Finding the soul in steel
As I poke around various trade shows and events in the gun world, I like to find interesting people who tell a story. A special class of skilled craftsmen often catch my eye– master engravers. I profiled such a craftsman a couple of years ago– a hardworking artisan some 74-years young who started hand-building rifles back when Eisenhower was in office.
Recently I met a similar gentleman at SHOT Show.
Busy over his workspace, his brushy mustache flared, Springfield, Missouri’s Jim Downing was meticulous in his craft.
You see, back in the golden days of steel-and-wood firearms manufacturers, gun makers kept engravers on staff for regular work. Those days are long gone and the occasional scrollwork and filigree you see from the factory today usually come from a computer-controlled laser. Just upload the design and press a button and you get the same, exact, thing every time. In short, it is just a copy of a copy of a copy. The same technology allows you to go and get some personalized dog tags for your cocker spaniel at a machine by the check out registers of your local big box pet store for pocket change.
When asked about laser engraving, Downing said the newer practice “has no soul,” and, while it is push-of-a-button convenient, “doesn’t produce an item that has artistic value.”
More in my column at Guns.com.