The Internet Craftsmanship Museum Presents:

Steve Lindsay

Joe Martin Foundation "Metalworking Craftsman of the Year" award winner for 2014

Added to museum: 8/26/04

World-class expertise and technical innovation in a centuries old craft

Steve Lindsay is seen at his engraving bench with the microscope he uses to see the fine detail as he works.

Steve Lindsay, Engraving Artist from Kearney Nebraska

Steve Lindsay was born in 1958 in Holdrege Nebraska. His father, Frank, is an accomplished jeweler, gemologist and watchmaker who worked with pride on precision watches and created custom jewelry, with Steve often at his side, learning the skills of gold and metalworking. Steve's grandfather was a landscape painter, and his great-grandfather was also an engraver and jeweler. Thus, under his father's watchful eye, young Steve, beginning at age 12, quickly learned the art of engraving. His future was cut out for him when in 1975, he was given help by two friends of his father, Lynton McKenzie and James Meek (author of "The Art of Engraving"). It was at that point in his life that he decided custom engraving was his future. On the recommendation of James Meek he attended a tech college majoring in tool and die, mold making and mechanical engineering. After college Steve worked a short time in a tool room of a Nebraska manufacturing company. During off hours he made a lot of the tools that he still uses today for engraving. In 1981 when the tools were finished he began engraving for a full time career. During the past 23 years he has not only engraved for collectors and makers world wide of custom  knives, guns, watches and jewelry but for companies such as Oakley Sunglasses as well as production hand engraving and lettering for gold, silver and platinum instrument companies in New England.  In later years he engraved in collaboration with engraver Lynton McKenzie on a Safari international rifle in addition to continuing the engraving Lynton began for watchmaker Gene Clark. 

Steve has also created his own folding knives and engraved gold and diamond knives made by his father. One of the first things he discovered about pocket knives was that many have exposed pins and pivot pins in the bolsters that sometimes interfere with engraving designs or inlays. Also, because many knives can not be dismantled, they cannot be fully engraved on internal surfaces as well as external surfaces. Steve designed several new folder designs and mechanisms. These are screw-together folders with all screws and pins hidden. Reaching inside the bottom edge of the knife accesses the screws. A locking mechanism he designed is also new, thanks in part to knifemaker Barry Trindle. The lock bar is hidden inside, making the top edge of the knife completely engravable.

Typical of serious artists everywhere, Steve seemingly pushes himself to the maximum. He is always attempting to find better engraving methods and tools, and in the process, received several patents on the fine control hand-engraving tool which he uses for his engravings. The time he expends developing various engraving tools gives him a break from the rigors of daily engraving. More importantly, the design of these tools has raised the level of workmanship in quality and consistency in both his work as well as other artists.

Steve's engravings are cut by hand under a Zeiss microscope. The layout and designs of the engravings are first drawn with pencil and the design is then cut under the microscope with a miniature Chasing AirGraver. 24k gold is used for inlays. Collector value of Steve's engraving runs from $6,000 (for scroll on a medium sized interframe folding knife without gold inlays) to over $100,000 (for elaborately engraved Lindsay designed and made folding knives). Currently Steve is not accepting additional engraving work.

Making Tools for Engravers

On Steve's tool web site at www.airgraver.com you can find some of the engraving tools he has developed and markets to others. His popular PalmControl® AirGraver® regulates the tool's action by palm pressure rather than using a foot pedal to control air flow. This is a much more subtle and intuitive way to approach the engraving process. Powered by a noiseless CO2 cylinder with its own regulator, there is no compressor noise, and the tool can be used anywhere. See http://www.airgraver.com/Hand_Engraving_Tools_Overview.htm for a page that shows Steve's full line of tools, vices, materials, books and videos.

Artist's Statement

"The hand engraving artistic vision I strive for is very similar to the feelings created for a listener when hearing classical music. In classical music there is main vein or flow, but many developments are added as the music progresses making the sound more interesting and beautiful. I work to engrave flowing scroll through space in this manner, including a main flow along with interesting motifs and tangents. I believe everyone searches for beauty. With my engraving I try to suggest beauty for others to discover." 

"I enjoy the mechanical and technical aspects of hand engraving, from building engraving tools to the feel of a graver effortlessly moving in my hand through the metal, creating a clean cut.  Producing something that is visually pleasing and even musical in its finished essence, gives a great deal of satisfaction. Knife making and metal working for me is a continuation of the mechanical aspect of creating the work to complete the vision."

—Steve Lindsay

Other Interests

A look at Steve Lindsay’s web site will show that he doesn’t restrict his creativity to just his engraving and drawing. He is also working on several auto restoration projects including his wife’s MGB and his own 1969 Corvette 427. He is also interested in computers and has posted some software on his site for a digital readout program as well as a program he wrote of designing arrows.

An Introduction to Hand Engraving 

By Steve Lindsay

 

A piece of jewelry engraved by Steve Lindsay (Click image to enlarge.)

Hand Engraving can be described as the process in which a hardened, shaped and sharpened piece of steel, called a 'Graver', is pushed through the metal's surface. This is done either by hand pressure (push graver), a small lightweight hammer and chisel (graver), or by pneumatic air driven hammer.  Pneumatic hammers emulate the hammer and chisel and the push graver technique.  The graver is ground to a pointed shape adhering to very specific angles. These angles allow the graver to properly enter the metal surface, traveling forward, continuously curling the metal directly in front of the graver face, while leaving behind a small furrow.

The shape of the graver and the angle at which it is held will ultimately decide the furrow shape.  The angle can and will often be continuously altered during the process, allowing for the furrow to contain thick and thin graduations of the cut line.  If a square shaped graver is used so that one if it's corners enter the metal it will produce a "V" shaped  furrow. Many graver shapes are available, each leading to a particular style of engraving and each producing a different result. Usually, the two favored shapes are the "V" and flat. Personal preference plays a significant role in choosing the tool used.

When using the hammer and chisel method both hands are required - one to hold the graver, the other to deliver light hammer impacts against the graver, driving it forward through the material being cut. With the push graver method, the graver is generally fitted to a small wooden handle held in the palm. The graver remains stationary and the item being engraved is held firmly and fed into the graver's tip or rotated into it when a circular or curved line is desired. When making a straight line, the graver is pushed forward using only hand pressure. Each of the these methods requires a rotating vice or a similar holding device, to hold the item being engraved.

The pneumatic graver uses air to drive a small self-contained piston within a graver hand piece. This piston impacts against the engraving tool in the same fashion as in the previously described hammer and chisel method. As with the Push Graver method, one hand is free to hold and rotate the item being engraved. 

In order to create detailed, quality engravings, the engraver is required to accurately execute many cuts or lines which vary in length, width and depth in the metal. In principal the results achieved are similar to those produced by an artist when sketching with pen or pencil on paper. Spectacular ornamental engravings are possible when the graver is controlled by someone who is well versed in the art of engraving.

Use of advanced methods such as, 'Bulino' and 'Bank note' techniques, allow the artist, if highly skilled, the potential to produce exquisite, lifelike renderings in metal.

"Bulino" (pronounced  bo-lee-no) - refers to a Pointillism or Dot Technique.  It is derived from the Italian term meaning "a small hand held graver". Today the term is used loosely, to represent the method of creating thousands of small dots or lines in the metal. This enables the control of light and dark contrasts.

'Bank note style' is a highly organized and systematic method of creating thousands of individual lines, varying in length, in order to form beautifully detailed renderings or ornamental designs. It is generally seen on pages of older texts, e.g. family Bibles and similar period works of literature printed from engraved plates.  The closest and most common representation of this technique in the present may be seen on paper currency.

An artist's ability to visualize where and how each cut should be placed determines the final outcome of the project. When an engraving artist possesses a talent for visualization as well as a theoretic and technical knowledge, he or she will be able to invest the engraving with richness and character, and even with emotion.  Tool geometry and the manner in which the graver is shaped, particularly the face and heel angles, will also determine the quality of an engraving. The ability to perfectly grind and shape the graver must be mastered, otherwise clean, accurate, burr-free cutting will not occur, and the results will be unsatisfactory. Badly raised burrs tend to produce visually jagged or distorted lines resulting in a rough, unrefined final product, rather than the smooth, clean results professionals can produce. If the engraver applies too much downward force while cutting or the graver heel is too long or too short, burrs will be raised especially when executing curved lines. A long heel will create drag and a short heel will dig too deeply into the metal.  Either way the metal will be forced upwards, generating a burr along the length of the cut.

It can take years to fully master the technical portion of hand engraving and to become proficient in design, and in the historical study of engraving motifs. Only then can one begin to develop a unique and personal artistic style. However, some students of this art may possess a natural talent, which allows them to master the process more rapidly.

Mastering the Art of Engraving requires expertise in several areas. Those can be divided into two categories: art and craft. Engravers engaging only in craft need not possess drawing and design skills to produce excellent engravings, providing that designs are supplied beforehand by either an artist or by replication of available ornamental patterns. Many copyright-free (public domain) ornamental designs are available to help the craftsman in this area. The first and foremost ability a craftsman need possess, then, is the ability to precisely control the graver, with an understanding of the technical skills required in order to achieve the desired results.  However, in the case of engraver as an artist, he or she must have an intense desire to create beautiful original designs, as well as a background in other arts together with artistic drawing talents. The art of engraving itself can be a fulfilling medium for an artist to express his art, and can become a life-long study.

The basic method of hand engraving has not changed for centuries. However, with the advent of modern tools, today's engravers are given advantages that previous engravers did not have at their disposal. Computer technology allows the use of photo editing or vector based drawing programs, thus facilitating the design process. Using computers and printing technologies, an artist can now successfully and accurately lay out a design from the computer onto the item being engraved.  Modern pneumatic gravers are available at the size of the gravers of old allowing ease of control of the graver's point.

Learn more about Steve Lindsay's work

For more examples than we can show on this site, see Steve Lindsay's own web site at www.lindsayengraving.com.

To read some magazine articles that show examples of Steve's work and explain in more detail his philosophy of working and some of his techniques, see the following links:

"The Graven Image", Nebraska Land, 1981—Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4

"Engraver Steve Lindsay," The Blade, 1984—Page 1, Page 2, Page 3

"Steve Lindsay," Knives Magazine, 1992—Page 1, Page 2, Page 3, Page 4

Here are several examples of Steve Lindsay's work:

(Click photos for larger images.)

Made by Frank Lindsay, engraved by Steve Lindsay. The Lindsay-Lindsay #3 was made meticulously by Frank W. Lindsay, who is a recognized watchmaker, goldsmith and gemologist. The numerous jigs and fixtures invented for a period of  five years for use in making this knife are masterpieces in themselves. Every surface has been finished with unsurpassed patience. For instance, the finishing of the male and female parts of the lock was stoned to a mirror to keep to almost optical flats for mating. The stones and laps used to achieve this are less than 1/16 of an inch in size and required many days of hand work under a microscope. The inside face surfaces of the handle have been finished to the same extent as the outside. The corners and edges are kept much crisper and more square this way.  The folder is held together with screws and taper pins. There are no glues or solders used.  All the parts are pressed fit. This design made it possible for the inside faces of the handle to be engraved while it was apart. A patent was applied for this design method. The center 18K gold interframe was bright cut engraved. The graver was kept polished to an extreme to accomplish this. Hummingbirds were used for a theme for this piece. They and parts of the flowing scroll are inlaid 24K gold.

Knive made and engraved by Steve Lindsay.

This is the first major knifemaking piece by Steve Lindsay. It was made in 1987. The handle is inlayed, raised, pierced, 24K sheet gold with banknote engraving.

 

Knife made by Frank Lindsay and engraved by Steve Lindsay.

This Lindsay-Lindsay #4 Golden Retriever knife was nine months in the making and engraving. The knife contains 121 separate parts.   There are thirty-four diamonds in the 18K gold inlay handle and one in the blade. They are .01 carat full cut stones and as close to D flawless and ideal proportions as obtainable and matched to within .02 mm. The blade length is 2 3/8" and the over-all length is 5 1/2". The blade and locking bar are made from ATS 34 stainless. The blade has a hardness of 59 Rockwell on the C scale and was triple tempered with one being sub 0 of -100F to impart toughness. The frame and other parts are made of heat-treated 416 stainless. The diamond settings are made of 18K wire. The folder is held together with screws and taper pins. This design made it possible for the knife to be engraved while apart. The inside face surfaces of the handle have been finished to the same extent as the outside and have also been engraved. The center 18K gold interframe was bright cut engraved. The graver was kept polished to an extreme to accomplish this. The golden retrievers and parts of the flowing scroll design are inlaid in 24k gold.

 

 Folding knife made by Steve Hoel, engraved by Steve Lindsay.

The handle has lack lip pearl inlays. A Calligraphy type line engraving style was used..

  Gun Engraving on 28 gage shotgun includes Bulino stipple engraving scenes, banknote scroll design and 24k inlays.
  Handgun Engraving: 9mm Browning with 100% engraving coverage. Gun was featured on Cover of January, 1987 Guns Magazine.
Engraving on a pocket watch.
This closeup of Steve's work shows the perfection of line thickness, spacing and design that makes his work stand out.
Metal golf club driver with engraved design.
Silver flute with engraved design.
This drawing of a fox was also done by Steve Lindsay. The art of his engraving work is based on his ability to also produce the expert designs from his own artwork.
Knife made by Rick Genovese, engraved by Steve Lindsay. In addition to graphic patterns and animals, people are sometimes the subject of Steve Lindsay's engravings.
This big horn sheep shows the expertise of Steve's art and engraving technique when it comes to animals.
Jack Busfiled folder:  Folder is made from 416 Stainless. 100% of the stainless has been covered in raised sculptured 24k gold inlays.   Handle is white pearl.
Steve Hoel folder:  Black lip pearl handle inlays.  Tiger scenes in bulino style engraving and 24K gold stem scroll in banknote line engraving.
Steve Hoel folder:  Apple Green Jade handle inlays.  Fox scene in bulino engraving and scroll in banknote line engraving.
Steve Hoel folder:  All metal folder. Scroll designs banknote engraved.  Dog and cat scenes bulino stipple engraved.

Steve Hoel folder: Stone handle inlays.  Fawn and bobcat kitten scenes in bulino engraving. Scroll designs in banknote line engraving.

Jack Busfield folder
Jack Busfiled folder:  Apple green Jade handle inlays.   Banknote scroll design engraving.
Jack Busfiled folder:  Jade handle inlays.   Banknote scroll design engraving.  24k gold inlays
Ron Lake folder: Bulino scene engraving. Banknote scroll engraving. 24k gold inlays. Notice the small screw driver hidden in the butt of the knife.
Steve Johnson made "bigbear" fighter: Banknote scroll design and 24k gold inlayes.
Cocker Spanial pendant with inlaid diamonds

One of Steve's custom air gravers sits next to a custom engraved knife. Notice the engraving on the graver too.

All engraved designs shown are copyrighted by Steve Lindsay and may not be copied or reproduced in any form without written permission..

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