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June 13, 2006

On the bench, this week

I make a living, well at least part of my living engraving Silver and Gold. Most of what I do is clothed in the fabric of the old west, silver conchos, silver bits and spurs would be the bulk. But on occassion we do some very unusual stuff. Maybe one of the things that makes what I do a little different, may come from the items that bring me inspiration in the first place. Can I ask you a question, have you looked at anything other than cowboy work as a source of inspiration to whip up new ideas. I am going to go out on a limb so too speak, and tell you that if you engrave for a living. You need to take a trip to Europe, yup, its a simple as that. The stuff you can find in Museums and Cathedrals over there is amazing.
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Title: Engraved wood plane
Photo by Jeremiah
Here is a project that has gone on for awhile since it has no real deadline for delivery, just do it is all that the order says. The piece I am working on is a small steel wood plane, we have completely resurfaced the stell walls and sole or bottom of the plane. After that the items was brought to a matte finish on a beartex type belt. The engraving is a releved background type. That means that the pattern is out lined, then the areas that are background to the pattern are cut out and removed. Each back ground area is then given a small tight stipple or dot finish. What you see above is an over view of a nearly completed side.
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Title: Close up of detail engraving
Photo by: Jeremiah
We are in a little closer now, and can see the detail work being done with a small square graver. I am cutting fine lines that will be some added shading on the flower that lays along the lower edge of this flower and scroll pattern. The entire plane will be done, all sides and ends covered with a relieved floral pattern.
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Title: Outlining my pattern in steel
Photo by: Jeremiah
The view above gives you a little better view of how the piece would start. I of course draw my pattern on the panel or side. Then I cut around all the pattern with my square gravers. Once that is done we can go in with an assortment of different gravers and cut out the areas that are background to the floral work. This is the most tedoius part of the process for me, maybe some other folks will have less trouble at it than I do, but engraving in steel is not my normal everyday routine. I will do my best to show you a shot of this items once we have in completeted.
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Title: Engraving a Santa Barbara Cheek
Photo by: Jeremiah
We have a nice Santa Barbara cheek here, most likley the most popular style of cheek in California. This one is done in silver overlaid sections that have been hard soldered in place, but we have also snuck in a little engraved steel with lightly relieved background. When this is done we will give it a Highland Grey finish that was once used by armourers of old Europe. We found the recipe for this grey finish while traveling in Europe, this an others like it used for etching etc, can't wait to try my recipe for Gold Fire Gilding. Anyways, this bit will be placed on the internet when I have it done and then we will worry about finding a home for it. I have been working on several new mouth pieces and will most likely use one of these new 1/2 Spades. A half spade you say........what the heck is that???????? Some sort of cowboy transmission bit????????
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Title: Jeremiah using a make shift chasing hammer
Photo by: Jeremiah
For all of you out there that know me, I am not a steel engraver...........I am fascinated by it , and love to look at it........but I am not one. I seldom do any chase engraving, my daily routine is mostly in softer metals like the silver and gold mentioned. We had occassion while traveling in Germany to visit the Merkl Gunwerks, and those folks gave us a spectacular tour of there factory. In one very well lit room, there were at least 30 engravers working away on all sorts of gun parts. All of these men and women were working away with great speed and preceision using chasing hammers, I was amazed and made a promise to come home and try to make better use of that method of work. No matter what method I try, I cannot seem to get rid of that darned ear phone. For guys like me whom like to live as far from town as possible it is sort of our life blood, so it has to stay.
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Title: JW engraving some silver for Tapaderos
Photo by: Jeremiah
We have very cool customers, really. We have the ones that just want a nice using rig and all that is needed to just go and cowboy in. And then we have the ones that want that sort of rig but as fancy as we can make it. This is one of those saddlews, that I will make a blog about a liitle further on down the trail. But for now, this week , it has me cutting a lot of quite nice silver that will be antiqued and then applied to a pair of full floral carved 26 inch tap's.
So you see, making a living as a cowboy engravver take on quite a few different looks. We are almost done with a fancy wood plane, then onto about 3 silver mounted items like bits and spurs, and close the week out with a heck of a lot of silver for a pair of taps.
I hope you have enjoyed an over the shoulder tour of my engraving bench. I promise we will do this a little more often as I get used to all this typing..........may have to go see my "fizzy-o-thereapist" tomorrow, got me a bad case of the car-pull tunnel.
Take care and live Blessed. Jeremiah

June 9, 2006

A fond memory

I am going thru a box of photos, slides actually, and as I go thru them I realize how fond my memories are of this area, this ranch and the good times we had while there. We are in Colorado here, just to the south of Grand Junction on what is known as the Colorado National Monument if you are ever traveling through that way. It is well worth a trip to drive the Monument loop, better yet take a little side trip to the Glade PArk Store and then head due west into the country that I remember so fondly.Thats where mom and I had a great cow camp for the winter, no electricity, spring water, wood stove and the quiet of a deep canyon to live in........
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Title: Cow Camp KItchen
Photo & retouching by: Jeremiah Watt

We lived for the winter in a deep side canyon that ran some 20 miles down to the Colorado River which lay to the north of our little cow camp. When we awoke in the morning looking north out the kitchen window we could watch the rising sun paint the Book Cliff range thier red and orange hue, deep and long shadows formed by canyon walls held the sun at bay up and down the TZ canyon. The rich greens of Juniper and buffalo grass had to wait to burst inot thier seasonal glory, hidden by the imposing 600 foot walls of our canyon.
Ours was a new camp, added the first year that we worked for this ranch enterprise, it at one time had a huge haying operation down on the banks of the fast flowing Colorado river. The canyon floor was sandy soil, light and did not hold water well. It was never a strong hay producer so the management decided to let the desert reclaim what was once her's, and the hay meadows gave way quickly to cactus and the seasonal grasses of this part of the Colorado desert.
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Title: TZ Canyon horses
Photo by: Jeremiah Watt
Our work through the winter involved buying new horses for the ranch, riding the new mounts and working on corrals. The horses are turned out in TZ for the winter, where they can rest and get ready for another long season in the desert. We rode nearly 20 new horses that winter, some where great and others were burro's as far as I was concerned, each had to make his way into somebodies string of horses come spring and we had to know what they were all about. So we rode some each,, headed into the canyon with them, watched Mule deer and Elk while we rode. There was a huge set of corrals built up at the headquarters that winter, and Colleen actually spent more time up there than I did. When I wasn't riding, I build saddles and bits. I had a tiny shop in a seperate building, with a much needed wood stove, and a coal oil lamp. My little shop sat in the shade of the canyon wall to my east, so it stayed cool for quite awhile. I used coal oil lamps for light, and I can't say that I am attached to working by lamps, that part of the romance is gone for sure.
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Title: Feeding in TZ
Photo by: Jeremiah Watt
This part of Colorado had sheep men roaming through here years before we had arrived there, the remains of there time were still visible. Up higher on the mountains we would search over the trunks of the Aspen for the oldest date carved into it's bark by a wandering sheperd, later that carving turned into a black scar, an epitaph of someones coming and going. The oldest we found was 1903. Down here closer to the river where our camp was, there are no Aspen, what we had to show for the sheperds passing where old buildings, shacks where winters were spent, and fences to hold livestock.
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Title: Rustic Fences
Photo & retouch by: Jeremiah Watt
Yes, this dusty box of pictures eminds me of some great times, and what beautiful places I have had a chance to live in. I can remember riding, and being miles from that wandering silvery line that we knew was I-70, and we could see tiny silverspecks of cars passing by.........we just knew that most folks ould be complaining about the darned heat, or no Mall etc..........and all the while they were driving right past one of the most magnificent canyon land sights in USA!


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