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An Engraver's Point of View
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Steven G. Adams, "Mr.Chips" ~ August 25, 2003

      Let me begin by saying that there are few people in this world whose life ambition is to become a professional engraver, or an amateur engraver for that matter. The type of engraving I am referring to is that of an artisan, a person with a desire to achieve works of art with their hands. To distinguish the difference between a craftsman and modern mechanized engraving - one requires years of practice and skill, the other, well let's just say it requires less skill with some practice. I do not intend to offend anyone operating a computer engraver, CNC engraver, or manual engraving machine, but my experience has shown me that anyone can learn this type of engraving. What child says,"When I grow up I want to be an engraver."? It's not exactly a profession that makes any list of a high school career or guidance counselor, nor is it something in which most colleges or universities would offer a major. Unless you are lucky enough to have been born into the family of an engraver, or have known an engraver personally, chances are you would know little about the trade.

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−by Bill (Jameson) Zach
      So how does one become an engraver? A few are destined to learn this trade by way of family, or long-running business relationships in the field. The rest of us just happen upon the trade, fall, stumble, or whatever and take a liking to it. Granted everyone has their own unique story. Perhaps somewhere along the line, we saw an engraver in action, or marveled at the results of some completed engraving whether in a book or an actual engraved item. Some fortunate few were chosen as apprentices because an engraver thought they were a good candidate for the trade. Some characteristic or artistic talent displayed may have helped them secure the trust and confidence of a willing mentor. Others may have just been persistent enough to convince someone to help them, or persevered on their own determination and self reliance.

      The point is, somewhere along the line a passion for engraving took place. In talking to other engravers, I have found many just happened to be at the right place at the right time. One never knows what one will find when looking for a job. It used to be that many engravers were close-mouthed. To protect their livelihood, many were not willing to share trade secrets, sharing information and technique with only those involved with them personally. This left a number of eager apprentices to learn on their own. In the scheme of things, it is not important how one becomes an engraver, but how one perpetuates their craft. The willingness to share, teach, and encourage fresh talent in this profession is essential to even the most experienced engraver. This attitude keeps the craft alive.

      The hobo nickel owes its beginnings to the most unlikely of artisans. The expression and creativity shown by the early carvers was a humble yet unique start to an art form we have grown to love. Were they engravers? You bet they were! The tools and conditions were crude, thus carving was a better term at the time. It was still engraving, no matter how crude. Even the better known early carvers advanced their skill and talent, by eventual use of better tools.

      Today we are no different - better tools are available, but it still takes patience and creativity to master the hobo nickel art form. I don't wish to debate old versus new. I merely suggest we look past our own opinions for one moment and look at the current status of nickel carving (or engraving) today.

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−by Clifford Kraft
      Hobos started the dawn of this art form, and one might say the likes of Bert and Bo were the golden era of the art form. It is my belief we are now in a rebirth, or renaissance of the art form. Perhaps after all of us are gone, the resurgence and perpetuation of carving by today's best artisans will be looked at as the golden era - only time will tell. Over the years, both amateur and professional engravers have taken this art form to heart. It is a wonderful meld of skills on all levels. Each amateur engraver has their own unique story as well. By means of perfecting their craft, they are contributing to the evolution of the art form.

      I know there are many kinds of engraving. Gun and knife, jewelry, dies for coins and medals, and hobo nickels are just a few kinds of engraving we are familiar with. Isn't it wonderful to see engravers from these backgrounds all participate in the hobo nickel craft? Since carving my first hobo nickel, I have had nothing but support and encouragement from carvers from many backgrounds and skill levels.

      I am actively introducing the craft of engraving, including hobo nickels, to others, and am happy to see that others are doing the same. It is a joy to see a fellow engraver or carver introduce new blood to the hobo nickel art form. There is no selfishness within this group, I can tell you. Information is there for the asking. The support from collectors and enthusiasts is equally important. There is a strong bond between the collectors and carvers. Although the carvers can do what they wish, through custom orders the collectors are influencing subject matter. Sales in several other markets influence carvings produced as well.

      The hobo nickel art form is experiencing a fascinating time in its history, with new carvers arriving on the scene from many backgrounds and skill levels. In looking at recent carvings, I find the amateur work totally fascinating. The creativity and steady improvement is at an all time high, with no signs of slowing down. The best work is yet to come, and it is truly exciting.

      Once you get hooked on the hobo nickel art form, it becomes a passion. Thanks to the efforts of the OHNS, collectors, carvers, enthusiasts, and friends, this craft stays strong. It is a privilege to be associated with all involved.

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