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hand engraving jewelry, gun engraving, hand engraver, artist, gravers, jewelers, engraving, master engraver
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               Bulino engraving
       Bulino means "graver" in Italian. It refers to a specific technique of arranging lines and/or dots in a specific order for creating "photo-realism"  on metal. Period. In America anyone that cuts, stipples, punches, fine lines or dots for shading scenes or scrolls... seem to think they are doing Bulino engraving. This simply, is incorrect. While I have seen beautiful engraving being done using other techniques it is not Bulino engraving, and the trained eye can see the difference between the two. I'm not saying one is better then the other. I'm just pointing out that there is a difference in the way it is done and the way it looks. 
There are only a few people in the U.S. turning out top quality work using traditional Bulino techniques. Outside the U.S. there are quite a few engravers across Europe and England turning out top quality Bulino engraving. Choose wisely and look for a style that is attractive to you.

     There are generally 2 traditional types of bulino scene work. One is done with dots and the other is done using lines. The method I use to do scene work is a mix of lines and dots that I have studied extensively, domestically and abroad. I use a microscope for almost all my work, but very comfortable working through a loop.  When I traveled to Italy to study different engravers techniques, I was not learning engraving. I was learning how to create colors and textures in steel. Different shades of grays from very light to very black. In my opinion a combination of lines and dots is the best technique for accomplishing photo realism.



Resolution is extremely important. In the length of time I have been doing bulino I have examined many good examples and many poor examples. Washed out bulino that seems to disappear in certain lights is a poor example, and a disservice to the customer. I do not put paint in my work because it simply does not need it. My scenes are as dark and bold in person as they are in any photo that I post. It can be tilted, rotated, flexed and seen from most angles.

     In the following I am going to talk a bit about the Bulino process:


 I use almost exclusively all lines  for birds and furred animals it seems to give a more natural effect. I prep the surface with a fine sanding of 600-800grit paper works or bead blasting is great. This is done pre-engraving. Bulino dots should not be sanded. If you are cutting lines then it is OK to sand. After I cut all the lines of fur, hair, outlines, ect... I would sand back lightly, and then dot the snout,eyes and anything that has short hair or no hair (mouth, tongue, teeth, ect..)


It takes around 12-15hrs to do a fully detailed bird in flight.

Cutting lines: You have to try to make the thinnest, finest lines possible, parallel to each other and the spacing between determines how dark your area will be and if a darker effect is desired than a cross at 15 degrees will be necessary. A series of cross-hatches are cut and never at a 45 degree angle, always much less of an angle(like 15). The finest technique is done with all curved lines and crossed with curved lines. Although this is quite difficult and careful planning must be made to avoid heel drag and other such problems. "Order" of cuts and "direction" is crucial. Layering parallel lines creates depth. Every layer of crosses lowers the area literally. If you cut a line with a 120 graver and cut a line next to it with the 80 degree, so it is the same width, the depth of the 80 will be much deeper than the 120 because it is so narrow. So in reality these cuts are not scratches on the surface they are very deep for their width. And that is where the darkness without paint comes in.

Side View of a line tool

Fur: Dark fur is cut one hair at a time. If you are working from a photo look at the direction the hair is growing and start from the tip of the hair and cut to the root making it deep at the base of the hair. row after row of this makes up most of a furred animal. For light fur it is required to actually cut the outline of each hair. Although this can be very time consuming it gives the best effect of layered fur.    


                                                                      A small, fully detailed, bust shot can take 20-50hrs





Dots: If you want an in depth study with the use of dots,pointillism drawing is the best subject to study. Very small dots concentrated in an area to create color. The closer together and more dense will create dark.

The further spread out and uniform the lighter the "gray" you will get. If you are dotting an object that is suppose to look round. You will want to dot the edges more densely and as you work to the center spreading them out. This will give the illusion of roundness. If you notice in the pic the darkest areas are dotted so densely that no shiny steel can show through. Also the lightest areas for example whiskers or gleams are not touched. All engraving was done around the perimeter leaving them white.




The depth and pressure question... is the hardest question to answer but I'll try my best. All dots are the same size and it is a pecking motion, very lightly. There is some metal being removed when "pecking" that is stabbing and picking. Depth is an impossible one for me to answer but if I had to guess I would have to say .05- .001 of a millimeter deep and wide. I could not take a pic of a single dot.There is no rocking motion to pop the bur out just stab in and pick out. This takes a bit of practice to get down but you will catch on if you do it a bit.  You can't make dots too small. Most amateur examples I come across 99% of the time need twice as many dots and half the size. 


As far as using a graver for dots:  these cuts are so tiny and fine that there is no need for power. Dots in this style can't really effectively be done with power unless you stipple engrave and bulino is not stipple engraving. You are actually removing small amounts of metal by stabbing and picking. Where as stippling you are punching dots in the metal and raising small burrs. I find that you can't "easily" get a variation of colors when stippling.


Dot tool: very narrow square graver with no heel and polished (not stropped)
It is very important to use a triangle pointed tool as opposed to cone. This allows light to be absorbed and not reflected out. There is no pigment added to my work and contrast can be seen clearly at almost any angle.


Dots alone: If the tool is even slightly dull the image can sometimes virtually disappear when flexed in light. But on the other hand if done correctly using a razor sharp tool you can create bold, but at the same time very soft effects using dots. For instance skin (people) is best to be dotted instead of lined to make a softer textures and tones of gray.


Keep in mind that the exact shape of the dots means nothing, consistency does. If you make a row of dots and they are all different shapes and sizes you will be able to see this with the naked eye. If you cut a row of dots evenly, the same size and shape, it doesn't matter if they are triangle, square, kite, diamond, or whatever. 



 Detail: Keep in mind also that attention to detail is the most important of all. Every feather, marking, and proportion has to be examined and executed correctly. Good bulino can be broken down to a few main things. Creating "color" (White to black), attention to detail, proportions, and knowing you can't smudge like in drawing when shading and blending. It has to be with lines and/or dots similar to pen and ink..













Finally, background plays a huge factor. Leaves are on trees, some clouds and sky, grass. All the background components can easily take more time and labor then the animal itself.

                                   This gun had three panels with scenes that took about 2 1/2 weeks of full time work to complete


Many factors have to be considered to come up with price for bulino engraving. Size, animal type,background, and hardness of steel. All make it very tricky to accurately estimate hours and prices.



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