.

You may think your good at multi tasking until the buff catches the piece and
turns it into golden confetti. I learned this the hard way. I would suggest
everyone with only a couple of years under their belt, avoid doing this at
all cost. You are guaranteed to regret it.


Jim Zimmermn ~-~-~-~-~-~-~-~Alpine Custom Jewellers & Repair
Hand Engraving Canada ~-~-~-www.handengravingcanada.com
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